Friday, 19 November 2010
Projected onto the wall in Salturn from room in Prato

During the October 2010 workshops at Destinations in Saltburn  I explained to the participants that I would be out of the country at a conference the following week and so there would be no session. They said that they attend any way because it’s quite a social group. I therefore suggested it would be an opportunity to try out some thoughts I had been having about distance teaching and learning.  From my hotel room at the conference I began to put together a session. Once again I caught my self, adding too many complications and luckily realised this in time to strip back the proposed workshop to the very basics. The plan was to show participants how to add images to their Wordpress blog.  In the end I just created a Wordpress blog myself and went through the exercise and then made a link to it from, which is always the starting point for the sessions.

First we had a couple of test sessions with the proprietor of the Destinations learning centre, Paul Davies. We decided not to use any of the Destinations computers but for the UK end we would use a MS Windows PC connected to a projector and screen. I ran a Mac and we hooked up using Skype. We wanted to use free software but there may be other alternatives we could try out later. For now Skype seemed to work well apart from dropping out occasionally.

On the day of the session only 3 people turned up which was disappointing but then we had said the session would not take place. The participants were positioned at computers and in clear view was a large projection of what I was transmitting from Italy via Skype. I wore a headset and mic but at the Saltburn end speakers were set up and the learners communicated with via the mic in the webcam. The mic in Destinations was turned down and my headphones were cranked up to compensate and we experienced very few feedback problems.

I spoke to the participants and then shared my screen with them and showed them my wordpress  ( ) and explained what we were going to do. The participants then logged on to their Wordpress accounts with no problem, so the universal password approach was clearly proving it’s worth. I then showed the participants my dashboard and explained changes we needed to make to the preference settings in preparation for image uploading. One participant struggled a bit but another more ICT able participant was able to assist. Had I been present in the session I would have been able to do this but obviously for this distance approach we need to have people seated near to others that can assist if possible. Paul Davies also assisted which was fine for this test but in the long run it would not be an effective use of personnel and self-help within learners would be valuable. I was able to zoom into my screen so the settings being projected could be clearly seen. However whilst pointing to things with my curser this was not so clear but I have since found out how to increase the size of the curser considerably.

There were a couple of technical problems, which I was able to fix by logging into the individuals Wordpress account thanks once again to the universal password. Apart for a few more Skype dropouts the session went well and we achieved our objectives. Using the traditional methods the session may have reached it’s objectives in around 30 minutes but this way too an hour. However once the session was over there was a buzz of enthusiasm from Saltburn that we had been able to achieve this across 2,000 miles!

Paul Davies wrote the following appraisal:

Setting up was easier than I thought, the testing we had done last couple of days helped and giving some thought to room / area layout was useful. Would have made even more of a difference if there has been more people, all would have seen you in glorious 'projection' mode!! I was worried about the numbers but perhaps for a first session few was more beneficial. Maybe a remote session needs more experienced users as part of it and a peer support element needs to be considered. That said I thought that the session proved both useful and successful as the folks get the results expected, albeit with some unforeseen assistance from yourself.

On that point, Skype worked well and as a tool for distance learning, while there are some limitations, I can see it as user friendly and flexible as say, a webinar setting.

I was concerned our room would be too noisy, not sure how it was at your end. I was also conscious of myself looking after other centre users and not just the remote session users. We could hold a 'closed' session or depending on people, use a different room. Either one may help in my not having to move to other areas. All in all though I enjoyed the experience as did the users, and certainly would like to investigate it more.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

On Thursday 18th November children at Whitcliffe Primary School will re-enact a famous event from their Schools history. Actually the story relates to Skinningrove school but both schools have been amalgamated and children of Skinningrove and Carlin How all attend Whitecliffe. Whitecliffe has the logbooks of both schools going back over 140 years and one entry states; "school evacuated on the occasion of a Zeppelin sighted overhead. The children will re-enact this momentous event and Inspector Charlie Bell of Cleveland Police will play the part of the calm voice of authority leading the children to shelter in the mines (this actually took place too – many Skinningrovers took shelter in the mines during both world wars.  This will form the audio track of an animated film  “Tommy and Barry Go Back” to be premiered at Saltburn Community Theatre, Animex Fringe on February 10th 2011.                                                                                         

Straad Kirk has been cast in the role of the captain of the Zeppelin that will fly over Skinningrove School re-enacting an event that took place nearly 100 years ago. Unlike the actual Zeppelin of 1915 the one Kirk will be flying has a fully stocked bar. Clearly the cast will be frequenting this craft regularly. This is part of the filming of "Tommy and Barry Go Back" to be premmiered at Saltburn Community Theatre, Annimex Fringe on February 10th 2011.

Monday, 25 October 2010
I'm in Prato for the CIRN (Community Informatics Research Network) conference. It's rainy but nice. My conference paper is here. I'm spending time pre-conference getting some desk work done in a nice little alcove in my hotel room. I'm planning to run a community teaching session in Saltburn (UK) from here so I'm making some preparations even though it is largely experimental. I went up to the rooftop a little while ago and got some dramatic shots of Prato - see picture below - more pictures  here 

Saturday, 21 August 2010
Here are two previews of the exhibition taking place on September 11th and 13th as part of the Heritage Open Day at Loftus  Town Hall. . Although we can't do the 8  screens and speaker of the Octorama justice here, these two clips may give you a flavour of the event

NB - the audio and video content are separate  entities. They are independent of each other although occasionaly they  seem to synch. This is unintentional.

This clips now feature  pictures from the East Cleveland Image Archive and John Lawson, readings from the  Skinningrove and Carlin How Schools log books by children from  Whitcliffe Primary School and recordings by Skinningrove History Group  all put together in a soundscape by Steve Thompson. There are also  videos from Skinnimation, TVCM and the Straad Players.

Saturday, 17 July 2010
Trying to have a tidy up in my studio. I consigned to the attic two TX7 (DX7) sound modules and an Akai S950 sampler. I also took up there some 2 inch 24 track master tapes. These were from sessions I did with my old friend Gus Dudgeon and when Gus died a coupla years back these tapes were found in his garage and given to me. Anyone recognizing any of these items may well appreciate the absolute zero monetary value and yet the priceless nature of these objects. Already up there was an old acoustic guitar on which I wrote my biggest hit “Hurry Home” and an old Casio Keyboard used to record songs covered by Sheena Easton, Celine Dion and Elaine Page. A veritable attic museum!
Sunday, 13 June 2010
There can be no doubt that the East Cleveland Image Archive housed at Loftus Library will play a big part in the "Iron Age to Digital Age" exhibition. The diagram below shows how images are panning out with regard to East Cleveland Villages. We think that we will place images geographically around the 8 screens. I have edited the obvious ones first andt here are another 938 still to be placed into a location.

Friday, 4 June 2010
What have Middlesbrough Music Live and Loftus Library got in common? Four rubber blocks that's what. Thanks to Martie at Music Life I took  charge of 4 rubber blocks and shipped them down to Lofus calling on Mr Motivator, Barry Hunt to help offload. They're now sitting under John the librarians desk so when he gets back off holiday he will be delighted. These blocks will form the basis of the Octorama soon to be built in the Mayor of Loftus's Barn and if these work out we'll need another 12. Interestingly, I found out after shipping these all the way from Middlesbrough that Skinningrove already have a supply!

I've just added this blog to the equation so I can add more recent developments to the otherwise static resume page.