Sunday, 31 May 2009

Google Wave - Buena Onda

Google Wave seems to get closer to synchronous communication, yet provides the advantages that asynchronous communication can have (record of conversations, able to work at different times, rich set of collaborative information/data/games/photos/videos/etc available).
Lars Rasmussen describes the three layers that Google Wave has - the product, the platform, and the protocol:
  • the product is an HTML 5 app and built on the Google Web Toolkit, functioning as a rich text editor and with desktop drag and drop features;
  • it is a platform with open APIs - allowing Waves to be built into other products and for other products to be brought into a Wave;
  • the protocol is the format for storing and sharing - with "live concurrency control" allowing edits to be reflected instantly across users and interfaces.
So, as they say in Spanish, Google Wave is "buena onda".....

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Walkabout becomes the new Google Wave - a communication and collaboration platform

Google have announced (at the Google Developer Conference I/O) a new communication and collaboration platform.
Developed by Lars and Jens Rasmussen, originators of Google Maps, it is at the developer stage and is promised later this year.
Lars describes a Wave "equal parts conversation and document, where people can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more".
Several aspects are interesting. The code will be made available so it will be open source (as is Android and Google Chrome). Google is inviting developers to work with them so as to ensure very wide and rich applicability. It has taken two years to get to this point. It was worked on in Sydney, hence its working name "Walkabout".
But what will it do?
Lars again:
"Here's how it works: In Google Wave you create a wave and add people to it. Everyone on your wave can use richly formatted text, photos, gadgets, and even feeds from other sources on the web. They can insert a reply or edit the wave directly. It's concurrent rich-text editing, where you see on your screen nearly instantly what your fellow collaborators are typing in your wave. That means Google Wave is just as well suited for quick messages as for persistent content — it allows for both collaboration and communication. You can also use "playback" to rewind the wave and see how it evolved."

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Could this be the answer?

Could the latest netbook from Dell be the answer?
We are considering whether to replace desktops with laptops in the Primary School. But there are some advantages in having desktops and some definite disadvantages to laptops.
Dell have announced their new educational netbook - the Latitude 2100.

Here are the features listed with the definite disadvantages of using laptops in this school setting:
Easily damaged - the 2100 has a rubberised casing.
Easily "lost" - the 2100 has a Lock Spot.
Difficult to keep charged/cables everywhere - the 2100 slots into a cart where it is charged but also network updated.
Keyboard difficult - the 2100 can be had with a touch screen.
Difficult to monitor what the student is doing - the 2100 has an activity light on the back of the screen, so that the teacher can see if there is network or internet activity (clever...).
Here is the announcement from Endgadget (thanks Fernando for the link).

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Not the Information Age but the Learning Age.

Stephen Heppell has posted this new video regarding the way schools ought to be going - the path to learning in the future.
Two quotes: "... to produce ingenious, collaborative, gregarious, creative people..." and "... people that are passionate about what they do never stop learning...". Good quotations to bear in mind.

Re-reading Brown and Duguid's "The Social Life of Information" brings to mind the difference between knowledge and information.
Knowledge entails a knower,it appears to be harder to detach than information and requires MUCH MORE BY WAY OF ASSIMILATION (p119 and p120). They go on to say that "circulating human knowledge ... is not simply a matter of search and retrieval" and "learning is the acquisition of knowledge" (all good Theory of Knowledge stuff!).
So, I agree with Stephen Heppell's comment that we are not in the Information Age but the Learning Age (Acquisition of Knowledge Age? Not snappy enough). There are connections here with Marc Prensky's Digital Wisdom...

Saturday, 9 May 2009

CMSs/VLEs and PLEs - are they opposite ends of the same thing?

Was reading Kathryn Greenhill's "Librarians Matter" post on "Personal Learning Environments (PLEs)- what works for librarians" - and a thought struck me.
A PLE is at the individual's learning end, usually working in Web 2.0, to bring knowledge to him/her. Perhaps using many tools/systems. Have a look at Kathryn's presentation to understand the variety. But do you see the point? A PLE is under the control of the user and s/he selects several tools/systems to bring the knowledge to him/her.
A Course Management System (CMS- Blackboard, Angel, Sakai [Sakai calls their system a Collaboration and Learning Environment], Moodle, etc) is at the other end. Produced by the university or school, controlled by them. But then used as one of the PLEs by the user.
PLEs - flexible, user-controlled, messy.
CMS - inflexible, out of user-control, very compartmentalised.
What needs to change?
Could a fairly complete VLE/CMS be produced into a PLE, perhaps as gadgets/widgets? So that on one "tab" of the PLE the set of tools needed for a particular course could be called up? So that the discussion forum appears there, as well as the course outline, the links to reading, etc?

(Am using CMS and VLE together since, although slightly different, CMS can have a different meaning - as in website design)

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Blackboard takes over Angel - the battle for delivering the learning.

Inside Higher Ed reports that Blackboard  is taking over Angel . These are two major platforms for the delivery of online learning at university (and school) level.
Blackboard does not get good press. Angel did. Some universities were/are changing from Blackboard to Angel - hence great grumblings.
California State University at Long Beach were reported to be dismayed by the news - they were adopting Angel after deciding to drop Blackboard. I found it interesting that Moodle was in second place as their choice of course management platform.
There is another open-source alternative to Moodle - Sakai . Will be looking into that....

It's not 12th grade! (Bandwidth again....)

We are looking closely at where our 4 Mbps are going.
Since 12th grade are heavy laptop users, we did wonder what amount of our bandwidth would be freed up when they went off to do their IB exams.
Answer: none. In fact it is worse than before.
Two colleagues had to give up on their booked (and paid for) webinar yesterday since it was impossible to follow it.
Here is the usage chart - the first distribution being yesterday, Wednesday.

Conclusions? We need more bits per second!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Could Googleplex give us ideas for the Classroom of the Future?

What would the "campus space" of schools look like in the future? Could we learn anything from the way Google has designed its campus?
Have a look at this 200 second tour of the Googleplex...

Friday, 1 May 2009

Predicting the Future - Howard Gardner

Since we are soon having a workshop on developing our ICT Vision, I want to get my head straight about what some eminent writers are saying about the future.
Howard Gardner, of multiple intelligences fame, has written "5 Minds for the Future". 
This is a far more cerebral approach to thinking about the future and in some ways, less business orientated than others. Gardner uses the word "minds" in a specific way - and not directly connected with any of the multiple intelligences (one of his "minds" may need the application of several of the multiple intelligences).
As he puts it: "the word mind reminds us that actions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are all products of our brain. If we want to nurture these capacities or change these perspectives, we will be trafficking in the operation of the mind." (pXV).
The 5 minds can be summarised as follows (this is from pp 18 and 19 and is put very briefly - reading the book is a must to get the complete idea):
DISCIPLINED MIND: individuals without one or more disciplines will not be able to succeed at any demanding workplace and will be restricted to menial tasks.
SYNTHESIZING MIND: individuals without synthesizing capabilities will be overwhelmed by information and unable to make judicious decisions about personal or professional matters.
CREATING MIND: individuals without creating capacities will be replaced by computers and will drive away those who do have the creative spark.
RESPECTFUL MIND: individuals without respect will not be worthy of respect by others and will poison the workplace and the commons.
ETHICAL MIND: individuals without ethics will yield a world devoid of decent workers and responsible citizens: none of us will want to live on that desolate planet.
The conclusions chapter contains a good synopsis (pp 154 to 158).
There are at least two major points arising from this - one is that disciplines would remain as the natural division in schools (note, not subjects) and that synthesis is a skill to be cultivated. 
This would require school students to master history, mathematics, science, and "other key subjects". Gardner rightly points out that students would need to be able to select crucial information from the vast amount available and then synthesise this into ways that make sense for themselves as well as to other.
Other aspects include the importance of creating (posing new questions, producing unexpected but appropriate school products and projects), as well as the need to develop respectful (working effectively with peers, teachers - whatever their background/viewpoint) and ethical minds (striving towards good work and citizenship).
A transcript in note form of Gardner's talk at the Rotman Lifelong Learning Conference, Toronto, June 1, 2007.