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You might have noticed that there hasn’t been a new post on this blog for a while.


Well, it’s because the ode beta is, from today, being shut down.

After a strategic re-think we have been asked to build a bigger and better version that can take full advantage of the Pearson global network. But to do that ode development as a brand/blog/beta platform has to be stopped.

This means goodbye to ode as you know it. So I guess all that’s left is some thank yous.

  • Thanks to all our beta users and 3rd party content and platform partners for your support, energy, feedback and encouragement.
  • Thanks to all the bright and passionate folks we have met over the last year or so: you have opened our minds to any number of exciting challenges and ideas.
  • Thanks to Eylan Ezekiel for being first to find us.
  • Thanks to switched on people like Mark Berthelemy, Ewan Mackintosh, David Hicks, John Davitt , Dr Martyn Farrows and Ian Usher to name but a few for noticing us. People like them are true 21st century educators – it was a thrilling moment to come into the office to find we’d popped up on their radar. We always took it as the highest compliment. Like us they are people who have stepped up above the parapet and said: there are better ways to deliver technology to the modern student. They don’t accept mediocrity and they don’t expect it to be easy. But they do all share one common belief: positivity about the future of technology in education. And for that, we salute them.
  • Thanks to Jon Hicks for his tree.
  • Thanks to those people who took the time to talk to us at BETT, at conferences, at Teachmeet and most importantly in schools and colleges.
  • But most of all thanks to the team who have worked mightily hard on this project and had fun doing it. You can’t ask for more than that.

So what’s next?

ode as a brand, as a singular idea, is over. We have learned an enormous amount about how schools are entering the web 2.0 space.

To that end the team will now concentrate on building the new platform. This blog will re-emerge soon enough, probably with a different name but it’ll be the same old esoteric ramblings as before.

I hope anyone who followed us will step back into the conversation when I re-start it later this year – bigger, bolder and more “elearningy” than before.


The ode team

It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt

Huzzah and hurrah! Pop open the fizzy, call the red arrows and fire at least 12 guns in salute – Ed won an award!

The company incubating us, Pearson, have an annual bash called the “Growth and Excellence” awards. It’s divided up into 5 categories, voted for by a range of people from across the company, and Ed won in the “Innovation” category for his implementation of the Agile software development methodology with ode.

It’s the first time Agile has been used in the business and moving to that from the more traditional ways of working was a huge and complex task. Not only did he manage this process diligently and professionally throughout the last 12 months he did it so well other teams have started to adopt this way of working.

BUT, on top of winning that award, he also came runner up in the overall company “best in class” award. So a double pike with somersault to finish for Mr Wong there.

So big applause for Ed – very well deserved.

A very quick post to say we hope you all had a great Xmas and of course wishing you all a happy and prosperous new year.

Over the next week or so we’ll be working towards getting ready for BETT. If you come and see us (and I hope you will) you will be able to pick up one of our limited edition “invite” minicards.

There’s a special email address on them which you can use to join our trial. But I’ve cleverly smudged the email address out so you’ll just have to come and see us to get one and find out what it is, won’t you? 😉

BETT invite card

ode winter

Yep, it is mighty chilly at Ode HQ right now. That’s not a surprise seeing as the winter solstice is only a day away.I took the above photo from from Ode Towers this afternoon…with the windows shut and the heaters on and reminisced about 2007…prompted by Mr B’s post from yesterday.

We’ve put a lot of work into laying the foundations for exciting things in 2008. I won’t repeat them all as Mr B covered them pretty well yesterday. One of the things I’m most excited about (with my “software development” hat on) is the Application Programming Interface (API) that we’re working on to help expose the content that will be stored in the Ode databases. What this means is that Ode platform partners will be able to incorporate Ode features in their own websites. We’ll be able to build some nice tools to enable you as a user to find the content that you want (cross platform search widget maybe?). For that matter nearly anyone with the nous will be able to build tools that interact with Ode (Moodle plug-in anyone?).

The other thing that I like about how were are building Ode is that we’re very interested in making a system that is developed in conjunction with those who will end up using it. Here at Ode Towers, we refer to it as User Centred Design.

“The central premise of user-centred design is that the best-designed products and services result from understanding the needs of the people who will use them. User-centred designers engage actively with end-users to gather insights that drive design from the earliest stages of product and service development, right through the design process.”

We’ve already been talking to a range of educators and content partners about what we’ve been up to but I’m looking forward to the prospect of opening the shutters a bit wider in 2008 and inviting beta users to help us improve what we have built already. One way of getting in on the fun is to visit us at BETT in London (we’re on stand N30).

Also in the interests of openness, my New Year’s resolution is to write more on this blog about how we’re building the system…so expect to be reading a bit about web standards, lean development and user stories from time to time in the new year.

All the best to you and your’s…see you in 2008.

Well, 2007 is drawing to a wintery close. This will be my last blog post before the new year.

It’s been an incredible 12 months for the ode project. We’ve gone from a simple idea born out of an excited conversation between two friends to a fully fledged platform development team, working hard to make it a reality.

Looking back I can’t help but think, even though we’ve had to learn under pressure, manage any number of trials and scale hurdles on a daily basis, I’ve never had so much fun at work.

Genuinely, the people on the team, the ideology, the challenges, the momentum, the sheer promise of what we’re trying to do makes it all worthwhile. Every day is another little adventure. There’s no feeling like doing something you love and believe in.

So what does 2008 hold for us?

  • We’re at BETT 08 on stand N30. If you are attending please come and say hi.
  • We’re opening up the beta platform to invited teachers and schools from January onward. One way of getting on the list is to see us at BETT.
  • We’re launching our “proper” marketing website, of which the blog will become part. Look for that early next year.
  • In April we’ll be starting personal ecommerce, giving teachers who are signed up to us to use credit/debit cards to buy content. This is a big step as we’ll finally be a “shop”.
  • In the summer we’ll be trialling educational accounts so schools can pre-pay in lump sums as invite their teachers to use ode.
  • We aim to go live for the winter term 2008.

Through out the year we’ll be announcing content partnerships. The companies we are speaking to represent a wide range of types of content and serve different areas of the curriculum. We want our users to have the benefit of variety and quality so we try to source the best content suppliers and get them as excited by ode as we are.

We will also hope to announce a very exciting platform parnership, one that will open ode up to a huge number of teachers and prove ode as a significant player in the industry.

Because it’s worth stating: we’re very serious about being the number one pay as you go digital content marketplace for education.

So with all that in mind, raise a glass in memory of 2007, have a brilliant Xmas and fantastic new year. 2008 will be our year. See you then!

I am a big fan of blogging about ode.

I believe in the right to be transparent about the development and not to be too “stealth” about the whole thing. It helps create conversations where there would ordinarily be no conversations at all.

I know for a fact that it has sparked some really interesting debate with those who have stumbled across it. It has also opened doors with a number of industry players who like what we have to say and they are intrigued enough to get involved, which is great.

We’re using our blog as a communication method to show what we are like as a team, our philosophy, our ambition and our commercial progress. I believe it gives more than any bland marketing website could give.

But yesterday I found out that the blog almost put off a potential supplier we really wanted to talk to. She didn’t explicitly not like the blog per say, but she didn’t “get it” (or at least “get what ode was about just from the blog”). I guess this must be a common pitfall of a commercial blog. In essence it’s fairly random and not a very straightforward way of delivering a clear message.

I think perhaps the supplier in question is used to pure marketing websites that say in no uncertain terms “We do A, B and C”. No ambiguity. No mixed messages. No wading through posts full of exposition about teddy bears and Google toilets.

In retrospect I can understand why this running commentary didn’t give her the comfort zone she needed. But not to worry. We will (eventually) build a “proper”marketing website with FAQs, Screenshots, marketing blurb etc. Maybe a platform blog can’t exist without one?

So until then I’m taking this opportunity to present some simple facts:

  1. ode is a website/platform that will allow educators to download or rent individual bits of learning content that other people have made. You buy it, we take our cut, the rest goes back to the content owner.
  2. We are a team of experienced elearning folks who are having the time of their lives creating what we hope will be the next big digital educational platform. We’re based in Oxford, UK and invested in/incubated originally by Harcourt, who are now Pearson of course.
  3. ode is being built now and we will be at BETT to show off progress so far and gather interested beta users and hopefully more content and platform partners.
  4. This is what we look like…


Back row from left: Dik Knights (Senior Content Architect), Stephane Ferenga (Digital Content Manager), Chris Bradford (Head of ode/Co-founder), Anthony Glass (Project Manager), James Christie (User Centered Design Consultant), Steve Jones (Rights Assistant).

Front row from left: Samir Sipraga (Senior Web Developer), Tony Pinchbeck (Software Developer), Ed Wong (Product Manager/Co-founder), Maria Newton (Testing/QA) , John Smith (Lead Developer).

Not forgetting Garrett Coakley who just started as a Web developer and Eylan Ezekiel as our Business Development Manager.

But to finish on a good note…Eylan met with said content supplier who after an in depth conversation is now apparently very excited by ode and the opportunities it presents. So sometimes you simply have to talk to people to cut out the noise!

Just to let you know we’re hiring a few people to join the ode team over the next few weeks/months. At the moment the jobs are for coders but a further variety of job types will go up soon – keep checking back!

We’re soon to be running a Wisdom of Crowds experiment (a big hello if you’ve come here from the invite!). If you need to get your head round this theory that James Surowiecki proposes then I strongly suggest you read his book “Wisdom of Crowds – Why the many are smarter than the few“. It’s really rather brilliant.

Essentially the theory goes “the collective wisdom of the many is smarter than the expert opinion of the few.

The reason we are going to all this bother at all is that we (the so-called experts) cannot agree on something essential to ode. I’m not going to post at this point what the question is we’re trying to answer, suffice to say we think that it’s something we should put to the mob to see if they can do any better.

The good news for those that are coming is that there is a very special prize up for grabs…the very first ode t-shirt.

Gen-oo-ine, unique, one of a kind, first off the press, original ode wear. We think it rocks.

Of course Ed ordered it in skinny so if it doesn’t fit we promise to order you one that does (which means it won’t be unique anymore but on the plus side you will still be one of the cool kids and get invited to all the best parties). Plus there will also be ode cupcakes (seriously!) and smoothies.

ode t-shirt close up frontode t-shirt back

In every project there is a bit where the productivity line goes sharply upwards, leaving you in no doubt that all cylinders are firing. We’re hitting that point now.

It feels like a very dramatic time for ode. We:

  1. …have our first round investment! Yay! That took a lot of blood, sweat and weekend working but we’re finally primed. I’m sure I’ll blog about the experience of how we did it later on. For now I’m still tip toeing around it in case I wake up like Bobby Ewing and it was all dream.
  2. …are recruiting an excitable private beta group of teachers to help us build this thing (we love you all for the time you’re taking to help us – it’s really appreciated). If you want to contribute (at any level we can find to fit you in) please email us and we’ll give you the details.
  3. ….have begun the great content gathering push. We are sourcing content from the most astonishing places. Everything from market leading literacy and numeracy schemes to small niche content types such as interactive posters for a whiteboard display. And everything in between. I’d tell you who/what they were but I don’t want to spoil the surprise. Yet.
  4. …have a new beta logo:

ODE beta logo

Nice, huh? OK, it’s not a stretch design wise but in keeping with our simplicity drive I think it works.

I’ll update more in a couple of weeks.

This blog has gone up early, well before product or even beta release and for good reason. We’re as interested in discussing technology in Education as we are in building ode. We think the two go hand in hand.

We also want to bring people round to the whole idea of ode and “on demand” personalised teaching, what it might mean for your students and you as an educator.

I was unable to get a chance to speak to anyone on the stand at BETT (not important enough yet I guess! Too intimidated by all the big educational brains swarming around it) but I have been reading up on his thinking and there was an article recently in the Education Guardian Link section (which is new I think) where he says:

“Freedom, space and expectation allowed tiny technology companies to change the world. Now we need that same freedom, space and expectation to transform learning” – Professor Stephen Heppell in the Education Guardian, Jan 9th, 2007 (, and

That’s where we want to be. We want to be that small but disruptive force that powers a new way of educating. People talk about fresh thinking but we aim for fresh action. There is a difference.

What is ODE?

ODE will be a webstore where educators can buy little bits of digital educational content and put them back together any way they like. Simple.