Google Glass – The demise

In some ways it seems Google have read our last blog post and agreed!

It seems there is actually no use for Google Glass in its current form and Google have acknowledged it by discontinuing the explorer programme.

I stand my comments in the previous blog post that Glass does have a use – but maybe Google are right that it needs to be worked on further behind closed doors without the pressure of deadlines and Glass Explorers.

Hopefully Google will recognise us dedicated Glass explorers in the future and find a way to allow us to recoup the £1000 we invested in the product!

Google Glass – Is there a use for it?

In June last year Google announced the release of Google Glass in the UK. It had a very hefty price tag at £1000 which was designed to deter consumers and promote use amongst hard core techies and those who really intended to explore and find new uses for the product.

At Footsqueek we are always keen to explore new technology and see what it can be used for so we thought we would invest.

Initially its fair to say that glass had a WOW factor – no-one had seen anything like it before and it was surprising the number of people in the street who wanted to try it on and have a play. It was a little disappointing how few apps were available in the Glassware store but for the first 3 or 4 weeks we literally could not put Glass down.

Then the novelty wore off – we became irritated by how limiting the interface is; quirks such as it being impossible to hashtag from glass when sending a tweet and also the lack of integration with iOS. We also found one of the biggest limitations was that you need to spend so much time talking to it “Ok Glass” this and “OK Glass” that – talking to yourself just doesn’t “look” cool. Also imagine if 10 people in the same room had Glass – surely we would all end up talking to each others devices and having our own devices activate when we don’t want them to.

So with all of that said …. does that mean we hate glass?

NO! We just don’t think its ready yet – and given that Google isn’t pushing it perhaps they don’t think it is either. We are also not convinced that it will ever become a true consumer product and that it has a far greater appeal for use in business. Maybe the role of Glass is to assist supermarket staff when doing a stock take, or finding products on shelves. Or maybe it could help on a building site when a bricklayer has his hands full and needs to consult a document.

Or maybe Glass has another use that we haven’t yet considered ….. to this end we’ve decided to see what we can come up with. On 31st January we are holding a Footsqueek Hackathon and the topic is “An App for Google Glass”. It will be interesting to see what ideas we can come up with – and of course we’ll let you know!

Have you tried Google Glass?  Or do you have an opinion to share? Let us know!

The demise of foursquare

Do you know what foursquare is?

I’ve been a reluctant user of the service that allows users to “checkin” and earn badges based upon checkin locations. A couple of years ago I got really into it, particularly when on holiday and would literally check in 10’s of times every day.

The social side of the service never really took off though – a few of my friends had it and it was fun to compete to become the mayor of some local hotspots. Then life took over and I found I didn’t really have a need for it and although still installed on my phone wasn’t an essential everyday app.

In 2014 Foursquare came back into my life (briefly). I opened the app and the service insisted that I download SWARM. This is apparently the new foursquare, and the foursquare app is apparently used for other things. I didn’t really understand the new foursquare or SWARM so out of interest I did a little research. Apparently the core functionality of Foursquare is its “yelp like experience” – clearly I had been missing something.

Having researched it – I still didn’t understand what foursquare was now for, so I deleted it. I wonder how many others did the same? The usage data reported here seems to suggest many did.

So on the back of that my prediction is that 2015 will see the true demise of Foursquare.

What does this teach us? Companies need to focus on what they do well and make sure that they don’t confuse their customer base. I believe that consumers like things simple and easy to understand – if you’re going to launch a new product don’t replace an existing product with something that is totally different and unexpected. Seems simple but even the largest and most well financed companies sometimes get it wrong – and sometimes once it goes wrong there is no way back.

Do you think Foursquare will recover?

You Never Know Who You Are Going To Meet On Twitter

Through the mystery of Twitter I engaged in an interesting conversation with Daniel Edwards aka @syded06, who asked the question, “Why do educators sometimes seem at odds with colleagues when they all want the same thing – the best for their students?” This was to no one in particular but I responded.

As a consequence of our short twitter chat Daniel pointed me in the direction of a blog written by John Tomsett, a Headteacher in York, which is well worth reading. You might also want to follow him on Twitter at  @johntomsett. 

I, in turn, pointed Daniel to a book that inspired me as a Headteacher. It’s called,  ‘The Big Picture – Education Is Everyone’s Business’ by Dennis Littky. Early on in the book he talks about the ‘Real Goals of Education’ – these describe how he would like his students to be once they have left his school. He wants them to:

  • be lifelong learners
  • be passionate
  • be ready to take risks
  • be able to problem-solve and think critically
  • be able to look at things differently
  • to be able to work independently and with others
  • be creative
  • care and want to give back to their community
  • persevere
  • have integrity and self-respect
  • have moral courage
  • be able to use the world around them well
  • speak well, write well, read well and work well with numbers
  • truly enjoy their life and their work

A great list – but how many of these worthwhile attributes can we measure in a standardised test? Thankfully very few. How many of them would we, as educators and  parents  want our children to acquire? Hopefully all of them.

What are your ‘real’ educational goals?


Meetings Are Toxic

I have just read an interesting book called ‘Rework’ by Jason Fried & David Heinemeir Hansson. The contents page itself makes interesting reading with chapter headings like :

‘Ignore the real world’
‘Learning from mistakes is overrated’
‘Planning is guessing’
‘No time is no excuse’;
‘Meeting are toxic’

While I might not agree with everything they say, they certainly challenge your thinking and what we might consider the ‘status quo’.

Under ‘Meetings are toxic’ the question really is why do we have them and more importantly why do you go to so many? As a Head I went to many meetings lasting many hours – how productively was I spending my time? I wasn’t. They are not saying that all meetings are a waste of time, but that you have got to choose wisely & make sure that the meetings you go to have a clear purpose. They talk about meetings being the worst interruption of all and here’s why:

They’re usually about words & abstract concepts not real things.

They usually convey an abysmally small amount of information per minute.

They easily drift off subject.

They require thorough preparation that most people don’t have time for.

They frequently have agendas that are so vague that nobody is really sure of the goal.

Meetings procreate. One meeting leads to another, which leads to another, which  leads to …….

Are you planning to go to any meetings like this?  Maybe it’s time to question the meetings you go to, or the ones you call & lead. What interruptions have you got planned for this week!

An iPod Touch For Every Child or Every Teacher?

When the new school year started a few weeks ago many children in our primary schools were given a new pen, a pencil, a ruler and an assortment of exercise books. All of these deemed to be the essential tools the children would need for the coming years learning journey. How many, I wonder, were also given an iPod Touch? Or even given an iPod Touch instead of  the pen, ruler and exercise books? When I started primary school in 1955 pen and paper were the tools of the day. Is this still the case today? Are they the tools we adults use in our daily lives and jobs?

So why not give each class of youngsters an iPod Touch. ‘Hang on a minute’, is the cry I can hear coming from many teachers, ‘That’s easier said than done. Have you thought about the cost and then there’s the problem of them getting broken and what about ……’ and so the excuses begin to tumble out. One problem, though rarely mentioned, is the fact that these devices scare so many of our teachers. They don’t know what to do with them and what’s worse they know the children probably do!

So, instead of giving all the children an iPod Touch, why don’t we start by giving all of our teachers one? Let them discover for themselves the power of this learning tool and the myriad of apps that go with it. Give them time to play and learn. They can then share their issues, their successes, their discoveries safely with one another. Then, when they are ready, start to involve the children. Teachers are, after all, learners as well and this learning tool will help them on their own learning journey.

There are a number of teachers and schools, across the whorl, taking this bold step. Have a look at Tony Vincent’s great list of ‘Dos’ & ‘Don’ts’ with regard to classroom sets of iPod Touches. Much of this advice would work well for a staff set of these devices. A great blog called, ‘I Teach Therefore I Pod’ by a teacher called Harry Walker is well worth looking at. Or you might want to look at an online community of teachers/schools using iPod Touches in which case visit, ‘The iPod Touch Classroom’.  If you have now decided you fancy having a go with an iPod Touch here are some educational apps to get you going.

Information Overload

Photo by Will Lion

We live in a world where knowledge is at our fingertips. If you have a question – ask Google. What did we do before Google? For me, as a child in the 1950′s and 60′s, my teacher was my ‘Google’. It was the teacher who had the knowledge and we went to school to learn from them. My access to knowledge at home was limited to a very cheap children’s encyclopaedia, which soon became out of date.

The role of teachers today needs to change – they are no longer the ‘wise guardians of knowledge’. In the world we live in, information is easily accessible through a myriad of technological devices.

The following Infographic shows what happens on the web every 60 seconds!

60 Seconds - Things That Happen On Internet Every Sixty Seconds
Infographic by- Shanghai Web Designers

 Anthony Chivetta, a High School Student in Missouri, is credited with saying’

The need to know the capital of Florida died when my phone learned the answer. The students of tomorrow need to be able to think creatively; they will need to learn on their own, adapt to new challenges and innovate on-the-fly.”

Have you ever considered just how much ‘your phone knows’?

Teachers today have to be guides, showing children where the information they want can be found, but more importantly how they can navigate their way through the wealth of data out there to ensure relevance and accuracy.

It is time to rethink the role of the teacher in the classroom and this will inevitably make us re-think the role of learning.

In 1605, Sir Francis Bacon, the father of scientific thinking, outlined the ‘habits of mind’ needed in research:

  • Nimble & versatile to see relationships among things, in addition to subtle distinctions between them.
  • Inquisitive.
  • Patient enough to doubt and ask questions.
  • Fond of reflecting.
  • Slow to assert and ready to consider multiple points of view.
  • Careful to support their points of view and to formulate an argument with reasons and evidence.
  • A slave neither to passing trends nor to established traditions but capable of judging  the credibility of sources and making independent judgements about information.
  • Alert to all deception.

Do you think that these ‘habits of mind’ are as essential in 2012 as they were in 1605? What do you believe are the important skills needed to develop critical thinking in 21st Century learners?

Generating Money from Mobile Apps

A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to attend IOSDEVUK in Aberystwyth. The conference, which is organised by the University of Aberystwyth is a chance for IOS developers from around the UK to come together share ideas and find out what’s new in the world of mobile apps.

One of the most interesting things at the conference was a talk given by Craig Lockwood (@craiginwales) entitled “The state of the Union”. The talk focussed on some fascinating facts which are important to anyone considering developing an app.

In recent years apps have received much publicity in which it is demonstrated that creators have made huge sums of money. This is certainly the case with apps such as angry birds having generetaed in excess of $70,000,000. What I hadn’t realised was that only 1.3% of apps downloaded on android are paid for by it’s user base – this lead @craginwales to the conclusion that “Android Users Are Broke”.

It would a fair question to ask how android developers make their money. In terms on Angry Birds the answer is simple – Advertising. The company generates an estimated $1 million each month. This model is fine for apps that are extremely popular and well used, but what about the lesser known apps …. how do they generate a revenue?

Compare this to downloads from IOS where an estimated 18% of apps are paid for resulting in $2.5 billion paid out to developers.

Whether you have an iPhone, Android, Windows Phone or a dare I say a Blackberry mobile devices are here to stay. More than half of us mobile users now use our phone in place of an alarm clock. 28% of us use our phone instead of a laptop and the iPAD alone is now outselling PC’s from all manufacturers combined. The fact that surprised me most was that currently more iPhones are being purchased in the UK each day than there are people being born!

So why is all of that interesting? For me it demonstrates that IOS devices have the most longevity because they have the most robust financial model. It also re-enforces the potential market if you can come up with a new and innovative app idea. The problem? The more apps that are created the harder it is to come up with an idea that no-one else has done.

So what’s your idea?

Finger Painting

Photo courtesy of Mike Licht
As a child did you ever do any finger painting. I used to love it. The end results were never much good (though my mum thought they were brilliant!) but the mess I was allowed to make was great.

Another great artist, David Hockney, has been creating art work, first on his iPhone and then, more recently, on his iPad. Here’s what he said about painting on his iPhone,

“People from the village come up to me and tease me, ‘We hear you’ve started drawing on your telephone.’ And I tell them, ‘Well, no, actually, it’s just occasionally I speak on my sketch pad.’ Who would ever have thought that the telephone would bring back drawing. I like to draw flowers by hand on the iPhone and send them out to friends so that they get fresh flowers. And my flowers last! They never die!” 

What a thought – imagine being sent an original David Hockney on your iPhone! Another  favourite  David Hockney quote is,

“I have got an iPad, what a joy! Van Gogh would have loved it, and he could have written his letters on it as well.”

The following video gives a whole new meaning to the idea of  ‘finger painting’. It is a wonderful example of how the latest technology can be used to create some brilliant art work. This is by an artist called Kyle Lambert, using an iPad.

For more great pictures have a look at ‘Orphaned Stories’ by Matthew Watkins or the work of Shaun Mullen
While David Hockney and other creative people are embracing technology, our educational leaders are still debating its place in our schools, still arguing whether or not it promotes learning. While artists use their mobile phones to create works of art, our schools are banning them! Why are we getting it so wrong!

What do you think? Please let us know.

Program Or Be Programmed


I was given a great book for Christmas called ‘Program Or Be Programmed’ by Douglas Rushkoff. It turned out to be one of those books you can’t put down and then feel the need to go back to again and again. In it he gives us ten commands for the digital age. Ten commands that I feel most of us will ignore, but will do so at our peril. In the book’s introduction he says,

… as we move into an increasingly digital reality, we must learn not just how to use programs but how to make them. In the emerging, highly programmed landscape ahead, you will either create the software or you will be the software. It’s really that simple: Program, or be programmed.

He goes on to suggest that the very technology that we are coming to rely upon more and more is shaping our world and is doing so without our explicit cooperation.

… as such technologies come to characterise the future of the way we live and work, the people programming them take an increasingly important role in shaping our world and how it works.

We are bombarded with software and apps designed to make life easier for us, to lessen our stress levels. One of the ten commands that Douglas Rushkoff speaks of is ‘Time’ and he says we should learn not to ‘always be on’.

Instead of becoming empowered and aware, we become frazzled and exhausted. We have no time to make considered responses, feeling instead obligated to reply to every incoming message on impulse. We reduce the length and complexity of our responses from paragraphs to sentences to txts, making almost everything we transmit sound like orders barked over a walkie-talkie in a war zone. Everything must happen right way, or better, now. There is no later.

In our schools we need to think not only about the ever-growing need to make better use of the technology that is now available but also how we use it. At  present we teach children how to use software and apps in the belief that this will equip them for the modern workplace.

Instead of teaching programming, most schools with computer literacy curriculums teach program.  When a kid is taught a piece of software as a subject, she’ll tend to think of it like any other thing she has to learn. Success means learning how to behave in the way the program needs her to.

How do we create more programmers in our schools?