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.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

We don't want your money!

Got a problem, buy a solution. Simple. Next problem please. See, I'm good at solving problems.

The more important a goal is the more money you pour into it. Right?

How do we teach children to read? We spend time with them and listen to them read. The children that have supportive parents learn quicker and better by and large. So by investing care, interest and enthusiasm, not money, great outcomes are achieved.

Can the same result be achieved by resourcing someone else to do the listening? Well yes, to some extent but you also forfeit your influence in many others areas. Schools are doing this all of the time where parents are not able to provide support to their children.

So how does an industry attract youth to their profession? Advertising? Speak to them? Lecture them? It is really simple and it is based upon the same idea as listening to them read. Not literally but follow the principle - be supportive, invest your time and care, be part of their lives, develop relationships.

That's what I would like to see come out of an IT Student online community

I think it's a win for everyone involved.

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The future of senior secondary ICT

Published by The Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts
in June 2006 is a document called 'Building Australian ICT Skills - Report of the ICT Skills foresighting working group'

Page 10 of this document is in the 'Key findings and recommendations' section and deals with ICT in Schools.
The Working Group expressed concerns that the quality of ICT teaching in schools, and the outmoded image of ICT work presented, may be deterring students from considering ICT as an option for further study at university/TAFE and as a career choice. This was an issue that also received considerable attention at the partICipaTion Summit.

In particular the Working Group raised concerns about the teaching of ICT as a specialised subject in the later school years. The Working Group considered that the focus should be on teaching fundamental ICT principles, useful as a foundation for further study, rather than on specific programming areas.
It then goes on to make the following recommendation
Recommendation 7
The Working Group recommends that action be taken to review and enhance the teaching of ICT in schools. The working group suggests that:
• government fund detailed research on school ICT teachers to assess the characteristics (e.g. gender, age), qualifications and challenges of ICT secondary and high school teachers; and
• ICT industry bodies and leading ICT vendors work with education agencies and professional bodies to assist and support school ICT teachers and teaching staff in universities and TAFEs.

As a current 'later school years' ICT teacher I have an interest in the implications of the above statement. They say that the focus for my work 'should be on teaching fundamental ICT principles, useful as a foundation for further study, rather than on specific programming areas.' They reckon that schools "may be deterring students from considering ICT as an option for further study' because of 'the quality of ICT teaching in schools, and the outmoded image of ICT work presented'.

At this stage I just want to note this and reflect on it for a while. My gut reaction is that
  • fundamental principles have always been what I was after
  • programming areas is important for accessibility reasons - industry standards are bit like bathing costume seasonal fashions - important but doesn't need to prevent you from taking a dip.
  • it adds weight to Bill Kerr's thinking and work around the advantages of using Squeak in secondary education (and mine in the related Scratch)
  • my ideas for an IT student online community have had significant reinforcement
Final thought
A department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts?
Struggling to see the relationship. Why not stick Immigration in there as well? Or should it be called the Department for bits that we couldn't put anywhere else.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Picture story

Thanks to Ellen of the csteachers list for this link to a cool picture story.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

MELTing away

I've touched down after another great MELT conference (Middle Years Engagement and Learning Team) in Penola this last weekend. Well done to the organising team.

I presented a workshop that was really a presentation on making the best of wikipedia, some free online mind mapping tools and finally using del.icio.us. I forgot to show the video relaing to delicious. Participants were asked on registration what they would like to be the focus and so the above order was resolved from that. Session notes for the presentation are on my wiki.

I would not have documented this here if were not for a couple of events over the last few minutes.

One of the MELT organisers posted a note on the forum about staying in touch and continuing the debate and learning. Very nice, I liked that, but I wondered how successful this ongoing discussion via an online forum was going to be.

I was also cruising TeacherTube and came across the following video.

I thought it would be cool if we were to also encourage conference participants to tag relevant things on del.icio.us, blogger, flickr ..... with 'MELT07' or something like that. Oh crap, then I woke up. A great weekend.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Reluctance to invest in our people.

The article of Graeme Philipson that I referred to in the previous post has some ring of truth but there is also some tension with it in my view of the world.

Two years ago, and three years after the Graeme Philipson article, I recorded an article that stated the there was a huge ICT trade deficit except for Open Source which was producing an export income.

There is not doubt in my mind, from personal experience, that there is a HUGE skills deficit in this FOSS area, so much so that South Australians, on the whole, may well have the idea that there is no choice but for proprietary software. By and large schools perpetuate this view by the mere fact that proprietary software is generally the only software on the computers in their classrooms. The perpetuate it in other ways as well.

So why would we perpetuate something which is contributing to our trade deficit rather than invest in something that is earning us exports? Graeme possibly hit on an answer -
They do not wish to train people, even graduates, because this costs money.
What sort of legacy are we leaving for our children?
Surely we are not that short sighted?

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Is there a shortage of IT skills in Australia?

This article was published in June of 2002

Graeme Philipson, the author, begins with
Is there a shortage of IT skills in Australia? It depends who you listen to.
He argues that the 'skills shortage' is a myth, created by business to justify outsourcing overseas and to get consent for work visa's in this area. His main evidence comes from asking people looking for work in the industry, not from employers.

Problem is, this consensus come from industry, not from people looking for IT work. There is a school of thought that says that many in the IT industry are manufacturing fears of an IT shortage to get handouts from government and to be able to hire cheaper immigrant labour. IT companies. They do not wish to train people, even graduates, because this costs money.
I know that it is hard for schools to find suitably skilled IT people to look after their networks. Maybe that is because the pay is poor? Maybe there really is s skills shortage.


Is there really a shortage of IT skills in South Australia?


Saturday, August 18, 2007

The importance of hacker thinking

The word 'hacker' has evolved from a desirable trait to a word that implies evil and bad yet hacker thinking is so vital to creativity and innovation.

Watch the following set of videos that make up a documentary about the History of Hacking.

Part 1 of 5

Part 2 of 5

Part 3 of 5

Part 4 of 5

Part 5 of 5

Then lets add some FUD

Image source

Is it any wonder that we have an ICT skills crisis?

Learning involves making mistakes, improvising, trying things out, experimenting. A good education is going to be messy. (some insight to that here).

Is a mono culture of proprietary software conducive to creating such an environment?

Are school networks and computers which are locked down so that kids can't 'break' them helping?

What about using programming languages that are not as accessible because of the cost?

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Remember Wordstar

This article in The Australian, "StarOffice part of Google's plan", reminded me of Wordstar.

It wasn't the word 'star'. I love a good stoush.

Remember Wordstar being queen and then Wordperfect and then ...? Can you go back before Wordstar?

In all of these cases a new comer superseded the existing queen. However, during the transition of power, it felt like we mere mortals had a choice. People were talking about data format and compatibility.

Once the new queen had exerted her power there was not a choice and we seemed to be locked into the new regime. Talk of data compatibility became heresy. People were locked into a tool.

I hope that we don't see a repeat of this when Google and Sun knock MS for a six. It's been a long time since I've felt we have had a choice.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Talk of revolution

It seems that both the Liberal and the Labour governments have an educational vision for our country that looks like the rear of the dog in front of them.

Professor David Loader in this 17 minute interview about Schools for the 21st Century makes this point. The interview starts at about the 15 minute mark in this 'Life Matters' program. His title of Professor indicates that he is well recognised in the profession. He has been a school principal and teacher and is aged in his mid sixties so his experience is extensive. He is advocating a revolution in education, an idea that I am wanting to entertain.

He talks about loosing the cyber-generation if we don't. His ideas have the potential for disrupting power in our society and placing it back into the hands of small flexible, dynamic units.

He challenges the idea of class groupings, the hierarchical structure of schools, and the need for school Principals and formal leadership structures. He talks about having parents more involved and with much greater responsibility. He talks about perhaps adopting a paradigm of a shopping center or somethings else to replace the current model.

While listening to this interview I made a number of connections with some of my previous posts and reading.

Sardines and the Whales
He acknowledged that he was swimming in a different direction to most like the sardines that get the school to change direction. The other relationship is that I believe that he thinks that the current education system is like a whale and he is proposing that the revolution of education results in it becoming a school of agile sardines.

Geetha Narayanan
Geetha Narayanan's presentation titled “A Dangerous but Powerful Idea - Counter Acceleration and Speed with Slowness and Wholeness” published in The Knowledge Tree. Geetha thinks that school reform is impossible. She thinks that schools need to be broken up into small units as one part of the revolution of education globally. This needs to be coupled with a range of other changes.

Geetha made reference to the “Lifelong Kindergarten Research Lab” which involves the use of Scratch which I documented here and here. The principles underpinning their Computer Clubhouse are worthy of attention.
  1. supporting learning through design experiences
  2. helping youth build on their own interests
  3. creating an emergent learning community, and
  4. working always in a climate of trust and respect.

She states
The Project Vision hypothesis breaks the form of schools, moving from that of a cathedral and/or large corporate monolith into small places eg. shop fronts. They are not purpose built but occupy spaces/crevices that integrate with, and operate, at various levels of scale in a city. The structural form advocated is that of community learning centres and ateliers or studios, not that of the contemporary modern schools
Only one laughing
If educators or ignorant and uninvolved with the tools that students are using, then they are also going to be blind to where things seem to be heading and why there needs to be change.

David Loader briefly discussed the education policies of both major political parties (Liberal and Labour) as we approach the federal election. Nothing inspiring there. He argues that both of these parties are caught in the past and are too far back in the pack to see anything but the rear of the lead dog. What vision.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Not rear of lead dog solution

Clinton has announced a significant event in his post Edubuntu terminal client getting there. A lone edubuntu terminal client in the corner. My thanks to Clinton for his persistence and to the people that have helped him.

We have some observations and improvements to make and slowly expand this service. There is no doubt in my mind that this technology will be the answer to us making some improvements to what we can do with our limited ICT budget.

The services that this provides should cater for a significant proportion of the needs of student learning and at reduced cost. It should also give us some space to deal with some more specialised needs.

This is not a rear of lead dog solution and that is also something to be proud of.

Hmmm - what's next?
Maybe Google apps.

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Only one laughing

I am liking what I am reading from Confused of Calcutta and his latest post is a gem.

Supermarket 2.0 video is a bad!

I can see myself showing this to a staff meeting. There is a small group of us in the corner giggling because the rest think that tagging is what you do to cattle or factory walls!

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

The rear of the lead dog

Confused of Calcutta has a great post called "Build versus Buy versus Opensource".

His advice-
For common problems use Opensource.
For rare problems use Buy.
For unique problems use Build.

and his closing comment had me in stitches
Maybe this way we can all stop building solutions that look like the rear of a lead dog….

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Wiki Mindmap

A mindmap tool that uses the content in Wikipedia and some other public wiki's to generate a mindmap to explore a concept quickly.

In this example, I selected the English version of wikipedia and uses the search criteria of DRM. This mindmap was the result.

I would be good if I were able to click to go to the article and it would also be good if I were able to embed a mindmap into a wiki, blog or Moodle page.

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Scratch Day

Last weekend was partially devoted to playing with Scratch and the result of this effort is a little game to help students familiarise themselves with the Computer System Block Diagram

Learn more about this project

There are two sprites in this game that have not been scripted yet. Students can download the game and use the code from the other sprites to make these unscripted sprites operational.

I love Scratch and I love the fact that I can so easily upload and share it. It is not hard to embed it in blogs or I suspect Moodle. I like the way it then plays in the browser. There is a problem uploading Scratch games to the Scratch site from school as there is no way that we can adjust Scratch to our required proxy settings. This is an issue for many schools I would think.

Then I added TeacherTube to the mix. I created a screen capture movie of me explaining how this game worked using CamStudio. I'm very impressed with CamStudio as a free tool for this job. Then Super C was used to reduce the filesize from 108MB to 10MB by reducing the resolution to 640x480. I tried Videora first and while this was easy to use, it produced a product with a resolution that too low to be useful. Thanks to Leigh for his advice on using Videora or SuperC to compress the video. Both of these tools are also free.

I reckon that I could teach SACE 1 Information Technology Systems - Multimedia Programming and Computer Conepts units in an integrated way. Students could use Scratch to create Learning Objects relating to Computer Concepts.

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