Waraku Education

Ideas, experiments and observations as they occur [and I have time] relating to teaching and learning in a secondary school - special focus on ICT.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

I've lost my balls

I've lost my balls
That was so out.
Do you expect me to get that?
See if you can get this.

Makes me giddy looking at the pictures let alone play tennis there.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Sharks or sponges

I use an analogy in my classes where I pose a scenario that classifies students as being sponges or sharks, both ocean dwelling creatures. Sponges dont' need many nutrients and so can be satisfied with the bits that wash through and settle on them. Sponges survive but in only certain parts of the ocean. Sharks have acute senses and actively pursue their food. I reckon that the students that thrive best in my classes, and for that matter most parts of the world, are like sharks and so I work to encourage shark like bahaviours. I guess it depends on what values you have mind to make the judgement of 'best' on.

Brian says

The trouble – one of the troubles – with calling education a "fundamental human right" is that it then becomes the obligation of others to educate you, and you can just sit there with your arms folded and wait for it to just be poured into you. Calling it a human right undermines the notion that education might be something which is best achieved by being actively pursued rather than merely poured into a passively open mouth.

He was commenting on the Zambian consititution.

Cheat sheets

Thanks to Digg for this
Range of useful cheat sheets for IT teachers and students (and possibly others)

Monday, July 24, 2006

How to use Google to get a girl and get laid

How to use Google to get a girl and get laid.
This one will appeal to teenagers and probably lots of adults as well. It is a good hook that I could possibly use to discuss the idea of an online profile. It links in with the Netsafety theme.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The return to mainframes and terminals 2

In addition to my post The return to mainframes and terminals.

AjaxLaunch is producing some interesting online software.
Wordprocessor - AjaxWrite
Graphics - diagrams and so on - AjaxSketch

AjaxOS is very very interesting

ajaxOS is an operating system that has been customized to be fully AJAX "aware". By seamlessly integrating the power of web based applications with Linspire, ajaxOS recognizes any compatible file (doc, svg, odf, txt, xls, etc...) and launches the most up-to-date AJAX software from a Firefox browser.

What are the implications for this on a school and the advantages that this might pose for education.

The Dutch municipality of Groningen has not renewed its contract with Microsoft and will be using Open Office. Original article in German. English translation The article talked about savings but they will continue to have windows for a while and there is still the cost of maintaining the computers and the operating system. They have to deal with the software upgrades and so on.

In the case of ajaxOS, the only thing that is running on the computers is this and a web browser. Not much to go wrong is there. Access to all of the applications (word processor, spreadsheet, etc) comes via the internet. In a school these computers would be dead simple to look after and the fact that the applications were available over the internet, students would have easy access to the same tools.

The only limitation is access to a decent broadband connection but this is becoming more and more common. More specialised large data file size applications like video editing might not work like this.

Zoomr - geotagging pictures

I am going to give Zoomr a try. I have a GPS and was thinking that Geocaching might be fun. The hassle of, after finding a location, making up and then publishing the cache sounded like a lot of back and forth. In enjoyed hunting a cache and I found a great place for a cache but I did not want to leave a container anywhere. The cemetary just did not seem to be the place for it. But I was itching to let people know about the burial place for Ronald MacDonald - with all due respect to the family, what a great talking point.

I like the Zoomr feature of being able to view photos near a location. I would really love the Zoomr interface to actually store and display the exact coordinates of a photo, if the user chose. That way I could easily go to a place that I liked and see it in person.

I can see students building up a photo gallery of their environment, field trips, excursions and the like.

Using Ubuntu live CD in class

I noticed that two of the trade show stands at the annual CEGSA conference had Ubuntu Linux CD’s that they were giving away. The two stands were ACS and ???

There are two CD’s in the pack, one of which is a live CD. A live CD enables you to boot Ubuntu Linux from the CD and not touch the operating system that you have installed on your hard drive. It is a great no risk, low cost way to expose students to another operating system.

Ubuntu Linux has had a very rapid assent to being rated the top or amongst the very top Linux distributions. It is extremely simple to install, especially if you have the computer pre connected to a broadband internet connection at the time of installation. It installs a number of useful applications like Open Office, web browsing, email, a few games, as part of the standard install which means that the computer will do what most people need a computer to do out of the box. The live CD also gives access to these applications.

Given that it is a very recent version it would be best to run this live CD on a computer that is running Windows XP nicely (>= 256MB RAM). It will be a bit sluggish as it is operating from the CD rather than a nice fast hard drive.

Copies of these CD’s can be sourced free from https://shipit.ubuntu.com/ or they can downloaded from http://www.ubuntu.com/download .

The Ubuntu Linux project also has Kubuntu. The main difference between Ubuntu and Kubuntu is the windows manager or the user interface. Ubuntu uses the Gnome windows manager and Kubuntu uses KDE. Kubuntu CD’s can also be sourced free from https://shipit.kubuntu.org/ . This is worth doing as it demonstrates that there can be differences to the user interface for operating systems that essentially have the same ‘engine’.

It is also possible to download Xubuntu at http://www.xubuntu.org/ There are no free CD’s for this one as far as I know. Xubuntu is designed to optimise the operating system for machines of lower specifications, usually older computers (<128MB RAM). I don't think that this is a live CD so to experince it, students will need to install it on the computer. Again, the main difference lies with the user interface.

Finally there is Edubuntu which is designed for educational environments. http://www.edubuntu.org/ I think that you can get free CD’s for this as well.

Open Source works

The actual aritcle that this blog posting refers to is only available if you are a subscriber to 'The Wall Street Journal'. Bill Gates demands open source

The blog posting basically states that Bill Gates is demanding that AIDS researchers share or open source their results if they're to get access to the Gates Foundation funds.
The Foundation has recognized that one of the forces slowing medical progress is
greed — commercial rivalries, bureaucratic rivalries, personal rivalries.

On Thursday a few Senior Secondary IT Teachers met at the annual CEGSA conference. We had a chat about the notion of working collaboratively on the development of resources for the new senior secondary IT Systems curriculum. We resolved that the core of the development environment should be a wiki and that the host for this wiki should be CEGSA but not limited to CEGSA members. We think that we would also like to have a space on Edna where files could be uploaded to that are only available to teachers. Links could be made to these files from within the wiki to maintain integrity of the resource.

The Bill Gates demands open source article reinforces that this latest move of the South Australian IT Teachers is in the right direction.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Technorati Tag Generator

Technorati Tag Generator

Enter your keywords, copy the html that is generated and paste it into the HTML view of blogger.

Keywords / / /

Make Presentations online

In my post Return to mainframes and terminals i noted that there is a growing number of online applications that could solve the basic needs in a learning environment.

Here is another - Making presentation using Emressr

Keywords / /

Online resume management tool

Emurse is tool that might be useful for students to create and manage their resumes. They can create one from scratch, which proably is the better way to go and then just fill in various fields. New sections can be added. A range of format options are also available. The resume can then be exported using the following formats Word file, PDF, HTML, plain text.

You can create a number of resumes which could be useful for students wanting to apply for a range of different job types. The resumes can be hosted on the Emurse site and made available to employers from there

A neat feature is that Emurse helps you keep track where you've sent your resumes. Students can set reminders for follow-ups, note any responses etc.

When I sent a resume to myself from the Emurse interface, the spam filter tagged it as possible spam.

I like the idea of being able to update my resume from anywhere. Handling all of my logins etc to all of these Web 2.0 tools is starting to give me a sore head.

The return to mainframes and terminals

I've been playing with Google Spreadsheets and find it to be a very serviceable tool. It does not seem to have any graphing features but has a simple sharing option. The file can be saved on Google's server and can be downloaded to my computer in with .xls or .csv format.

I have privacy concerns about individuals having their data on a central server.

I can see the time coming where schools will not need to have to maintain software on computers to provide the basic functions of word processing, spreadsheet, email, presentations, etc. A web browser will provide the interface to a global terminal services system. It feels like the return of the mainframe and termianls using a graphical interface.

The computers in schools could be Linux terminals using donated computers. This provides a basic infrastructure that costs next to nothing and uses tools that students can freely access at home or anywhere. Bandwidth and data costs will continue to decrease over time.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Google Trends

I refer to Plunkers posting - Blogs in Education - just a passing fad?

If we overlay this 'Elearning Trends according to Google' that Plunkers refers to with what we know about the take up of new techonolgies in general, and in education, the statistics are not surprising. There are usually a few front runners (Innovators and Early Adopters) who see something new, see an opportunitiy, play with it and apply it. They make some mistakes but that is all part of the learning for them. During this time there is lots of experimentation and conversation. After a bit and a few mistakes, these front runners work out where the tool works for them and the conversations start to slow down as they start to explore other things and this will be reflected in the Google search terms being used. There is a big gap between these front runners and where the bulk of the educators are at in my experience.

I think the Google trends machine has allowed us to see that gap. The front runners are pretty comfortable with the technology and have found out how they can make it work for them. The conversations are slowing and some of these front runners are looking at other technologies (eg Mobile Learning) and thinking about the opportuntities that they might provide.

"Google Trends aims to provide insights into broad search patterns." - Google trends is the tool used to create the statistics for the article 'Elearning Trends according to Google'

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pay a little now, pay a lot later


It’s often prohibitively expensive to alter a company’s computing infrastructure once it’s been established, so choosing well from the first day is critically important.

If a company standardizes on the OpenDocument format for their word processing files, they can pick and choose the applications used to create and edit them—and later change their mind if something better comes along. On the other hand, selecting Microsoft’s DOC format gives the choice of... Word.

Maybe the key is not Open Source software as such but rather open standards and open file formats. This is the thing that provides consumers with freedom and choice.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Online whiteboard - free

This is an online whiteboard that you can invite others to via IM or email and then use as part of a collaborative process. You can then send a copy of the whiteboard to an email address
I can imagine it being of use in conjunction with Skype.
Beauty, we have just about eliminated Centra with some free smaller tools. I don't think I will need any special training to use it either ;-)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Munich Linux 'a reality'

Munich Linux 'a reality'I hope that they succeed on this. I would expect that instead of investing in software built elsewhere, they are investing in building skills in their people, the rewards of which they should reap in the years ahead.