Thanks to yet another bloody good idea from my mate Mr Robbo, I was inspired to do the same thing he did…

This is a Wordle tag cloud that gives an overview of the general zeitgeist of Betchablog.  It analyses the words used in my blog posts and presents them in various sizes according to their frequency of use – the more often the word occurs, the bigger it appears – giving a nice insight into the main ideas contained in the text.  It’s a neat little tool, and I’ve used it to create word clouds for lots of text in the past, but oddly enough, I’d never actually used it to analyse this blog.  Overall, I think it’s a pretty good reflection of what gets talked about here (although I think the word “amazing” may be just slightly over-represented thanks to a certain recent blog post that mentioned it once or twice!) I’m not sure exactly just how far back in time it goes… I’m sure it didn’t analyse all the way back to when I started this blog, but either way, I like it!

If you want to try something similar, just point your browser at and give it the URL for your blog (or any other chunk of text)  Thanks to a little bit of Java magic, in mere moments, you too can have a similarly beautiful typographic masterpiece!

Thanks for the suggestion @mrrobbo!

Getting an Ad-Free Ning

Quite a few teachers at our school are starting to see the advantages that a Ning community can offer.  We have been using Nings this year with several classes, and I’m finding them a really good, really easy way to get teachers interacting with technology in ways they might not have done otherwise.  Ning provides a visually rich, yet secure, environment for students to collaborate and socialise in, with a range of tools that are both useful and fun to use.  Because Ning offers many of the same kinds of tools that Facebook offers – discussion, video, pictures, chat – students find it easy to adapt to.  It also provides a few things that Facebook doesn’t – blogs, music and page customisation – so it allows teachers to modify the Ning toolsets to meet their individual educational needs.

Although Nings are proving incredibly useful for educators, the Google ads that appear on the right-hand menu are problematic for many educational purposes.  As good as the Ning environment is, with the ads in place (and in a new Ning the ads are often for inappropriate things like weight loss, online dating, work from home schemes, etc) Nings become largely unsuitable for school use.  While it’s possible to pay to remove the ads, the cost and red-tape involved in doing this in a school setting also make it less likely that educators will pursue it as an option.

Realising this, the good folk at Ning very generously offer an ad-free option for k-12 educators.  Simply ask to have the ads removed, and they will remove them for you.

The problem is that the instructions for getting the ads removed are not obvious. They require you to write to them and ask for it; a nice personal approach, but not just a matter of clicking a simple checkbox in the same way that Wikispaces offers ad-free wikis for educators.  With Ning, you need to know where to direct your request for ad removal, and that information is not all that obvious.  If you Google “removing ads from a ning” you will find instructions to do it, but I’ve found that the instructions can be out-of-date or do not always match what you see on your screen… it can be a little confusing.

I just applied this morning to have a Ning made ad-free, and managed to work my way through the confusion. If it helps anyone else, here’s how I did it.

  1. Go to
  2. Fill in the URL for the Ning you want made ad-free
  3. From the “Select a Topic” dropdown, choose “General Question”
  4. In the “Describe your Question” field, write a short request for your ads to be removed…  as an example, this is what I wrote…  “Hello, I’d like to request that the above Ning be made ad-free for education. Our school is doing a collaborative project with our sister school in Japan and would like to use the Ning environment for these exchanges. Our students are aged between 13 and 17 and the Ning will be used only for educational purposes. Thanks!

They say it takes about 3-4 days to get approved.

Thanks Ning-guys!  Hope you get a great big serving of Internet karma as reward for your generosity!

Did You Know?

I wonder if Karl Fisch knew what he was starting when he made the original “Did You Know?” PowerPoint file for his staff at Arapahoe High School back in early 2007.  Fisch just wanted to share a few thoughts about a fast changing world with his fellow teachers, but by posting a copy to his blog it got picked up by others who found it fascinating, it went completely viral, has been made into several versions, has been remixed and modified many times, and its many incarnations have now been viewed many millions of times on YouTube and other online video sites.  All of this really speaks about the power of the web to help spread ideas…

In case you haven’t seen it here is version 4.0, the latest incarnation of “Did You Know?”

Nice work Karl.

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