School Blog

Free Schools at Shine unconference

Are you going to the Shine unconference? Look out for impromptu gatherings of people sharing what they can teach and want to learn.

School of Everything will be out and about during the weekend, with a mission to infect 600 social entrepreneurs with our love of Free Schools and open peer-to-peer exchange.

We'll keep you posted on developments. Meanwhile keep an eye out for 'THIS IS A SCHOOL' stickers...

We're twittering...

Before we had an office, we used Twitter as a way of sharing information within Team Everything. So we couldn't really share our updates with the rest of the world.

Now, we have a lovely office, and can talk across the desk. So we're twittering publicly instead!

You can keep up with School of Everything's latest news by following EverythingHQ.

Next Free School meetup

Free School meetups are back!

After a bit of a hiatus during which School of Everything went international, announced a round of seed investment, helped out with Social Innovation Camp and moved the whole office around, I'm delighted to say that we've finally agreed a date to revisit the lo-fi version of what we do.

The next Free School will meet at the Gallery Cafe, Old Ford Rd, Bethnal Green from 6-9pm on Tuesday 29 April.

The idea is simple. Come along, eat cake, drink tea, chat to people. Add what you can teach to one side of the Free School sheet, and what you want to learn to the other. Include your name and email. Look for matching people.

It's surprising how many people find a match, even in a fairly small gathering.

There'll also be a couple of people doing 15-minute fun teaching sessions. If you fancy sharing something you know in 15 minutes, then drop me a line: mary [at] schoolofeverything dot com.

Like the idea of Free Schools but can't make it? It's Free, Libre, Offline Social Software - why not start your own? And tell us about it - we'll help if we can.

Here's the story of the first Free School we organised. But the idea goes way back. Find out more.

Investment news

We're very pleased to announce our first round of investment.

Our investors are Esther Dyson, Rocco Pellegrinelli, JP Rangaswami and Channel 4 Education.

The Young Foundation - who have already supported us in so many ways - have also invested in this round.

JP and Rocco have agreed to come on to the Board (JP will become Chairman). They will join Andy, myself and Andrew Brough from the Young Foundation.

It's been really gratifying to find such an amazing bunch of people and organisations who share our belief that education needs to change and who are willing to support us as we take the project forwards. We're thoroughly looking forward to working with them over the coming months and years.

We're hiring...

The School Science Department is looking for a new developer.

Do you know PHP? Want to learn Drupal? Want to work for the hippest and most socially-conscious start-up in Bethnal Green?

Or do you know a technical whizz-kid who we should talk to?

Check out the details at

Bring on the Explorers

"Bring on Internet Explorer", it's not something you hear often around the Science Department. Normally IE is a kind of lament, a punishment for the sins of a past life. Firefox is our browser of choice, but in this case, we are very interested in watching it fade.

Our school visitors are predominantly Firefox users. Although I am proud of that fact, it also tells us something - our audience is not the normal internet audience. Again, that is not a bad thing, but we don't want to be too far out.

Wikipedia's page on browser statistics has this graph. The blue area is Explorer and the red Firefox. That is quite a different picture to ours up above.

This all leaves us with an interesting trend to watch for How is our number of IE visitors increasing each month? I have always enjoyed watching the opposite, so this really is quite a novel experience. As this number increases we can assume that our audience is becoming more "mainstream", and when you are out to alter the way in which society views education, "The Mainstream" is the audience you want.

Opening Up

The School of Everything Science Department has been busy working on the innards of the site. The biggest chunk of work has been opening it up so that anyone around the world can create a teacher profile.

Until a little while ago, we used UK postcodes for our locations. If you happened to live in the right place, we could show everyone exactly where you were – not always a good thing. Unfortunately we had to turn away anyone from beyond the island because we couldn't plot them on a map. To fix this, we went back under the hood, and made some changes.

We now make use of Geonames (, an open geographical database, to allow us to work in any country across the world. Since a large amount of the data is submitted by its users, there are some quirks, but on the whole, it’s an awesome tool (and, since the data is open, if we find a hole, we can plug it). So we can now allow anyone across the world mark their location on their profile.

We've also opened up our code. For those interested in our imperfections, the code is all downloadable from (, and The modules are in their infancy, full of "TODO’s" and "wouldn’titbenice", but, they work well enough to be installed and used on any Drupal site.

The process of releasing open source code is time consuming, and it could seem like a waste of energy. You have to clean things up, document, debug all sorts of little things that could be much easier to just ignore. If you did not release things, no-one would know. Yet, when those links finally appeared on the Drupal website, it was pretty darn satisfying. Getting code to release state means we are building a solid foundation that will end up paying for all the time we spent on it. Small issues have been closed, the documentation is written, the niggling problems that can rise up and bite six months down the line have been addressed, rather than just swept under the carpet.

There are going to be challenges in staying open. We have to keep releasing our code, and as the year goes on, we are going to be under more and more pressure to deliver additional features. The Science Department may need to fight its corner to get time reserved for code cleaning and releasing, but hopefully, getting a bit of a habit ingrained now will mean that it gets easier as time goes on.

That’s enough I think. They only let us Science Guys out every now and then, and I have to get back to my machine now. But don't forget to tell someone to sign up as a teacher – wherever they are.

More Monsters

A few weeks back, with some inspiration from Stefan Bucher's Daily Monster, Team Everything (plus Aleksei Aaltonen, Matt Jones, and other Friday afternoon escapees) joined cartoon villain Louie Stowell for a class in How To Draw Monsters.

Check out the results below.

We're international!

We're all very excited at Everything Towers, because School of Everything is now international.

Up to now, teachers have only been able to give their location as somewhere in the UK. (For a little while, if you gave a non-UK postcode't the system put you down as based in Lexington, Kentucky. We never figured out why.) But all that's changed now.

We've added a nifty new locations database called Geonames, which lets us handle everything based on names of localities. So now Everything can be Everywhere. Hurray!

We launched in New York at the NY Tech Meetup, and are all feeling very glamorous (even if we weren't there).

So go have a play with our lovely new Geonames, and tell us what you think.

Lessons in Everything #2: Monsters

Last Friday, we had our second Lesson in Everything. Louie Stowell of Usborne Books joined us in the Three Kings pub in Clerkenwell for a session on How To Draw Monsters.

I was laid up in bed with the most horrible 'flu I've had in years, and am still gutted I missed it. But Dougald's promised me he's putting together a proper monster showcase. Watch this space.

Meanwhile, here's a teaser monster to be going on with.

Frankenstein's Sports Announcer

Thanks to Matt J at Dopplr for the photos!

Don't be shy, say hello. We'd love to hear from you.

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