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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Have You Updated Your Aggregator?

Following a number of emails and a couple of passing comments, I thought I should post this. If you are not being directed to my new site, Exc-el, can you make sure you have updated your RSS aggregator? Either that, or your favorites.

You can still catch me on the same domain name.

The new address for your aggregator is:


This only applies to people who want to read what I write.

Feel free to delete me otherwise :)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Pastures New

As you may have noticed, I have remained relatively quite on the blogging front this week. After a tutorial with David Gilmour and a few hours of trial and error, David and I have successfully managed to migrate my webpages to the fantastic new Exc-el Wordpress platform. This will be my final post from blogger.com. You can now find me in my new pastures here:


I will switch my domain name later tonight. Before I go, I would like to say a huge thank you to all of my readers for their comments and support. I would particularly like to thank David Gilmour for his tutorial last Monday, and his endless patience during our 'Skype' chats. I would also like to thank my very good friend Jennie for helping me to set up my first webpage.

Join me over on Exc-el!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Exc-el 2007

The third term has started on a very positive note for me. My pupils and I are ‘bright eyed and bushy tailed’ after a well deserved Christmas break.
On Monday I attended the Exc-el Board Meeting. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the steering of online learning within East Lothian and our visions for how Exc-el will develop over the next three years. I would say more, but my collegues have already given their accounts on their own blogs.

Don’s post
Ollie’s Post
Davids’s Post
Ewan’s Post

I am very pleased to have been invited to join the group and I am looking forward to contributing to the development of Exc-el.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

RSS: What I Think It Is And What It Does For Me And My Blog.

I am hoping that this post will be useful to some readers. Please bear in mind that this is my account of RSS with relevance to blogging.

RSS- With an orange logo that reminds me of the old supermarket chain Fine-Fare, it appears on many websites these days. Most of us have heard of it or read about it, some of us even know the secret of what it is! Explaining it however, is a bit tricky. Following Robert's recent successful series of posts, I am going to bit the bullet and give it ago.

RSS- What does it stand for?
There is no particular rule as to what the letters RSS actually stand for. Really Simple Syndication and Rich Site Summary are two possible meanings listed on the wiki-pedia page. For now, I am not interested in this as it really means nothing to me. If you can just imagine RSS is the name, a word.

RSS- How is it formed?
Let's start with how is RSS formed. The internet is packed jammed full of information. Much of this information is updated on an hourly, daily or weekly basis etc. When I say updated, I mean that something on that web page has changed. Let's look at blogs as a particular example. You will know from reading my blog, that I update it on a daily or weekly basis. This depends on whether I have something I want to share with others. When I update my blog with a post I have written, it produces what we call RSS.

So the question is still with us. Here goes......

Imagine my blog is a radio station, probably a very boring one at that. Every time I write a post, this radio Station (my blog) broadcasts it via radiowaves (RSS). You will only be able to receive these radio waves if you have some kind of Radio, i.e. receive notification that my blog has been updated. This Radio is call an RSS reader or Aggregator, I.e. Bloglines or Netvibes. These are simple accounts that are very easy to setup and use. You can see a screen shot of a Netvibes account here.

Now let's think about it on a wider scale of things. Each blog transmits its own RSS, its own radio waves, to our radio (RSS reader). If we program our radio (RSS reader) to receive the radio waves (RSS) from our chosen radio stations (blogs), we can see them all at the same time.

I.e. I have all the blogs that you can see listed below, on the right, in my RSS reader account. When I log into my account, I can see which ones have new posts. This saves me time as I don't need to click through all of them to see if there are any new posts. My Radio (RSS reader) has done it for me!

Ok, this is one of my understandings of RSS. I have no idea whether this will make the slightest bit of sense; I have let my imagination take over here.

I am more than happy to elaborate on anything I have mentioned.

Please feel free to beat me with comments. Be kind :(

More on PowerPoint searching.

Just a quick post. One website where quite a lot of resources can be found is World of Teaching.
However, beware. Many of the PowerPoint’s are either incomplete, or require editing. Certainly, with regards to Biology, they do not cover a lot of the course learning outcomes adequately. However, there is the odd gem to be found, with the added bonus that there are no copyrights.

Well worth a rummage.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

PowerPoint Search

This may not be any big secret to a number of you, but I felt it was worth a mention on my blog. As we know, the internet has lots and lots of information. There are lots and lots of ways to filter this information, allowing you to find the particular facts etc, that you are looking for. With particular relevance to PowerPoint presentations, you might find the following quite useful (that’s if you didn’t already know)

Firstly, open up a window with Google.

Secondly, beside the Google search box, you will see a blue hyperlink Advanced Search’. Click on this link and you should see the following page:

There are lots of boxes on this page, but the two specific ones that you need to use are:

Find Results -‘With All Of The Following Words’


File Format- 'Any Format'

Type in the specific words of your chosen topic (i.e. ‘Mitosis’ ‘Basic’, for me as a Biologist). Next, look at the 'File Format' row. Here, make sure that you change ‘Any Format’ to 'ppt (PowerPoint)' from the file format drop down menu.

It should, now, just be a case of clicking ‘Search’. The list of web pages that come up should be PowerPoint in format. Allot of them may not be relevant to you, but I have found some excellent PowerPoint’s by searching through Google in this way.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


A very Happy New Year to you all! In a bid to escape the manic celebrations in Edinburgh, I decided to venture south and spend New Year with family and friends in London. Every Christmas, I try and see a new musical. Although I saw Avenue Q in August, I just couldn’t resist returning again tonight. Avenue Q The Musical was created by to gentlemen called Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx. The pair began writing Avenue Q in 1999, thinking that their idea would make for a great TV series. Four years later, in 2003, the musical hit New York's Broadway, eventually reaching London in 2oo6. It is like a kind of ‘Adult' version of the 'Muppets/Sesame Street’. Indeed, on December 4th 2006, the cast of Avenue Q (only 8 in total) appeared at the Royal Variety Performance. They performed several numbers from the show including the hilarious, ‘It Sucks To Be Me’ and ‘Only For Now’. The songs are as catching as those from ‘Grease’ and ‘Cats’, and the lyrics are very meaningful; a colleague of mine has even used some of these songs during RME lessons!

'Avenue Q is the story of Princeton, a bright-eyed college grad who comes to New York City with big dreams and a tiny bank account. He soon discovers that the only neighbourhood in his price range is Avenue Q; still, the neighbours seem nice. There's Brian the out-of-work comedian and his therapist fiancée Christmas Eve; Nicky the good-hearted slacker and his roommate Rod -- a Republican investment banker who seems to have some sort of secret; an Internet addict called Trekkie Monster; and a very cute kindergarten teaching assistant named Kate. Together, Princeton and his newfound friends struggle to find jobs, dates, and their ever-elusive purpose in life'.


I won’t give anymore away, but if you have the chance, you should go and see it. It is a new breed of musical that is guaranteed to have you chuckling and singing all the way home. A 'must' for any University graduate.

More details can be found at the Avenue Q website.

Best wishes for 2007!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Five Things You Didn't Know About Me...etc

I hope you all had a fabulous Christmas. I saw this blog post recently circulating and I have been fortunate enough to avoid being tagged. However, thanks to Robert, I must now join in.

Five things you didn’t know about me.

I enjoy playing the piano and the flute, badly.

When I was thirteen, I gained my Pony Club level C+ Certificate.

In the summer of 2002, I did a sky dive over Magnetic Island in Australia.

I am a huge Volkswagen Beetle fan

I am the only member of my family since my grandfather, Michael Swann, to follow a career beginning in the Biological Sciences.

I tag Jan, Luke, Glowboy, Liz and I don’t think OB has been tagged yet.

Where I have been