hard-hat, firstaid

Blogging in the clouds

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 work inside schools, consideration should be given to the options that retain student control and owership, long after they graduate and leave school.

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 these files. 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 email accounts and documents after they graduate, automatically moving them to an alumni category, thus maintaining contact with former students. This is quiet unlike the old email and network accounts I once held that promptly and imediately evaporated, the moment I finished my postgraduate studies and left.

With this post I do not want to rain upon the fun that people are having with the cool collaboration tools they may be currently using within thier school networks. Rather it is my hope and wish that the scope and life for these tools has the potential to span beyond just a few years at school.
"Learning is not a product of schooling but the lifelong attempt to acquire it" - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
hard-hat, firstaid

Planning with Celtx

I have just been looking at an interesitng open source and cross platform package called Celtx. It seems to do everything you need to do before actually filming. Scripts, storyboards, production timelines. This could be a great tool for students learning organisational and planning skills.

This indi film maker gives it a very good review (compared to a commercial alternative)

From what I can see, if teachers could use this in conjunction with sticky notes, pencil and paper storyboard sheets and other real-world tools then it would be a powerful etool to help brainstorm, plan, storyboard, screenplay, schedule and document a film or multimedia production whilst learning some cool ICT and management skills along the way.

It could be just the thing to help students organise animal handlers, wardrobe or special effects for their school production :-)
hard-hat, firstaid

Skipping stones over the web2.0 pond

The successful businesses that friends have that seem to work well online all make a balanced and strategic use of social networking to get their message across. Rather than just relying on e-mail, they are lucky to now have so many free Web 2.0 tools to work with such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIN etc.

Each of these tools has it's own suite of tools, networking advantages, privacy concerns and other nuances that need to be carefully navigated. This can be managed but only by careful consideration and planning.

I cascade and quarantine my social networking a couple of different ways. For one I use LinkedIN for professional stuff (ala public CV and professional reflections), Twitter for public broadcasts (ala education shares and blog posts) and Facebook for personal stuff (ala family and friends). I mention that I cascade information as all my LinkedIN status updates are automatically forwarded onto Twitter, then all Twitter posts are also forwarded onto Facebook. This does not happen the other way around.

Where I cast my stone into the Internet pond, I try to arrange things so that the information ripples will spread only to and where I want it to. If you do the same, keep your eyes wide open if you are going to enjoy the splash.
hard-hat, firstaid

Gary, Roland, Silvia and Penguin

ACEC2010 was an national education conference held at South Wharf, Melbourne during April 2010. During the last term break, I was on the technical committee for ACEC2010. I spent much of my time during a school term break working on this project.

A short video was shown at the closing ceremony drawing upon some video I recorded. Jess and Donna, a talented duo quickly assembled the entire photo and video montage using iMovie09 at the Apple stand in record time. You can view it here: 

You can view a slideshow of photographs with some annotated notes that I added here:

The best thing for me was the opportunity to meet some fabulous people and the chance to work with a dynamic bunch of 'can do' educators.

What a team!
hard-hat, firstaid

The goal of a green font

There is an ink saving typeface or ecofont that claims to use 20% less ink than traditional fonts. If you want it too, you can get it for free at: http://www.ecofont.com

You can view an example of this sustainable typeset at: http://www.ecofont.com/assets/docs/ecofont-document.pdf

This led me to wonder if you could do the same with paper. Imagine punching little holes into it to save on weight, transport costs and raw material, recycling the little bits of paper.

Whilst we could just print right up to the edge, or use my personal reading horror of smaller fonts, imagine if we over printed our words in red then blue ink. Readers can then use alternate red / blue glasses to read the different words (closing each eye in turn to read the page). This will easily double the text data on each page and has the added benefit of 3D pictures.

I cannot wait to try this out with my next science class handout.

Why stop at just red and blue ink? With holographic imaging we could increase further the text storage limits, students just need to hold the paper at different angles to 'read' off each page of information. Then again we could be really radical and transmit information to our students by sticking holographic microdots onto student foreheads as they walk out of the room. Keep your laser readers and RFID chips handy.

My favourite text data compression and transfer technique uses all the muscles in my left hand to crunch the paper and those of my right arm to transfer the message to a circular storage file in my officer corner. Works a treat all the time.

hard-hat, firstaid

Desktop at the VIT mentor workshop

This was my desktop during VIT organised workshop to prepare teacher mentors.

I am no longer doing the mentoring for new and graduate teachers at our school but happily, most of this stuff has been recycled. I still use the free pen, used up the sticky pad, gave away the red bag and information folders, and even recycled the laptop electrons.

Whilst I took away all the good ideas I collected from other participants on the table, only my time. the water in the glass, some skin cells and many lung-fulls of air were left behind.
hard-hat, firstaid

The real thing

Increasingly, I suspect that some Gmail subscribers are very probably marking messages from mailing lists as SPAM instead of unsubscribing. I reckon that this nibbles away at their value with the heuristic SPAM filters we share with Google.

Occasionally I take the trouble to poke around for legitimate messages amongst those in my Google Spam folder then mark these "Not SPAM". They are not all that hard to spot. I guess that the more of us that do this, the less likely that these messages are treated as SPAM. All good and for a greater collaborative cause too.

It reminds me of a student that once figured out a snappy way to remove all the fascist red wiggle-lines that appeared under particular words in his assignments. During his creative periods of IT immersion and composition, these red flags would attract the attention of passing English teachers who would then challenge his spelling. He explained that all you had to do was right click then "Add to dictionary" then 'whamo', no more spelling mistakes and a return to the quiet of blissful isolation. He remarked that it didn't really matter, the teacher seemed to enjoy correcting the mistakes later.

I quietly groan when I consider this ignorance and the future of his growing dictionary of misspelled words.
hard-hat, firstaid

What really counts

I have another confession to make.

As a child, I became so frustrated when trying to memorise the times tables, I would try slapping my head with an open hand to force the memory cells to work harder.  Well intentioned maths teachers would struggle to explain using coloured wooden blocks whilst I looked on, sucking the red dye out of the longest ones. All through primary school I managed to struggle along by singing aloud different counting sequences to memorising the song in my short-term memory then promptly writing them down (as I would quickly forget) or relying on brute force calculations by counting.

At secondary school, I could readily deconstruct the sine rule, scribble up a crude Schrodinger wave equation or fill in a periodic table. It was those blasted times tables that haunted me. I have since realized that I am not alone and share this malady with Dr Karl who also like me, also has a problem matching names to even familiar faces. I blame this growing up on a dairy farm as I have no problem telling cows or roos apart.

Then I learned some finger counting and multiplication strategies such as Chisanbop. These suited me well through my senior years as I could undertake these basic calculations "under the desk" without anybody knowing.


Having a calculator at uni was a blessing that propelled me forward. Now when I am teaching  maths, I can quietly do these finger calculations whilst facing the white board or even behind my back.

I share this with students that struggle with their times tables, but only when they can snatch a pebble from my open hand.
hard-hat, firstaid

Drupal for Schools

Randy Olwyn wrote an interesting page about Drupal, the software are are using on our school website. I met Randy when he spoke at the QLD QSITE 2009 conference in Brisbane, earlier at NECC 2008 and again at ACEC 2010 with some splendid remote sessions.


He is writing here about his experience with Drupal when he was asked to help with his school district website. It is a good illustration why this was a good software to select from when we were looking about for a content management system to use for our school website.

If you do go down this path, drop me a line if you are looking for somebody to build the server or even to do some of the tweaking to build a style that suits your school as I might be able to help.
hard-hat, firstaid

A good deal about netbooks

The ISTE journal "Learning & Leading" current issue Vol 37.1 has a good article about netbooks on page 14. You can download and read the free online PDF version from this link. http://tr.im/wjuI It is a 4 page summary of the different options spanning thick, ultra-portable and thin computers and gives good mention to the OLPC XO-1 netbook.

Recently this gained some heavy traction and attention as OLPC Australia deployed units to members of the Yirrkala Community Education Centre on the northeast tip of Arnhem Land, Australia
As a member of ISTE, I will declare an interest and if you scroll down http://tr.im/wjuW .. (blush) a profile about me with a photograph taken standing on "The Dish" radio telescope with blue hard hat and the hand puppets I use to teach with :-)

A really rough and sobering analysis of the Apollo missions estimates a 10% failure rate and a 1% failure rate for the space shuttle. They are hoping to do even better for the next craft. The safety imperative that they are working to resolve is to separate human passengers from the instrument / satellite cargo with two launches. The former is packed full of nice human safety stuff such as life support that can launch and return to earth, quite independent from the cargo and the huge fuel reserve that is needed to launch the cargo into orbit.

This is akin to selling the school truck and replacing it with a minibus and huge trailer (and a huge remote controlled trailer at that) .. or separating passengers from their luggage in an aircraft. Though we might grumble when our baggage sometimes is separated from our bodies with various airport handling errors, we would all agree that our safe journey and return should be the main priority.

I like to think of the XO-1 as great thinking capsules where users and groups can structure, build and adapt their learning spaces. I rather like the point made at the end of the ISTE review that a cheap solution is not desirable if it is created through draconian measures to limit access to technology resources and services.

This is not about crumbly hardware bloated with features or fighting to lock students down then out.

It is about robust solutions and open places to learn.