Setting up Chromebooks – Part 1
Saturday, October 18th, 2014 | Author:

As mentioned in a previous post, we have just purchased over 100 Chromebooks. These have been a winner so far and the feedback has been fantastic. I have had questions via Twitter asking how we manage them and what you get for the Chrome Management License fee (it costs £19). So I thought I would write a post explaining the chromebook setup process.

Please Note: This post assumes that you are using Google Apps within your school. This is pretty cheap (under £10 a year and a few hours setup time) and will help to organise everything you do with Google and the Chromebooks. There are many posts on the index page about Google Apps or contact me if you want some help.


After the chromebooks are unboxed and charged, the first step is to turn them on by lifting the lid. They will look for the WiFi and you can then connect, add proxy settings and choose language etc.

2014-09-29 16.30.37


Once connected, the Chromebook will search for the latest version of Chrome and for any updates.

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Once that is done, there is the option to sign-in. This is the crucial step. If you sign-in here, the Chromebook will not be attached to your domain meaning that it will act as a standalone device rather than one you can control and manage. So press CTRL ALT E to get to the enterprise login screen instead.

Here’s a bit more info from Google if you need it.

Regular login screen: 2014-09-29 16.34.29

Enterprise enrolment screen:  2014-09-29 16.34.35


From here, login as any user within your domain. I always use an admin account, but I don’t think you need to. It’s just that my account is admin, so it makes sense to login as me rather than someone else.


The Chromebook will “enrol” on to your domain. This takes around 30seconds, depending on Wifi signal.

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Success! It found your domain and when you look on your management dashboard, this device will be there.

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You will now be presented by a login screen and if you look at the bottom, it says that the device is now managed by (our school domain).


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You can now log in as any user within your domain and it will pick up the settings you have assigned. Deciding which settings to assign is all explained in this post here.

Introducing Class Blogs
Monday, October 06th, 2014 | Author:

I received this tweet today.

Screen Shot 10-06-14 at 07.50 PM

I’ve been having a few chats over Twitter with Mr Radburn over recent weeks and I am pleased that he is finally at the point where he is talking to staff about blogs.. But he asks a sensible question, how do you share blogs with staff? How can you enthuse them and not just get them to think that it is yet another job on their never-ending to-do list? What are the benefits?

1) Share learning with parents and the wider community – First off, sharing learning with parents is a great way to start. When I first started blogging, I used to have a daily ten minute chat with my class where we summed up our learning and then blogged it. Sometimes it was me writing, sometimes the children, but it was always their ideas. What were they proud of? What did they want to share with the world?

2) Share a blog post with someone inspiring – We are trying our best to give our children a purpose for writing. This might include writing for a different audience, writing to a specific person or writing so that we can share it with the world. We have tried different approaches but one that happens now and again is that a piece of work gets blogged and a teacher might send a tweet to the author that inspired the work. For example,  just this week Marissa Meyer commented on a display that is all based around her book “Cinder”. Year 5 have been looking at the text, they created a display and with a few tweets, the author wrote back. For children that might find writing difficult, knowing that there is a real audience can have a huge impact!

We have had a range of successes since we introduced blogging at Riders last year:

3) Take photos! – We are in the process of buying tablets for school and the first thing I will be doing is showing everyone how to blog with them. To be honest, it involves taking a photo, pressing a few buttons and you’re done, but still. Blogging with a mobile device is a powerful tool for sharing learning with an audience. My plan is to have six tablets per class, each setup with the WordPress app so that teachers and children can snap a photo, add a caption or description and publish instantly. By Christmas, we will be blogging like mad. I’ve done it in my previous school and parents loved it. Children were also able to talk about why they were proud of their work and the learning that had happened. Yes you can do it with a camera too but a tablet or mobile device just takes out a few steps along the way.

4) Make it easy – I use WordPress. I have tried other tools, but I love WordPress. I have a self-hosted blog which means that I can install apps and add-ons as I need to rather than using the “out-of-the-box” WordPress software. (Bit more info on that here). One of my favourite plugins to install is Easy Blogging. I use this in collaboration with a tool that allows me to set different levels of access. So children all have the ability to login to the blog, write a new post and then send it to me to review before it goes live. I have set the blog up so that all children are forced to use Easy Blogging, but they also have the option to deactivate it if they need more power.

Screen Shot 10-06-14 at 08.24 PM

This is a normal WordPress dashboard. It has everything that I need on there including updates, announcements, comments etc but there is a bit too much for some people.


Screen Shot 10-06-14 at 08.24 PM 001

So Easy Blogging can cut this right down to just the essentials. Much less cluttered and easier for the less-techy staff and younger children to manage.

5) Join in with a challenge – I have written before about the 100 Word Challenge – – and although my approach has changed slightly (we use Google Docs to write it and for peer assessment) we still enjoy writing and entering this weekly challenge. We have also managed to have a few pieces of work on the weekly showcase too.

6) Get a buddy – This could be through quad blogging, it might just be by befriending someone else in school but having a blogging buddy helps. This is another class or school that will leave you comments regularly in return for your class doing the same. This can help to inspire children as they know people will actually be responding to their work.


Those are some of the things that I could think of that might help when introducing blogs to new staff. How have you shared blogs with other teachers? What worked? What didn’t?


Category: Blogging, blogposts  | 2 Comments
ICT in my school Part 2
Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 | Author:

Following on from my last post where I talked about our ICT journey and where we had come from, this post will discuss our approach to Chromebooks.

I have had a Chromebook at home, as well as desktop PCs, for about 3 years. I must say that it was a freebie for doing some stuff for Google, I’m not sure if I’d have bought it myself. Over the past few years it has lived under the living room coffee table and is always there should we need to do something quickly. It turns on in seconds and the internet is there.

For those that haven’t seen them, Chromebooks are devices that look like “normal” laptops, but rely very much on the internet to access anything and to work properly. Yes, you can do some things offline, but you wouldn’t. I tried to do some work on the train once and ended up opening a glorified post-it note app and then copying the text out later when I had WiFi.  If you can guarantee internet signal, then you’re onto a winner. I’m sure the offline side has got better recently, I’ve just not needed it since.

The devices run the Chrome operating system, turn on in around 10 seconds and then to log-in, you simply enter your Google login. They generally last 6-7 hours and can be charged in around an hour too.

In school, we have 60 Toshiba touchscreen laptops and I am not a fan of them. The pad for the mouse is sooooo sensitive it ends up getting turned off so that the children use the touchscreen instead. This provides issues now and again, but some teachers seem to like them. My issue was that I wanted lots of devices across the school so that we could really ramp up the opportunities for the children. I had used Chromebooks before, I’d borrowed some from C-Learning in my previous school and seen how easy they were to manage. If they ever go wrong, you wipe them and factory reset them within 10minutes. I’ve only ever had 1 device get that bad. So after all the positives, I took the plunge and ordered 60 Chromebooks and 3 trolleys to put them in.

As I said earlier, when logging in to the Chromebooks, there is the question of signing in with a Google Apps account. We now all have those through Google Apps so the pupils can be switched on and logged in within a minute. One thing to be aware of is that there is the option of paying £19 per Chromebook to purchase a Chrome management license. This adds your Chromebook to your Google Apps domain and gives you control. Think of it like a regular server managing your laptops. I can control the WiFi, proxy, power settings, default homepage and much more from one control panel rather than from each device. The console also manages updates. Ours are set to update over the course of a week so all devices don’t update at the same time and slow own the bandwidth. I wouldn’t consider buying Chromebooks for school without the £19 license!

In school, we have started to dabble with Google Apps. I mean I have used it in previous schools and I am a Google Certified Trainer, but with so many other things happening at school, this is a slow, measured approach. We started with giving everyone access to the calendar which despite being in place for almost a year, has only taken off this term. We have now given all pupils a Google email and will start using other tools soon. A few classes have been using Google Docs and children are excited by the collaboration opportunities that it provides.

So, what are the downsides so far?

  • Publisher – People always want an alternative to Publisher
  • Printing – Our Sharp printers don’t like the Chromebooks – For the few times we will print, the children can share the document with teachers who have a Windows desktop and we can print from there
  • Everything is online. Our laptops have links on the desktop so that pupils can access certain tools and websites. We have had to be more creative with how we do that. I have a solution and that’s for another blog post!
  • It takes longer to  type the login e.g. than it does to type iaddison to logon to the Windows machines. But the extra 30seconds here is saved as the machine is on in 10 seconds.

We have had them in school since the start of September and so far it is all going well. They are used for simple thing so far, but that will change as we begin to show staff the possibilities.

Oh, did I mention the price? The Samsung Chromebooks we bought were £168 including the license. Bargain. (We actually just managed to buy 45 more Chromebooks that were on offer at £134 each)

If you are looking to purchase Chromebooks, I would suggest talking to C-Learning. As far as I am aware, they are the only company that will lend out Chromebooks for users to test for free (although I must also point out that I run training courses for them too from time to time)

The next step after chromebooks involved looking for tablet devices. That blog post is here.

ICT in my school – Choosing a Tablet
Sunday, September 28th, 2014 | Author:

In my earlier posts, I discussed the ICT provision in my school, I charted where we were, buying chromebooks and now this is about the next step.

We have a new Executive headteacher and in her previous school, she used Android tablets. I love Android as I have used it personally for about 5 years, I have a Google Nexus too, but I was worried about how they would compare with Apple. I’ve never used Apple devices, I mean I did once “play” the piano on one during a conference and I have taken a photo on an iPod touch, but I am definitely no expert. As an ICT leader, everyone expects me to know all about them but honestly, not a clue. I can fiddle and find the answer but I’ve not used them in school or for personal use. I’ve always found Android phones to do what I want and have never needed to look elsewhere.

My first dabble with Apple devices was setting up my wife’s iPod touches to sync with each other. She has 40 and they were setup initially so that only a couple could sync at once due to the bandwidth but soon she had 40 devices that didn’t sync with anything and were all different. I spent a few days over the summer holiday trying to wipe them and start again. They had apps that were purchased pre-Volume Purchasing so these wouldn’t work either. We set about deciding whether to use Apple Configurator or not and after many, many hours, we had a device that looked like it might work. We have now shared this with the others, but I still don’t think it’s perfect. Just four weeks later and apparently they’re not all synced. We just wanted an option to wipe and start again (to remove children’s photos for example) every few weeks. I know many schools have got the sync issue sorted, but I got bored with it if I’m honest. Compared to managing say, a set of chromebooks, it was far too complicated. Maybe I need to take another look.

In my school, we have just bought 10 iPads and for these, I decided to use Meraki to manage them. 8 of the 10 would purely be used by teachers in Early Years and the pre-school to observe young children using 2Simple’s 2Build a Profile so I didn’t need to worry about managing them. It was a case of plonking a profile on them with the wifi settings, adding them to the dashboard so I could push apps out and installing 1 app. It seemed so simple, it might be the way to go for my wife’s ones too… The other 2 iPads are for SLT so these are almost personal devices and they can sort these out themselves. One of these is being used brilliantly to take photos and share learning with pupils amongst many other things.

So, I knew I wanted devices for the children to use. But what for? Rather than starting with the tool or device, it is always a good idea to think about your main needs and then identify the correct tool/device. So what were our needs?

  • It had to have a front-facing camera – We have only got a few digital cameras in school so having devices for taking photos would be ideal
  • It had to be able to run the sites that we use the most – Purple Mash, Accelrated Reader, Education City, Busy Things, BrainPOP, Sumdog – Some of these would be possible via an app, others need a Flash-enabled browser
  • It had to be cheap(ish) – We had a budget. DO we go for lots of cheap ones or a few more expensive ones?

After a bit of browsing, I found the Gigaset QV830 (nope, me neither). It was on the PC World website for £70 inc vat. I read a few reviews and they all seemed decent. So after a brief chat with the head, we ordered one to play with.

It is surprisingly well made and feels solid. I have held £50 tablets before and they always seem plastic-y but this doesn’t. It feels similar to my 2012 Nexus if I’m honest! The camera is ok, 5MP is good enough and being Android, it works works well with all Google Apps stuff too. I gave it to a few children and we were able to play most Sumdog games, the dragging ones were a bit unresponsive, we played Education City and we could run an Accelerated Reader test. All good so far. I spent hours trying to find a flaw and all I can find is that sometimes the Wifi drops out. So you press the Wifi button to turn it off and on again, that’s it.

Some people on Twitter mentions the lack of quality apps when compared to Apple but we are not buying them for apps. We have a huge lack of ICT equipment in the infant school and I need to get devices to the children as easily as possible. I am using these primarily as a web browser and then eventually we will look at apps and if we find good ones, it will be a bonus.

I’ll blog about the setup and some settings later, but I gave the tablet to two teachers to share and by lunchtime they had both taken photos and taken a video recording of their classes during Literacy sessions. I had set it up so that when the photos or videos were shared with Google Drive, there was a folder waiting for them. Every class had a folder available and every teacher had a logon to then show this on the whiteboard. All of the folders are linked so that I can access them all. I can then print pictures from my desktop if needed. We will get printing from tablets sorted, but that can wait til next week.

Seeing how quickly these devices could be used by children and staff has prompted us to buy more. We spoke to PC World Business and including delivery, will be paying £54(!!!!!) per tablet. You’d be spending nearly that on a camera alone. Within a week we should have around 6 per class throughout both schools. Managing them will be a challenge, but I don’t think every device needs to be identical. Would Year 1 want the same thing Year 6 do? Probably not. I am hoping that I can use Meraki for the main configuration and then train some Digital Leaders to help with any firefighting. But hey, it’s an Android tablet so it’s easy enough to use. It’s a very exciting time, but it will bring up a whole load of new challenges I’m sure!

Category: blogposts, Hardware  | Tags: ,  | 5 Comments
ICT in my school Part 1
Sunday, September 28th, 2014 | Author:

I have been at my school for just over a year and have been responsible for the ICT since February. I have had a number of schools and teachers ask questions about our approach with chromebooks and tablets so I thought it best to document what we have been doing so that I had something I could point them towards.

I think the best way to begin is for me to think of an ICT past, present and future approach. What did we have when I started? What have we got to now? and what are we about to do? This post is the past and present (well, the summer holidays) post. Over the next few days I will write the others and link them all too.  Oh, why ICT and not Computing? I think Computing is the stuff that is in the curriculum, ICT encompasses everything such as laptops for staff to work on, office computers, tablets for browsing and so on.

So, some context.

We are a federation of infant and junior schools. We have two-form in most year groups but we do have three-form in year 1 and will be three-form from Reception next year onwards. We are currently in two buildings but the small gap between us will be filled in over the next year with a new library, music room and offices. We will then shift a few rooms around, make a new staffroom and suchlike to have one building for the two schools. We also have a pre-school which sends children to us, but is not part of the school.

I started at the school in September 2013 as a Year 4 teacher. At the time, there were 60 Toshiba touch-screen laptops between Year 5 and 6. These classes had Netgear Wifi and the signal barely made it downstairs to Year 4, so we never used the laptops. I found out recently that there was also a Wifi router in Year 3 behind a desk that gave some signal to Year 3 too, but they didn’t use the laptops either. For Year 3 and Year 4, we had access to an ICT suite of 22 computers, in which usually 19 or so worked, so we had the issue of sharing computers to get anything done. The suite was perfect for Year 3 as it was next door for them so they tended to use it regularly as they could see children, whereas I was the other end of the school so we had to go whole-class or nothing. I think last year I used it five times. Every time for research purposes although maybe once we split the class in half to make a poster. Not good. There were also three computers in the library and three on the Year 3 and Year 5 landings. These tended to be used by staff or by children that were working with LSAs for example.

In the infant school, in addition to one computer per class for the teachers, there was 1 computer between two reception classrooms, 2 computers in Year 1 classrooms and 3 computers for each Year 2 classroom. There was also a Netgear Wifi router in both Year 1 and both Year 2 classrooms. The Year 2s also had 8 Toshiba netbooks. One teacher told me that the netbooks took 15 minutes to logon so he never used them.

This all meant that there is a huge lack of actual devices in the hands of children in either school with the vast majority only seeing a computer as a normal aid to learning when they reached Year 5 or 6 and even then, only a few could log on at once due to the Wifi signal. So, changes needed to be made.

I took over ICT in February 2014 and began to think of how we could approach the challenge of improving the quality and quantity of the ICt experience across the schools but also being very mindful that we needed to make an impact too. We can’t just buy things for the sake of it! I wrote about the tendering process before, but the gist is that we knew we were going to be spending a lot of money. What did we buy?

Infrastructure: First we upgraded all cabling and switches across both schools so that they were gigabit-enabled. This meant that any traffic flowing through our network would be able to flow quickly. We had quite a few mini-switches which were used to allow multiple devices to access one network point but this just caused bottlenecks. We removed all of these and added more points on the walls. This sped up logging on time for all staff instantly. We also added a fibre-optic cable to connect the two schools. We knew that we wanted one network so we needed a way for the two schools to talk to each other quickly.

Wifi: Despite not having a huge amount of wifi devices (yet), we knew that we needed to install a proper managed Wifi solution. I have used Meru in my previous two schools and never had any issues so we opted for Meru again at Riders. We also chose to go for the “ac” level rather than “n” to futureproof the system. We have added an access point in every classroom and also in both halls.

Server: Next came the server to power it all. We did have two servers but we wanted one so that we could easily manage and share files across both schools.

After some initial teething problems, mainly with whiteboards and pens not working as they should, we now have a system that we can build on. Also in the summer we ordered 60 chromebooks. To find out more about those, click here**blog post due in a few days**.

I’m hoping that now we have the tools available to us, we can start to look at using them to enhance the learning across both schools.

Online Field Trips
Tuesday, September 09th, 2014 | Author:

I have been approached by the Eat Happy Project to spread the word of their good work. So this is a guest post, I hope you find it useful.


As part of my role as Social Enterprise coordinator, it is my job to find new and exciting projects; linking new and existing local businesses. We’ve been working with Tesco’s Eat Happy Project  and in the first instance, their Farm to Fork Trails; visiting the store with children to look at produce, services and taste new foods. There therefore seemed an obvious link with their Online Field Trips and we couldn’t wait to get involved so that our children could find out more about the origin of everyday food. Our group chose Cracking Cheese from the Wensleydale Creamery in Yorkshire. The class couldn’t wait to participate in such an exciting and interactive lesson.

We have used Skype in the past to connect with other schools and businesses. We therefore looked forward to the opportunity to connect with schools and farms in real-time. The question and answer session was particularly fruitful and the children gained a lot from sharing their ideas and insights. It also gave the staff the opportunity to develop their understanding of Google Hangouts and this is something we have since used.


The children were able to see the food producers at the Wensleydale Creamery, ask questions and talk to a wide range of people whose knowledge of different cheese was wide-ranging. The children had the opportunity to taste the different cheeses, as the Eat Happy Project sent over samples for every child to try during the Online Field Trip. This added a different dimension to the learning experience and gave the children an opportunity to try new food.



The Eat Happy Project also provided the teacher with a variety of lesson plans, activities and worksheets to support the learning before, during and after the lesson. All this was free for the school and ensured the teacher was ready and prepared for the Online Field Trip with minimal extra work.

Overall, the ‘trip’ was highly positive and one we look forward to continuing to develop in the future.

Tricia Harding, Robinswood Primary School, Gloucester


Here is the calendar for Online Field Trips in the autumn term:


Honey – 11 September 1.30pm

Sweetcorn – 18 September 1.30pm

Rice – 25 September (time TBC)

Broccoli – 2 October 1.30pm

Pumpkin & squash – 9 October 1.30pm

Baked beans – 6 November 1.30pm

Bread – 13 November 1.30pm

Potatoes – 20 November 1.30pm

Tea – 27 November (time TBC)

Clementines – 4 December 1.30pm

Cranberries – 11 December 1.30pm


If you and your class would like to join a live Online Field Trip please contact the Eat Happy Project at


If you’d like to watch the live Online Field Trip with your class (but not participate), visit the Eat Happy Project website:


Or find them on Google+: Eat Happy Project

Twitter: @EatHappyProject

Cloud Storage
Thursday, August 28th, 2014 | Author:

I saw a few articles recently, including this one and this one, that talked about Dropbox reducing its pricing structure so I thought it was worth looking to see how they stack up against what I was already doing.

For those of you that don’t know, and there are many out there, Dropbox is a way of saving your files online. I blogged about it back in 2010(!!). The way that it works is that you install the software on your computer and then add files into it. Easy. You can install it on multiple computers, you can share files and folders and you can sync from you phone too. I have my phone camera set to upload to Dropbox when it finds WiFi. The thing that I love about Dropbox is that when you open the software on your PC, it doesn’t look like you are using different software. It just comes up as a drive in Windows. I can drag, drop, create new files and do everything else I am expecting to do in Windows. Then it saves it all to the cloud.

Free users get 2Gb and there are various different ways of boosting this by tweeting about Dropbox or by asking friends to sign-up via a link (like this one) Through these methods I now have just under 19GB of free storage. But with the costs so low, surely paid options are worth looking at?

In 2010, 50GB on Dropbox would cost £6.50 a month. It is now 1TB/1,000GB for £7.99. That’s progress! Think about your photos, your schoolwork or any useful document you need. If you have never had a USB drive or Hard drive break on you, then you will know someone that has. I still have people at school occasionally that have had USB errors and have lost their work and ask for me to magically fix it but all too often, it’s gone forever. When I ask about backup, they always say it’s something that they meant to do. I used to copy my USB stick to my hard drive every now and again. This is an easy way to make sure that your files are saved no matter what happens.

At school, we have remote working. This means that we log in to the school server, see our Teacher Resources file as if we were in the building and then log off when we are done. This is all backed up and we can even print to school if we want and then collect it in the morning.

Not everything that i do is online, I still save some things offline, but everything is backed up in at least one other place.

This chart, taken from Gizmodo, compares some of the current cloud storage offerings. As well as Dropbox for my schoolwork, I also use Google Drive.

Their current pricing gives 1TB for $9.99 which is pretty much the same as Dropbox but it’s the one below this that I am currently using. They offer 100GB (although I get 125GB) for $1.99 a month. I use this purely for photos. I have folders setup on an external hard drive which means that they get picked up by Picasa on my computer, this syncs with private Google+ albums (that took some time to find!) and then they automatically sync, at full size, to Google Drive storage too. Around two years ago I lost a holiday’s worth of photos so paying £1.50 a month is well worth not having to go through that again! Edit (June 2016) I now use Google Photos for photo backup. We have an Android camera and two phones. Every picture we take is automatically sent to Google Photos and yes, it means we get lots of random photos we probably never need, but it also means that every photo is backed up should we lose a device.

So what do you use to backup your files? Have you managed to convince others that it is a sensible way to go?


PS: Before anyone mentions it, yes there are privacy issues with storing some things online. Who owns your data? Where does it go? Will they modify the data when I give it to them? But for those of us that are already signed up to the fact that Google knows more about us than our partners do, cloud storage is a no-brainer.

PPS: Prices correct as of 28th August 2014

Sharing Photos
Monday, May 26th, 2014 | Author:

How do you share photos with parents after a big event such as a school trip or residential? I don’t mean via a blog so that they can see them, I mean sharing so that they can get a copy of a picture of their child.

I’ve used Picasa in the past as my previous school used Google Apps (and my current one is about to) and Picasa gives each user 1GB of photo storage. We simply created an account called Hampton Court and then uploaded 300 or so photos from our Hampton Court visit. This was done fairly easily and then I could share the photos in a few ways.

1) Public – So anyone could go and look at them. I could put a link on our school website or blog and then parents could see everything. But then so could everyone else.

2) Shared with certain people – This meant the children needed to login to their Google accounts to be able to access the photos. This was perfect as we had been using Google Apps for two years, the logins were ingrained and the parents could sit with the children and access the photos together.

Now, at Riders we are using Google Apps in a minimal sense at the moment. We are in the process of buying devices for September but there isn’t really a way for pupils to use the internet in school yet. So this means we haven’t yet given them Google logins. I needed to find a different way of sharing photos from our residential trip. Some parents had provided cameras for the tip, but many had not so I promised that I would take loads (500+ in fact) and then share them when we got back.

I looked around for a simple way of sharing photos and someone on Twitter (Phil_Timmins) suggested Cloudup. It’s free and allows 1000 documents/photos. Just drag and drop them to upload and then each gallery can be password protected too. So I can share the links with parents and send the password home via a newsletter with the child. Easy!

Cloudup is free at the moment and I’m sure will be chargeable at some point, but for now, it provides a quick, painfree way of sharing photos with parents and friends.

Here’s an example gallery using photos from my O2 climb

It appears that Cloudup is invite only at the moment, but I have a few invites available via this link