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.