Monday, December 15, 2008

Southwell Wins Toshiba Contract

Southwell school won the Toshiba tablet contract, which means that we are the envied recipients of 60 Toshiba tablets, worth a whopping $270.000, $4,500 each. Some very lucky children are going to get a big surprise when they return to school next year. And no it won't be my class. The tablets are going to the year six syndicate, our year 7's (the whole syndicate (150 of them)) will be using netbooks again next year. The majority of which will be the 30Gb, Classmate, Windows version. That is if they are taking the option to purchase via the school, but in reality they may bring any make/model of notebook/subPC to school plus mobile device of their desire.

Toshiba are carrying out a 2 year research project with the University of Waikato, looking at the effectiveness of the tablet in education. You bet guys for $4,500 it had better be successful! As you can imagine I'll be doing my own research $4,500 tablet v's $700 netbook. Definitely a David and Goliath battle in the making. I can just imagine my commentary now, small town, country boy slays rich, fat, old man. However I'm going to be really good and not jump to any ill informed opinions. Price, size and weight aside, conceptually tablet/touch screen technology has a lot to offer education and I'm intrigued to see how this technology fits with the world of web 2.0.

Apparently the next generation of both the EeePC and Classmate are set to come with tablet technology - so if you are keen to see how the research goes keep an eye on my good friend and Year 6, colleague's blogs - toshibatabletsin6tb and Life = Risk

Let the battle begin, hey TB.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Cluster = Unconference

Southwell held it's first Cluster Unconference last night. Even though we are now at the end of our cluster contract, it is important to keep the professional development going and an unconference is a great way to do this. While it was a small gathering, it was still a successful night with good PD, drinks and a lovely meal to end the day. Thanks everyone for organising this.

If you didn't get the chance to go, for what ever reason (family commitments/writing reports/just too busy) I recommend you take the opportunity next time, as there is ICT PD for everyone, whatever your level of ICT is - You just have to be open to it.

Altogether we had five round tables.

Table 1 - Heath Sawyer - Gordonton School - Blogs, wikis and eportfolios

Table 2 - Gill Hammonds - National facilitator primary - ICT PD - Sharing Classroom Best practice

Table 3 - Dave Winter - Southwell School - our cluster facilitator -Gaming

Table 4 - Jo Wilson - Southwell School - our school lead teacher - Managing Change

Table 5 -Barbara Reid - ICT Facilitator -Web2 tools

I spent most of my night racking Barbara's mind for new web2.0 tools and sharing a couple of my own new to her. Talking to Barbara made me realise that I'd actually been kidding myself with regards to what web2.0 tools I could live without due to having restricted access on my linux, firefox browser based class set of Eee PC's this year.

I kind of accepted this, this year namely because we didn't have fast enough internet access anyway, web2.0 programs just weren't their yet and I did have a few I could use. But now we've got the fast internet pipe (100 Mb national, 10Mb burstable international with no data cap) and web 2.0 programs have become so much more sophisticated over the last year or so I think I'm just going to find it too frustrating having the restrictions on my licence.

Which is why I have to announce that my love affair with my Eee PC is officially over.
The Eee PC was and will always be my first love but it's time to grow up and move on.

In two weeks times I'm going to pack away my class set of Eee PC's and move on to - dare I say it a class/syndicate set of ____________.

Well for that you'll have to wait and see, but for now here are a selection of web2 sites we discussed last night, some old, some new but all highly recommended if you haven't used them yet.

flowgram - interactive presentation software
blabberize - talking pictures
mywebspiration - visual thinking tool (it really is just like inspiration)
exploretree - online library of thinking maps
sumopaint - image editor (bitmap and vector drawing program with layers - reminds me of macromedia - fireworks)
scribl - shareable online whiteboard

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Elgg - Best use of ICT in Teaching

Well as you know PW won the Interface magazines 'Best use of ICT in Teaching' category with his use of Elgg for his learning goals. Well you may ask what is so special about that? Elgg is our schools private social network, a number of us use it for a whole range of different purposes (learning logs, eportfolios and group work). Well what Pete did that made his application special was;

1) he took a main stream technology (a social network) gave students ownership of it and then used it in the classroom to aide learning - teaching how to use the technology safely and ethically,
2) he focused on teaching the key competencies,
3) he incorporated student and peer assessment for learning

Combining these together to give deep and meaningful learning for students.
Very important skill sets that need developing for the 21st century learner which is why Elgg is such a powerful tool for our school.

Elgg gives our students the opportunity to learn social networking skills in a safe, secure environment. Unfortunately 'Yes' that is a 'private social network' I give no apologise for that' we are a Full Primary School not an Intermediate or High School. We have students in our care from 5 to 13 who all have access to Elgg and it is important that we teach them the correct etiquette of social networking before we unleash them on the world. Our parents for one wouldn't be impressed if we didn't.

That doesn't however mean that it is a 'closed' system we can invite experts from the outside to join our network and contribute to our students learning. Our first expert Rae Clayton (an advisor working for enviro schools) was added last month. Rae liaises with our environmental committee and classes involved in developing our enviro garden via the environmental committees community blog. It would be nice if we could add more experts to the system and in in particularly I for one think it would be wonderful if we could encourage our old boys and girls to join Elgg. That is one network of experts we could really tap into. Just ask if you know of an expert who you would like to be added - it would be great to build the community.

Elgg allows both students and teachers to build their own learning communities and every community then has access to its own homepage, wiki, blog, file sharing area etc (just like Ning). Initially this can just be your own personal space or present class community but ideally as students take more responsibility for there own learning it can be used by students to direct their own learning and develop their own communities of learning.

Elgg gives our students access to an eportfolio area which can be used as a modern eportfolio both of and for learning. Students can keep a learning log enabling them to reflect on all aspects of their work. They can add files, documents, photographs, movies. They can upload and link to web2 artifacts they have created via glogster, voicethread, animoto etc and share these with their friends, communities and networks. Students and teachers are able to reflect and comment on all stages of their learning.

And most importantly they can do it.

Note I say "they can' here" i.e "students can" because this is the difference between Elgg and Moodle. Students do it not the teachers. No longer is it the domain of the teacher to upload all the work as it was in the web1 world. Students learn a 21st century transferable skill.

Not that there is anything wrong with Moodle - Moodle is a great course management system. Elgg is a great social network.

Yes it is a bit quirky to use and difficult for some of us (teachers) to initially get our heads around (they do say you have to get stuck in the midddle of it be in it to really understand it). Well the kids sure do, we as teachers just need to dare to incorporate it into our learning programs and trust the students to do the rest.

At present we are still running Elgg Classic, next year we will be upgrading to the new Elgg version 1 or whatever the new version will be then. Hopefully this won't be as quirky and a little easier to use.

But until then just remember if you want to start using Elgg all you have to do is click Elgg from the front page of our Moodle site, type in your Moodle password and away you go. (Oh sorry just Southwell people only).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Congratulations Pete

Well it's official Pete Walch (Southwell School, Hamilton) won the Interface Award ' Best use of ICT in Teaching' for his use of Elgg so I can say a big WELL DONE PETE - You deserve it - It's nice to see someone recognised for all the hard work and effort they put into teaching.

Unfortunately we didn't win the 'Best Teacher Blog' category' but then again we were so surprised to be even selected, that was amazing in its self. Congratulations to Marnie Thomas (Meadowbank School, Auckland) who did win the category and the runners up Erin Freeman (Rangiora Borough School, Christchurch) and Jamin Lietze (Bethlehem College, Tauranga).

Well done to Interface Magazine too for hosting the competition (another great idea from a great magazine), the selected 5 finalists in each category and everyone else who entered the competition. If you didn't win this time or didn't even enter there is always next year. So keep up the good work and start that blog now if you don't already have one. You never know next time it could be you.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Downloading Videos from the Web

I've just downloaded some dance ideas from youtube, to use for our performing arts routine, later on this term. I uploaded the files to moodle, using the 'upload a file or website' option, so that they are quicker to access when at school. You might want to do this too instead of having to wait ages for the clips to download.

I used TechCrunch a web2 program that is really easy to use. You just paste in the URL of the youtube video you want to convert, press 'getvideo' then 'download link' and it downloads the file to your desktop for you. The only quirk is that you need to remember to rename the file with the .flv extension so that the media plugin in moodle can recognise the file.

Another web2 option you could use is Zamzar which supports conversion of files from links on the internet (URLs) as well as from your computer and converts them to a range of different formats for you. Zamzar sends the file to your email once it has converted it for you.

Zamzar supports the download and conversion of videos from a range of popular video sharing websites but unfortunately it doesn't download jumpcut movies. I can find a downloadable .exe option which I can put on my computer, but I'd rather not do that, as it doesn't fit with my philosophy of keeping things as simple as possible, for both me and the kids. So if anyone knows of a web2 option that I can use to download and convert jumpcut movies to .flv format, it would be greatly appreciated, if you could send me the link.

Here's hoping

26/11/09 - Tech crunch not working - Just used this video2mp3- now just got to use audacity to merge Metallica/Crocodile Rock and Thunderstruck - ACDC - will be an interesting performing arts

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Keep it Simple, Stupid

If you have read my earlier post 'Where to from here' you'll have realised that I've been worrying for a while now, trying to work out how you can offer an open wifi system to students, encouraging them to bring their own devices to school (laptops, phones, PSP's etc) and at the same time ensure that their teachers are able to cope with the array of devices in the room (Apples, Windows PC's and Linux machines, as well as a whole array of phones and other portable devices).

Well I think I've cracked it. Really when you think about it, it's down to the software and web browser you use. If you standardise on these, it doesn't matter what machine the students have because the teachers will be familiar with the web browser and software they are using.

With laptops the decision is an easy one, Openoffice would be the software of choice and Mozilla Firefox the browser, as these are both open source and available on all machines. No need to worry about MicrosoftOffice and Internet Explorer. Just make sure the kids have all got Openoffice and Firefox on what ever Laptop they bring to school. Oh and what a surprise, the new era of Linux mini laptops all come with these two pre-installed.

Simple Really.
Easy Peasy.
Lemon Squeezy.

Then you can use Google Docs, Moodle (CMS), Elgg (eportfolio/social network) and a sprinkle of other web2 programs to taste.

With the phone and other portable devices Opera mini would be the browser of choice as this can be installed on most phones/portable devices.

Now that makes me feel a lot better, because I now realise that what ever machines or combination of devices our students have, we won't need to worry. By keeping it simple, stupid we'll be able to concentrate on the pedagogy not the technology.

Using web2 programs will make life easier too as we won't need to add extra software to hundreds of machines or spend extra time putting complicated images on students machines.

The new era of 1:1 is here, facilitated by web2, mobile devices and cheaper mini PC's/webtablets. All we have to do now is ensure that we have a fast internet connection and wifi set up ready to accept any device.

Which One Would You Choose?

With the influx of mini PC's/sub notebooks/webtablets/UMPC's entering the market, the decision about which machine to choose, for 1:1 laptop schemes, has been made so much more complicated.

The 4GB, Asus Eee PC 701, Linux version with its 7 inch screen, is the cheapest on the market with a price tag of just over $400. Another $100 more will buy you the Microsoft version. For $650 you can buy the 20GB Linux version and $750 will get you a 12GB Microsoft version both with the larger 9 inch screen.

Acer have their very flash looking Aspire One, 8GB, Linux version for just under $700 and the 8GB, Windows version for around $800. Both with 9 inch screens.

The 30GB, Classmate from Dell packed with a whole range of educational features including a water-resistant keyboard, collaboration software, theft deterrent features and student PC monitoring comes in at well under $600 for the Linux, version and a bit over $600 for the Microsoft version. Both with 9 inch screens.

When it comes down to deciding which one to choose, you have to consider these four things

1) functionality
2) features
3) aesthetics
and 4) price

Well the Eee PC 701, seems to win it on price. The Acer, Aspire One, is beautiful with it's shiny case and high resolution screen and the Dell Classmate is jam packed full of educational features.

All in all the functionality is the same with Microsoft costing an extra $100 and the much needed larger screen size demanding a couple of hundred dollars.

As a school functionality and added features would rate well above aesthetics but we have to be especially mindful, that we're not paying for features, that we'll never use. Let's be honest how many wash cycles do you use on your washing machine.

At the end of the day if you're happy to stick with just a few wash cycles like the internet and Openoffice, then the entry level, Linux, Eee PC 701 is excellent value for money. If you need a few more wash cycles then you'll need to be looking at a Microsoft machine. If you need to do a bigger load then the 30GB Classmate with all its added features would be the one for you. A larger screen costs you more and if you want it to look pretty then you'll have to pay more for that too.

How big is your load?
H0w many wash cycles do you need?

*all prices are approximate and have been quoted with GST
no discount has been given for bulk orders

Friday, October 10, 2008

What Makes a Good Phone for Education Pt1

Now that all the dust has settled with the iPhone, it is great to see the impact it has had on the Mobile industry. There are new innovative phones including the Nokia Xpress 5800, the Sony Ericsson Xperia and of course the G1 (see below). With all these new phones I thought it was about time to place a stick in the sand and start to look at what I think is essential for a phone for education.

1) Wifi
2) Flash enabled browser
3) Full QWERTY keyboard
4) Video capture
5) Media Player
6) Removable storage
7) Mini usb connection
8) 3.5mm A/V connection

I will now try and explain why I have chosen these.

The wifi is essential as data charges are still very high and I kind of guess there will always be a charge associated with it, which is only fair. But from a teaching point of view if the children use their phones for education, who pays for the data used? The easy way is to hook the phones onto the schools wifi network.

I have not just said browser, but carefully chosen the wording, flash enabled. There is only one mobile browser that is flash enabled and that is called skyfire. Unfortunately, it only available in the US and is in beta. Browsing the web without flash (this is a plugin and is downloaded automatically when you visit a site with flash content, normally sites that have video on them) is like looking through a pair of dirty glasses. You get some of the picture, but there are parts you just can't see.

We know children are good at using the standard phone keypad to text, but if you asked them to type in a web address, believe me I think that the novelty of being able to use the phone keypad would soon wear off. I think that the a virtual keyboard (like the iPhone) would be as good, if not better than a physical one that the Blackberry phones have.

From experience and talking with other teachers, video capture is just so good for children and creativity, enough said. Oh the iPhone doesn't have it!

The media player, well if you can create the content, you need to see it. Although I would add that the media player should be able to play all media, not just created on or for phones.

As you create more content, there is a real need for storage, but again I have been careful with the wording and added removable. This means like a memory card, similar to the ones used in digital cameras. If it's not removable, like the iPhone, then when you run out, that's it.

The mini usb connection is an industry standard that it used to connect devices together. But more importantly it can also be used as the charger connection. How good would that be to have a charger that could charge more than one type of phone, instead of having a Nokia charger and a Sony Ericsson charger etc.

Again the 3.5mm connection is also industry standard and will not only allow the children to use their standard headphones, but if they forget, any headphone will fit it. Again the school would only need to have one type of TV out cable that could be plugged into any of the children's phones, instead of them having to bring in their phone specific cables.

This is just the start of my thought and ranting. We could be looking at What makes a good Educational Phone for Education Pt52!

What do you think? Are all these needed or are there other things that need to be added to the list?

Microsoft or Linux

I've had the opportunity to play around on the Microsoft (XP) version of my Eee PC's this week. While I love my Linux machine because it's quick, simple and easy to use, I have to admit that the Microsoft version is not as bad and as slow as I thought it would be (even on this 4Gb machine) and there are some definite advantages to having a microsoft machine such as:-
  1. You have access to the Microsoft Office software suite.

  2. Shockwave player is available.

  3. You can easily map and share drives off a Windows server.

  4. You have access to Windows compatible software (such as Quest Atlantis and Scratch?).

  5. You can upload files to all web2 programs.

Personally I can live without points 1-4 above. I can use OpenOfffice and or web2 programs instead of Microsoft Office. I haven't come across anymore web2 programs which require the Shockwave player as most are Shockwave Flash based which is available on the Linux machine. I don't want to be able to synchronise my files with my 'h' drive and have to wait 5 minutes before I can use the machine. I don't want to be able to use software that is on a mapped drive, that can only be accessed from our server while at school. I don't want to spend ages putting extra software on my machine or 25 student machines to come to that. In fact I don't want to spend years upgrading and installing extra software full stop and I definitely don't want to be relying on technician support.

All I want to have is a machine that is simple to use, one that connects easily and quickly to the internet, accessing software and information from the web (in the cloud). The Linux machine is specifically designed to do this, with its large pre-installed buttons, that link you directly to the cloud (Firefox, igoogle, skype. and much more). The Linux machine is configured as a web tablet where as the Microsoft version is just a mini Windows machine.

However point 5 above does concern me - not being able to upload to some web2 programs (i.e. dipity, animoto, eyespot) which restricts my use of web2 program. Yes I can use other programs (jumpcut, voice thread, glogster etc) but my question is as more web2 programs are developed will there be more programs I can't use? This I'm not sure?

Mark seems to think that the reason why I cant upload files to some web2 programs is because the web sites have been designed using Microsoft software instead of an opensource alternative and the programs can't find a 'c 'drive which is a Windows standard (seems a reasonable explanation to me). Does that mean then that you can't use them on an Apple machine?

Surely all programs that are designed for the web should be of an open standard, designed for all machines (PC's, phones. PSP's) and all browsers (Firefox, Explorer, Opera mini). So maybe if they aren't I shouldn't be worried about not been able to use them! Oh it seems like I can live with that too.

In fact for $400 I can live without all of that. I like the simplicity and speed of the Linux Eee PC with its internet ready design and its easy to restore to factory settings button, but I have to admit for an extra $100 the more complicated and slightly slower Microsoft version with its extra features is a good option too and maybe just what we/you need for your school.

What features do you need?

Which one will you be able to live with ?

Microsoft or Linux?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Vote for us both

Both PW and ourselves have just been selected as finalists in the Interface Magazine 2008 Awards. PW has been selected in the  'Best Use of ICT in Teaching'  category with his use of Elgg for his learning goals and our blog is in the ' Best Teacher Blog' category.

Please show your support and vote for us both. It's really easy all you have to do is click here, select the radio buttons next to our names, add your email and press 'submit vote'. You have to vote for one person in each category anyway so what can be easier than that.

Thanks for your support.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Phone in the Cloud?

I have just read an interesting blog, where somebody questioned the need to have 16Gb of storage on a phone. Their argument was what would they do with all that storage and with cloud computing, would you actually need it.
Cloud computing is all well and good if you have a fast (way above 3G or HSDPA) and reliable connection. This just doesn't happen at the moment, either here in New Zealand or from what I have read, the rest of the world.
I am a big believer in cloud computing and think it will be great for education as we get the technology to work for us (and the children) and not the other way round, which I believe it has been since the introduction of the PC. Just how much time do we spend upgrading, updating, securing etc and how much do we actually use it for some use. Having it in a cloud takes away the control and responsibility from the IT department and gives it back to the end user, who doesn't have to worry about the technicalities. They just need a fast connection and a browser, how simple is that.
A phone is a different piece of kit. The fact that it is mobile and is with you everywhere, actually cries out that you need local storage, just in case the network is not available. Memory is cheap and getting cheaper and why would I want to stream music and movies to my phone, when I can only do it in the major cities. We can take this cloud computing a little too far and be caught in the big wave of optimism over it. Use it for what you need use it for, but don't think that everything will be in the cloud, well not just yet!
Personally I have around 30Gb of music alone so I can't wait until they bring out a 64Gb phone so I can store all my music and some movies as well. 
Until the networks get faster we will always need some storage, particularly on mobile devices. 

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Unconference Links

Here are the links from the Unconference held at Southwell School, last week, for those of you who didn't manage to get around all the tables or are not fortunate enough to be at Southwell.

If you don't know what an Unconference is, it's just an informal gathering, where people can show case their ICT initiatives/ideas. We had six tables/stations set up for the one hour staff meeting, on the last week of term 3. Everybody just moved around from table to table with their laptops, gathering ideas and discussing issues. I thought the Unconference was a great idea and a good success. I would definitely recommend it to any school who haven't tried it yet and hope we get to do another one next term so that more people can showcase their initiatives.

Table 1-TBa showed us dipity a web2 program for generating timelines. A great little program which links to googlemaps and gives you a flip book view too. Unfortunately this is another web2 program I've found which doesn't allow me to upload pictures from my linux EeePC so I won't be able to use it with my class but I recommend you give it a go with your class as it has lots of potential and is very easy to use.

Table 2-TBu showed us his class page on Moodle. TBu has worked hard on this to produce such a great design and you can too. Find instructions on how to do 'all things moodle' in the documentation section at You lucky Southwell people can also check out the moodle courses we did a couple of years ago under 'All about Moodle' in 'Teacherspace'

Table 3-GV showed you his excellent Year 8 Science exam he'd produced on Moodle. Well done Guy for daring to do this. GV won't mind me saying this but it was no mean feat. It took a lot of planning, preparation and trialing. The idea is that you design each question first (question type, image and audio) then work on putting the quiz together. 'Think big, start small and plan for early success'. also has a good documentation section on setting up your own quizzes. You'll need to register first but it's worth the effort as this site is packed full of moodle know how.

Table 4-KW showed us Glogster - a site used to apparently 'poster yourself' it mixes graphics, video, music and text into slick glogs- A pretty flash program definitely worth a play with if you haven't done so already. It works on my Asus Eee PC's too so I can use it with my class.

Like all good web2 programs glogster provides you with the URL and the embedded code to add your finished glog into your favourite website/social network. Glogs can be easily linked to moodle and embedded into the blog and text widget on Elgg (our school's private social network) but you have to remember to go to the settings (top right of the screen) and switch off the visual editor (bottom of screen) before you can embed it into the mypages-eportfolio section in Elgg- a point worth noting when you are adding other web2 stuff like voicethread and animoto.

Table 5-PW let us have a look at his netvibes page. A startup page for your PC which lets you aggregate all your news and blog feeds into one area. I have a netvibes page but prefer to use use igoogle (just a personal thing). Startup pages are quite handy so if you don't have a netvibes or igoogle startup page I highly recommend you check out these two over the holidays and work out which one you prefer.

Table 6- And finally I discussed Elgg (0ur schools private social network) a bit like bebo and facebook but with a lot more learning potential (blogs, wiki, eportfolio, etc ). Even if you don't think you are ready to use these with your class yet, just be aware that the kids are using them. You might just want to join one or check out the activity in Elgg and see what they are up to, it might just inspire you. Here is a Pdf of a few other areas in Elgg you could check out too.

Happy holidays and see you next term.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Iphone Vs Google Phone

I don't normally blog about something that the rest of the world is already doing, but in this case I just had to. I was very sceptical of the Google phone (aka gphone, G1 phone etc.), because I wondered whether I would like to have an open source OS (Android) controlling my phone. This is from a man who is very pro active open source and have been for many years, starting with Red Hat Linux. I just couldn't get my head around the fact that anybody could modify the OS and I was having nightmares about hackers being able to get to my contacts or wipe out my prepaid balance. Then with launch this morning I kind of got my head around it that the network operators will initially control what is on the phone and if you then want to add anything then you will have to take a risk. I guess kind of like jail breaking your iPhone!

What really sold it to me was a video of the browser, which can be seen here.

UPDATE: Also check out the UI with his video here.

I've always believed that browser is king and have blogged about it on many occasions. You have to see the video to see that it is as good as the the iPhone browser and it was also nice how they made a point that you can cut and paste between applications (no dig at Apple, yeah right!).
This is one nice phone, not as flashy as the iPhone, but with a lot more potential. Once again competition is great to have and I wonder how many people out there with an iPhone had wished they had waited. I for one am glad I did!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

1st PSP on the Network

Is there no stopping them! Last week one of the boarders in my class noticed he could pick up southwellhost (our wifi connection) on his PSP and asked me if I could connect it for him. Well no sooner had I done one, when another one came out of the woodwork, then another, and another, and another making a total of six in three days. One boy even told me he had two and would be bringing in the other one tomorrow. Pretty amazing really! I wonder what the tally will be by the end of the week.

Well, what can they do with them once they are connected, I hear you ask? Quite simply just about anything you can with a mobile phone browser. They connect to the internet using an Opera mini browser or so Mark tells me.

They can pick up our school webmail and we even managed to post a comment to a forum in Moodle this morning. We haven't tried to connect to Elgg (our private social network) on them yet, but I don't see any reason why not! I can do it on my mobile so I expect to see them blogging from their PSP's before long.

The PSP doesn't have a camera and you don't have a flash enabled browser but the screen size is pretty good and it fits nicely in your pocket. Not bad for a gaming device but then again wasn't that what the first computers were?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Where to from here.

It's coming to that time of year, when we are beginning to think about, whether or not, we roll out more class laptops to other parts of the school next year?

Well let's see, has the trial worked? Well of course 'YES'. Why wouldn't it. I really don't get this concept of a trial not working because surely you'd make it work wouldn't you? Especially if it was your initiative and you believed in it.

Why would you invest thousands of dollars in something you didn't think would work?

But that's not the real issue is it? Whether we like it or not the real issue is money, always is and always will be money. Let's be honest about this, the only reason every child at our school doesn't have a laptop is because it would costs too much?

Which leads to the 100 dollar question who's going to be paying for them?

Personally I believe it's an ownership issue, I think students should own and take responsibility for their own devices, whether that be laptops, phones or PSP's They should look after them, care for them and repair them if they are broken. It should be their tool and their responsibility. The school should concentrate on ensuring the infrastructure is capable of accepting all devices, ie ensuring we have a fat internet pipe and a wireless network that any machine can sit on. The Ict department shouldn't have to fix computers. The Food Technology Teachers don't have to fix the microwaves do they?

Which leads me to my dilemma, if they are going to belong to the students, can we really specify which make and model they have. Can I really answer that question from the ICT manager. 'Well Lesley what make and model of machine would you recommend next year'.

I know in the ideal world students should bring their own devices to school ibooks, PC's, mini laptops, phones etc and the school would have the power capabilities, wifi, storage and internet capacity to accommodate them but this isn't the real world, is it? This is a primary school with range of students and teachers with differing ICT skills and fears.

A primary school that needs to ensure the roll out is successful, not only for its students but its teachers too. Both teachers and students need to feel confident using the device (or devices as the case maybe). Our students need to be able to carry their device too and from school, back and forth from lessons and store them safely. As a school we need to ensure we have the infrastructure to support the devices (power/internet/wireless). Our teachers need to know that the machines are going to be reliable, charged and capable of been used for the lessons they plan. They also need to know that they are going to be supported in their use and integration.

So maybe we will have to accept that this isn't the ideal world (well not yet anyway). Maybe we do have to make that call and decide which model of machine we are going to recommend. It's just that there are too many other issues to consider at this moment in time, real estate/screen size, Microsoft vs Linux, software availability vs cloud computing, functionality vs features and last but not least cost vs memory size.
One thing for sure though, I will definitely be recommending a mini laptop. How every tiny the screen and small the memory you can't beat the form factor for primary school students. But which mini laptop that's another question, one that I'll need to do a little more research on before I'll commit myself to an answer.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Google Chrome

Unless you have been living on Mars, you will have heard about Google's new browser called Chrome. It has had worldwide attention and lots of people blogging about it. I have chosen to let the dust settle and then give my views on it. I don't want to get into the technicalities of it, like speed, compatibility, comparison to other browsers etc, as there are plenty of other blogs that have done that.
The main question is why have they (Google) decided to bring out a browser when it is common knowledge that they support the Mozilla Firefox browser. The answer I feel is not to just to be a competitor to Microsoft's browser, but is in fact related to their upcoming Android platform for mobile devices. I'll try and explain my thoughts on that one. When I was considering buying an Iphone I decided to start using the desktop version of Safari to try and familiarize myself with that so that when I got an Iphone I would find it easier to use the mobile version of Safari on the phone. I think that the same will happen with Chrome. Google have openly said a mobile version of it will be available for Android and what better way to promote it than produce a Desktop version first, so that people can become familiar with. Imagine the revenue that Google could extract from having their own browser on a billion phones and not have to pay a cent to anybody else (as they do at present to Mozilla to have their search engine on the default homepage). This I believe is another very clever and strategic move by Google, who continue to support the open source software model (unlike Microsoft), but yet still look to develop a dominant position in all areas of this new web 2.0 arena. Interestingly their browser is largely based upon Apple's open source webkit not Mozilla Firefox. I also think that if Mozilla don't hurry up with the development of their mobile browser they could miss the boat altogether and become a small player in the desktop market like Opera has.
A new round of the browser wars has begun, Jim, but not as we know it, this one is going to be more focussed on the mobile market.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

When will we be ready?

This is a question that I ask myself regularly about mobile phones in the classroom. The rooms are ready, phones can last all day without a charge. The children are ready, see earlier posts regarding how they were recently used for speaches in our school. The phones are ready, they all now have a good quality browser and memory and this is not a problem as they can use the fantastic Operamini browser, which can be used on almost any phone. The real problem is when you ask the children about getting the web on their phones, they all say it is way too expensive. At the moment the best deal is with Vodafone NZ which has recently introduced a $1 a day for 10Mb on prepay. I won't even mention Telecom NZ as you would have to take out a second mortgage, just to browse Facebook.
What we have to face is that in the short term, phones with built in wifi will remain expensive and that the majority of children (who have a phone) are on prepay, it's good for them and definitely good for thier parents. So until the network operators come to the party and offer better prepaid data plans I am still  going to be asking "when will we be ready?"

Sunday, September 7, 2008

1st in the Waikato

I feel so proud, one of my students came first in the Waikato, (Year 7, Girls, Speech Competition).
Now I'm not naive enough to think that it was all down to my teaching, and not in anyway related to the particular student, in questions own natural, innate ability but I can't help thinking that the increased access to Technology in the room this year did help. I believe that this access to Technology not only improved the winning speech but also contributed to improving the quality of all the speeches in my room. Last year not one of my students made the school final, this year 3 did and one well you already know about that.

Having access to 1:1 laptops, cellphones, video cameras, googledocs and Elgg (our private social network), ensured we had a successful learning programme from start to finish. Having the ability to prepare, practice, improve and assess class speeches really improved not only the outcome/finished product but the whole learning process.

We used our 1:1 EeePC's to research speech ideas on the internet via a Firefox browser.

Students own mobile phones to record initial ideas and gather thoughts.

Open Office documents to plan, design and write the speeches.
Open Office draw documents to produce cue cards.

Mobile phones/the microphone and web cam on their computer to record, practice and improve the delivery of speeches.

A digital camera to record students first attempt at their speech.

A blog on our schools social networking site (Elgg) to upload students first attempt of their speech from the class digital camera. These were then viewed by themselves and the rest of the class who then commented on each speech and gave guidelines for improvement (content and delivery) on the blog.

Finally we used googlespreadsheet to grade the final speeches during the class speech competition.

The class are presently in the process of using their mobile phones/class digital camera to record their final speech and place them in the eportfolio, Myfiles section on Elgg our social networking site to keep for prosperity and viewing by their family and friends.

Not all students want to place their final speech in their eportfolio. Not only do I believe this is how it should be 'their choice' but I'm really not worried if they chose not to. It was the learning that was important and that's all about the process not the outcome. Even though it's nice to be placed first in the Waikato it's even nicer to have access to Technology that can improve the learning for all the students in your room.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mobile Phone Polices

I wonder if they had ball point pen policies in schools.

You know the type.

Ball point pens must be handled with care at all time. They must not be placed in your pocket just in case you are tempted to use them. On entering the school grounds all ball point pens must be flicked to the off position and their lids securely screwed on. Immediately on entering your homeroom all ball point pens must be placed in a tub on home room teachers desk. They may not be used unless specified by the teacher and only then strictly for the identified task as determined by the teacher. During this time period do not attempt to use them for any other writing activity or your ball point pen will be permanently removed. Leave your ball point pen in your homeroom at all times (You do not need to write in any other lessons). During break time all ball point pens must remain in the classroom to ensure they are not used inappropriately. Please ensure that when carrying your ball point pen too and from school, that it is flicked to the off position and kept out of sight until you have securely vacated the school grounds. Even then ensure it is used strictly for emergency purposes until you are safely within your home domain or it will be confiscated.

Unfortunately I'm going to have to step my classes mobile phone policy up to this level now after a couple of students used their mobiles inappropriately at break time but I have great issues with this and the other implied mobile phone rules above (substitute mobile for ball point pen, write/ing for learn/ing and lids for covers, above.)

My main concern besides the fact that I don't want to be responsible for a whole class of mobile phones getting lost, stolen and forgotten is that the mobile phone should be utilized as a tool. The mobile phone is a wonderful tool with many useful features that students can utilize in a whole array of learning contexts (calendar, calculator, internet, camera to name but a few) and our teachers are not the ones with the experience of when, where and how to use these tools.

Surely we should be teaching our students to use these tools appropriately, correct etiquette and appropriate usage should be the core curriculum not removal. Yes inevitably our student will make wrong choices and use them inappropriately but isn't this our greatest teaching moment.

How many of you never used your ball point pen to doodle in your workbook, when you were studying or had your mobile ring at an inappropriate time. How would you of liked it if you had your ball point pen and mobile removed.

Personally I'd rather my classes/school mobile policy read:-

Mobile phones must be used appropriately at all times. When in school you phone must be turned off and placed in your pocket until you require to use it to aid your learning. At which point you must request access to it's use from the specified teacher and identify it's purpose. Your phone must not be removed from your pocket and turned on until agreement is reached between you and the teacher taking the lesson. Once you have finished using the phone for your requested purpose it must be turned off again and placed securely back in your pocket. If you need to use your phone again a new request must be made. If your phone is used at anytime while on the school grounds without requesting permission from the supervising member of staff it will be confiscated.

Admittedly I'm not too sure about what to do with the mobile phones at break time as they don't really need them for learning but I for one don't want to be responsible for lost, stolen and forgotten mobile phones. It would just be my luck that one of my bus students forgets to take their mobile from the tub on my desk and misses an important call/pick up point.

But at least for a week or two I'll just have to enforce the above ball point pen policy until they learn to use their tools appropriately and are aware of the rules of correct etiquette and appropriate usage.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Day With The Iphone

Well I had the opportunity to spend a day with an iphone, after a friend offered to leave theirs with me. Actually it wasn't theirs, they had been loaned it by Vodafone, which was great as I didn't have to worry about the data charges.
The user interface (UI) and aesthetics were just outstanding and made my P990 look and feel like a brick. It immediately found the school wireless and connected seamlessly, without any technical input required. The browser was outstanding and everything I had hoped it would be and it was quick between applications. I liked the maps function, but you really have to have a need for it to use it. The ipod sounded great and despite what some forums are saying, it connected to our Exchange server with no problems at all. What I did like was that all your email sub folders were also displayed, unlike on my p990 using the Dataviz Activesync application. The contacts and calendar also worked well and when I could also play the Flight of the Conchords from the Youtube site on a great looking screen I was hooked. Everybody I showed loved the look and feel and the kids thought it was fantastic, although they all thought it was very expensive.
At this point you are probably thinking that I went out and got one the next day. Well when I gave it back and then played with my phone I realised that, not only were there things it didn't have, but that if I did get one ,the step up in technology would be really small, compared to the one I had made going from my Nokia 6600 to the Sony Ericsson p990.
I know I will get one, but the urgency is no longer as high as it was. It's a great phone, but not that great to get tied into a 2 year contract (pay $849 for the handset and $40 a month on their cheapest plan) or pay a whopping $1129 just for the handset to Vodafone or in fact anybody.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Term 2! What did we do?

I can't believe I've just posted a comment about term 3 and haven't discussed what we did in term 2 yet. Even worse I can't even remember. Well let's see, oh yes there was Alice(programming software). It worked very well actually only 250Mb. After downloading once it was easy to pop on the USB/phone and install on the EeePC's. It ran very well too and we were able to export the finished work as a web page. I have to admit we did find the screen view a bit small though, particularly the editors area and world view window when you were building the programme (okay for viewing though). We also had to keep moving the instruction boxes about on the screen to enable us to click the 'next' instruction button. Alice comes with excellent tutorials and if you haven't given it a go yet on your EeePC it's worth a play with.

Alanpt just sent me these links via a previous post to Scratch(programming) apparently it's available for linux now (I can't wait to try this out too -I hope it works on the EeePC). Thanx Alan.


We ran Alice from the file manager rather than placing a dedicated short cut, with its own icon, on the main page, as we found out that when you upgrade the machine you lose any icons and shortcuts you have placed on the machine.
Because of this I also made the decision not to place any of the other programmes I'd trialed on my machine (audacity, kino, winff etc) on the students machines. Besides wanting to keep the machines standard because it's so much easier to reset them to factory settings, if anything goes wrong, I'm still struggling with the concept of movie making on the computer as I really want to be able to do this via the web using mobile phones not video cameras as all the kids just don't have these. Plus I have to admit I've found my 4GB machine really does make video editing hard work.

Em now what else have we been doing? Oh I know our Super Hero Fiction stories. We used Openoffice for this opendocument to write the stories and opendraw to produce the comic pages (it's amazing how creative you can get with a webcam and a paint program - you can make normal everyday students into superheros and even make them fly). Good work from the kids but could someone please tell me why we didn't use Google documents to write the main story. I know I'm still not too confident about using the internet for too many web2 programs because of our slow internet bandwidth but Googledocs doesn't take up that much bandwidth -does it, besides if I have to send and receive another email I'll scream. Not to mention the confusion between which file is the latest version when sending drafts too and from students to be corrected.

In fact we used a lot of the proprietary software on the Asus this term(must of been the novelty). A whole range of the openoffice software for our Social Studies projects and Openpresentation for our assemblies too. Well I can definitely say I've been there done that time for web2 now, roll on that fast internet connection, time to get my head firmly stuck in the clouds.

Google Docs

I used Google Docs for the first time with my class last week. Nothing new I know but I just hadn't got round to using it with my students. I've used it personally on several occasions collaborating on documents with 2 or 3 other people but have to admit, I was still a bit skeptical in terms of how truly scalable it would be, in particular I wasn't sure it would accommodate a whole class entering data at once. But I'd no need to worry had I! It was wonderful. To see all the different coloured tabs as students simultaneously entered their data really put a smile on my face.
I'd previously searched high and low to find the killer collaborative tool, which could be used for assessment purposes, but I just couldn't find what I was looking for. Well now I've found it I don't think I'll be going back.

It was actually a Google Spreadsheet that I'd set up to grade and comment on our class speeches. I set up an individual sheet for each member of the class/speech with the marking criteria on the top and class names (including mine) down the side. Then as we listened to the speeches we entered our marks/comment for each student next to our names on each students individual sheet. I had to laugh at the students who'd already given themselves full marks even before they'd delivered their speech. And those coloured tabs also caught a few out as they tried to alter my marks (good try kids). Collectively all together the information was very informative and allowed me to pick the top three speeches to go forward to the syndicate final based not only on my opinion but the classes too.

Google Docs really is that killer assessment app I've been looking for.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Three Things

Three things the iphone will need to have before I buy one are...
I'm not talking about the obvious things that the majority of New Zealanders are complaining about at the moment i.e a cheap price and a decent data plan but the much more important things to me and Education 1) a camera capable of recording video (let's be honest a phones a phone, it's not really until you add a camera/video recording facilities that it becomes a useful tool for education). 2) A flash enabled browser. The second most important feature that changes a normal everyday phone into an Educational tool is no doubt a decent browser. Why wouldn't one want one with flash? 3) HSDPA capabilities so that I can use my phone as a modem to connect to my lap top (well because that's what I do).
Oh well looks like I might be waiting a while then.
It's made me realise one thing though as I first suspected the iphone is not revolutionary not any more revolutionary that is than my P990i and a whole heap of other phones which are much more educationary (Educationally capable that is). So the question is if we're here for the learning revolution do we need to bring our iphones with us. What three things will an iphone need to have before you or your students buy one I wonder?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Now the hype is over

Having decided that I won't be buying an iphone before Christmas and with the rose tinted glasses definitely back in their case I realised that I had been caught up in the whole hype. I picked up my p990 (with broken jog dial) and thought what would I have gained from buying an iphone?

The Browser - Then I realised I had opera mini (which simulates the safari browser). But then I also read a review on and the reviewer mentioned that to load their home page on 3G took around 30-40 seconds. Opera mini does the same in around 10-20s! That' with 3G, now here is the other criticism that is also appearing in the forums. The iphone will only be on 3G in the major centres because it does not support the 2100Mhz that Vodafone use for 3G outside of these centres. Apparently Telecom NZ will have a country wide 850Mhz, which means the iphone (if they choose to sell it) will be on 3G everywhere. Telecom NZ will role their new network out from November 2008.

GPS - Who cares, I've got google maps as an install on mine and that's good enough to find places and get directions to them.

Erm and that's it. In terms of what I've got that the iphone doesn't have, well MMS (but you know my views on that one), blue tooth support and more importantly video support. Not for video calling, but for those impromptu times that you want to record something. This I do use a lot at school to capture things, for assessment or just to review later.

This should not be seen as a criticism of the iphone, I still think that it changed the worlds (well maybe not here because of Vodafone pricing) view of mobile data and the mobile web, but sometimes you get caught up with it all and become blinded to what you really believe in. If somebody asked me if they should buy the iphone I would have to now say no. I had said to a number of people, wait for the iphone, assuming it would be reasonably priced and with a good data plan. This has not happened and I just can't have an iphone myself and tell others don't get one. I believe in the mobile web for everybody and the iphone just doesn't quite meet that criteria, well at least not today anyway!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The answer is NO!

Vodafone have just demonstrated that they have a monopoly on the iphone in this country. There has been an uproar on the pricing they have applied. The $199 deal involves shelling out $250 a month. I won't go into the details as they are available at Read them and weep, they are amongst the worst in the world. But there are plenty of forums that you can go to for a taste of what we think. What it comes down to is hype and I got caught in it. When you actually look at it without the rose tinted glasses, it is a phone with an ipod attached with a great browser. I'm going to wait until Christmas and see what the new N96 is like and then see if I still want one. Vodafone knew they had limited numbers of iphones and could easily sell them, but to me they missed a great opportunity to kick start mobile data and browsing use in this country (as it did in the US) and instead wanted to further line the pockets of it's UK investors and executives. I just can't ever forgive them for that!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Will I or won't I buy an Iphone?

Well the wait is nearly over. Vodafone have said the Iphone will be available from NZD199 on a two year contract. The details will be available from 10am today. I've been really satisfied with my P990 for the last 18 months until the jog dial broke. If the Iphone had not been upgraded to 3G I would have gone for a N95. I know the Iphone doesn't have everything, such as PXT (who cares it's a dying technology), video calling (another gimick technology which needs both parties in 3G coverage and kills your battery) and blue tooth headphone support to name a few. But, for me it's the browser that sells it for me. As you know I love opera mini ( which mimics the Iphone Safari browser) and the one web approach. That combined with the applications and upgrades that the Apple store provides is the turning .point. I now have to see if I can get one on Friday, which if you believe all the hype could be more difficult than expected. Mines a 16Gb black one please Vodafone! If I'm successful I will be back blogging on a regular basis giving you the warts and all view on the Iphone and it's potential for educational use.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

One Term On

As term two has already started I feel it is really important to reflect on our first term with our Asus Eee PC's. I'm pleased to say that the novelty has definitely not worn off. In fact the enthusiasm for using the device has grown rather than declined. The biggest skeptics of the machines are now it's biggest advocates. Those whom preferred to write rather than type can now see the benefits of being able to reshape and edit their work. Those whom preferred to draw on paper are developing their creativity using the inbuilt Drawing and Paint programs. And those whom preferred to use their larger Windows based machines at home see the compactness of the Eee PC as a real convenience.

From a teaching perspective I am really impressed with the inbuilt Open Office Suite of software which offers everything that Microsoft Office does.
Mozilla Firefox and inbuilt connectivity to the internet is superb which enables seamless connection to our school Moodle and Elgg sites.
The web cam is a very useful and a well utilised piece of hardware.
The machines seem to be very durable and robust however a few screws have come loose and we have lost one keypad. Screen size is no longer an issue, solved by using zoom and the 'fn' ALT' option. Processing and storage capabilities are acceptable, if machines are kept clean and tidy.

Over all the Asus Eee PC is an excellent machine for it's sub $500 NZ price tag which enables creativity and the development of 21st century skills.

However, I have found there are a few things the machines can't do. Apparently Shockwave doesn't work on the Linux operating system, which means that there are a few interactive maths and language games we can't use. There also seems to be a bit of an issue uploading to some Web2 programs. I think this is due to a combination of low processor speed of the Asus, low internet bandwidth at school and lack of Linux compatibility with some Web2 program but I can't really be sure at this moment in time so I'll have to wait and see what happens when we improve our internet speed at school. Storage capacity is limited with the 4GB hard drive capability but I have been able to load and run additional software onto my machine including Gimp, Alice, and Google Earth. Obviously you are restricted to Linux Xandros compatible software which does limit your choices and while Alice is a viable option to Scratch (Windows based) for developing programming skills their seems to be nothing comparable to Garageband (Mac based) for music development

I've also been unable to print to our colour printer as apparently the printer doesn't have a Linux driver. And finally one that annoys the technician, when you upgrade software it upgrades the desk top icon file so any buttons and icons you have installed have to be reinstalled again but well you can't have everything can you ? not for $500 anyway.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

3G or WiFi Part 2

Well who would have guessed that 65,000 visitors to Hamilton's V8's (big car race) would have brought the Vodafone network to a standstill. I am posting this at 6.15 in the morning because by 12.00 the network will once again be overloaded and at times cannot even be used for phone calls never mind to connect to the internet. What as this got to do with education, well if we want our students to use mobile devices outside of the classroom we have to have a more robust infrastructure that can cope with a sudden increase in connections and traffic. Would I give anything for a WiFi connection for the three days the event is on? Well yes and no. I can sort of put up with not being able to use Google Reader and also view the latest news via my mobile browser, but not being able to make a phone call is something I cannot accept from such a big company such as Vodafone. If I had WiFi at least I could use VOIP to make the call, oh sorry no because Vodafone don't like you to do that over their network!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Russell Beattie

This mobile guru has created quite a few ripples in the blogosphere this week. I have followed him on the web for about 2-3 years and he was one of the first blogs I subscribed to when I was originally using netvibes all those years ago. He's been through a lot over those years including working for Yahoo and getting divorced (you can read all this on his blog Anyway the development on his latest project, mowser (a mobile transcoder like skweezer, which basically makes full size web pages accessable on a mobile device) has been stopped. His reasons are both monetary and that he no longer believes in the mobile web. This last statement was taken out of context, particularly by zdnet, and two camps formed quickly on the blogosphere. My take on it is the same as Russell, he didn't mean there would be no mobile web, just that due to the rise in the availabilty of full browsers (read that iphone, opera s60 and of course the fantastic Opera mini) people who are going to browse the web don't need transcoders any longer. Good on you Russ for recognizing that early on and pulling the plug on something that (as he has quoted) was only a short term project. Unfortunately nobody could have foreseen the impact of the iphone and full browser combination. For those people in the camp that have criticized Russ for his comments and still believe that the web should have mobile versions are also looking at it with a short term outlook. I think there will always be a place for dedicated mobile versions of some sites (namely Google Reader for one), but to believe that the full web will go small is just plain silly. Russ Beattie has been round long enough to realize this!

Friday, April 11, 2008

3G or WiFi

The latest from the blogosphere is that there has been a 700% increase in the uptake of 3G USB dongles in the UK and that WiFi might not exist in a few years. Some of this has been in part to the poor reliability, speed and availability of the existing WiFi networks. You might ask, what has this to do with education? Well over our holidays the school will be installing Bluesocket, which is a layer that sits above our wireless network and allows any WiFi device (read that phone, PSP etc.) to securely connect to our network. This is great for the school and I have had a proactive involvement in this since I got my p990i phone. Now I'm thinking that by the time WiFi enabled phones get into the hands of our students (these are traditionally high end smart phones), there maybe unlimited, fixed price data plans available in New Zealand. At that point I know from exeperience what would be the easiest for the children to use and it's not WiFi as it's difficult enough to get a laptop on it nevermind a phone. Multiply that task by 25 students and you can see it's a no brainer!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Flickr or Photogallery (Moodle)

I just realised I forgot to post this, so in case you don't know what I mean about the Yahoo ID problem her it is
Dilemma solved and all it took was one little button - copy image URL- in Mozilla Firefox that is because you don't have the same function in Explorer. For years now I've struggled to where I should put shared pictures for my class to enable not only easy upload ability but easy access for all (parents/kids/web2 programs etc). I know the obvious place would be Flickr but given that my students are only 11 there is the Yahoo ID problem to overcome i.e you need to be over 13 to get a Yahoo ID (some over protective American internet safety rule if you ask me). Not to mention the annoying double password issue and 100 Mb upload ability. Well now I don't need to worry because since we've gone over to the bright side (Mozilla Firefox) thanks to our ASUS Eee PC's, we can use the -copy image URL-button to get the URL link from Photogallery on Moodle and paste it directly into any web2 program we like. Putting the photo's on photogallery is so much easier not just because I am familiar with it but because the login is the same as Moodle which inevitably is also the same as our Elgg site. An issue which may not be of concern to secondary schools but for the primary sector is a must. Not that I would advocate primary schools stop using web2 tools and opt for an out of the box solution without the same functionality and real world connectivity and transferability but we do need to be very careful to ensure we don't cause password anxiety.

Movie making options on the Asus Eee PC

These are the web2 and localised movie making options that I've investigated and presently selected to use on my class set of Asus Eee PC's unless the class start to bring their own mobiles to school that is.

Asus Eee PC in built web cam and microphone to record.
zamzar (web2) and winff (localised) to convert .ogg to .mpg
jumpcut (web2) and Kino (localised) video editors plus audacity (localised) to manipulate sound.

While my long term goal is just to use web based and pre installed software on the Asus our internet bandwidth is not sufficient at the moment for us to rely on web2 applications and the Eee PC does not presently come with a pre installed video editor so icon buttons have been made for the localised programs and a script is been written to install them onto the classes computers.

All programs talk nicely to each other (after a web cam update and universal firefox uploader installation) and give students uploading and embedding options in Elgg (our eportfolio/private social networking site)

Kino is a very basic video editor but will suffice short term and for some reason unknown to me the Asus won't upload any file to animoto or eyespot (even after installing the firefox universal uploader) so it's back to good old jumpcut and oh yes that Yahoo ID login problem.

Mobile phones should be made compulsory in schools

Mark, myself and (A) the technician have spent the best part of this week working out movie making and publishing options for the classes Asus EeePC"s (and I mean the best part, you know the bit between 11 and 3 when the suns shining and you really should be doing something else).
But I have to ask myself WHY? WHY? have we spent what seems like an eternity working out options to convert low quality ogg webcam images to mpg format so that they can be directly uploaded to Elgg (our private social net work) or manipulated by a video editor to produce low quality movies.
The simple answer is because we needed to be able to upload our interviews with our grandparents to Elgg, because we need to be able to manipulate sound and edit movies later in the year. And yes I know now we can all do it because we've all got web cams on our Asus's and an inbuilt microphones. But WHY? oh WHY? aren't we just using our mobiles. Mobiles that don't need a program to convert the files, mobiles that have better sound and image quality, in built editors and their own personal technician (owner) WHY? because the general consensus is mobiles should be banned in schools. Banned I ask you? The one thing that I can guarantee you, in 10 years from now will be proven to have made a significant improvement in students learning is banned. Never mind banned it's about time we started making mobile phones compulsory in Schools.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

World Maths Day

Was it just me or did anybody else have difficulties logging onto yesterday? At first I thought it was the Asus's not being able to handle the shockwave but no surely not. Then I wondered about the browser, I do remember a year or two ago firefox struggling with a few plug ins but that was a long time ago. As I roamed around the school I realised the windows and mac machines were having the same problems so I asked the ICT guys to check the internet and see if anyone was using up the bandwidth but no that wasn't the problem. So I can only conclude it was at their end and their servers couldn't cope with the load. It was a shame really because it's a great challenge to compete mathematically with others from all around the world. I had a free class subscription to mathletics last year and this was by far the best part of the site. I dare to say though that I opted not to pay the $20 fee per child to use the site this year. I think I would of happily paid $5 or maybe $10 but $500+ per year per class that's a lot of money. While mathletics had some good features like student support I couldn't help thinking the activities were just like worksheets on the computer and it wasn't long before the kids got bored. Quite frankly their are a lot more interactive virtual manipulatives out there for free. Okay so they are harder to find but who ever said life was easy.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Camp Week

A whole week without computers but as I sit planning my lessons for tomorrow I can't help thinking - an opportunity missed. Why couldn't the students upload their pictures immediately, post their reflections each night, check out the weather and where they were going each day. Beats me they all had their mobiles and PSP's with them. Maybe next year but I fear we might still be waiting for those elusive data charges to come down for a year or two yet.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cloud Computing and Mobiles

It's been a while since I last blogged, but here is a subject that I have a real passion about and that's the sort of thing you need to get yourself back into it. I subscribe to the Opera Mini blog (no surprise there) and they informed me that they had added a neat feature, whereby you can zoom into any image before you download it. This was available on Opera mini 3.x and is really useful when you only have a small screen like a phone. Anyway the clever part is that they did all of the updating on their servers and like magic that functionality was suddenly available, for what could be up to 100 million people (this is Operas estimates of Opera mini users). This is the real power of cloud computing, where the 'real' power is in the server farms that they operate, just like Google does. You no longer need power hungry processors and huge amounts of memory and operating systems on the device. It just becomes a connection to the 'cloud'. I also received an interesting feed looking at how a simple browser on the phone can replace all the in built applications found on any modern smart phone, like mine. I already use my browser a lot rather than the inbuilt applications, because it is faster and I won't always have a smart phone as I believe that cloud computing is the future and I will have a phone with an advanced browser connecting me to the clouds. Hopefully people will think that my head isn't in them!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Problems to solve

After taking the Eee PC's home for the first time this week we came across several problems to solve.

1) The most obvious and probably the easiest to accomplish is that students, parents and even telecom need instructions on how to connect the devices to the internet at home. This is out of my technical expertise and one I'll need to pass over to the ICT department to organise but if we are to roll the computers out to other classes one we'll definitely have to do.

2) Wireless issues - not having the Asus's on our roaming wireless network made homework for 'Boarders' and students going to 'After School Care' rather difficult especially when I'm still reluctant to give out worksheets. However the ICT department are working on this and hopefully this will get resolved within the next couple of weeks.

3) Security - computers going home on Tuesday's and Thursday's (sports nights) were a real nightmare. It wasn't too much the issue with the children who finished sport at the normal time as the classroom was locked and the children told it would be opened up after sport. However those who needed to finish early or catch the bus caused real security issues. I couldn't leave the door open for them and I didn't think it would be safe for them to leave their computers in the changing room (we don't even let them keep their clothes in there). ? Not sure what to do about this ? Maybe they could leave them in the Management Centre to pick up on the way home but that would be a lot of through traffic?

4) Computers left at home/needing repair etc - 'Please Miss I've left my computer at home','Don't worry dear we have a spare one'. Recommondation is that you keep a 3% surplus to cover these issues but I didn't really expect to have to use it this soon.

5) Forgotten passwords - Unfortunately the ASUS's Linux operating system has a security and password setting which can only be removed by re-imaging the machine. Not that the children were told to set the password but children will be children. So inevitably the first machine had to be re-imaged.
Fortunately this was easily resolved by pressing down F9 which resets the machine to factory settings. It does mean that all the child's work is lost though. Not an issue in this instance but could be later on especially if more settings have been changed or programs installed.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Three Eee PC's still to connect

Well I didn't have a queue of parents at my door this morning most of the class were able to connect their Eee Pc's easily to the internet at home. Just three more to go. One of the parents unable to connect rang up Telecom and was given the excuse that 'you can't connect the ASUS to their network'. An interesting excuse but I can't possibly imagine why not? This is obviously not true but as 'A' the technician said you 'can't really expect the help desk personal to know how-it is rather technical!'. At the very least though you'd expect them to pass the call onto someone who does know how. They obviously don't come from the same school of thought as me. I'm a firm believer that there is no such thing as 'you can't'- maybe they can't, maybe they can't do it now, maybe they can't be bothered but somebody, somewhere can. We've passed our Mr Somebody's mobile telephone number onto our parents and hopefully once they give 'A' the technician a call they will be able to too.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Eee Pc's have gone home

A day later than anticipated but my class took their Eee PC's home last night. They had to try to connect them to the internet so that they could use them to do their Current Events homework on Moodle. I wonder how many will have been able to connect them? Well nobody called me last night so it looks positive. After one of the class had taken their device home at the weekend and wiped out our wireless proxy settings we realised we needed to get the class to all install Foxy Proxy. Foxy Proxy is a morzilla plug in which allows you to set different proxy settings. For some technical reason which I don't really understand, but the ICT guys asure me is right, the proxy is disabled at school and set to default at home. The ICT guys tried to rename the disabled tag school and set the default tag to home but you don't seem to be able to do that. Never mind though it works and that's all I care about. Well at least I hope it does. Only time will tell. I think I might need to go to work early today just in case I have a line of parents at my door. Wish me luck.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Too Busy to post (part 2)

What have I been doing that took up all my time this week? You might ask. Well, besides nurturing a niggling back pain that makes it impossible for me to sit in an upright chair and type just normal teaching stuff really or should I say 21st century teacher stuff.

1) Preparing diagnostic Mathematics and Spelling tests on Moodle (rather time consuming to set up but worth it in the end given that all the marking is done for you). A definite shift in teacher time though.

2) Putting my planning online in wiki format to make it more transparent for parents and students.

3) Rethinking the way I teach 'Current Events' Adding it to Moodle and using RSS feeds to pull in events as they happen, encouraging students to use the internet as their preferred media delivery mode and discussing events with each other in forums.

4) Limiting my visits to the photocopying room. In fact I've only photocopied one thing all term. Okay so I copied 150,Yr7 camp lists for the whole syndicate but that's not a worksheet and was definitely necessary.

5) Working with the Enviro Committee to produce energy monitoring sheets to be used to check classes have switched off lights and heating etc. Using the open office spread sheets on my Asus computers of course. Talk about transferable skills I don't even think the Yr5/6 students in the Enviro Committee realised they weren't on windows they just clicked the spreadsheet button and were away. Amazing really considering they'd never been on the machine before.

6) Meet the Parents Evening discussing the use of the Asus in the classroom and preparing them for the devices to go home on Monday.

Well that's six more posts from me all in one go but just the same if you ask me.

Too Busy to post (part 1)

Start of the new school year and I've been far too busy to post. Maybe I have to concede that I don't post everyday or just quick sharp add the five posts I've missed. Well that's one down four more to go.

Monday, February 4, 2008


We uploaded the pictures we took with the Asus's inbuilt webcam to our personal profiles on Elgg today. Elgg is our schools 'private' social networking system which uses LDAP. This authentication protocol allows our students and teachers to have the same password for Moodle and Elgg (a god send really when you think we are talking about primary school students.
I took the opportunity to give the big cybersafety talk before we logged on. Good job really because about a 1/3rd of the class were already on bebo and making friends with anyone who contacted them. Unfortunately I didn't have access to the great Ad Councils Cyberbullying-Talent Show video as it had been removed by youtube, apparently due to 'terms of use violation', but I managed to find it later on teachertube, Having to improvise I don't think I got the message across as good as the video but I think the kids got the message 'if you wouldn't say it in person - don't say it on line'. I chose not to show the 'think before you post video' as I thought it might be too mature for my year 7 students but having later seen a site picture posted by one of my girls I think I need to go back and readdress this.

Sunday, February 3, 2008


It was easy today to use the Asus's inbuilt Firefox browser to connect to our school's CMS (Course Management System) 'Moodle'. The big Web button under the Internet tab makes it childs play. I still like to call Moodle a CMS (original name) even if people do think I'm talking about a (Content Management System) because well technically I am. Having added a content management block to the front end of Moodle we have a great multipurpose school portal that acts as our website too. Besides I hate that term LMS (Learning Management System) it just makes people associate Moodle with the likes of Blackboard and WebCT and it has so much more to offer than that. I spent this morning using one of Moodle's web2 features a 'wiki' to plan my lessons for the week. The idea is that the class will be able to click on the lessons for the day and follow the programme independently, (tasks, learning intentions, resources etc), making the whole learning experience more transparent. Let's use Moodle to manage the courses and let the students manage their own learning I say.