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.