Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Making data available makes for more apps

It is such a pleasure to leaf through a book - the one I am currently dipping in to is David McCandless' "Information is Beautiful". Data is taken and displayed delightfully, beautifully even.
Having data available makes such books possible and the skill (art?) of reproducing the data visually makes the point easily, much more easily than the raw numbers would have it.
I notice data being put to good use in London. Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) had London data put on a website - London Data Store - for free. And the result?
Smartphone apps which tell you where the nearest toilet is or where you can find the nearest docking station for your hired bicycle.
Entrepreneurs have produced the apps using the raw data now available.
What else can you do? See traffic cameras, rate hospitals by their bacterium infection rate, determine air quality, and even have an app which wakes you up early if there are delays on the underground tube system.
And the possibilities are very many - crime is easy to trace via pages of data regarding stone throwing by London borough, robberies, knifings on trains, etc.
Apps are everywhere in London - I even saw a policeman whip his i-Phone out to show an enquiring lady which way to go.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

@BETT: Paul Bell's predictions

At the BETT London show and heard Paul Bell (President, Public Sector, Dell) give his presentation on where we are and implications for the future.
He stated that users would want devices which were fit for purpose and aimed at them. He mentioned the Dell Latitude 2120 with its rotating screen - tablet and notebook - which had been "soldier-proofed" further. He also considered large screen Smartphones as appropriate too.
Does this mean that we should be wary of using whatever technology is at hand, where students might have a variety of types of Smartphones/pads/touches? The advice does come from a laptop manufacturer but I do think that he is right. Classroom use needs to be tech-problem free - the teacher does not need to spend time on "how do I get that on my phone?" situations.
The "Implications for IT leaders in education" were interesting:
We should be ready for radical transformations so as to get the appropriate cost structure, to keep up with the pace of innovation teachers and students are going through and so fund different architecture; storage is certainly an area which we must consider - we are weighing up whether to buy another storage server ($20K) or put that in the cloud also.
We should also consider the service that we are providing, getting a higher level of service with lower costs by redirecting our small support staff to add value - to be partners for our teachers and support them rather than be fixers of technological hitches.
Storage caps need to go away, so that we do not limit storage since this will limit usage and creativity. Again, we need to enable value being added - however, with the cloud comes the need to ensure a sufficiently fast and reliable connection - that goes hand in hand. We have problems in that regard despite a dedicated 8 megabits service.
Finally, he finished his presentation with the last point - imagine anything is possible - well yes...
...that is the problem when we are working on the architecture for the next few years. However, I take away from this the need to do just that - imagine what will come and not return to what was.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

On-line tutors - could they produce a 2.0 SD swing?

Following on from the last post - could experienced on-line tutors produce a 2.0 SD improvement? This is certainly something interesting to explore.
We are in our teacher recruitment round and I do come across teachers in other countries with the experience and personality to be able to do on-line tutoring.
They would have to support the subject teacher, know the approaches used by her, and, to use a variant of the Google phrase, do no harm. By that I mean that explanations and approaches should be ones that the subject teacher approves of.
How would it work? Skype is the obvious choice.
How would we keep records so as to pay the on-line tutor? Would it be done on just a retainer with a maximum number of hours "on duty"?
How do we get feedback about usage and quality?
Could this be the support that would make a difference for at least some of those struggling with some subject matter or skills?