Sunday, 28 December 2008

ONE internet?

It is a shock to discover that not everyone can get to your website.
Apparently, some ISPs routinely block websites. Our school website is not available through several ISPs in the UK. The request shows as "connecting" and then page unavailable.
We have come across this before, with rival ISPs within El Salvador not accepting e-mails from each other, but it is worrying that there is this problem in the UK.
Since the request does not show a page saying "not available on this server", I wonder if there is another explanation. Can anyone throw any light on this problem?

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Entrenchment part 2.

Earlier I wrote about the "entrenched" digital immigrant (or native?) who has adopted a closed set of digital technologies and is unable to move out of this closed world.
An obvious question that follows this might be - what digital technologies SHOULD the up-to-date educator be using as part of his pedagogical tool-kit?
I found this hard to answer.
The reason was that, in the context of the traditional classroom with a traditional teacher-led environment and students with traditional ways of being engaged (verbally, reading off whiteboard or projected image, responding on paper and handing that in, etc), the options are very limited.
Sure you can show a clip, hear an audio file, work together on a projected printed document, work in small groups to provide a response, etc. But there is a real barrier to other digital ways of being engaged.
I observed the way that my 12th graders were working just recently. Only 5 of the 17 were working traditionally (on paper). The remaining 12 were working on their laptops. They were typing the project into a word processor and doing some research on-line.
Without the whole class having access to their own personal digital/web interaction device, it is unlikely that we would bring any further digital technologies into play in a meaningful way.
Perhaps "entrenched" is an unfair label. More "unable to move forward" might be better.
The point being that, with a whole class of students each with their own personal digital/web interaction device, there is not much that the students can do digitally.
It is obvious, I know.
Oh, the only satisfactory personal digital/web interaction device which allows easy input and an appropriate visual output, at this moment, is the laptop/notebook.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Unacceptable lag between invention and production - large interactive lcd

The Achilles Heel of electronic whiteboards is the digital projection necessary for the image.
We should be at the point of seeing large lcd or plasma screens using touch technology.
Would Chung Lee's approach work with 42"+ lcd screens?
It should do. I notice that plasma screens have a glass front as opposed to the flimsier lcd panels. Would plasma then be a better solution so that the pen does not scratch the surface?
It seems strange that this idea is still at the inventor stage and not in mass production. Come on electronic companies!
The technology is at least 18 months old. Look at this clip from 2007:

Thursday, 18 December 2008

The "entrenched" digital immigrant (and native?).

Marc Prensky's term for a late adopter of technology, as opposed to one who has known nothing different, is "digital immigrant".
Two years back we were using this concept to explain the differences between "digital natives" and "digital immigrants". Many parallels between new immigrant behaviour and that of someone who had learned how to use computers, and thus slowly change their ways of working, could be drawn.
But there is another layer to this.
Probably occurring more often in the immigrant than the native, there is a "just enough knowledge and no more" approach as well. There are those who have become entrenched in some Word, some spreadsheets, an on-board mail client, Skype and the ever present powerpoint, and that is it. There is not the wish to move further than this.
"Good enough for what I want to do", they might say.
How common is the entrenched digital user? What might move them on to consider other digital computer and collaborative tools?

Monday, 15 December 2008

A stable GChrome

Tabs along the top, Ctrl T yields your most accessed pages and recent bookmarks, a neat and easily accessible bookmarks toolbar, and what seems to be really fast accessing of pages - that's my first impression of the Google Chrome browser.
The address bar provides very fast searching and guesses. The browser seems to be learning from what I have accessed previously. Very impressive.
Trying this over the last few days has given me much more confidence than when I tried the original buggy Beta version.
After Google announced a concentration on their core business, and the dropping of non related projects, I did wonder whether Chrome would survive. But with their other unexpected announcement regarding Native Client technology - allowing the browser the full power of the onboard computer - now that makes sense.

Friday, 12 December 2008

The Networked Student

It is always difficult to get a vision of the future. How will students work in 5 years time? What is the "classroom of the future"?
This clip on the Networked Student gets close to how students might work in the future and certainly how they can work now. Notice how the student is constructing his own learning and also the role of the teacher - a significant and important role in the facilitating of learning.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Venturing into Google Apps for Education

We have taken the plunge. After working on the general GApps system, with each using their private Gmail account, we have moved over to using Google Apps for Education.
We are taking it slowly, with the central core of users changing first.
It took 4 days for my Gmail to transfer from my private Gmail account to the GApps4Ed account and we are transferring Gdocs into the system as well as making sure all new Gdocs are initiated in the GApps4Ed site.
Some immediate points I notice:
  1. The spam folder is almost always empty. This is good - and for a school really important. When we move students into this system this will be a real plus.
  2. It seems fast. Difficult to prove this, just an impression.
  3. Using Firefox there is no problem between having tabs pointing to the old system and the new. It does not get confused with user and password issues.
  4. Gnotebook is not available in GApps4Ed but there is no difficulty in using it. With the embedded link bottom right of Firefox I can access the notebook at any time.
  5. We have enabled GLab features and it is easy to chat, have a bigger range of stars to mark mail and, really usefully, use GTasks - great feature.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Google Docs for Classroom Collaboration

The point about GDocs is that it is a versatile sharing and collaborating system.
Okay, it's editing facilities may not be as good as Word, but it is as good or better than what I am using here.
But it does need to be set up - either as a school based GApps site or the individual teacher using the open GApps.
Here is a slideshow showing one approach:

The end of the electronic whiteboard

The electronic whiteboard promises much but is a clunky and imperfect technology.
The main problem is that it relies on a digital projector for the image. The teacher/presenter gets in the way and worse, the room's light level has to be kept low so as to see the dim projector image.
LCD flat panels are a pretty good substitute for the digital projector, and now the multi-touch lcd panel is going to supercede the electronic whiteboard. Let it happen! And fast!
The CNN coverage using this technology was impressive. John King's fingers did the work and awed everybody. However, the credit must go to inventor Jeff Han who first demonstrated this to a very impressed audience at
Keep up to date in this area following the Multitouch blog.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Google mail with Google Apps

This has been a long standing question - when do we switch the mail system over to Google?
There are several problems, the main one is to do with mailing lists.
We use mailing lists to send mail to groups of people - staff, 7th grade, mathematics department, etc. Our system allows us to write rules, the most important one being "do not allow anyone from outside the primary domain to send a mail to the mailing list".
This prevents the reply to all fiasco from outside or the spammers from getting hold of a group of (or indeed all) people.
GMail in GApps cannot do this (Lauren from Google confirmed this although said that they might do this in the future).
So we will have to revert to a dual system....

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Inauguration of the Learning Resources Centre

Such a pleasing event. Finally inaugurating the Learning Resources Centre.
Many people had put in a great deal of work so as to have all the displays and indeed the books on the shelves on time and the place looked great.
As I said in my speech, a building alone does not provide the vision that we have. People do, but the building does provide the focus and facilities for a modern, forward looking school.
I quote a little from the inauguration speech I gave:
But what of the Learning Resources Centre? What is this building?
You will see three clip-art symbols on its logo, depicted on the programme - which gives some indication of function: a book, a computer screen with an i in the middle, and a group of people in front of an image of the World.

The book - because it is a library. We value reading, we value access to books, periodicals and magazines. We live increasingly in a technological world but know that our comfort and strength comes from the pleasure and functionality that books can give us.
The computer screen with an i because computers, the internet, digital technology and digital information are our access to knowledge, our ability to create new knowledge, our ability to communicate, our ability to collaborate.
Communication, cooperation, collaboration are the ideas behind the group of people and the World seen on the logo. Besides the technology, the LRC has seminar rooms, meeting rooms and recording rooms, enabling group work to be undertaken.
The Vision of the Academia Britanica Cuscatleca is to create responsible and outstanding citizens. Citizens of the school, of the community, of El Salvador, of the World. From this comes our Vision for the use of Information and Communication Technology in our school: Our students will be responsible digital citizens who will learn effectively and live productively in a digital world.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Google Docs Course

Did a week long Google docs course which finished today. It was delivered using Moodle so I wanted to see what it was like learning through that medium.
It was run by 21st Century Information Fluency and Dennis O'Connor and we had a cohort of 8.
It was very worth while. I did not learn much else about GDocs (except about using comments for class participation and collaborative posting) but I did get to know Moodle a little more.
The forum work was okay, although it seemed a little contrived.
It was certainly light-touch and you had to make what you needed to make of the course....

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

A vision of K-12 students today

Another reflection piece getting us to think about technology, on the lines of shift happens.....

Thanks Juan...

Saturday, 18 October 2008

LRC Building Design wins VIIIth Bienial Architecture Prize

This is hardly an educational technology insight yet it something that all those who have had an input into the design of the Learning Resources Centre should feel really proud of.
Got a message from the architect today:

Tengo el gusto y enorme satisfacción de comunicarles que el día de ayer en la ceremonía de clausura de la semana del Arquitecto, organizada por el Colegio de Arquitectos de El Salvador ganamos el primer lugar de la "VIII bienal de Arquitectura y Urbanismo de El Salvador" recibiendo un trofeo que define al "Centro de Recursos de Aprendizaje" como el mejor proyecto diseñado en los últimos dos años sobre una variedad interesante de proyectos presentados por Arquitectos y empresas de renombre en el país.

El jurado evaluador estuvo confirmado por los presidentes de los colegios de arquitectos de Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica y Panamá.

Agradezco infinitamente a uds. la confianza depositada en JOKISCH MORENO y por supuesto en su servidor quien encontró a lo largo del proceso de diseño y construcción, grandes alegrías y la oportunidad de aportar a la arquitectura de nuestro país.

Por Jokisch Moreno Ingenieros y Arquitectos,

Arq. Fernando Osegueda Costte

We have been planning this building for a long time. Neill Ransome of Chelstoke International did the original curriculum accommodation analysis in 2000, telling us the sort of buildings we would need to accommodate our increasing student numbers and the ambitious learning and teaching vision that we had. As refurbishment and new building took place, starting with the Lower Primary, we gradually improved the facilities. This latest project, that of the Learning Resources Centre building, has taken a great deal of time and thought. But what a result - so very pleased with it. The architects turned the design brief into a spacious, environmentally friendly building, able to be transformed into the flexible spaces that we may want in the future.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Google Apps for Education

The 500 account limit seemed to be a hurdle for us.
We want to use GApps and be able to share documents between the users of the domain, but Google limits the number of accounts to 500.
We asked them for more, however, and Lauren at Google has given us 1,400 - our student population.
With this we can work and we shall do some trials on it.
Let you know how we get on!

Sunday, 6 July 2008

To Google-Apps or Not To Google-Apps

That certainly is the question. What are the advantages of being fully on the Google Apps Education platform? Here is a video describing the benefits, but many of these are available on "normal" Google (from Jeff Keltner speaks at Google@school):

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Powerful messages

There are several videos that provide the same message regarding technology in schools. Here is a seven minute version of one called "Pay Attention".

But has anyone examined the data contained? The message is powerful but do the implications necessarily follow?

The quotation from David Warlick sums up the video clip:
"How do we turn our classrooms into learning engines? Pay attention to our children's intensely rich information experiences."

Putting aside the term "learning engines" for a moment (what does it mean? is it desirable?), the quotation asks teachers to look at the intensely rich information experiences that our students are having and emulate these experiences so as to produce better learning.

I am no Luddite and heavily into technology. But I also recognise the rich learning that can take place within the social context of a classroom and without the recourse to Web 2.0.

Now, if the video implores us to add these digital ed-tech media and contexts, allowing us to expand the learning possibilities, then Amen to that.

However, the next steps that we take (in our particular setting and perhaps many others) are crucial because we have to take teachers with us. All (or nearly all) teachers - not just the enthusiasts.

Learning Platforms vs VLEs

The English Schools Foundation (Hong Kong) have been using their "Learning Platform" since September 2005. They call it a ConnectedLearningCommunity....

"We don’t see the CLC as a VLE or MLE because these suggest an instructional mode of teaching and learning; instead we regard the CLC as an open learning platform into which other Web 2.0 applications can be easily embedded. The CLC extends the learning zone beyond the physical boundaries of the classroom and serves as a bridge to the public social and learning networks in which our students actively participate."

Peter Woodhead is the ICT advisor for the ESF.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

VLEs - what do we want from them?

A Virtual Learning Environment implies a complete system. Within it the learner would find everything that would be needed to re-enforce and extend the F2F classroom course (remember I am teasing apart what a VLE would be like to support children in schools).

So the VLE would have some way for the teacher to write a general course and then specific lesson plans, together with differentiation learning and extension activities for particular groups.

It would have a method for individual students to receive learning, assignments, tasks, groupings, etc, and to be able to respond to the group or teacher with some kind of product (RSS to their own tab on a browser page???).

The VLE would allow the teacher to track what is happening, receive responses or products, and report on and record appropriate assessments.

How can Web 2.0 applications and opportunities be welded/melded/coordinated together to produce all the above?

Sunday, 22 June 2008

E-Learning - differentiation in action.

Doug Belshaw is moving into this field.

"I’ve mentioned this in passing in a couple of blog posts previous to this one: from next academic year I shall be E-Learning Tutor at my school. This new post (solicited by me, it has to be said) involves me spending 50% of my time (15 periods of 50 mins) per week teaching History and a bit of ICT. The other 50% will count towards the E-Learning Tutor role."

Doug asks about his job description - and it is not trivial to try to define it. Will it encompass VLEs? Or are all the Web 2.0 read-write technologies included as well?

Rightly, differentiation still remains a hot topic requirement in classrooms. It is really difficult to achieve well - at least consistently over a long period. But VLEs could be the additional places where all students could have learning re-enforced or even learning take place when it has not been learned in the first place. And the top end would also be able to extend. Who will be in this top end? Not necessarily just those who the teacher might expect to be there...

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

A Taxonomy of General Ecologies

I found this useful, a way of getting to grips with the different locations for learning and cooperation activities.

Dividing the axes into time (same time, different time) and place (same place, different place) allows us to consider the methods to employ.

Same Time + Same Place - traditional classroom with didactic presentations, videos, digital projection, electronic whiteboard, etc.

Same Time + Different Place - synchronous technologies such as videoconferencing, audio links, telephones, chat rooms, remote classrooms, Second Life, etc.

Different Time + Same Place - bulletin boards, teamrooms, workstations, etc - although I think I have exhausted the list here.

Different Time + Different Place - asynchronous technologies such as e-mail, voice, mail, web forums, messaging, Moodle and other VLEs, etc.

From O'Hara-Devereaux and Johansen (1984) quoted in chapter "Presence in Teleland" by Gary Fontaine in "Handbook of Online Learning" (Innovations in Higher Education and Corporate Training, Rudestam, KE and Schoenholtz-Read, J Eds, Sage 2002).

VLEs as complements to classroom courses.

There is a difference, I think, between adult learning and the traditional learning of children in schools. I am reading "Handbook of Online Learning" (Innovations in Higher Education and Corporate Training, Rudestam, KE and Schoenholtz-Read, J Eds, Sage 2002) - definitely in the realm of adult learning, but I wonder if there are insights to be had here which would apply in schools.

The non-participating student in class is generally a student who is not learning. What are the reasons for non-participation? There are many, but for some, the idea of being able to review notes and presentations afterwards (asynchronously) may be appealing.

What about the students who wants to take their ideas further? Can appropriate VLEs be set up to allow this interest to be tapped?

And to continue discussion after class, on an existing or new topic, moderated and facilitated by a teacher or better still a student.

What other complements are there for VLEs?

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Ed Tech vs Digital Tech

I still have my notes. Written and drawn on a long sheet of faded paper, pretty much dog-eared, they formed my understanding of Educational Technology as needed for my degree in Education back in 1980 or so.

Much of it concerned film projectors, spirit duplicators, and something called programmed learning. It was the hyperlink system of the time. Answer a question, depending upon how you did you got sent to another page. A sort of multiple choice learning and not bad at that. I learned my calculus in that way, hanging over the edge of a gantry over a bubbling reactor whilst working for Boots.

What you reflect upon and write about you remember. This is the purpose of this blog - a way of putting thoughts and ideas - insights perhaps - into the digisphere for me to learn and others to read and comment.