Creating Twitter Archives

One of the more common uses of Twitter for me is to monitor “back-channels” at events (often events I can attend, but more often these days events I am unable to attend).

Unfortunately Twitter’s search capabilities cease to be useful after a little while and so it is very handy to be able to create an archive for the events ‘hashtag’. There used to be a number of tools in the early days, but mainly because of Twitter’s changes to policies and very unfortunate morphing into a closed ‘media-publishing’ platform, the developers of such tools were forced to discontinue their services.

Tags Explorer

Here is IMHO the best remaining tools I have found that still work:


This is an easy to used & fairly polished product which allows download of raw data.


This is a more involved, but open solution based on a Google Spreadsheet and can be modified to suit.

Kudos Martin Hawksey from JISC CETIS

Organisational micro-blogging for all

Having seen more and more articles on the use of micro-blogging tools in educational and corporates settings, I am constantly surprised that one of the most useful options from my point-of-view seems to be constantly overlooked. Micro-blogging is like Twitter, but private to your organisation. It is a great way to capture those more informal internal discussions. It can help distribute useful information (such as links) throughout your organisation or help kick-start conversations.

StatusNet poster

The major advantages of StatusNet as a platform over competing proprietary systems (such as Jammer) are:

  • Ownership of information: you can host StatusNet yourself and StatusNet fully supports to get your data exported from StatusNet as well.
  • Customisation: since you can host yourself it is possible to fully customise it to suit your needs.
  • Integration potential: since StatusNet is Open Source software you can easily integrate and build upon it.

To download head to or try a personal account with You can also use a cloud-hosted version provided by StatusNet A Yammer import tool is also available for users looking for a Yammer Alternative.

However being a tool that is private to your organisation does not mean your users will be isolated. There is the ability for your user to connect StatusNet with with their Twitter account should they wish to post messages outside.

Note: this is a cross-posting from my work blog at

Mobile sensors and the “Internet of Things” in learning

With the Internet of Things slowly becoming mainstream the potential uses of this technology can also be seen in the Education sector. This blogpost is the first installment of a series of posts that highlights practical examples that can be used in teaching and training.

Part 1 – Environmental Noise Monitoring

WideNoise by leeander, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  leeander 

Noise pollution has been a serious problem in many large cities all over the world and with the help of common mobile devices (smartphones) this can be easily measured, monitored and compared with a large quantity of samples from other cities/regions.

Some of the skills taught in these projects are:

  • Environmental science
  • Citizen science (collaborative data gathering)
  • Measurement / sensing
  • Data visualisation
  • Data comparison
Here are two very useful pieces of software to undertake this type of project:


With WideNoise users can monitor the noise levels around them using an App downloadable from Android Market or Apple AppStore. It has geo-location capabilities allowing users to also check the online map to see the average sound level of the area around them.

The project has made it’s source code available via an Open Source license allowing further customisation.


A project developed by Sony Computer Science Laboratory Paris & VUB BrusSense group allows a user to measure the level of noise in dB(A) (with a precision a bit lower than a sound level meter), and contribute to collective noise mapping effort by annotating it (tagging, e.g. subjective level of annoyance). This information can be automatically published on this website (3G/GPRS or manual upload on any PC).

These two projects provide an excellent starting point for educators to become involved on the ‘Internet of Things. A copy of this can be seen on my work blog as well.

Using Blackboard Collaborate (Elluminate) on Ubuntu

Like it or not (personally I am in the second category) Blackboard Collaborate or Elluminate (as it is still more commonly referred to) is something you have a hard time avoiding if you work in online education.

I discovered that I have audio issues on some Ubuntu Linux machines and found the following to fix the issues.

1) Install alsa-aoss

apt-get install alsa-oss

2) Save the Elluminate Java Webstard (.JNLP) file to a local folder – DO NOT OPEN IN BROWSER
3) Launch Elluminate using this command (in the folder you saved the JNLP)

aoss javaws meeting.jnlp

Thanks go to all people involved in this forum thread:


1) This assumes you are already running Sun (Oracle) Java JRE not the default OpenJDK as apparently Blackboard Collaborate does not play nice with the default OpenJDK. I have described the install on 11.10 here.

2) Make sure you have updated the alternatives for javaws (install only sets the java alternatives).

update-alternatives --config javaws



OpenSource e-book creation

After recently researching the available software for e-book creation for some of our clients (in the education sector) I came across quite a number of options.  However after some further look into the option and trying some I was able narrowed the field down to 2 options that seem to be reasonably user-friendly and matured. The two are using a very different approach and will suit different types of users. One is a native e-book writer which will give better low-level control for the more technical types. The other is a plugin to the popular OpenOffice (or LibreOffice) Office Suites.

SIGIL – a native e-book creator

Sigil comes with installers for Linux, Windows and MacOS (

Installation on Linux :

 chmod +x Sigil-0.4.2-Linux-x86_64-Setup.bin

(64 bit install – change appropriate download file if on i386)

Sigil Screenshot

Writer2ePub – OpenOffice (or LibreOffice) Plugin

Users of LibreOffice or OpenOffice might prefer a plugin to there text processing software rather than a native solution. The installation is very easy – just download the extension ( and double-click the downloaded file.

Extension install:

Don’t forget to restart Writer after the install. After the restart you should see new buttons in the toolbar.

Hope this helps somebody.

My mobile personal learning environment

Taking part in MobiMOOC has given me the opportunity to take stock of my own MobilePLE – the top 5 tools I find most useful as part of my ongoing learning.


  • Catch Notes (previously 3Bananas) – mobile note taking the most critical component. Whenever I get a new device – this is what has to be installed as one of the first actions. For those not familiar with this software – it’s like Evernote without the bloat.
  • TwiDroyd – mobile Twitter / Status.Net client. This could be replaced by similar Twitter clients
  • GoogleReader – RSS reader client
  • Flickr – image upload and sharing
  • FourSquare – location based sharing


These are the main applications I use pretty much constantly, however here are some other useful services I use regularily:


  • Delicious – Online Bookmarking (this is an old one, but a good one). Unfortunately there are not a great deal of mobile interfaces for Delicious as Yahoo has publicly stated that it is trying to offload the project
  • Pixelpipe – universal uploader (upload to multiple services such as Flickr, Picasa, Youtube from mobile)
  • BeyondPod – podcast client
  • GoogleGoggles – image recognition software to allow searches based on camera input
  • Zxing Barcode Scan – open source barcode scanner (QR codes as well as EAN type)
  • WordPress Client – mobile client to edit wordpress blogs
  • Sketchbook – mobile drawing application from Autodesk (you need a reaonable screen for this – tab preferred)
  • UStream Broadcaster – streaming video producer from mobile handset


One thing worth noting is that this is very much the “CURRENT Mobi-PLE”. The one sure thing with mobile tech in general is that it tends to change quickly over time and with need.

Looking forward to hearing about things I am missing – comments welcome !

Using Yahoo Pipes to aggregate learning resources

I am using the opportunity of me taking part in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on mobile learning as an excuse to add some more content to this neglected blog.

On of the issues I am facing with my participation in the MOOC is the massive amount of e-mails generated and my already overflowing inbox would not cope (let alone me managing it). That is not taking into account other sources such as Twitter & Flickr

Since I have always been a fan of RSS (hat tip to Dave Winer) my answer to this dilemma is to create an aggregated RSS feed from a number of sources (including the Google Group responsible for the bulk of the traffic). And so far the best tool I found for this purpose is Yahoo Pipes.

To create a Pipe log into (if you don’t have a YahooID you need to create one first).

The GUI is very simple (kudos Yahoo) and for simple aggregation needs hardly any explanations. The hardest part can often be finding the RSS sources to add to Pipes. The aggregation process is basically 3 steps

  1. add sources (see list below)
  2. add union operator
  3. connect to output



As an example here are the sources used for the MobiMOOC Pipe are:


All you need to complete your “mobile learning journey” is to subscribe to the resulting feed ( with your favourite (mobile) RSS Reader. I personally use GoogleReader which has worked for me on various devices. It has worked well for me on Nokia S60’s, Windows Mobile, iPhone and more recently on Android.

To download for Android you can just scan the QR Code below or just visit from any phone.

Since the feed sources are fairly simple I am happy for any comments on other sources to add to this feed.

Enjoy !



iPad Alternatives

Due to the hype generated by the recent launch and my reservations on using the Apple Inc. iTunes I was doing some research into alternatives to the proprietary and completely locked  iPad device (and the associated lock-down to Apple’s iTunes Store). Hopefully this list can be of use for other people as well.

I can see the form factor and the tablet style with a cut down (mainly web-browser based) Operating System as useful in a number of settings not least in educational institutions and libraries.

Here is the findings so far:

EDIT: I have re-published the list as a Google Spreadsheet to enable submission of new items. Please ENTER YOUR OWN if you found an item not on the list.

If you are purely looking for a tablet as an electronic reading device there is a good Wikipedia comparison chart to look at.

I will add further devices as I discover them. Please leave a comment if you find other tablets / devices that have similar features, but are more open and do not require iTunes lock-down.

iPad – Trojan Horse ?

Trojan Horse

The media hype generated by the launch of the Apple Inc. iPad has been seriously irritating me over the last weeks. Apart from the fact that I can not see anything revolutionary about either the hardware nor the software, I can see a number of highly problematic developments with the way Apple is trying to create a total vendor lock-in.

The evil is in the Store

However – the single biggest issue is not actually the device (iPad) itself, it is actually it’s lock to Apple’s iTunes Store. There will be no (at least for the ‘normal’ end-user) way to install software or load content onto the device other than going through iTunes. The device seems to have been deliberately crippled (not even a USB connection) of any way to get content on or off it other than Apple’s mandated iTunes. The resulting vendor lock-in from both the hardware (Apple only devices), Software (all Software that will install on the device will have to go through iTunes) as well as increasingly Content (purchased via iTunes Store) is a very worrying trend from my point of view.

Return of the dinosaurs ?

One possible reason for the hype generated for the iPad seems a vested interest on behalf of the media industry in the ability to lock down content and create a paid digital market for their content. It’s about creating a walled garden where previously was a free and open Internet. It seems that the old media conglomerates are looking towards iTunes as a possible extension (saviour) of their failing business models.

Television 2.0 – the new rise of new media consumerism ?

From initial reviews it seems that the iPad is primarily a media ‘consumption’ device rather than a focus of the creation (or at least co-creation) of content. It seems geared to create a new generation of ‘viewer’ beyond television. A good further explanation on why I consider this a step backwards can be found at this entry on the SpeEdChange Blog

No iTunes – no education ?

One of the most problematic areas for me is the use of the iPad as the primary computing device used in Education. There seem to be a number of  educational institutions planning to replace printed lecture materials with iPads even before the release of the device. While I don’t see any issues with the replacement of printed material, the replacement with one single proprietary & closed system seems an extremely bad choice on a number of fronts.
  1. Requires an AppleID for each student (a very problematic privacy issue)
  2. Content only accessible to Apple Devices
  3. Proprietary (non-standard) formats
There are plenty of approaches already in the public domain (from the use of Open eBook standards to complete Open Education Resources in a variety of formats) that can be accessed from an iPad as well as any other (tablet or other) device with a decent web-browser or similar retrieval mechanism (RSS, …).
As stated on the beginning of this blog entry I don’t have an issue with the iPad as a hardware device (and I haven’t actually used one yet – due to the fact they will not be available in Australia for a while). But from all the technical details available the combination of a locked device with a locked store and locked content seems a bad idea all around from my perspective.

Useful software for practical mobile learning

Since a fair bit of my time is spent working and researching in the field of Mobile Learning and there is not a lot of recent  listings of Software useful in practical m-Learning implementations I have compiled the following list from my bookmarks and Software I commonly use for these purposes. This list tries to represent currently usable applications not applications in the development stage.

Rather than writing this in the form of  a blog entry I decided to keep this as a live document within Google Apps that people can contribute to.

Please consider adding to this list if you find some useful mobile learning software missing. You can also subscribe to the changes to this list via RSS. You can also download this list as a PDF document.