Monthly Archives: November 2010

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.

I’m past teaching

A short while back we had a prac’ teacher arrive at the school. I was due to take the class late one Friday afternoon – our regular technology session. Asks the earnest and keen young thing “Can I come and watch you teach?”. I of course answered with the expected answer – No.

In response to the puzzled, confused, unsure look spreading across his face I could barely suppress the grin that was building from roughly knee level. He asked, quite politely I thought, if I was simply too concerned, shy or even worried that he might be critical as a result of watching. This is something that has been of no concern from the first day I stepped into a classroom – I have no problem with anyone watching me. Like me or not, it doesn’t matter – in fact if you actually don’t like what I do , that has much merit. It means you had to engage with the content, and have an opinion and have had to think about it. All good things.

Shortening the otherwise long story – I explained to him, I am far too old, too busy, and too lacking in ego to believe I can teach any one anything. I just turn up occasionally and watch them learn. Set the project give them the skills, material and opportunity then get out of the way.

Actually it has taken me some years to be able to do this. As a “teacher” I feel that great propensity to add some more info, to re-state the process, to just add one more bit of info, to sneak in a bit more instruction, to relate it to some other bit of work, to, to, to.

It’s actually hard to do this stepping back. There’s the pressure of having to get the through the standard test that inevitably comes, to be able to write something vaguely positive sounding in those useless academic reports, cover the syllabus, do like everyone else does, and so on. All compel us to squeeze in more info, more jug to mug, more stand and deliver. It isn’t easy to let kids do what they do so well. Learn.

The older I get, the more I get to know about myself, the more I try to make this all I do. I’m there to watch, guide and help them learn. They’re good at it. Just be there to assist.

You’re still welcome to watch me – I just hope to be the least active part of a classroom that hopefully is buzzing with real education.