Category Archives: ICT management

Time to retire the old mantras

“Education should drive the technology”
“You shouldn’t use technology just because it’s shiny and new”

Back in the old days we had the term Digital Natives. We now know this is no longer valid and it is generally an eschewed term. Back then though, it served a useful purpose. It gave us a common terminology in order to start discussing something that we had to discuss. It was, in its time, a really useful tool, a door opener, some common ground on which we could start our exploration of how technology and youth combined. Every new field must have its jargon, and this was the start of ours.

In the same way, the two terms I started out with were useful in their day. They are now just as much defunct and past their use by date as Digital Native. Although sadly I do hear them still bandied about by people who should know better.

Take the premise of the first statement. If we allow this to be true, following that tenet, we are sentencing (in the prisoner kind), funnelling, limiting, corralling, forcing, teachers to use technology only at level “S” on the SAMR scale. The best they could do is to “Substitute” their print based, chalk derived, activities for digital equivalents. Education and teaching practice is inhibiting the value and capacity of technology. Education driving technology use.

Take the premise of the second statement. Remove the blatantly emotive/denigrative “Shiny and New” and say it as, utilise the affordances that shiny and new offer, and shape education to that. It will present you with opportunities you didn’t have before, it opens up capabilities to do things differently and possibly better. New means exactly that, it wasn’t there before, it is an open door. This time we are sentencing (in the prisoner kind), funnelling, limiting, corralling, forcing, teachers to work at the “R” level. Redefining teaching and learning practices needs, requires, relies on, demands, shiny and new.

Utilising technology for technology’s sake, that is, making a use of shiny and new is a good thing, it is the way we are going to make change. It is something we should aspire to, not put down as a frivolous use of technology just because you can.

You know what, DO use it just because you can, DO use it just because it’s shiny and new, because if you have the skill to do it, you are the hope we have for breaking the stalemate of old world holding back new worlds that we haven’t begun to get enough value out of yet.

Just like Digital Native has had its day, so have these old statements. let’s consign both to the page in the history book that houses Digital Native, thank them for the excellent service they gave during their time, and come more up to date and start being an accelerator, not the brake.

 

 

 

It’s not so far away

Our on line digital footprint is something that will be increasingly important – OK, it already is. Both potentially detrimental and positive, depending on how we manage it. It’s already there, if you know it or don’t. So you might just as well be in charge.

To give ourselves the most reasonable and supportive chance to keep it positive we should maintain our own domain name. This way we have the most control over the nature of our virtual persona. This isn’t an expensive exercise and the world is still on the up-ramp.

Given that the pool of domain names which match regular names is limited, they will increasingly become a keenly sought after commodity. Even now the more desirable names are changing hands for multi millions of dollars. The trend will soon enough filter down to personal named domains. The auction for “jennifersmith.com” is sure to be a keenly fought and expensive proposition.

How soon then will we be naming our children based on the domain names we own rather than to remember past relatives and family traditions?

How soon before inheriting the family domain names becomes something to fight over at the reading of the will?

Fantasy proposition? Maybe not so much as you might think?

Things don’t always go to plan

We have tried to shoehorn Windows 7 onto the Mac Book Air laptops. This hasn’t been successful.  On an individual basis, it works successfully enough, both parallels or Boot-Camp do an excellent job. In fact initially it all loaded smoothly enough. Our biggest problem was the lack of a PXE boot to connect to our software controlling system.  However; in an environment where regular updates are pushed out, it is less stable.  Screen drivers in particular have been a problem. The boot-camp drivers work well, but the automatically pushed drivers and updates caused screen size issues, leaving the screens stretched and in a non-native resolution and hence a little fuzzy.

What’s come out of the exercise is the willingness of the students to deal with this. It was explained to them that it was a little bit experimental, and things might not always be trouble-free and flawless. They took to this notion like ducks to water, they were patient in waiting for upgrades, tolerant of screen sizes that were not perfect, found work arounds for printing when they couldn’t connect directly.And much more.

It is this willingness to tolerate technology’s shortcomings that will set them apart as a generation.  In a sweeping generalisation, teaching staff are flustered and frustrated if things are not 100% completely smooth, error free and if computers are not tolerant of keyboard thumping in place of rational alternative finding. But the students are.

Classes have continued smoothly with students finding their own work arounds, or partnering up with a working system, all without having to be told anything beyond the initial “this will be experimental”.

We sometime forget to give them the credit they are due in unusual circumstances.

It also suggests that teachers willing to ‘have a go’ even if they are on unfamiliar ground might find unexpected allies in their students when things are not so perfect, and ICT support thin on the ground.

So? What is a domain name?

When you surf to a website, you can get there two ways.  In your browser (Firefox or Internet Explorer) you can type in the real address:  This looks like 127.0.0.1.  Or, you can use the name attached to that address, something like www.ibm.com This is the domain name.

We have ownership of the domain name   www.collegecrow.net this means that if anyone surfs to that address they will see content that we put there. Names on the internet are only leased (you pay for them for a time period and if you stop paying then they are available to someone else to purchase.

What might this mean to you?

Have you ever tried ego surfing? That’s where you type your name into Google and see if you turn up. Or just type in your name in the browser and see if there’s a web site on you. Not surprisingly there is unlikely to be a web site about you unless you make it. Yet, this is what a potential employer is going to do. When you apply for a job, your potential employer is likely to look for you on the web to see if they can find some information about you. This is an opportunity for you to improve your chances of reaching the interview stage. Wouldn’t it be brilliant if they found a web site about you – listing all your achievements, your skills, your suitability to the job, your value to the organisation and with links to your hobbies or sporting interests?  Remember though this should be balancing the fine line of introducing you without publishing personal data like your address or other details you wouldn’t want to make public. This also shows an employer how responsible you can be and smart in managing your won information.

If this sounds like a smart move – purchasing your own domain name before someone else gets it is a good thing; populating it with your research papers from Uni, listing achievements and so on, you might give yourself a head start when looking for a job.

Go to one of the web sites that let you purchase domain names, search to see if your name is available and maybe ask someone for the name as a birthday present.

Digital Competence

The capacity to participate in a digital world

Self

Digital Access:  The capacity to use and own digital technology.

This should be gender irrelevant, and encompass the capacity to explore and be undaunted by new things. This forms the basis of being a digitally capable citizen. Digital exclusion of any kind is restrictive to the growth of human beings in a digitally natured society (like schools).

Digital Commerce: The capacity to participate in an increasingly cashless society.

This must include the recognition of imbalance during trade, the recognition of when being ‘ripped-off’, and how to be successful consumers of online goods and services. The understanding of hidden small print and sneaky deals, and long term ramifications of signing up for services. To select

Digital Literacy: The capacity to access information with discrimination and verification of that information’s veracity.

To express oneself in non-written ways, encompassing multimedia constructs. To select appropriate methodologies and applications suited to purpose and be discriminating in that choice. To personalise and purpose focus own computers and mobile devices and link them towards a synergetic relationship.  To construct personalised portal applications. To understand different file formats and their open or closed-ness.  To be RSS aware as a basis for managing information overload.

Digital Learning: To have self management skills in learning activities.

To manage digital media and files supporting learning. To keep reflective portfolios and recognise patterns of learning in order to be aware of own learning style and preferences. To know how to seek out what is needed to fill learning gaps. To know how to seek mentors, support, peers, information sources, etc, when constructing personal learning networks. To maintain the currency and freshness of that network in changing situations.

Digital self protection: The capacity to be self protecting against digital attack.

From computer virus, malware, online fraud, identify theft, or cyberbullying. The capacity to construct a positive image of self in cyberspace, untarnished by inadvertent inappropriate activities. To manage one’s own digital footprint. To protect digital assets with appropriate backup and storage. To protect hardware and maintain it in working order. To maintain digital skills sufficient to be on equal level when participating in the job market.

Digital wellbeing: The capacity to use technology to enhance rather than be detrimental to health.

To set and maintain routines, schedules and time limits appropriate for using technology. To have sufficient OH&S knowledge to promote self wellbeing. To understand ergonomics as applied to technology use. To have strategies and knowledge enough to deal with cyberbullying. To have awareness of the time consuming (addictive) nature of cyber activities.

Others

Digital responsibility: To know about copyright, other digital laws and ethical use of technology.

To know how to not infringe creative rights and find alternative sources of media for personal consumption. To know how to avoid illegal activity, knowingly done or inadvertently done. To refrain from using technology and digital skills to cause harm or distress to others be they of a less, equal or more skilled nature. To have self protecting, human feeling awareness capabilities around social networking. To develop competency in new methods of communication etiquette suited to the media chosen. To know how to choose the right system per situation. To respect/protect the privacy of other people’s sensitive information.

Digital Etiquette:   To appreciate appropriateness when interacting with humans – seen or unseen and mechanical response systems.

To be discriminating in file sharing – cloud computing and interchangeable file types. To use appropriate language subsets, suitable to the media chosen.

Blogs

An issue that is increasingly important for students and of vital importance for any leader and evangelist of ICT in education is the capacity to take regular classroom activities out of that classroom both spatially and temporally. We are, like many, a college with insufficient face to face teaching time; so access to the learning minds of students outside school hours is vital. Tools that tap into screenagers enamourment of social networking and technology are an important solution to this problem. Crooked Timber’s Henry Farrell identifies five major uses for blogs in education.

First, teachers use blogs to replace the standard class Web page. Teachers post class times and rules, assignments, project, notifications, suggested readings, and exercises.

Second, and often accompanying the first, teachers post links to Internet items that relate to their course.

Third, blogs are used to organise in class discussions.

Fourth, teachers use blogs to organise class seminars and to provide summaries of readings. Used in this way, the blogs become “group blogs”—that is, individual blogs authored by a group of people.

Fifth, students may be asked to write their own blogs as part of their course grade.

Farrell’s fifth use of blogs could, with little change become, requiring students to construct their own lesson material or compile their findings of ongoing experiments or exchange possibilities with peers – within a stipulated project, either teacher or student generated.

For an example of this; a Year 9 Science class, via www.blogger.com (See pictures below) were required not to submit a final assignment paper but produce a blog of the experimental progress concerning water quality and associated flora and fauna in a waterway in Centennial Park. Review by peers counted for as much of the final mark as the teacher input. Blogs were specifically chosen so as to raise digital literacy, remove possibility of a last minute all nighter, allow considered reflection or contributions and access by the teacher in non-school settings. The science teacher was also able to improve the students learning by adopting uses 1, 2 and 3 (Farrell). The class teacher used the students’ own blog entries to link to sites of interest or further exploration (use 2). The ‘scaffold’ in the students own head served as the basis from which to explore and so expand. The teacher also had a blog entry to act as a reference page to review the topic as the study progressed, acting as an advanced organiser page and an index to the students’ own work (use 1).  While not a use specific to the project, discussion was encouraged across the blogs as to the interest level and completeness of peer work.

Blogs can be in-house, but the resultant ‘in captivity’ nature then negates the value of being internet based. An important value of a blog is that students know they have a more public reach; that they are potentially in the face of an audience of global proportions; having outside review as a real possibility gives gravitas to their approach and writing.

Sample blog entries from yr 9 Science class.

I have finished writing my scientific report. All of the experiments and observations and research I completed taught me a lot about an area that I live so close to but knew hardly anything about. I found the open ended investigation really interesting and enjoyed doing it. Now that I know so much more about the protected wetland, it makes me want to help maintain its existence. It was fun, but it feels good to be finished!
Today i tested the turbidity and salt presence of ny first 2 samples and as they were from the harbour they were very high salt. I am going to do my moisture and organic content of my 2nd lot of soil samples. Because the science teachers are using the drying oven at school i have to use the second oven in the boarding kitchen. The kitchen won’t let me use their scales so straight after school today i went to phillip and weighed out 2 lots of each soil and what i will do is put all 8 in the oven but i will take the first 4 out at an hour and a half and the other four at 3 hours because i am unable to weigh them inbetween so this way the first ones will be moisture and the second organic. This weekend i hope to go and take more pictures of the gardens and work on my report.
due to miss b being away on tuesday, i have had to delay my parent rock, texture and colour testings. these tests are the last ones that need to be completed so every test has been completed at least once. they will be tested during lunchtimes, whenever miss b is available.
once these are complete i can begin sections of my report that invlove methods and results.
i have already begun writting my draft report; the introduction and reference section.
also called the Health officer from Randwick council- Mark Leona about the new stormwater system that has been installed. results from this arent determinable yet as to how it has impacted as it is still early days but i did get some details on the system.

the regeneration number did not respond, this reference is not too important though.
nor did the Environment officer at randwick 9399 xxxx

Digital Literacy course for Yr 6

I have begun to write a course for my Year 6 class.
This is proving to be difficult and I might end up producing a lot of it on the fly.

It must dovetail with the regular curriculum, hopefully be a little in front so that when they need computing skills to produce something a little beyond the regular essay-type assignments, they think in terms of digital storytelling or take a multimedia approach.

I also want to avoid handing them worksheets and paper based material (I’m an advocate of gracefully grandfathering all text books).
This must be partly self exploration and mostly practical.

It should make them competent in the 9 elements of digital literacy at least those pertinent to 11 year olds. And in context of, making the technology they have part of their creative world, not just a tool to Google and word process with. Their own online protection is primarily important and as such they may end up using social networks such as Facebook or something similar. At least they’ll have a chance to learn how to use it sensibly and to their advantage, rather than stumble and post inappropriate pictures and comments. It must cover many of the common Web 2.0 tools we take for granted (Twitter, Bogs, Wikis, Delicious, Etherpad Etc.)

Here’s the extent of the thought process so far.

Digital literacy course

Comments and constructive input welcome

Viruses = lots : us = not so many…

One of the advantages of working in a computing environment where someone else is managing the infrastructure is that computing becomes relatively clean and simple. This can lead you to thinking all the world is that way. It’s not so. While virus and malware is a little considered thing around the College, in your own home environment, these things are real and ever present threats to your computers. In fact, the threat is growing exponentially.

For example, Symantec’s security response group say “We’re identifying 20,000 or more signatures every day”.  (“Signatures”, are identifying footprints of a newly discovered malware.) This is an increasingly large pool of malware and infected web sites.

This means you must likewise keep up and be constant in your protection of your computer and online information.

Spending money on a good security suite is generally a good investment, but if you’re on a budget, or simply don’t like the idea of forking over yet more money on another piece of software, there are free security programs that do a good job detecting and isolating computer viruses and malware.

Companies such as Avast, AVG, McAfee, and Microsoft offer very good, free software protection against viruses, spyware, Trojan horses and the other kinds of malicious programs that are just waiting to infect your computer as soon as you connect to the internet.

Computer magazines regularly compare and evaluate these applications and while the top contender position changes hands occasionally, most of the free products perform well. They are each capable of detecting most malware and viruses and dealing with them appropriately. Providing, of course, you keep them up to date.

Short of spending considerable money on yet another application, such free protection is so much better than none at all. Remember that the paid for market leaders such as Symantec, Kaspersky McAfee and such, generally offer a larger suite of capabilities including spam filtering and parental internet control.  Occasionally these features make them well worth the cost.

Being a pioneer is never easy – but it can be rewarding

I attended a conference keynote by Jeff Mao, the Learning Technology Policy Director for the USA state of Maine. Why is Maine significant in the world of computing in education? They are the first and so far ONLY state to have adopted a one laptop per student (1:1) approach. Pioneering stuff.

Part of his talk was an admiration for Australia, as the first country in the world to officially go 1:1 in education. Yes, while there may be a perception that the use of laptops in schools is old hat in places like England and America, we are the true pioneers here. Australia is the only country to fully embrace this new, exciting, scary, fraught, and potentially revolutionary approach to learning.

So what’s the significance of this, where the potential for both great successes and great problems are all in the same package?  Much work and research has been done around the world on the use of technology enhanced education and the findings are, at worst positive and at best astounding. But, never before on a country wide level, we are first.

Schools across the country will all take their own approach, based on the nature of their students and the culture of the school itself. Teachers will adopt technology in the manner best suited to their personal teaching style, their subject and the nature of the content, as well as the school leadership’s willingness to foster a culture of discovery. If we encourage and admire a willingness to try from our students and want to develop a pick-yourself-up approach after a fall, we should model and display this ourselves. Some teachers will be early adopters of inspiring new approaches; some will be more gradual and cautious. In part, students themselves will dictate the speed of adoption as they enhance their capacity to be independent learners, support their teachers in the joint journey, and grow in their understanding of the deep potential; rather than stick with superficial uses such as chit chat on the Facebooks of the online world.

Whenever you’re a first, an early adopter, a pioneer, there are plenty of mistakes to be made, and plenty of learning opportunities to work through. Without these there is no progress, no growth, no snatching of victories before anyone else.

Our school is taking an approach that values the capacity and capabilities of its students and their contribution to this pioneering. As parents, we hope you will join them as a digital pilgrim on their journey; learning as they do, encouraging and supporting them, making it a joint learning exercise rather than seeing it as all too scary to be involved.

Is a laptop school fundamentally different from a school where students have laptops?

I think so because of where the focus is; it’s on who carries responsibility for using the technology. Teaching staff have done a fairly poor job over the last 20 years in adopting technology (remember that this is a broad stroke statement and not a comment on those individuals who do some truly remarkable things in a classroom). Maybe it’s time to stop banging our heads against the wall for teachers who don’t, won’t, or can’t get with it. Stop putting pressure on the overworked, on those too overwhelmed to actually consider upskilling, on those too old for this new fangled stuff, on those who won’t make any sacrifice in the long holidays they have, on those for whom the same old same old has sufficed for the last umpteen years, and leave them alone…       to teach. Let them just teach.

But, how about putting the effort we waste in shepherding unresponsive teaching staff to PD into making self directed, self responsible, self contained learning machines out of the students. Give them the transferable skills to administratively look after their learning, their notes, their portfolios, to research better, to develop maintain and share a personal learning network, to be critical of data sources, to know what to do when things go wrong, to make technology as much a part of their learning process as a pen.
Have them do this independently of the teacher, without making it an interruption to the teacher’s teaching style by having it as just another thing on their desk, like pencils, paper and text books.  We refocus who we concentrate on – all the school ICT integrators who’ve been banging away at teaching staff and admin workers and school leadership for years and years now – forget them, if they don’t want to join in leave them behind. Let’s try leading the revolution from where all revolutions come – bottom up. Governments can throw money our way, they can sound bite the term ‘digital education revolution’ all they like – they can’t make one – they can’t lead one, they don’t get it. Governments don’t start revolutions, they live through them, or in most case they don’t. Hmm let me eat cake.

Julia Gillard (bless her cotton socks) spouts on about a digital education revolution and throws some money at some hardware and a bit of infrastructure. Pointless. Nice, thanks for the laptops, but pointless. The same excuses will be trotted about again and again. The same old PC Vs Mac war will erupt again the same old poor me from primary teachers will flare against senior teachers, and around and around we will go.
Governments should be working at the extremities – training new start teachers better and assessing school leavers in a totally different way – but that’s for another blog post.

So how about a school where kids have laptops. NO not a laptop school a regular traditional good school, but kids happen to have laptops.
If we claim some of the KLE teaching time to show students how to research efficiently, to be critical of information sources, to maintain file structures and documents with proper tags so study becomes more structured and less daunting, to form PLNs to work in collaborative ways with peers to produce material in multimedia options and not just printed paper based ‘essays’, to establish links to current data sources, to do all the cool brilliant things we know should be done with ICT, then we have started the revolution.

Teachers don’t have to give up anything (yet) administrators don’t have to find money to send teachers to PD that they don’t even want to do, ICT coordinators won’t need to get so many grey hairs so soon and yet ICT might just get a chance to strut it’s stuff.

So – what shall we teach these laptop owners?
How to aggregate via RSS useful, current and appropriate information
How to develop a PLN
How to construct a digital footprint (positively)
How to search the net via the right tools the way that gets the best results
How to present their school work in a creative way

How to express their creativity through the applications available
How to connect with their peers to share work and ideasHow to develop a Twitter following
How to construct a self reflecting e-portfolio
How to choose the right software for the job
How to blog your homework
How to think about how you learn
How to…

Go on – add to the list