YikYak GeoFence

YikYak App

YikYak App

What is YikYak?

YikYak is a geographically localised anonymous twitter-like app gaining popularity. It allows users to post, without identifying themselves, to up to 500 users in the local area. It is quite easy for offensive and abusive messages to reach users quickly. The messages can contain inflammatory or personal references which can be disruptive to a local community. This poses many potential issues for schools across the UK. Also, be aware of the Yak game. Users post messages and exchange their beloved banter of all sorts, never knowing if the message is legit or spoof, or who posted it. The appeal of YikYak is that it plays no part in your digital footprint; no care is required in what you post. The police, apparently, can identify who posted an update, should things escalate sufficiently to get them involved.

What can you do about it?

When we first applied for a geofence, via the YikYak site, it became apparent they are USA-based and the geofence service seemed to serve the other side of the Atlantic only. We heard nothing back from YikYak, but had not seen any usage in our area. Upon further investigation (using the app) in the new term, activity had began and some of it was particularly unpleasant and identifiable to our school. However, a geofence had been initiated, but it failed to cover all areas of our school. So, I have sent another request including grid references and postcodes of our most peripheral pupil occupied locations. Fingers crossed.

The geofence makes the app do this:

YikYak GeoFence

YikYak GeoFence

To do this for your school, enter the postcode for the building into Google maps, and the grid reference appears in the address bar, so you can copy and paste it. Below is an example for 10 Downing Street.

Using Google maps to locate a grid reference

Using Google maps to locate a grid reference

School Prefect Social Media Policy Workshop

Disclaimer: Although the sketch of this plan was drawn up in collaboration, I have not yet cleared the detail with my school and they may well indeed suggest amendments or another approach entirely.

In two days I will be leading a workshop for all school prefects to help kickstart a Social Media Policy for our independent co-educational boarding school. Social media usage within such an organisation is not easy to measure or monitor. Pastoral teams all have incidents to recant about what happened when it all went wrong, but I am prepared to be told that we grown ups are making a fuss about something that is not of great concern to young people right now. That’s not to say I wouldn’t put a policy in place, only that I’m open to hearing what I, and others in the teaching body, perceive as potentially harmful is actually over-egging the pudding. Mostly I want to listen.

So, here is the plan…

The prefects will be having dinner in five tables of five whilst we work. I’m going to do an intro, throw in a curve ball or two about my own experiences, break the ice – I’m new so none of them know me – and hopefully raise a smile or two that might ease everyone into the evening. Also, I’ll be instigating the Chatham House Rule (as far as it is applicable in these circumstances, i.e. within safeguarding) and asking the participants to share their thoughts and experiences, including an invitation to contact me or another teacher if there is something they would like to discuss in private. Then there will be a mixture of discussion points and post-it activities. Post-it’s will be stuck onto categorised (categories TBD) oversized post-its stuck on the walls around the room.

Discussion point 1

Share with your table the last three times you used social media.

Question 1

What four separate words best describe your experience of using social media? Write each word on a separate note. Pick two of your four to stick on the wall and discard the other two.

Discussion point 2

Do we need to provide social media guidance for our pupils?

Question 2

Have you ever, or someone you know well, had a negative experience using social media?

To answer yes, use a yellow note and write one emotion you felt at that time on the note. To answer no, use a pink note, and use one of these words to explain why you think you haven’t: abstain, careful, private, carefree, or other.

Discussion point 3

Accidentally or deliberately, have you, or someone you know well, ever used technology to cause someone to get upset or feel bad about themselves?

Question 3

Close your eyes. Think back to your first day in school and how you’ve changed and how you’ve stayed the same. What advice would you give your younger self? [open eyes]

If you could, would you let your 11 or 13 year old self know anything about how to behave online? Using as few words as possible, write this advice down on a note. One point per note. As many notes as you want.

Discussion point 4

What would you, as a senior pupil and a prefect, say to a younger pupil who approached you because they are worried about something that has happened online?

Question 4

What do we need to do to support you in situations of this sort that you might face this academic year? One point per note but as many notes as you want from your table.

Discussion point 5

Do we need to stop skirting around the issue and talking to you and drafting policies and simply get a bit tough-love about all this and start enforcing some hard line rules?

Question 5

Having spent the evening thinking and reflecting on the matter, where do we go from here?

Thank yous and goodbyes.


All post-it notes to be collected and assembled into a debrief document to be discussed by a pastoral development committee.

Hopefully this should fill the sixty to ninety minute window set aside for this event. Please let me know if you see a missed opportunity or I’m pitching something wrong from what you’ve read?



Google Teacher Academy London 2014

GTA London October 27th & 28th 2014

I am really chuffed to become a Google Teacher Academy Mentor for GTA London (October) 2014. There is an excellent team of Mentors on board, whom I’m very much looking forward to working with over the next six months and beyond. This GTA, unlike the one I attended a few years ago, will be run by NoTosh under the direction of Ewan McIntosh, the founder of TeachMeets up in Scotland. An astute educationalist, Ewan, and his team, have redesigned the Google Teacher Academy to incorporate their extensive work in adopting design thinking into schools.

gct badgeWhen I became a GCT, it was inspiring and exciting. I joined new communities of teachers from all over the world and learned a lot about making technology work in the classroom. After a while, I became a little jaded at my involvement with the GCT community. My school had other things to focus on and they pay my bills. Google Apps for Education, however, has remained at the forefront of my teaching toolkit. Google are good at making things work. Their core products are reliable and offer features that other web tools do not. At first approach, I was not sure whether or not to accept this invitation.

For me, there is an ethical dimension to being a cog in the wheel – however minor – of Google’s commercial drive that is changing what we understand as privacy and ultimately making a massive global corporation more… massive. So, I thought about it and landed here. Indeed, Google are a massive corporation that line already wealthy people’s pockets with more cash, but they are also slave to the marketplace. This forces them to provide excellent services that are fit for purpose. To schools, these services are free. There is a lot to consider and I am not sure whether or not the answers – the truth – will be attainable in this respect. I will investigate this further. For now, I have faith in the power of the web – you and me – to champion a cause and keep Google on the straight and narrow. Further to this, NoTosh have created Mentor roles to help graduating GCTs to make a difference in their schools by working in small teams of half-a-dozen to effect change within their primary communities. This latter point is why I am on board.

Would you like to apply? It will be fantastic! Here’s the application form. Deadline is soon: 22/09/14. What are you waiting for? If you’d like to discuss anything about it, get in touch right now.

Why Barefoot?

My feet after five miles barefoot running

My feet after five miles barefoot running

Switching to minimalist footwear or running barefoot in November 2012 was amazing and I haven’t looked back. I wonder if I will wear a heeled shoe of any sort ever again.

Why barefoot:

  • It feels good.
  • It feels *right*.
  • My arches were non-existent. The doctor said orthotics, but they do not fix your arches. The internet suggested barefoot running uphill. I owned a pair of Vibram FiveFingers so thought I’d give it a go and I was shocked by the absence of pain in my shins and my knees particularly. I could run happy.
  • Barefoot is good for my mind; connecting with the earth.
  • Mid-life crisis, or at least some mild concern, has led me to invest time in my skeleton so it better supports me until mortal departure.
  • I grew up climbing trees, swinging from ropes, building hay-bale dens, falling in streams, running around the place – outside, often barefoot.
  • Barefoot running is addictive. The stimulation it brings through the soles of your feet is compelling.

About half my runs are bare-naked-footed. Often, the term barefoot running is used to include running in minimalist footwear. I run on all types of surfaces including rough paths with loose stones; “ouch!” My feet can get sore from abrasions after long runs and need to recover. I have bled only once: when walking to a shop, I trotted to avoid some traffic and a piece of debris (glass maybe) outside a pub broke my skin but I ran on it later that day. The odd splinter has caused pain but a pedicure can sort this out as well as remove toughened dead skin. I wear no shoes whenever practical because even minimalist 3mm soles can conceal the impact of heel striking whilst walking. I’m not bothered if I have to wear shoes somewhere in particular; I don’t mind the social pressure to conform.  I’ve learned a bit about feet, for example, ‘the human foot and ankle is a strong and complex mechanical structure containing 26 bones, 33 joints (20 of which are actively articulated), and more than a hundred musclestendons, and ligaments.’ Wikipedia – your feet contain one quarter of the 206 bones in your body. Interestingly your hands also account for a quarter. Thinking about your feet in a similar way to how you think about your hands is part of going barefoot, differing according to function obviously.

I make the rules. If I want to wear shoes for whatever reason, I will. Often, if I start out running wearing shoes, I’ll take them off half way to free my feet, which never fails to be a positive experience.
Should you be interested in trying barefoot running, you should transition slowly from the footwear your feet have been caged in become accustomed to over the years. A simple YouTube search for “barefoot running transition” will provide a few advice videos to get you started. If you are more interested in the science behind it, this link from Harvard might be useful: http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/.

Digital Artistry Careers Ahead


I watched XMen Future (or whatever it’s called) in 3D last night. It’s only the second time I’ve watched a 3D movie – I don’t get out much – it was amazing. I have always pooh-poohed 3D. No more. Gone are the majority of gimmicks of things flying out the screen which tend to be annoying. However, for me, the sense of human movement on the screen was superb, sometimes even tender (Jeff at CNET disagrees with me, but what does he know?). There’s a bit where Wolverine hit someone with a frying pan that was a bit lame but mostly I was really impressed.

Anyway, that is not the point of the post. The film has a rubbish extra bit afterwards, so I watched the credits. I was struck by how many digital artists there are: dozens and then some more. So, I just looked it up on IMDB and there are more than 500 (I stopped counting when I got to 500) visual effects people credited. More than 500! Now, I am aware that visual effects and digital artists are not the same role, but still. So, if you’re faced with a student wondering what career to choose, or saying they want to create computer graphics for a living, encourage them. Every time. Tell them there is a future for them. Tell them it is in reach and worth pursuing.

Image credit