TERENA – Lecture Recording Competition #Glowplus #EDUScotICT

Earlier this year I was involved in facilicating participation in the TERENA Lecture Recording competition which took place at their annual conference.  The conference took place in Reykjavik, Iceland.  The purpose of the competition was to allow different lecture recording tools to be showcased and compared.

A number of people ( 16 ) were invited to present a short lecture in a lecture theatre in sequence.  A video camera captures the lecturer, a microphone captures the lecture audio and a video feed was provided of the lecturer’s power point presentation – all of this was organised by the event organiser.  The signals were split and each lecture recording solution combined them to provide the finished product.

Cisco has a lecture recording solution which consists of a number of its products working together as follows.

Using a Cisco C60 video CODEC which takes the three inputs provided and combines them for transmission and recording on a Telepresence Content Server (TCS).

Cisco MXE – Media Exerience Engine which converts the video into a number of formats which can be configured in advance.

Cisco Show & Share – a video portal where the finished product can be viewed via a computer web browser or hand held device.

The recording solution is cloud based – in this case the back end equipment which include the Telepresence Content Server (TCS), MXE and Show and Share Server are all based at a Cisco Lab in Cisco’s campus at San Jose, California.

So the video stream needs to traverse the Internet to get from the CODEC at the lecture theatre to the TCS at San Jose.  The event lasted just over an hour with 16 short lectures being delivered on a variety of topics.

The recording is started by an operator at the lecture theatre connecting the codec to the TCS in San Jose ( this is a one button press operation). After the last lecture is finished the call is dropped and the recorded video is passed to the MXE for transcoding, then on to the Show and Share Server for publication and viewing.  This process takes approximately the same time as the duration of the recording.  A second task is automatically done by the MXE – this is called Pulse Analytics – which scans the audio track to create a voice print for each speaker and then to create a key word index of the spoken words this adds a further period of processing time.  In all it takes 2 times the duration of the recording before it will appear on the Show and Share server.

At this point it is worth having a look at the end product.
(Note that there is no need to do any video editing to get to this point.  But you will see in this version some spalsh screens which I added to introduce each speaker and their topic – I did this using iMovie on my laptop.  The colour coded time line on the video and the keyword index are all created automatically.)

Now take a look at the end product by following this link – takes a moment to load – be patient 😉

Click here to view the video on the Show and Share Portal.

Notice that you can click on a speaker name in the speaker list to jump to a particular speaker and then click on the key word index to jump to occurrences of that word in the recording of this speaker lecture.  If you select a particular speaker first you can see that the key work index shows the key words used by that lecturer.

Can you imagine how  a tool like this could be used in Education!!!!  Lecturers/Teachers can record their lessons so pupils/students can view them again  – or even view them before attending class!!  See my post on the Flipped Classroom.


Glow – “a walled garden” – #GlowPlus #EDUScotICT #SLF2012

I attended the SLF 2012 last week – it seems to have been scalled down compared to previous years but there were still very good opportunities for networking and of course a diverse seminar program.  It was good to renew old acquaintances and catch-up with old colleagues.

I was not able to attend the round-table discussion which was entitled “Do we need a national ‘intranet’ “   but was able to review the recording of it which is published below.


It is an interesting exchange of views which was I was keen to listen to.  Most of the people involved seemed to be active teachers – its always interesting to hear views and opinions from people who are at the “chalk face”.

During the discussion and not for the first time, I heard the term “Walled Garden” used to describe Glow – (originally called the SSDN Intranet).  But I feel this an inappropriate term to describe the current service.  The impression given that Glow is a Walled Garden is based, I believe, on a flawed understanding of what does and does not constitute the Glow service.

I first heard the term Walled Garden back when Education Service Providers (ESP) first started to offer Internet connectivity to schools back in the 1990’s.  Companies including BT and RM (there were many others) who were early on the ESP scene would use the term Walled Garden as a reassurance to schools and LA’s that the service they offered was safe and full of content that had been validated to be suitable for children to use.  The ESP’s would provide a feed to schools (often based on modem (9.6 – 16 baud) and later ISDN (64 – 128 kbps) connectivity) which provided access to content they had provided and also a subset of content which was available on the public internet.  Internet content was surveyed and validated before it was considered safe to include it in the walled garden.   The term Walled Garden implied that the “stuff” on the inside was OK to use and what was on the outside may or may not have been acceptable.  At the time this generally seemed to be a welcome development and schools/teachers/LA’s were happy to use the service.  There would be a service available to teachers who could nominate new content they had discovered as being both useful and acceptable – these items would then added the walled garden.

When the SSDN Interconnect was introduced early in the 2000’s, Scottish LA’s were faced with a need, some for the first time, to implement and maintain their own Internet filters for education users.  On the face of it, this meant they needed to build their own walled garden as opposed to having this done by an ESP.

The JANET (Joint Academic NETwork) network on which the SSDN Interconnect was built  was basically an extension of the internet and as such provides a path to the any content which is available on the internet – JANET provided the core network for the SSDN Interconnect and also a route to the Internet.  At this time, existing users of JANET – Universities and Research Institutions, provided some degree of filtering at their point of connection to JANET.  The Internet includes various content types including static web pages, content repositories, online databases, email transit and of course many other rich types of content including audio and video.  The general model of connectivity was that the LA took a SSDN Interconnect feed at its HQ then passed on connectivity to the Internet for its schools ( the primary service users of the interconnect) via is own Wide Area Network (WAN).  When Glow was introduced it was build at a data centre which was also directly connected to the SSDN Interconnect

Without any filter service this would mean that school users could access any content on the internet and schools could access services with broadband content  (such as YouTube which was a new service when Glow was being procured) which could consume large amounts of bandwidth and degrade the performance for all users of the internet service as the WAN became congested.  LA’s generally used their internet filters (typically setup at the point where the LA network connected to the SSDN Interconnect) to protect the network resource from abuse and overuse.

Getting back to the title of this post!  When the term “walled garden” is used to describe Glow,   I believe that this is a misuse of the term and leads to a mistaken impression of what Glow provides and is “responsible” for.

What Glow is:
Glow (the SSDN Intranet ) is a trusted  and Authenticated service  which offers through a single sign on system access to a number of services which are free at the point of use to all users.

the available services are as follows:

Account provisioning system, Web Portal, Email service, User Groups (hierarchical structure), Video/Audio publishing service, Web Site publishing service (internal to Glow or to the Internet), Desktop Conferencing (with Audio & Video), Chat (Glow chat for children and MSN Messenger for Teachers), National Directory,  Discussion Forums, Blogs, e-Portfolios, Calendars, Email Distribution List Service, Secure File Transfer, Cook Books (online instructional manuals)

Notice that filtering is not included in this list!

I may have missed some services but from memory these are the “core” services which are (or were available since Glow was introduced) available to all school users in Scotland according to their role and Glow group membership.  All user accounts are provisioned from School MIS systems which are considered to be a reliable and trusted sources of user credentials.

Glow is also described as a closed system – I preferred to use the term Authenticated.  Glow never was closed or filtered.  It is perfectly possible any authorized user to identify a good resource on the internet and link it into the glow environment.  As a web based service it was intended from day one that this would be possible and I believe that this is possible today.  If a resource cannot be accessed by a user whilst currently logged into Glow via a LA LAN/WAN this is due to the filter policies that the LA has applied to its Internet feed.  It is equally true that such a resource when linked to a Glow resource will be accessible when a user access’s their internet account from a non-LA location.

I feel that it is very important that any discussion about the use of ICT in support of Scottish Education be based on fact and is not muddied by red herrings.  Statements like “Glow is a Walled Garden” are no more than “red herrings” in my view.  See what I have said earlier on the general topic of Internet Filtering – which  another aspect of ICT in schools which does in my view need to be considered and acted on!




Upper Donside – Joint Service – Grampian Motor Museum – Alford

Sunday 16th September 2012, I was involved in a church outdoor service at the Grampian Motor Museum. Annually, the Upper Donside group of church’s arrange a joint service and these are held outdoor, weather permitting!.  It is quite a project with the need to identify a venue and then to set it up, it is planned over a number of months.  This service took place at the Grampian Motor Museum Track where the congregation sat in the stand and the band/speakers used a curtain sided trailer.

See the photo below which was taken whilst the venue was being setup.

The theme was “Bespoke Ministry” and the speakers were Adrian and Bridget Plass.  Adrian has written many books and poems which look at current Christian church practices with a serious but humourious commentary.  The service was recorded on a hand held MP3 recorder and published in the Kemnay Church podcast at the following link.


Andrew May Duthie (Andy) – a potted history!

(I wanted to share this article about my late uncle which I was asked to write for publication in some local news papers in the Scottish Borders and Fraserburgh – his home town)

Mr Andrew May Duthie known affectionately to his friends as Andy – passed away Saturday 25th August 2012

Andy Duthie, originally from Fraserburgh in the North East of Scotland, came with his wife Jean and their young daughter Ruth to Galashiels in 1958.  Their family was complete when David was born in 1959 after they had moved into a house in Waverlay Place, Netherdale.

His first career choice was to be a joiner so he served his time working with Hall and Robertson in Fraserburgh.  Subsequently, he pursued his passion to work with young people and so attended the Teacher Training College in Aberdeen to become a teacher of Technical Subjects.  He taught PE at Cairnbulg Primary School for a short time and it was there that he was reaquanted Jean Findlay who was a primary teacher.  They married at Fraserburgh Baptist Church on 28th July 1956.

Andy was to spend his entire teaching career at Galashiels Academy.  He was promoted to Principle Teacher of Guidance which allowed him to focus more on helping pupils make career choices and also work through challenging and sometimes difficult social situations.  His great passion was to help them to develop into young adults and his work as a guidance teacher fulfilled this for him.   Mr Duthie would often be seen with his briefcase in hand hurrying from one part of the school to another – this earned him the nick name Speedy (as in Speedy Gonzales).  He continued to work as a teacher of technical subjects and was involved in setting up the ROSLA courses, an initiative to provide vocational input for pupils who were not so attracted to study academic subjects.

At the head teacher’s request Andy, already a scout set up a new troup at Galashiels Academy.  This he did willingly, giving his own time to get the 4th Gala Troup operational.  Every year he organized the Scout camp which would see the group members camping at places including Loch Goilhead, Loch Earn and Arran where Andy would supervise various constructional projects such as raft and bridge building.  He was a key personality in the Scottish Borders Scouting movement and latterly was District Scout Master before retiring from that after many years of service.  Scouting Principles and the Scout Law were very important factors in Andy’s life and this, along with his Christian faith did much to make the man he became.  Andy took his work as a Scouter very seriously and held to the view that the activities were more than just time fillers and actually provided an environment which afforded those involved, opportunities for character building and being more effective team players.

Jean and Andy worshiped at the Victoria Street Baptist Church where he was to serve as a deacon for many years.  He was involved in the process of merging the Stirling Street and Victoria Street Baptist churches when the individual churches were judged to be unsustainable.  He would also give of his own time to help maintain the church building doing joinery work with some support from other willing members.  For this he gladly gave of his time.

Andy retired in 1994, four years after Jean, and both enjoyed many years together at their home – Craigpark House in Galashiels where they lived for 35 years in total.  This house was to be a setting for many church house group meetings and barbeques.  The cellar was converted into a workshop where Andy did many projects.  He also enjoyed playing the piano accordion and painting water colours, he was a man of many talents.

Eventually, in 2003 they decided that the time was right to relocate to Bridge of Don, Aberdeen to be nearer their family and four grand children.  Their new home provided another interest for Andy and he developed various projects to make their new house more comfortable and more easily maintained. The home was within easy distance of the Bridge of Don Baptist church which they attended and made a group of close friends with whom they enjoyed regular excursions seeking out suitable coffee shops and beauty spots in and around the North East of Scotland.

Andy was a keen traveller and loved to journey to new locations. This resulted in many holidays to places beyond the UK including camping holidays in Europe and then in later life further afield to the USA and Canada.  Andy and Jean once embarked on a back-packing holiday when they travelled across the USA by train and bus.  During this holiday they were able to make contact with family members and visit locations where Jean’s ancestors had settled in the early 1900’s.  From an early stage, travel inspired Andy to learn foreign languages, including French and German and in later in life he even attempted Polish,  he was determined to communicate with people in their own language.

Despite having some health issues and his deteriorating hearing, Andy maintained a healthy interest in everything that took place around him.  He was always happy to be in company especially family gatherings and enjoyed these times immensely.  Andy was a keen TV watcher particularly of history and nature programs and liked to take charge of the remote control.  He passed away suddenly and peacefully at home with Jean and members of his family close by.

Andy will be sorely missed by Jean, the immediate family and his many friends but the legacy of his memory will remain a source of comfort for all who knew him.


See other posts I published:

Internet Filtering for schools – more #glow #glowplus #EDUScotICT

Further to my own post of a couple of days ago https://www.ruachonline.org.uk/blog/?p=690

and Charlie Loves recent post on the topic


I was doing some further reading and came across the following


I felt this was a good post which covered the topic of filtering from a “feet on the ground” perspective (not that the other posts dont do this too),  I want to highlight this extract

“Nothing is ever going to be perfect, but these days any good filtering service is highly configurable and a lot can be done to ease the pain.

Firstly the LA (or provider) must understand how technology is used in an education environment. This includes newer technologies such as tablets, smartphones, cloud working etc.
Secondly, filtering must be “managed”; that means that constant changes must be made in response to school needs.
Thirdly, the LA must work with schools.  There has to be interaction as to what is working and what isn’t.
Last but by no means least, schools must work with the LA; unless you tell them they won’t know what difficulties you are experiencing.”

The point this makes is I think that filtering is necessary but that way that any filter service is managed is critical to its usefulness to the end user.  End users in this context are pupils and teachers.  An essential part of any filtering service is to go beyond the technology and have a process which can respond to end user needs for exceptions.

For example if a teachers discovers a site which needed to meet a learning objective and it not illegal then there should be a process to allow that site to be opened up  (if initially blocked) either perminantly or for a time!  Such a service should be responsive so that the change can be made in minutes not hours.

The filter service must be more than a box which sits on the edge of the network and blocks certain content – is should part if a service to end users which includes a process for  implemented exceptions quickly as needed.  If the existing filter policies are more open than closed then I think that it should follow that requests for exceptions will be fewer and therefore manageable.

In the context of the current thinking about GlowPlus/Glow Futures etc I see no reason why such a service cannot be implemented at a national level (Glowplus service) but have it managed at a regional level ( either at school or LA levels).