ASE Scotland Spring Conference 2010

Dunblane Hydro, 5th-6th March 2010

Session 6K: Using New Media in Science Education

Sinclair MacKenzie, Thurso High School (Twitter: @mrmackenzie )
Nick Hood, Glenwood High School (Twitter: @cullaloe )
Twitter hashtag #ASE106K
This page is a reference for delegates or others interested in what's here.

Introductory video

Did you know? 4.0 (YouTube)

Blogging basics - something to say



Web logs - blogs - began in the late 1990's as a kind of online diary. People published content "of interest" regularly on a web page, and interested parties visited the site to get the latest news. Whilst this is still very much the modus operandi of many web sites, things have become more sophisticated with images, audio and video now adding interest to make the experience for the visitor richer.

Teachers have adopted websites to extend their classrooms for pupils, offering additional support, assignments and items of topical interest specifically for them. The advent of the blogging age has made this much easier to do: no longer do you need geek-brain surgery to understand HMTL, XML, CSS or AJAX - there are many free and easy to use content management platforms available to use.

Getting started - free blogs!

There are a number of choices for your free blog: , TypePad , Blogger , Ning , edublogs and many more offer the simplest solution: you visit the site, and set up your blog. Easy.

It's worth mentioning edubuzz, David Gilmour's fantastic project which provides over 1100 blogs in East Lothian. If you're over there (and even if you're not) it's worth considering.

How to do it: setting up a free Wordpress Blog


Getting confident - host your own

Hosted solutions: , Movable Type , Joomla , ELGG , and many more like them are actually software suites: they generally are written in PHP and run over a mySQL database, usually on Linux/Apache. Your ISP may well have an automatically installable version which you can set up using your control panel. You can buy hosting packages for very little money (less than £100 per year). The CMS is free (Open Source), all you need is a bit of bottle and a lot of time to get it the way you want it. Expect surprises.
Don't forget to register your new blog at Scotedublogs so other teachers will find your site.


Ollie Bray (former Musselburgh Depute and now new media education guru) uses a free TypePad site at .
Sinclair Mackenzie uses his own hosted Wordpress site at .
Danny Mallon hosts his own site with a hand-crafted front end at but also uses a Wordpress CMS for podcasting .
Helen Gorman uses a free Wordpress blog for her Higher Biology class at and another for her professional blog at .
Nick Hood uses a hosted multiple-site WordpressMu installation for about 20 websites, including .
Ewan McIntosh set up a ning for a new media community site at . David Noble has an entire PLN at .

Find more education blogs at Scotedubogs .

RSS - something to read



Making sense of the huge amount of information available in all of this blogging can seem tricky. All of this information arriving at once, streams of consciousness all competing for your attention, can be bewildering, or at best, unmanageable. How can you keep up with all the interesting things without spending your life at the computer?
Fortunately, almost all blogging platforms and feeders of information have a neat little feature working behind the scenes. It's called Really Simple Syndication (RSS) and it is designed to feed content to another program called an aggregator or reader.

Readers come in many forms, from website readers like Google Reader , or widgets - little panels - within other pages like Netvibes , to apps for your iPhone. You can get RSS aggregators for your desktop. The site has a long list of alternatives, but I find it convenient to use Google Reader.

How to do it: using Google Reader


While we're on the subject

There is one stream of consciousness worth taking a look at - this is the microblogging social medium called Twitter. This is an abstraction of the RSS approach to getting information in a manageable format. Twitter offers a simple text-based blogging platform with one very interesting twist: each update or post has a maximum character count of 140. Whilst Twitter has been criticised as being an irrelevant waste of time - "nobody cares what you're doing" - there has been a great deal of imaginative use for teachers in developing their personal learning networks (PLNs).


Twitter tag for today is #ASE106K

Podcasting - something to see or hear



A podcast is a series of audio or video files distributed via the web using RSS. Listeners can subscribe to the podcast with a podcatching service such as iTunes. which will automatically check for new content and download the new content to their computer. There are free dedicated podcast sites such as PodOmatic but the RSS feature described above means that a blog can also be used to host podcasts.

Software is required to create the audio files. Audacity is a free package for windows/mac/linux with all the features you will need to record your own audio with nothing more than a built-in or inexpensive external microphone, Mac users may prefer to use Apple's Garageband for recording.


Audio files are usually saved in the mp3 format (follow the instructions on the Audacity site) before attaching them to a blog post. While blogging software will allow several audio files to be attached to a blog post, a podcast should have a separate blog post for each audio or video file to ensure successful distribution.

Video clips may be produced with any camera capable of recording a movie, this includes mobile phones. There are many different video formats and it is a good idea to stick to a popular format such as mp4. If the video file needs to be converted to another format, there are several free video conversion sites such as zamzar , mediaconvertor or videora. Videos can be edited in free software such as Windows MovieMaker or Apple iMovie before posting to a blog. Both of these programs allow the user to add audio (narration or music) to the clip before publishing. There are also screen capture programs (screentoaster , screenr, jing) to record a computer screen - these are very useful for modelling solutions and creating revision materials. The screen recording function in interactive whiteboard software may also be used for this (example ).

Free blogging sites should be linked to the feedburner service to ensure that their RSS feed is formatted correctly for iTunes. Self-hosted Wordpress blogs can avoid this step by adding a automatic podcast option such as Podpress or Blubrry Powerpress from the Wordpress plug-in menu.

For maximum distribution, tell iTunes you have started a new podcast.


Wikis - something to share



Most people are familiar with the online encyclopaedia WikiPedia - where all of the entries are written by, well, everybody and anybody. Whilst the users of the service know that they should check the sources of information provided, for everyday use, it's a pretty good and comprehensive resource. Using the same software, or something very similar, it is now possible to build other community-based resources quite quickly. They are especially useful for community or collaborative development of ideas.

As for blogs, there are the choices between free services and hosting your own.


This very page is one page on Sinclair's wikispaces wiki at .
Ian Stewart's free software wiki (following the Perth teachmeet ) .
Nick Hood's Physics wiki at built using MediaWiki , the same software used by WikiPedia.
The temporary site was set up using a free service for educators to provide resource sharing for Physics teachers.

Sharing resources - Physics

Include resource sharing by other means:, Glow National Physics Teachers Group and

Social Networking

Nick & Sinclair

If time, free format dialogue on the use of Bebo, Facebook, Twitter, Ning, MySpace, LinkedIn