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.

Now that's me conectd

Well after quite a few weeks of reading forums and trying to remember the linux command line I have managed to connect the Asus eeepc to the web using my 3G Sony Ericsson p990 phone ,ooh yes! People will probably think, what's the big deal when you can connect using wireless, Ethernet or just plug it straight into your broadband router. I could have waited for the in built 3G card that Asus have promised or I could have purchased one of the linux compatible 3Gmodems that some forums have suggested work with the eeepc. But that would have been the easy way and I just don't do easy. I wanted to use my phone because that's where my data plan is and I have used it successfully with Windoze. I didn't want to have to get another device and another data plan, when I could just keep things simple. I still can't take the smile of my face when I saw it first connect and I am blogging using the connection now. I feel even more pleased as there are very few people around the world who have done it as well (at this point you are probably thinking that there is only a few people who would want to do it as the other options are more main stream), but it just goes to prove that it can be done and I feel it is the ultimate in being conectd and still mobile. It just rocks!