Saturday, May 23, 2009

Let's Fight it Together

If you haven't done so already I highly recommend you show this cyber bullying clip to your students. You can watch it on line from or order a DVD, free to all schools in NZ.

With the proliferation of netbooks, tablets, ipods and phones in our schools these days and the increasing access to social networks and online learning environments it's really important we keep our students net savvy and safe.

As a syndicate we're working through a 'Conflict' unit at the moment helping students identify, try to understand and resolve conflict situations. It's heart wrenching to see how much students have been affected by regular bullying in the past, so it's really important we teach them how to cope with cyber bullying now, before it's to late.

The movie gets the principal across very well


The DVD has follow up interviews and you can find an interactive game on the site too which reinforces the message.

I also recommend the old youtube classics

Cyberbullying - Talent Show

and Think Before You Post

which are also guaranteed to make your students think.


Mywebspiration beta is now open for new registrations again.

Inspiration online with the ability to collaborate with up to 7 contributors, what more can I say than HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Is this the Iphone killer?

If there was anything that could get me back blogging again then it had to be something that I think can change the mobile landscape like the IPhone had done last year.

I have blogged about the IPhone before and about the first Google phone (the G1) and was at one time even tempted to purchase an IPhone, that was until the Vodafone pricing just didn't make it appealing.

Now, I think that I have been a little hard on Vodafone as I will try and explain. I am a regular user of their forum and I have been given the impression that they were kind of held to ransom by Apple and told what they could and couldn't do and this had a knock on effect on what they could offer the public. This is just part of the locked down approach that Apple have had towards all their recent products and something that Vodafone themselves were guilty of a few years back with their live site, which was a typical walled garden.

Well Vodafone have had a rethink and realise that future revenue growth is going to come from data and so they don't want some other company (read that as Apple) determining what they can or can't do. So what do you do about it? You make your own branded phone based upon an open operating system and take on the opposition where you decide all the profit margins. Well here it is the Vodafone branded HTC Magic!

My guess is it will undercut the IPhone and be offered with better data plans. Vodafone have been involved with the whole process, even down to having the standard virtual keyboard being specifically designed and coded to their requirement so that customers get a good experience. This phone will not only give the Iphone competition, but will give the Android  (originally developed by Google) operating system some kudos, which it desperately needs after the slightly bad press it received with the first Google phone, the G1. In my opinion this one was rushed onto the market too quickly and did more damage than good to the whole Google effort.

This phone will also have a big impact on the mobile landscape as well and it could change forever. 
Windows mobile is in decline (a bit like Vista) and in my opinion was never going to be a great mobile operating system.  Look at what it is based upon, it's like trying to fit an elephant into a matchbox. 
Symbian UIQ (the touch screen version) is officially dead and I think that Symbian itself has been left to sink or swim by Nokia when they suddenly released into the open source market place. By the way they have a foot in the Android camp as well so I don't think they will care what happens to it. 
Then there is the new Operating System (OS) from Palm (the Palm Pre), which I feel is too little, too late and the Blackberry, both of which are very small players.

This of course then leaves only Apple and Android. One is a locked down OS and one that is completely free and Open and can be developed by anybody.That is why I feel the release of this phone (the HTC Magic) is so important and was a result of Apple trying to dictate what a large mobile company could or couldn't do with their product. It may have worked with AT&T in America, but with Vodafone I think they just woke up a sleeping giant!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lesson 10

Lesson 10 - The hardest Lesson to Learn is...

I was tempted to tell you this first before I started my lessons but I left it until last because I didn't want to upset you. But I'm afraid now is the time I to have to tell you. Not that you probably haven't figured it out for yourself already. But when you enter the Web2;0 World of 1:1 Computing your productivity and perceived ability as a teacher will go backwards. You will not be as productive with your new tools as you where with the old tools and your confidence in your own teaching ability will have taken a bit of a knock this term but trust me it's just a phase.

This quote from Seth Godin’s book “Tribes” resonates well with me and reflects how you and your students are probably feeling right now:

The first rule the music business failed to understand is that, at least at first, the new thing is rarely as good as the old thing was. If you need the alternative to be better than the status quo from the very start, you’ll never begin. Soon enough, the new thing will be better than the old thing. But if you wait until then, it’s going to be too late. Feel free to wax nostalgic about the old thing, but don’t fool yourself into believing that it’s going to be here forever. It won’t. (93)

There is no time like the present to change and if you leave it too long it will be too late so you might as well just bite the bullet and go for it.

Just remember

You're never too old to learn.

The more you know the more you realise what you don't know

You get out what you put in.

So go back over those lessons I've taught you this term. Feel free to be nostalgic about how you use to teach but except, has the music industry has had to do to survive that the landscape has changed.

Lesson 9

Lesson 9-Students Live in the Present not the Past

Students are not like you and I. They do not hold onto files for years and years to come, just in case they may need them again. They live for the moment, complete tasks for a purpose, then seek out the next new learning experience. Consequently once they have finished a task and emailed it to you, they delete their work - well before you've seen it, checked it and given them feedback. (sounds like a good lost homework excuse to me). Sometimes they don't even check you've received it.

Which is why you need to remind them
i) not to delete work until it's been checked/revised and printed out (if they need a paper copy).

ii) to make their work public and hyperlink it or embed it into Elgg (if they are working in the web environment).

or iii) even better still, get them to work directly on Elgg (if appropriate)and save their work regularly.

I'm a great believer in completing tasks for a need and understand exactly where the students are coming from. However because I hate the fact that often the only audience for your work in an e-porrtfoli is the e-portfolio itself, I didn't put a big enough emphasis on students saving their work last year (especially a copy of their final draft/production). However, it made me realise we need to this year, because if we don't remind them the students just won't do it and it's such a shame not to have a record of their work.

So remind them quick before they delete their work at the end of the term. Next term will be too late it will already be gone.

Next - Lesson 10 - The Hardest Lesson to Learn is...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Lesson 8

Lesson 8-Spam Filters Don't Care

Not that I've get anything against spam filters. In fact without them I dare to say the world as we know it would crumble. Well the computer world anyway.

But really Watchdog (our email spam filter) doesn't care that your lesson is only 45 minutes long and that you and your 25 students are desperately waiting for your googledocs email confirmation to be released from its inbox, so that you can all verify your accounts and get on with the lesson.

It doesn't care that you only have an hour to confirm your account. It doesn't care that if you don't confirm it within an hour you have to go through he whole registration process again.

It doesn't care that this is the third time little Johny has tried to set up a googledocs account because he doesn't know his from his It doesn't care that both you and little Johny are getting rather frustrated now because you can't understand why the email verification that was sent last night isn't working.

Which brings me to my next point. If you plan on using googledocs or any other web 2:0 application to that point, it pays to set up the application the lesson/day before. Over morning tea or lunch is a good option as it will give you time to iron out any problems you have with individual student accounts before the lesson starts.

Remember we are teaching primary school children and you won't believe the problems you can have registering for what seems like an every day run of the mill web2:0 program.

Pre warned is pre armed.

Next-Lesson 9-Students Live in the Present not the Past

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lesson 7

Lesson 7-Computers Never Forget

Unlike students computers have an amazing capacity to remember passwords and logins.

They never forget to send message just because your working offline. And just because your friend wasn't connected to the internet last night, when you sent them that really important skype message!. You have no need to worry about it because, as soon as your friend connects to the internet at school, that message is sure to pop up, with it's characteristic ding. Yep, you've guessed it right in the middle of your maths lesson. And you know exactly how your maths teachers going to react to that.

So here is what you need to do with skype and any other annoying program that's demanding your attention during your important lesson times.

1. Firstly and most importantly go to the program and take a tick out of the box that says - start me up when I'm connected to the internet (on skype the sign on button is at the top right of the screen).
That way then you have to deliberately sign in to the program to use it, and it can't annoy you any more.

2. If the program still annoys you like Moodle messages and you can't stop it from popping up. Close it down immediately before your teacher sees it.

In everything you have a choice and you really don't need to reply to those messages in your maths lesson. Do You?

Next-Lesson 8-Spam Filters Don't Care

Lesson 6

Lesson 6 - Elephants Never Forget.

But unfortunately or should I say thankfully we're teaching students not elephants.

While it's not considered safe to write down and save passwords. I seriously suggest that you find some way of organising this for your class. Because when it comes to next term, I guarantee at least a quarter of your class will have forgotten at least one of their passwords.

Keeping logins and passwords in email is a pretty safe and reliable option. If you're using firefox you can access your saved passwords from the tool bar, select -tools-security settings-saved passwords- and they will all be there if you have opted for your computer to save them.

At the end of the day though writing the password down shouldn't be mocked. Unless you want to spend all your valuable teaching time, that is, helping students retrieve lost passwords.

Next-Lesson 7-Computers Never Forget

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lesson 5

Lesson 5 - Patience is a Virtue

Connecting all students to the internet at home will take longer than expected.

I'm still waiting for two of my students to gain internet access. While it wasn't too bad at the beginning of term (I kind of expected this and didn't plan much internet based work) I'm getting a bit frustrated now. It's starting to effect the work I can do in class as a consequence of the follow up activities I am able to give for homework.

While the majority of students will have access to the internet via the home PC. You really don't want to rely on this because it means they are competing for time on the computer with their parents and older siblings. And we all know whose going to win there. Plus it means a lot of messing about transferring files, webcam pictures and sounds from the classmate to the PC and back again. Trust me I've been there you won't believe the incompatibility errors you'll get. Not to mention the fact that students will revert to using familiar Microsoft options again instead of taking on the challenge of OpenOffice and web2 programs. And we can't be having that can we?

So it's imperative to check that not only can all students connect to the internet at home on their classmate but also to note who doesn't have access to the internet at home at all, as this will effect your ability to use moodle/elgg and other web2 programs for homework activities.

In theory computers should connect seamlessly but if not parents first port of call should be their internet provider. If that does not work a quick call to Andrew (the Technician) at school may resolve the issue. If not Andrew will be available some nights to help parents through the connecting process (but this will cost).

So remember it pays to check but be patient.

Next-Lesson 6-Elephants Never Forget.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lesson 4

Lesson 4 - Accidents Happen.

It's so easy to lose or break a computer so take care.

Because the netbook is so small, it fits nicely in a bag/desk and it's easy to forget about it. It soon becomes just another tool for students to use when they need it, just like a calculator or pen. This is exactly what you want but students often forget that they have them in their bags. Often leaving their bags in the changing room or outside the classroom with the obvious risk of them getting stolen. However the less obvious risk of them getting knocked or kicked while in the bag is more of an issue. To this point I'd advise students to take care.

I know the machines are fully insured but do you really want the inconvenience of been without your computer and having to make a claim. Plus at the end of the day whose fault is it anyway when your screen is smashed because you, left it in your bag, on the floor and someone fell over it?

Don't get too complacent with your new tool, that you forget to look after it properly.

Next-Lesson 5-Patience is a Virtue

Lesson 3

Lesson 3 - Everyone is an Individual

Students will want to customize their computers.

In fact it is probably a necessity that some students (boys in particular) are allowed to personalise their devise (screen savers/music etc) as it gives them more ownership of their learning.

There are no reasons to be concerned about this. As mentioned earlier Dave has imaged the machines so that all programs are on the c-drive and student data is stored on the d-drive. Which means, if students mess up their machines the c-drive can be reimaged and students won't lose their work, if they store their work on the d-drive that is (or in the clouds of course).

Which means students are fine to put their music on the machines -as long as it's all legal that is. When they run out of room and their machines start to perform slowly, they'll just have to wipe it off again. Personally I can't teach while music is playing in the background but as long as the students have their own headphones I don't mind them listening to music while they're working. Everyone to their own learning style.

As for down loading games though that's an issue for the students and parents to work out. If parents allow students to down load games(at home)and students make the wrong choices during lesson times, as a teacher you have the right to remove the program. That goes for making the right choices with music too.

Like I said every ones an individual - let the students customize their computers and take control of their own learning but if it doesn't fit in with your teaching style you don't have to allow it.

Next - Lesson 4 - Accidents Happen

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lesson 2, part 2

Sorry I forgot to say.

The first time you use the school web mail with your mozilla firefox browser, you need to add an exception. Which means your computer will be issued with a certificate so that you can access the server (i.e your mail).

To do this step through the following commands.

First select - or you can add an exception - at the bottom of the screen
then click - add exception -
followed by - get certificate -
then - confirm your security settings -
and last but not least click - authentication required -
and add your username and password when prompted.

You only need to do this once so don't worry about having to do this every time you want to pick up your mail.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lesson 2

Lesson 2 - We all Need Time to Play.

Both you and your students need time to play with your new tool.

While technically speaking the technology is not really new it's a netbook just a little laptop and you should have no trouble working your way around it, there are some distinct differences that you will need to appreciate and famliarise yourself with.

1. The 0perating System - while you are running a windows operating system (Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition) you do not have access to the Microsoft suit of programmes (Word, Publisher, Xcel, Powerpoint). Instead you are using OpenOffice which gives you access to OpenDraw, OpenWord, OpenPresentation, OpenSpreadsheet etc. You can open a MS document in OpenText and save an OpenText document as a Word97 file but unfortunately OpenDraw, OpenSpreadsheet and OpenPresentation are not compatible with Publisher or PowerPoint. But then again you don't need them to be. Put OpenOffice on your own laptop too and when students send you work you'll be able to open their files - no worries.

While ideally in the future you will be using web2:0 programs googledocs, flowgram, Elgg etc you can't always rely on the internet being up and that all students are able to connect to the internet from home so I think it's fair to say that becoming familiar with the OpenOffice suit of software is a safe bet even if it just becomes a back up later on.

Early on in the term I'd suggest you give your class the oppourtunity to use the OpenOffice suit of programmes. Quick and easy beginning of the term ideas like peg and tray labels, autobiographies and presentations about themselves etc so that your students know what each program can be used for.

You need to use it too so ditch your relience on microsoft start using OpenOffice yourself - Just do it - Unless you are willing to let go of the old you won't have room for the new and believe me your going to need a lot of room for all the new things that I am going to be sharing with you this year. The links here to download if you haven't done so already.

2.The image/available software on the machines - This will include some new programs to you. You don't need to know how to use all of these immediately. But you will need to be able to use the basics - OpenOffice, paint and audacity so at least have a play around with these to start with. Instructions and help guides are in the Yr7-Netbook section on Moodle. We'll cover things like scratch and Quest Atlantis later - However don't let me stop you experimenting, if you feel the urge.

3. Inbuilt devices - Webcam/microphone/speech - kids will find the webcam intriguing (even if it's just to check their hair). Take advantage of this initial curiosity and let them take their picture and edit it with paint. Record an introductory message and edit it in audacity. Then get them to load these up to Elgg as part of their profile.

You do this too - It's the best way to learn - Then your Elgg profile will look really cool too. Instructions on how to use these programs are in the Yr7 netbook section on Moodle.

4.Storage - Yipee no more h-drives or student s-drives needing to be mapped, just the machines d-drive(Data (D)), student usb keys and the cloud (internet - Elgg, googledocs, glogster etc) makes life so much easier. All you have to do is to make sure students are aware of where their work is been saved to. Work automatically saves to the mydocuments section on the d-drive, but you just need to check students are not saving work to the c-drive. The reason why is because Dave has imaged the machines so that all the programs are installed on the c-drive, which means if the machines have to be reimaged students will lose their work if it's on the c-drive. The d-drive won't be touched thus student work won't be lost.
Seems a good idea to me. Good thinking Dave.

5. Printing - Students except for boarders don't have printing rights. I know this is going to annoy you but it actually makes sense, if you think of it logically. Besides the obvious cost issues and effect on the planet, with all those hundreds of wasted printout(you know I'm a bit of a greenie) not having a printer makes you connect to the cloud/internet more it will become automatic for you and your students to store work on Elgg, collaborate on googledocs and publish on the likes of glogster and slideshare. These will become your preferered methods of working instead of an after thought. Students will have to be come experts at selecting appropriate informational sources, and adapt at summarising main points. I'd even go as far as suggestting you don't put the printer drivers on your own machine either (classmate that is) then you are forced to think of other ways to present your work to students instead of that worksheet. And the last point which I noted last year was even when students work did need printing out you could guarantee that there would be at least one mistake that neeeded correcting before it was ready for printing. So if you have to print it, at least you know you've checked it - and that's another tree not wasted.

6. Email - You don't have Microsoft Outlook either - That's not a bad thing though because it will make you get use to a web based emailing system. You can find the school's webmail on the front end of moodle.

7. The wireless connection is awesome. I love how it automatically connects you. But you do need to remember that it will timeout/disconnect after about 20 mins (if you are not using it). To reconnect without turning your machine on and off again -click on the wireless icon at the bottom of the screen - disable first - then reconnect - or try to repair it if it gives you that option.

8. Locking of the machine/ user passwords - I've told my class not to do this, just in case I need to access their machines. Once a password is set I don't know how to unset it - so don't ask me - if you chose to let your class lock you out of their machines.

Take the time now at the beginning of the year, to play with your machine, get to know the basics and enjoy it will pay dividends in the long run.

Next - Lesson 3 - Everyone is an Individual

Monday, March 2, 2009

Lesson 1, part 2

Well I don`t seem to be getting very far with my lessons. However, I think that maybe a good thing. No point in running before you can walk. Having just returned from a wonderful camp, with my year 7 class, I switched on my computer to find it rather stressed.

The pop up warning sign and red explanation mark, on the icon bar indicating that the machine is not in a good mood at all.

Before we can move on to lesson 2 you really do need to make sure your machine is fully protected. So before you do anything on the computer with your class tomorrow update your virus checker first(see lesson 1).

Remember you need to be connected to our secure internet first before the virus checker will update - ie you need to have logged into blue socket first.

This is a habit that you and your students need to get into.
Neglect to do it at your own peril.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lesson 1

Lesson 1 -It Pays to Get Familiar

Firstly and most importantly you need to get familiar with your computer. You need to bond with it and get to know what makes it tick, so that you can understand it that little bit better.

This includes knowing whether your computer is feeling at its best or not. Is it fully charged and ready to go for the day or are its batteries low and it's running out of energy.

When the computer is on, this symbol will be illuminated green.

Next to that you will see an orange battery light, this indicates that your machine is not fully charged. The battery changes to green when the computer is fully charged.

To find out exactly how much charge there is left in your battery you need to hover your mouse over the battery icon at the bottom of the screen (when the charger is not plugged in.) This will tell you what percentage of power you have remaining. 100% = about 3hrs.

You will see a flashing green light at the right side of your machine (next to your charger plug in point)to indicate your machine is charging. The green light will stop flashing once your machine is fully charged. When your battery goes below 30% the battery icon will change to white and the battery symbol will start to flash. When you hear the low beeps you only have about 5mins of battery life left so you really do need to plug your machine in and let it charge.

After a short time of no use your machine will go into standby mode ie it is still on but the screen has shut down to save energy. At this point the power control will start to flash green to indicate that your machine is still on. Pressing the on button once will power up your machine fully again.

To change the power down options i.e time before your machine goes into standby mode you need to go to the control panel,from the start menu, select power option properties and set the turn off and standby times for when your machine is plugged in and running on batteries.

Next you need to make sure your computer is feeling safe and secure.
If you click on the Windows security centre settings shield on the icon bar(could be any colour from green to red depending on how safe your computer is feeling)it will tell you whether the Firewall is on and Virus protection is up to date. Make sure the windows firewall is on and use the recommendation options (arrow button in white circle) to ensure your Virus Protection is up to date.

Clicking on the AVG Anti- Virus icon at the bottom of the screen will give you the option to update your anti virus when needed. One important point here thou - before student's anti virus update will work at school - students need to have logged in to the internet - just because the wireless light is on - doesn't mean you are connected to the internet. If you are not using the wireless/internet the system will drop you off after about 20mins (it seems - I will need to check the exact time with Dave) so if you haven't used the internet for a while you will need to reestablish the connection.

If you haven`t installed the AVG anti virus yet follow the walk through Dave sent you, which he has placed on Moodle-Yr7-Computers-Netbooks. If you have students with their own laptops they need to install this too (the program is in the Netbook section of Moodle as well).

Make sure you also have automatic updates on too then your computer will be feeling looked after and kept up to date. This will automatically update Virus Protection/ Windows when you are connected to the internet. You can check for updates by clicking the windows security setting icon at the bottom of the screen too.

If you've done all this your computer should be in the zone and performing to the best of it's potential. The time should automatically update the next time it updates but you can set the clock now if you wish by hovering over the time icon at the bottom of the screen.

And last but not least you want to know if your machine is feeling sociable and wanting to collaborate with others.

The wifi antennas on the control panel should be green to indicate the wireless is on. If not press fn f1 to turn it on or your machine won't be ready to connect to the internet. Pay special attention to whether the wifi antenna is on or not as this will stop the constant complaining from children and dare I say it teachers when they say they can't connect to the internet.

As mentioned above just because you can see the wifi control on the icon bar doesn't mean you are connected to the internet. After the wifi/internet has timed out you will need to reestablish the connection. To do this you need to right click the wireless icon, disable it first, then double click the wireless connection and reestablish the connection again.

If that doesn't work and anything else goes wrong to that matter use the old and trusted method - TURN THE COMPUTER OFF AND TURN IT BACK ON AGAIN - It solves a multitude of problems and saves a lot of teacher time if you can get the kids into this habit.

That should be enough to get you started and familiar with your machine but if you need to know what any of the other controls/icons or function keys mean don't hesitate to leave a comment here for a prompt reply.

I`ve put the full reference manual on Moodle too under Yr7-Computers- Netbooks. The kids can access this too - so don't worry if I'm talking double dutch - they'll work it out.

Next - Lesson 2 - We all Need Time to Play

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lessons Learned from the Web2:0 World, of 1:1 Computing (Introduction)

Wow! I can't believe it, it's been nearly two months since I did my last post. Well it is summer over here you know- I was enjoying myself too much to be thinking about blogging. But now I suppose it's back to work, and oh yes the syndicate set of Classmates have arrived YIPPEE. With that in mind I've decided over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to be writing a few (well quite a few) blog entries, reflecting on the lessons I learned, from my lone journey into the Web2:0 World, of 1:1 Computing last year. These lessons will be for my colleagues in year 7, who are going to be joining me on the netbook journey this year. By reflecting on the successful and not so successful parts of last year I hope to be able to offer some valuable insight and useful advise to my team mates, which will hopefully make their journey this year that little bit easier. Please join us on our journey into the Web2:0 World, of 1:1 Computing and share your lessons learned.

Like all good journeys we will be starting at the beginning, the beginning of the ACOT's technology adoption cycle, that is, 'getting to know our new computers'. I envisage that we will progress slowly through the initial stages, as we grapple with changing our pedagogy as well as our delivery methods, discussing such issues as 21st century literacies, deep learning and digital safety along the way. While we fear not from starting at the beginning;

'The initial stages are natural and perhaps even required...'

Our challenge is t0 ensure that we do not just duplicate our present, outdated, exam driven, 19th century pedagogies online.

We have to take the challenge, to think deeply about what we are teaching and question WHY, then make a commitment to change, however hard it may initially appear.

'...the key is, educational constituents should NOT BE SATISFIED to simply see traditional learning tasks and teaching styles be digitized. Wes Fryer from Moving at the Speed of Creativity

We have to do better.
We have to aim higher.
We have to change our pedagogy.

Lesson 1-Next-It Pays to Get Familiar.