How to host a website on Dropbox

Built yourself a website and need somewhere to host it for free? There’s a really quick way to do this with your Dropbox account and a neat little web-app I discovered over the holiday called Pancake.

  <img src="http://tdalton.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/packcake.jpg" alt=""/>

As the image above explains, just hook up Pancake to your Dropbox account, create a folder for your site and you’re done. Pancake will give you a URL, and there’s your website.

 

Ubuntu November Idea

The problem with the school holidays is it gives me more time to think about things than usual. Most years I come up with something to trial in the school to suck up some more of our staff free time, this year I’m thinking maybe we could extend the idea to a few others that are reading this.

Earlier in the week I read this post on the Grumbledook blog and it got me thinking. We really need to be working harder on minimising our IT spend in schools and we’ve never really put Ubuntu (or any other Linux flavour) up to a proper test to see if we could actually work with it. Like the man in the short at the start of Toy Story 3 said, we stay with the familiar.

So, my plan is to attempt to run for the whole of November using Ubuntu. I’m going to dual boot my laptop/desktop and see just how far I get before I need something it can’t do. Throughout the process I’ll document how it goes, from the install through to how I find editing video there compared to with iMovie/etc.

But, I want to go further than that and really produce some useful case study work. In addition to my own personal set up:

1) As many other members of the Wildern team will do the same thing. This will obviously cover the technician roles, but also out into our media/programming/teaching types as well. The more people involved the better the results will be, and the wider the range of needs covered.

2) We’ll set up a dual booting IT suite and look to deliver our ICT curriculum using the same setup. Again, documented to look at all the various aspects of the process but with a focus on the impact on teaching and learning.

At the moment I’m feeling incredibly positive about this as a trial. Feels to me like something that the sector needs, and hopefully the data we produce from it will encourage others to try it too. I’m hoping I have the impact to get plenty of our own staff involved as well as the wider Hampshire area, but it would be great if others would be prepared to join in too. Drop me an email/stick something in the comments if you fancy it, and please pass on to others you might think might be interested. As a school we probably have some resource available to help others who want to try but don’t feel too confident, and if you’ve already been down this route we’d be really appreciative of any support/tips you might have.

Edit- this is getting a slightly larger response than expected so I thought a quick Google Form would be an easier way for people to say they’d be interested. No pressure, just add yourself if you want to know what’s going on. Thanks…

Image source- Tux by Matt McGee. CC licensed on Flickr

Whole school markbooks

It’s a fairly open secret that one of our current build projects is an online markbook (or gradebook if you’re that way inclined). We’ve been working closely with a group of partner schools on the design, and as we head towards the next phase of testing we’ve started discussions about roll out.

I wanted to share a few of the common requests I’ve seen that we think may be a mistake if you are also planning to roll out any centralised marking of this style.

Mistake 1: Do everyone at once

A central markbook is quite a shift from the individual books/Excel documents you have now, but moving the whole school in one hit is a big change. You want to trial it with a small group first, make them your champions, the evangelists that can help you deploy at larger scale.

They’ll also help you figure out any technical issues in a nice low profile way before hundreds/thousands are let loose on it…

Mistake 2: Do everything at once

Yes, you could force your staff to enter every single mark they ever give in to your shiny new central markbook. But, do you really need it all? It might help you keep tabs on who is doing what, but is there really a lot to be gained?

Why not start smaller- add the data you can really learn something from? Is there really any value to students in making your teaching staff enter every single homework grade?

Give me a reason to enter the data. Whole school assessments, levelled pieces of work- these have a useful analysis reason to be centralised.

There’s a great (unattributed) quote about not fattening a pig by weighing it. You should look that up for data discussions.

Mistake 3: Do everywhere at once

With all this now online, you could share it with students and parents and broadcast general trends to the world but you don’t need to immediately. Give your staff a chance to get used to it before adding the public pressure.

You may even find your wider stakeholders aren’t interested in the same things you are. For example, in one conversation I discovered that a majority of parents were not interested in how their child compared to the average of their year group in any measure. Just because you like the pretty graphs doesn’t mean everybody does. Ask questions.

fin

It’s a consistent message from us, but one people keep asking us about. The best way to manage any major change you think your institution needs to undertake  is to start small, ground

up. It’s not as easy as broadcasting the orders from the front, but it’s the right way.

It’s not a shopping list

I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that telling people what tools we use might be a mistake. Or, is at least distracting from what is really important.

We’re a frequent host to visiting SLTs and IT departments, interested in the ways we work, the kind of projects we’re involved in as a school. I really enjoy the discussions with others working in the same area, and we always gain something we can add to our own practice from the experience.

What I really want to avoid though is people just walking away with a shopping list of things we own. We do have some great tools here (including the ones we wrote ourselves…), and I would happily recommend them to others in similar circumstances.

But, I’m concerned that the ‘what’ is overshadowing the ‘how’. No tool is as important as the work that goes on around how it fits in to our school practice. Which particular brand of [insert tool of your choice here] is no way near as important as what you’re going to do with it.

If you walk away from any school visit with a set of notes only containing things to buy then you’ve probably missed the point. It’s the practice that’s important.

So, in future I’ll tell you the tool providing you also take something away about the process! 😀

Blogging our CPD

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We’ve just had another round of meetings with our school improvement groups at Wildern. The SIGs are voluntary groups that run as half-termly after school meetings for groups of staff to work together to develop their practice. This year we’re running:

  • Creative classroom
  • Gifted and talented
  • International classroom
  • Language for learning
  • Media literacy
  • New technologies
  • Themed days
  • Wildern TV & radio

Each group has a focus, and each member undertakes an action research project during the year. The research is fed back in to their performance management, their departments, and through our SDP is influencing policy. It’s an opportunity for staff to try out new ideas and measure their impact, and I think a great model for collaborative school improvement.

What I am most pleased about this year is our shift to documenting the projects by blogging. As a blogger I know the process encourages reflection on your own practice, but by including our SIG blog as a feed on staff homepages we are placing new ideas front and centre to staff every day.

By publishing the development blog to the rest of the world we’re also stepping up to share these things, the good, the bad, at a much wider level. We have more ideas in the pipeline, but it is starting to feel like we have a whole school approach to developing and showcasing innovative practice.

Some quick links from the SIG blog to a couple of my favourite posts: