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Ultralab's history

by Richard Millwood last modified Thursday Nov 3, 2005 15:00

Ultralab has been growing since 1988 - this is an account of that growth over almost two decades.

Based in a demountable hut at the Brentwood Campus of what was the Chelmer Institute and then the Essex Institute of Higher Education, soon to become Anglia Polytechnic and eventually Anglia Ruskin University

Ultralab People and Project Timeline


ERTEC (Eastern Region Teacher Education Consortium) project for 5 years

Sam Deane starts as an A level student

HEADNet (HyperCard Educational Application Developers Network) run and
organised by ARIC (Apple Regional Education Centre)  Should that read: 'AREC' ??


ARIC becomes Xploratorium

Hydra developed (our html site editor)

Workrooms  - give away educational software.  Distributed across US by Apple

HyperCard Educational Participatory stack for teachers

First CD ROM produced "Tools for Multimedia"

Ann joined Stephen in the October of this year.


Jan - Stan Owers joins as Industrialist in Residence

Richard Millwood joins the team in Spetember

Rennaisance project


Lys joins Xploratorium


Tom Smith joins Xploratorium

Alice and Richard collaborate on innovative ‘Learn German’ software for APU’s TECLAB project.

Kris asked (as student) to sequence and produce music for Insights (Carnival Des Animaux)


March: BNR (Research Dept of Nortel) Orglearn Faraday Group 3 (Gill and Jean are members, representing their schools) decides to contact Stephen Heppell for assistance (name passed on by Peter Gould)

Carole joins Xploratorium to run BNR project, Learning in the New Millennium (LiNM)

Kris joins Ultralab (Xploratorium?)

Xploratorium becomes Ultralab

April - Sept  LiNM starts (partner Nortel)

joins Ultralab

Workrooms win MacUser educational award

"Insights" CDROM produced


Newton software developed by Ultralab

November 9th: Carole releases press release "Telecommunications initiative for schools": A new telecommunicaitons project was unveiled today linking schools with a major fibre optic producer, a university and with the 20 million or so users on the Internet. Seven schools have been provided with a multimedia workstation (Apple Macintosh, CD ROM player, very fast modem etc) and a link to a powerful network server at Anglia Polytechnic University's ULTRALAB. The server allows: children to conference among themselves and work together on projects; children to channel questions to scientists and technologists at BNR and receive answers directly; on-line tuition from mathematics experts at university level; childrne and teachers to be connected to the "Learning Superhighway" - the Internet and to work together identifying good sources of information - like current pictures from the Hubble telescope; teachers to discuss the shape of the new learning opportunities that children will have through the network

etc (Gill has found complete transcript) ending in: "and we hope the experience will be delightful for them"

Teleste: April 1994 - April 1995. Alice works with Richard on ‘Aardvark’, blue sky research with Teleste Oy of Finland.


CarnaudMetalBox Schools project (2 year project working with schools)

Schools Online project (2 years - 64 schools online covering curriculum

Relationship developed with Whipps Cross hospital

August: Gill leaves for 2 years in Botswana, taking Richard's laptop (presumably he acquired a new one, courtesy of Nortel?)

Alice joins Ultralab full time as Editor of the Apple European website.

Alice and Richard work on the Ultra-language-lab project for BT’s AngliaCampus.


Multimedia in Health Education Association project (1 year research

Spinalot developed to run Schools OnlLine phase 2

Andy Simpson joins to run the Chestnet project with Whipps Cross

Sept - Ultralab moves from Brentwood to Chelmsford


LiNM Phase 11

Tomorrows World Live - We developed all the software and activity for the Nortel stand ( How much TV can you handle, Sound Story etc...)

World Health Organisation - Jakarta conference (development of phone
server technology)

April - Jonathan joins the team, whilst training as a teacher

July 17th-  Leonie joins team from oz and launches OLN Sept 22nd

Sept 1997- Alex joins the lab on a gap-year from Kingston University

Sept 1997 - Tom Stacey & Matthew Eaves visit Ultralab as APU 'Business Information Systems' students.  They visit Ultralab to learn about "The Internet"! Tom tells Richard how he is gaining free access by hacking into a Library email server from a room in the student village.  Richard gives Tom the first of many disapproving looks...

Neil Boughen arrives on work experience


Poems Pictures and Music finally released as CD (the last of the CD-ROMS)

eTui project starts project starts (a year early?? - well all the Newspaper cuttings on my desk say 1998 and there were 2 project leaders before Jean but it is true that Julia did most of the planning work and Theresa got LEAs in place so start date is confusing CC)

Tesco SchoolNet 2000 started 42 advisers appointed to support the project. (InFo: Really the 42 never attended the lab. We were all seconded to Tesco through HTI and used to meet with Stephen at Ponsbourne Management Centre. -Martin)

Some continued into Talking Heads (see 2000/01)

Leonie helped write bid and was then seconded to the SMILE project with APU's E&I unit (sme internet learning experience)

Specification for Gridclub produced (DfES sponsor this 12 week project)

Development begins in partnership with Oracle on community tool, 'Codename
Scoop' (later to become which is trailled and tested by Ultralab in UK schools and community centres

Weiya Wang joins Ultralab to work on eTui

Claire Gregory arrives on work experience

Alice undertakes an online profiling project to support the cultural-linguistic needs of overseas students.


LiNM Phase 111

Broadband in Education - Ultralab helped organise, run and present this demonstration to the government promoting broadband for all schools in the country.

Jean Johnson joins Ultralab to run

Stephen Barber, James Brain and Lorri Camm form Sodium and join Ultralab

June - Oracle 'Scoop' team visit UK to work with Ultralab on software development

Community overview (6 month research project for Orange)

Jonny Dyer starts working with Ultralab

Scoop renamed

Dec  - Talking Heads (TH) project started

Dec - Rex and Lindsey first come up to the Lab as 1st yr Multimedia students to do a presentation on the emergence of digital music and mp3 downloads - powercut in the middle causes this demo of digital wonderfulness to be done via old-fashioned paper instead...


January 1st - Tesco SchoolNet 2000 showcased at the Millennium Dome, project opened to all young visitors at the Dome to create their own web pages, Ultralab represented by Shirley Pickford (full time), later joined by Hilary Messeter.

Jan 7th TH team's first day: Pete Bradshaw, Tony Browne, Martin Doherty (part time), Jane Down, Alison Gee, Sarah Jones, Geraint Lang, Malcolm Moss, Simon Patton, Stephen Powell, Gill Roberts, Hamish Scott Brown, Kevin Thompson
By February, 1200 newly appointed headteachers were enrolled into the online community, all with new laptops and a facilitator. Hal was in this group, facilitated by Malcolm (Lordy!)

Neil helps to rescue Leonie from database blowout and assists with mailouts etc

April - Rex and Lindsey visit the Lab with fellow multimedia students to be shown the wonders of stitching panoramic photos in QT by Richard....Rex appears twice!

Touchdown - videodance performance at at the 5th Annual World Festival of Videodance in Argentina, 2000.

June - LiNM finishes

Manoah analyses data from the initial TH survey

Ultralab team (ie Sodium + Alex) visit Oracle in Washington to work on the design for (& skin for TH)

CreativeNet project with Design Council, Demos and Sodium

Alice writes a report for the LCCIEB on online assessment, collaborates with Sodium on an example interactive assessment and creates a language teaching module for APU's mPowerNet.

May - Maureen Gurr Joined Ultralab as Administrator for The Talking Heads project
August - Martin Doherty joins Ultralab and TH full time

31 August - Malcolm Moss returns to teach in school
September - Lindsey Wingate starts on the Online Soap as a 2nd yr Multimedia Student

November - Matthew Eaves Joined Ultralab to work on NPQH development with Alex
November - Our NPQH team launched Virtual Heads
November - Anthony Russell, Michael Hartley, Pip Bailey, Alan Sargeant join Ultralab and Talking Heads
November - First NPQH centre managers meeting, followed by regional training events
November - Tony Browne, Jane Down & Geraint Lang give a Talking Heads presentation to Welsh Assembly officials

Andy Simpson leaves Ultralab to work closer to home in Cambridge.


January - Lesley McGuire and Tim Williams join Ultralab and the TH Team - from mPowerNet. Malcolm Moss returns to TH. Hilary Messeter and Shirley Pickford join TH from the Tesco SchoolNet 2000 exhibition at the Millennium Dome.

Triad - collaborative dance project run on Think.

Pax Excelsis - telematic performance for BBC Wales

Alice and Graham develop the UCLT and Pandora websites, promoting e-learning at APU and also provide consultancy to APU initiative E-Essex.

Sharing Innovations project starts with Design Council (run on

Alice, Carole, Gill, George, Kris and Weiya start the 'm-Learning' project.

Snugfit started as part of m-Learning

February Andy Cunningham starts as Project Adminstrator for Notschool

March - first cohort of online learners for new NPQH
April - Online Soap launched
March - Lifeboats.TV with the RNLI to build a new future image of the lifeboat service
July - Claire Gregory joined Ultralab
August - Mark Constable joins the team as a Researcher.
September - Hal joins the Lab officially as the Fasttrack project facilitator
September - Brightlingsea team day sees the first Eisteddfod (after catching crabs, of course).
September - Neil joins the Lab officially as Systems Administrator
December - George leaves Ultralab


Jan - Ian Terrell (looking harried) co-opted from the Faculty of Education
Jan - Bett goes to the Movies is a roaring success, with Ultralab taking children along to the show to work on digital video whilst there
Jan - Geraint begins work with the Welsh Assembly Government to help launch Pen-I-Ben, the Welsh version of Talking Heads. He is joined by seconded Welsh head teacher Rhys Harries (an Ultralab Extranaut). The project is officially launched by Jane Davidson, AM, Minister for Education & Lifelong Learning for Wales, at the New Headteachers’ Conference in Llandudno.

Eurodans project in collaboration with Leeds, ran through the year and concluded with a performance in Dublin.

Tom Stacey meets Richard again when he gives a presentation to MSc DACS students, Tom hacks Richard's powerbook onto the DACS network (gives unapproving look) and informs him of a job going at Ultralab.

Input CBBC starts with Childrens BBC to look at the future of childrens BBC

Feb - Vicki Swan joins Ultralab as part of the Notschool team
Andy Cunningham changes job to become Ultralab Team Administrator
April - Kevin works on a new project 'Heads Together' - a Scottish version of Talking Heads
June - Michael joins the Heads Together project. Also eVIVA project begins.
July - Gina joins Ultralab to summarise Talking Heads conversations (she didn't know Vix had only just started too!)

August- Toni Coppen joins Talking Heads as project logistics co-ordinator

Alice and Richard develop Ultra-learning-lab: 'Change of heart!", narrative-based learning for the School of Health Care Practice


Building Learning Futures report for CABE (1 year research project)

Jan-Aug - Development of NCSL's Leading from the Middle with ultralab consulating on online learning and community aspects

Feb – 2nd Cohort of newly appointed headteachers and their mentors join Pen-i-Ben at their Cardiff Conference. The following month, Geraint and Rhys embark upon a Wales-wide third phase of training and introducing these head teachers to the Pen-I-Ben online community.
March - Matthew Sisto Arrives

April - Ultralab conference held in London  "Learning Spaces, Virtual Places"

July - Blueprint for "Every" is written at least 12 times between January and July.

14 July - Cohort 1 start year 1 of Ultraversity

Sept - launch of Leading from the Middle.
Sept - Pip Bailey leaves, Alan Sargeant, Hilary Messeter and Simon Patton leave to join NCSL
31 Oct - Pete Bradshaw leaves for a short time...
Dec - Talking Heads and all NCSL online communities handed over to NCSL

Certificate in Digital Creativity project starts (oct time)


Between January and December the Digital Creativity events take place worldwide, leading to a double DVD set and a massive event in the V&A museum where children showcased their work. Participants from Tasmania conferenced in on the night to share in the celebration. The events took place in New Zealand, Tasmania, Australia, Singapore and the UK - Norfolk, SEEVEAZ, Ayr College, Cardiff, Derry and virtually with

European Respiratory Society research pilot begins and ends
Numerous seminar/workshops ran for a variety of NHS organisations on Online Learning Communities
Created Demo of the NHSU Virtual Campus
Limited consultancy work with the World Health Organisation

m-Learning project concludes with a successful EU review

January - Pete Bradshaw returns as a freelance to work on the DfES Vision paper on MIS systems. Lesley McGuire visits New Zealand to explore new possibilities regarding eVIVA and to present on the project at several conferences.

Easter- Toni Coppen leaves for Essex University
1 May - Pete Bradshaw returns to the 'team'
20 April - Cohort 2 start Ultraversity
May - DfES Vision Paper produced
Jul - begins with the Design Council. eVIVA project comes to an end.
Jul - Ysgol Haf 2004 (Summer School Wales) takes place in Cardiff
Aug - Ian Terrell leaves for Middlesex
Sept - Andy Cunningham leaves for London

Certificate in Digital Creativity (now with an International at the start) concludes it's exploratory phase.

Small group of Ultralab project representatives present at NAVCON in Christchurch New Zealand

Nov - Manoah leaves. eVIVA final report published

November? BBC vision paper produced - the future of the BBC's learning provision

Cogs Project Starts with Edunova and UCA Middlesbrough

Involved in various EPSRC/AHRC clusters for Designing in the 21st Century.  Including the performance and design cluster managed by Leeds.

Work with CP Basildon on Ignition and Transmission projects starts (ongoing)

Dec – V & A Museum London: celebration and screening of completed Ultralab digital video projects created by schools & colleges from all regions of the UK. BBC Wales TV filmed Welsh pupils’ work, later broadcasting the event as a news item throughout Wales (in both English and Welsh).


January - Stephen Heppell leaves
17th February, is launched at the Design Council's 'From the inside looking out' conference in Birmingham.
28 February - Cohort 3 start Ultraversity
March - Matthew Sisto leaves for Spain.
Alice undertakes a study for the Scottish Qualifications Authority on the potential of social software to support assessment.
July 20 - is launched at the V&A Museum
21 July - Awards Board confirms first 6 graduates from Ultraversity

July - Notschool team (Jean, Jonny, Jean W, James, Vicki, Weiya, Beverly) leave Ultralab
July - Designmyschool reaches the end of the contract

9 September - begin work on International Masters in Child and Adolescent Health & Development
19 September - Cohort 4 join Ultraversity

12 November - Ultraversity's first graduation ceremony

Work with CP Basildon on Ignition and Transmission projects starts (ongoing)

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