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.