hard-hat, firstaid

ICT Cages for Schools


DSC_0809.JPG
Originally uploaded by sparr0
I reckon we are going to see more crack appearing in school ICT infrastructures that cannot be papered over by mandating a particular OS, platform or policy. This isnt going to be easy for us IT managers as we have manged to take things this far scrabbling for funds, spilt, polish and fair measure of central control.

Students are already leaving of us behind whilst they run smart apps and smart interfaces on their smart phones. Change is happening and it isnt going to stop because we built a faraday cage around the school, a padded playground, mandated more old hardware, or spread new layers of control to fill in the cracks. That just wastes more money and puts off the inevitable.

After I waved goodby to my final year 12 students following their final VCE IT exam, they pointed to the study group that I recommended they set up. Ironically it was on facebook and help keep each other on task and on track using their phones. Of course I wasnt a part of this group, and probably didnt need to be (or should be). What is interesting is that it happened at school, in spite of everything we have done to disuade, ban, condemn and prevent it from happening.

I wonder what does that say about us and what have I done to really prepare them for this parallel universe?

Don't get me wrong ... this is not a debate about filter failure or censorship. I am just pointing out that replacing one factory model for learning with another techno-coated flavour does nothing to move schools out of the dark ages.

It is time for us to grow up and move onto the real challenges, adapting and adopting what can give real traction to learning.
hard-hat, firstaid

Do Schools need ICT?

An army of old monitors awaiting their marching orders for world domination!

Ian Yorston explains in an article why investment in ICT doesn't necessarily pay, an important article with some serious stabs at our heavy investment in expensive virtual learning environments, costly electronic whiteboards, expensive commercial software upgrades and opressive IT departments that work so hard to cripple what can really be done by the end user.

"If you had to spend a million pounds, you'd really hope to have something to show for it. Yet most schools have spent at least that on ICT and get nothing obvious in return — aside from a few hundred PCs running Windows XP and a handful of smart gadgets." 

2010 October - feature: do schools need ICT?
- Annotated

After reading this, it was interesting to consider the way forward hinted by mLearning, open source and student ownership of the hardware.
hard-hat, firstaid

Teaching science with glove puppets

Last week I worked with my year 8 junior science class on a lesson about multicelular organisms using glove puppets. It was a lot of fun using a constructivist approach to problem solving and blended learning model. This is a very engaging way to quickly assess student understanding using some simple technology and computer skills without the need for sophisticated digital equipment. I have even used this to help explore complex topics including technology issues such as cyberbullying, privacy, programming, copyright, freedom and ethical behaviour whilst improving student literacy and social skills.

This weekend I presented a show on K12online to share this work online. Here are some handy links:
hard-hat, firstaid

Stimulating book boxes

Is the current funding by the Australian federal government to increase the numbers of computers in schools sustainable? At what point will it be easier for parents to just supply mTechnology and computers to their school-aged children? We can already see some leverage in this direction with generous tax concessions for parents who purchase computers and internet access for their children.

I recall a question being asked at audience of the ACEC2010 conference this year, "how many of you have a 1:1 ratio of computers at home" .. most arms were held up. This was followed by "how many at your school?" .. practically all the arms come down.

It seems as if we have done a better job of winning the computer access battle at home than at our schools.

Once schools relied on class sets of text books in faculty offices. For many years this facilitated those students who had no money for a text book. Now we target funds to help these families buy books and the book boxes have nearly disappeared.

The BER funding has been a good stimulus and wake up call. In a few years, we should move onto the next stage. It is not that schools have fallen behind, it is just that there are other things we do much better.

My guess is that the crunch time will be 2015 when these major hardware rollouts start to crumble with age. It will then be more about proving on-ramps to the new cloud based systems than the model of the machines we use to drive upon them or the army of technicians we have trained to service these.
hard-hat, firstaid

(no subject)

Roland's Scrapbook

"Blogging in the Clouds"

by Roland Gesthuizen on October 2010

Learning is messy, especially when we are working online.

It was recently mentioned on the ozteachers list that students should only use a particular blogging tool. It raises some important questions in my mind including:
  • is this a position statement, recommended policy decision or mandated instruction?
  • what is the pedagogical basis and research that underpins this?
  • is the scope limited to classrooms or can it telescope to embrace professional learning networks and microblogging?

I use the blogging tool built inside Moodle, there is another inside Ultranet. I use it for the right pedagogical reasons, a full understanding about the issues and at times I appreciate the closed and controlled nature. It is a sandpit that will evaporate after they leave the school. By contrast, I also use classroom tools that overlap with blogging including Diigo, Wikispaces, GoogleReader and more. Even Scratch has a built in blogging tool.

Trying to shackle our teaching by mandating a particular tool is akin to stuffing slippery eels into lunch boxes. After a while we will either give up on eating eel, make-do with cooked tuna sandwiches or just buy our lunch at the shops. It makes as much curriculum sense to blindly stuff things into the curriculum as it did to mandate the teaching of levers in week 3, to supply a universal textbook for each subject or to demand teaching with just over-head projectors.

Using different and new blogging tools in the right ways and for the right reasons; that is hard, but it is the real world.

There has been some talk on the lists about blogging with Sharepoint, Moodle or Edublogs. Whilst a teacher might only be concerned about tools that only work inside schools, consideration could be given to the options that retain student control and owership, long after they graduate or transfer to another school or school system.

With all the space, control and property constraints that a secondary school network imposes on student files, it is going to be harder to justify maintaining access to this work. Cloud based education solutions such Diigo for recording bookmarks and blogging with Edublogs have built into them, a mechanism for students to take over control of the service when they leave school. They could then amend the privay settings to increase their public profile and exposure, backup any items or decide to deleting their work entirely.

I am interested to note that Monash University have taken a similar position and allow students to keep their Monash Google Apps accounts and documents after they graduate, automatically moving them to an alumni category, thus maintaining contact with former students. This is very unlike the old email and network account I once held, that promptly and imediately evaporated the precise moment that I finished my postgraduate studies.

With this post, I do not want to rain upon the fun that people are having with the collaboration tools they may be currently using at school Rather, it is my hope and wish that the scope, potential and life for these can span beyond the years at school.

Yes, learning is messy. So is life.

This is why it should be gently steered by a skilled educator with a hand on the steering wheel, an eye on the horizon and a memory for the current research findings.

"Learning is not a product of schooling
but the lifelong attempt to acquire it"
- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)


Notes:Needs these graphics to be included. Here are some links -Roland Gesthuizen
All have creative commons licenses. We need to identify this, attribute the author etc.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/londonbrad/470160774/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/plakboek/4826777696/


hard-hat, firstaid

Lunchbox Eels

Learning is messy, especially when we are working online. This is why it should be gently steered by a educator with a hand on the steering wheel, an eye on the road and a memory for the current research findings.

It was recently mentioned on the ozteachers list that students should only use a particular blogging tool. It raises some important questions including:
  • is this a position statement, recommended policy decision or mandated instruction?
  • what is the pedagogical basis and research that underpins this?
  • is the scope limited to classrooms or can it telescope to embrace professional learning networks and microblogging?

I use the blogging tool built inside Moodle, there is another inside Ultranet. I use it for the right pedagogical reasons, a full understanding about the issues and at times I appreciate the closed and controlled nature. It is a sandpit that will evaporate after they leave the school. By contrast, I also use classroom tools that overlap with blogging including Diigo, Wikispaces, GoogleReader and more. Even Scratch has a built in blogging tool.

Trying to shackle our teaching by mandating a particular tool is akin to stuffing slippery eels into lunch boxes, after a while we will either give up on eating, put up with cooked tuna sandwiches or buy lunch at the shops. It makes as much curriculum sense as mandating the teaching of levers in week 3, a universal textbook for each subject or teaching only with over head projectors.

Using different and new blogging tools in the right ways and for the right reasons; that is hard, but it is the real world.

I am curious what others might think?
hard-hat, firstaid

Show me the money

Reading again the debate online about "rewarding good teachers"and "weeding out poor teachers". For a moment I had a scary thought. If children are the synthesis of good parenting .. perhaps academic test results are a better indicator of what parents are worth, their contribution to society and how they should be rewarded with money and tax bonuses. :-P (only kidding)

Whilst police don't often catch criminals by walking their beat amongst the troubled youth, the research shows that this has a bigger impact on local crime compared to bundling them into pursuit cars and flying squads. Whilst many in the public still pander to the idea of "scared straight" projects to drill fear and correct behaviour into juveniles, all the meta-research trends indicate that it does more harm than good. This is not the first time that good research is repeatedly ignored: http://www.jstor.org/pss/3658560

It is a similar story with our professsion of education. It takes a community to raise a child and a school to facilitate learning amongst students. Distilling this down into its parts misses the precious web of relationships, checks and balances that are vaporous, less tangible but very real. Whilst there is already a great body of peer-reviewed research out there that examines effective learning and great teaching strategies in considerable detail, I sometimes wonder why many refuse to read, understand or consider this body of research.

Perhaps unlike other professions, the practice of teaching is something that many think that they can easily do but is often just built upon personal experiences and intimate memories. Consider this. Everything that takes us from there to where we are now, is what makes us an evidence based profession, not one assembled from conjecture, speculation or crude league tables.

"Show me the money?" .. Show me first, the research!
hard-hat, firstaid

Points of View

Alan Kay is best known for his early pioneering work on object-oriented programming and windowing graphical user interface design. The OLPC computers (those little green XO1 laptops you have perhaps seen Tony Forster or myself lugging around) includes Alan Kay's Smalltalk / Squeak / eToys environment, built around Python. You can tinker with this using Sugar on a Stick.

From my observations of his contributions to the OLPC project, Alan is always emphasizing that computing not as an end in itself, but as a vehicle for learning how to learn. The computer revolution is yet to really start happening.

"Points of View - a tribute to Alan Kay" is a collection of previously-unpublished essays written to celebrate Alan Kay's 70th birthday. Twenty-nine luminaries from diverse disciplines contributed original material for this book.

From the IAEP mailing list I read that supplies of the first printing of the book were depleted less than six hours after the announcement. A second book printing is available in return for a small and worthy charity donation. A copy of the entire book in PDF is available for download, for free, from the following page.

      http://vpri.org/pov

Important stuff for ICT educators, check out the book. :-)
hard-hat, firstaid

Black Saturday


Rain Clouds Mar09
Originally uploaded by plakboek
Last year, following the heat wave that powered the bush fires in Melbourne, we installed some water tanks and waited patiently for the rains. Here is a collection of photographs of the rain clouds that gathered and our 36000L tanks. (click on the slideshow link)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/plakboek/sets/72157624577287820/

The royal commission into the death of 173 and injury of 414 people during the bushfires of Black Saturday, 7 February 2009 has just handed down its final report. To see the full impact of these fires over the past decade down here, just scroll down and look at the coloured map on this composite png image.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Saturday_bushfires

The heat wave even gets its own Wikipedia page with the record breaking temperature numbers.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_southeastern_Australia_heat_wave

Amongst other causes, global warming is certainly a contributing factor. Today we just got our notice for preventative cool burning that will be happening around our homes in the hills. With the cool weather, full tanks and rain drizzle, green grass and weeds, it is hard to think that these hills can burn. But they can, and they do.

I hope we can learn all the lessons that need to be learned and implement all the recommendations in the final report