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, September 17, 2006

Web 2 Company directory

Click on an icon and on the RH side a short summary is provided
This might be worth checking out with the view of identifying potential for education.

Ninja's in the system

'Ninja's in the system' may not be all bad. Up until know these Ninja's have been responsible for all of those unexplained computer and network problems. Finally, here we have a Ninja producing text for us with a little animation. Good Ninja.


Don't let your data be highjacked

I see this sort of request very regularly. (names of file formats and program have been changed to protect the innocent)
Does anyone know of a FOSS program that can at least read and display the [file format name] files used by [proprietary software product name]? Even better would be the ability to convert them to commonly used graphics formats (JPEG &c). I'm hoping that [proprietary software developer name]? didn't make it illegal &/or impossible to do anything with the file format without using their proprietary products. . . .

This could easily related to any number of proprietary products that make use of closed or proprietary data formats. This means that the only way that your work can be used is by having that particular product. There are huge issues for this in education where teacher and student data needs to be free, open, portable and accessible.

The 16th Sept was Software Freedom Day. This is an important day and most worthy of celebrating. Perhaps of greater importance than the actual software is my data, my work. Having my data, my work, in a form that is not bound up in a proprietary data format is of greater importance.

I should be able to pick and choose what software tool I use to manipulate my data at any stage during its development and use. Developers that fail to fully implement open data formats or fail to actively work with the other players on developing an open data format are simply trying to feather their nests, lock in users and demonstrate a complete lack of respect for 'my work'.

In the interests of 'Free and Open Education', don't let teacher and student data be highjacked by closed data formats.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Hole in the wall ICT integration

Children are lean mean learning machines. They do not need a school to learn although they might need a school to learn what 'we' want them to learn. I have noted on a number of occasions where we, at school, have introduced a bit of software or some feature on the computers in the school. The students check it out and learn to use it. We get some questions but in the main the roll out is simple. We have used this strategy to make changes in the school where students have led the way and created pressure that has led to staff making some changes. An example of this was to use Eudora as an email client rather than use the web based email supplied.

The “Hole in the wall” experiments talked about in this article are absolutely fascinating. A computer was made available to the poorest of the poor in India via a hole in the wall in playgrounds. No tuition, just a computer.

We found that children given unsupervised access to computers in public or play areas would become:

  1. Computer literate – in their own way, with their own vocabulary, but highly effective nevertheless.
  2. Better at math and English – I don’t know why, maybe because they learn to analyze and solve problems in groups.
  3. More social and cooperative – because they learn that knowledge, unlike material objects, grows with sharing.
  4. More interested in school – if the computer is near or in the school premises.
  5. Less likely to drop out of school – because they want their computer.
  6. Less interested in petty crime – mostly because all their free time is spent at the computer.
  7. Generate local goodwill – parents like the idea that the child is learning something and not creating trouble at home.

So what can we learn from this for our ICT integration projects here?

Off to Korea

I will be visiting South Korea in late November to look at ICT infrastructure in Korean Schools and to share with them some of what we do. My perception is that Korea is a rapidly evolving country that places considerable value on educating it's people. I also believe that this is one of the factors that is leading to its rapidly growing success as a nation.

I am excited because Korea, Japan and Finland are the three top countries in the OECD who run PISA tests. My assessment is that New Zealand and then Australia follows. I acknowledge that there are limitations to what one can determine from tests like this.

In 2005, the Korean Government announced that Open Source software will be rolled out into 10,000 schools. The software is based upon a Korean version of Linux (a free resource that does the same job as Windows and is said to be more secure). This also interests me and I am very excited to see how this project is evolving. I think they are being very smart about this because they are reducing their dependence on the outside world and encouraging a strong IT enterprise within the country. Not only do I see this as good for the country, but I also suspect that this means that there are local people with high levels of expertise there to assist the schools. The IT industry needs schools to provide appropriate education and the education industry needs the IT industry to support its growth.

There are always downsides to decisions and I want to explore these with the view of helping Grant High School optimise solutions for the benefit of the school’s students and community.

The Australian group will who will travel to Korea comprises
  • Dr Kathryn Moyle - Associate Professor, School of Education and Community Services - University of Canberra
  • Dianne Brook - Monte Sant' Angelo Mercy College – Sydney (Catholic Schools)
  • Ian Ralf - Sydney Church of England Girls Grammar School - Sydney (Independent Schools)
  • Peter Ruwoldt - Grant High School - Mount Gambier, S.A. (Public Schools)

We will visit a range of schools and teacher education facilities, meet with cyber teachers and share with them their experiences. The chance to spend a week with the Australian group, such movers and shakers in ICT, will be such an awesome learning experience.

This trip is made possible through funding obtained from the Australia Korea Foundation I would like to particularly acknowledge the work of Dr Kathryn Moyle who has been the driving force behind this sharing opportunity.

The project website is at http://akf.sceggs.nsw.edu.au/ A wiki and photo gallery have been set up for us to use - thanks to Ian for that.

Senior Secondary IT wiki launch

I have been working on a wiki to facilitate collaboration of Senior Secondary IT teachers who use the South Australia syllabus. The infrastructure is finished and I am very pleased with the way it looks and works. It is called SASSIT (South Australian Senior Secondary Information Technology)

SASSIT was created in response to the development of the new curriculum statements for senior secondary Information Technology by SSABSA. It is the place where teachers of South Australian Senior Secondary IT, and other interested people, build resources for the SSABSA SACE 1 and SACE 2 Information Technology Systems curriculum statements. Teachers of South Australian Senior Secondary IT includes teachers from the Northern Territory and Malaysia.

The project is managed by CEGSA and was set up with seed funding sourced from a national SiMERR initiative , funded by Department of Transport and Regional Services.

The project is being launched at 5:00pm on 11 September 2006 via a meeting of IT teachers in Adelaide and a few regional teachers participating online via a Centra hookup. Anne Ballard, as project coordinator, will be making the launch where teachers will be asked to consider being a team leader for one or more interest group with a particular curriculum focus. These leaders will receive training so that they can lead sessions for their teams using Centra. This is also an exciting initiative as it means that, for the first time, we can organise ourselves on the basis of curriculum strength and interests rather than on geographical location.

From here it is up to 'us' to make the best possible use of this infrastructure to make our work easier. I have no doubt that working collaboratively in this way will help us provide, over time, improved (better quality efficiently) curriculum delivery here.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Pick your headline

Howard fails to practise what he preaches.
What is fair for the goose is not fair for John.
Howard's individual negotiated contracts have gone down the John

Any more?

This has got to be good practise for a media studies class.
"I actually defend the case for members of parliament to be paid commensurate to the contribution they make, and nobody can argue for a moment that a person like the treasurer doesn't deserve what he gets paid, or the leader of the opposition for that matter.
OK then. Why don't you actually put that to the test and negotiate that with your bosses. Who would that be?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Subject selection paralysis

Goto Google Video and use the search criteria 'Google TechTalks'. Most of the presentations last for around the hour mark and the ones that I have chosen to check out are very very interesting. Here is one.

The Paradox of Choice - Why More Is Less

I have blogged about the psychology of choice previously

There are two reasons that this subject is relevant to me at the moment
Firstly our DP spoke at a recent briefing lamenting that a significant proportion of students had not attended their course counselling appointments. It is like they didn't care.

I have a feeling that many of these students suffered from what Barry Schwartz described as paralysis - one of the negative effects of too much choice. Students moving into the senior school have a hard time of making selections and need to balance the following issues if they are to do a good job of it

  • their choice for SACE 1 needs to enable them to do what they need to do in SACE 2
  • what they choose in SACE 2 needs to equip them for what they want to do post school
  • many have no idea of what they want to do post school so they need to choose subject that will keep their options open
  • they need to choose subject the fit the 'SACE pattern' - so many humanities and so many maths science type subjects. Must have a certain number of maths and english. Must do Australian Studies. etc
  • teachers have made recommendation for their maths, science and english subjects. Students need to choose subject that they are likely to be successful in
So what to do - discussed at the end of the presentation

  • Design the system so that if people do nothing they almost certainly get what is in their best interests 'Libertarian Paternalism' is the concept being described.
  • Make choice trees (structure options hierarchically) where at each stage they are choosing from perhaps 5 options
  • Have people act as agents - this separates the choice from the consequences and leads to increased satisfaction.
Secondly we have been having discussions about mental health and depression. Barry Schwartz was very clear that he believed that the one of the consequences for our society of increased choice was an increase in clinical depression. The logic goes something like this. Increased choice means an increase in our expectation of perfection. As nothing is perfect we become disappointed with out choices and suppose that if we had spent more time and effort with our decision we would not have been disappointed.

The example of being able to change our bodies was brilliant and apt. In the past we had to play the cards we were given. If we were hit with the ugly stick, well that was the cards we were deal with and it was up to us to make the best of it. Now we have lots of options to do something about it and if we continue to be ugly it is our fault.

There was a lot of laughter from the audience as various cartoons where displayed. It is a shame that we did not get to see these in the video.

Access to these video's are probably filtered out in a school setting. So for school

  • Use Firefox and the Video Downloader extension - then either get a filter bypass to download the video at school or do it from home
  • Download FLV player

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Creating passionate students

I have been subscribing to a blog contributed to by a group of authors called 'Creating passionate users'

The Creating Passionate Users bloggers are all authors of bestseller Head First books (http://www.wickedlysmart.com)--a new brain-friendly series from O'Reilly.

They're all passionate about the brain and metacognition, most especially--how the brain works and how to exploit it for better learning and memory. Oh yeah, and how to recognize when someone else (including one of us) is applying brain-based techniques to get you to do something.

The postings are interesting from an IT perspective. At year 12 level the new SSABSA IT Systems curriculum focuses on improving the user experience. The other reason is that it is easy to replace the word 'users' with 'students' and use the insights in a school setting.

Look at the post 'Give users a Hollywood ending' for example.
We can all take a lesson from filmmakers: endings matter. The way we end a conversation, blog post, user experience, presentation, tech support session, chapter, church service, song, whatever... is what they'll remember most. The end can matter more to users than everything we did before. And the feeling they leave with is the one they might have forever.

That fits nicely with improving teacher student relationships IMHO

Friday, September 01, 2006

Why do I blog?