Posts tagged: K-12

Students in one St. Albert school finally allowed to “officially” power up

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By , June 1, 2010 9:03 am

Well, if you are an edtecher and haven’t seen the story about Richard S. Fowler Catholic Junior High School, here is your chance. Just some thoughts as the program starts in September so we won’t really know how things are going for at least six months:

  • Good on the school for providing a class set of devices for those who can’t afford to have or bring their device to school (St. Albert is higher SES, but that doesn’t mean that every family can drop $300 for a device)
  • Good on them for taking a look at their population and choosing the most popular devices to support – iSlates – but what about other devices? Are they just not willing to accept that there are other devices that are just as capable? Nah, I think it has more to do with the fact that to get teachers comfortable with one device takes a fair amount of time and effort – to try to get them familiar with Android, Chrome and every other mobile device interface out there will take … well, quite a bit. We just won’t mention anything about jailbroken devices… It likely also helps that they are using PowerSchool and their SIS – a former Apple product.
  • Bad on them for thinking the worst of their students for what they “might” do on the ‘net – the SA Gazette has a bit of a write up as to how the WiFi network will still protect the children from the hazards of FaceBook and the like. One of the interviews that I heard on the radio said that “good teaching is good teaching… and that is enough to keep kids away from extra distractions that come through these devices”

From the Gazette:

In recent years, school officials have struggled to keep a lid on inappropriate classroom use of devices like cellphones, but the Catholic division is trying to flip that thinking on its ear.

“We won’t support the idea that these devices are counterproductive to student learning. It’s learning how to use the tool well,” said division superintendent David Keohane.

There is a growing array of educational applications available for smartphones that can be used to better engage students and improve learning, he said.

“Any technological device can be used irresponsibly. Our challenge is to enable kids to use these responsibly and offset the tendency to text about something else while the teacher is talking,” he said.

If seems to me that they are almost trying to say two things at once – that they will let the students be responsible, but at the same time limit what they can do…

But at the end of the day, I can’t complain, this is a start and it’s something that has moved the mobile learning idea forward in Alberta – riding on the popularity of Apple devices and taking advantage of the fact that schools will not be able to keep up with the technology on their own – realizing that they have to take the lead from the kids.

What are the new literacies that schools need to teach?

By , May 10, 2010 8:57 am

This came up this weekend talking to my wife. It seems that in her school, there is a cadre of teachers who think that kids need to learn “keyboarding” to be literate in the new reality that will be where they find themselves in the future. This remark was quickly retorted by another teacher who in her best mime-type impression of a crackberry addict gestured that the kids are not going to need to learn how to keyboard, they are going to be adept thumb typers. I don’t know where the conversation went from there, but after some more discussion, my wife and I were dumbfounded as to how some teachers are still so bound to the tools of communication rather than the process or the media.

Years ago, keyboarding was relevant because that was the only way that students could leverage these tools called computers, but what about accessing today’s devices with gesture, stylus or voice inputs? What about those devices with configurable keyboards? This is just the tip of the iceberg…

For my money, kids in K-12 today need to be literate in the ways and means to establish, maintain and explore connections (building their PLE/Ns as it were). They need to be able to create an identity online and understand what it means to have a valid identity and how to tell what parts of another individual’s identity might not be true. The tools that they will use to do this? I would not even want to guess, today they are Twitter and Facebook. Tomorrow… all bets are off… years down the road… same thing.

Creating and maintaining these relationships will require different skills, some will require adept long form writing, others will require micro form skills. Some people will need to have a full range of multimedia aptitudes, others will be able to specialize.

So if it were me giving a presentation to a school as to what the kids need to learn? I would say that they need to learn that there are different types of tools with different abilities. Some that sit on desks, others that sit in your pocket, others that sit far away. Each of these has a time and place to be used… now let’s start exploring those tools starting with…

Smarter Boards

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By , December 28, 2008 11:28 pm

I’m no fan of smart boards, mostly because of the lack of training and related infrastructure that comes along with them, but when I saw this, I just had to laugh. I can just imagine what will happen to these boards when the classroom teacher forgets the password to transfer the information – they will become even more expensive dust collectors.

Now this may or may not be the case in every roll out of these boards (I’m sure that some of them will find good homes), but I can certainly see it happening.

Name the next Rover

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By , November 25, 2008 9:41 pm

With Wall-E out there showing off the galaxy with the World Wide Telescope with MS, there is now another way that you can reach out and learn more about the world beyond our Blue Marble – NASA is offering the chance to name the next Rover for students in US K-12 schools.It would be cool if it was an international contest, but that might be for a future contest.

Aurora Watch – for Edmonton

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By , November 4, 2008 1:55 pm

If you live in the Edmonton area, this is a cool resource if you like to watch the dancing lights – esp if you want to be able to get some pictures of them.

Homework not working

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By , April 1, 2008 9:34 pm

Kids of all ages know it and have all manner of opions on it… and few of them are positive, especially in the k-12 environment. So maybe that is why there is some talk now about a board wide homework policy in Toronto (GN). Those who want to see homework looked at have issues with the homework for the sake of homework that is a reality in many classrooms. They also want to take a look at the educational value of homework, especially when it’s completion is enforced by punitive measures.

Thinking back to my ed courses… I can see where both sides are coming from. There is more to life than homework, and homework that does not connect with “real life” is seen as having low value. On the other hand, homework can be additonal practice. But what qualifies as practice?

If I were teaching, at any level, my practice would be based on applying concepts and reflecting on what was covered in class. Some might consider this simply studying with some basic scaffolding. This of course would be a perfect world as there will be parents and students who want all manner of extra work to prove their abilities (I’m stereotyping, but often Asian parents are asking for more homework). The people in TO who don’t want homework say that kids are missing out on life and sun and I agree, a tonne of homework certainly makes juggling extra curricular activities more difficult. Homework supporters come back saying that … well that is the real world… sometime work comes home, especially if you are successful… but often homework in school comes home if you are not successful or … just because.

Really, it seems that this is a no win situation with arguements on both sides. It will certainly be easier to manage in Div I, but as you move up things get trickier and then when you hit Div III, IV or PS you have individual instructors assigning work, largely wthout regard for what the total workload for the student is. Trying to get instructors to this is a mighty task to be sure (I tried it in a meeting one time…) and this is where I think there is going to be pushback from teachers. These upper level classes won’t (I don’t think) be coordinating homework anytime soon. So banned or not… I think homework is here to stay as teachers will argue that the work still needs to be done.

Getting around the roadblocks – rebelling kids

By , January 30, 2008 11:00 pm

One of the worst kept secrets in schools is that kids get around the firewalls, filters and everything else the network admins and parents do to stop them from getting at sites that they are not supposed to. But how do they do that? Well they use circumventors sites like this one – Peacefire. Of course, by the time that you read this, the URL might change, but these sites are always out there. As long as there are kids/people with time to build them… they will be there.

But should “responsible adults” be concerned at all? Should they care? Isn’t it late to close the barn doors after the horses are already out? Well kinda… across the board. Schools and parents want to control this to protect their children/charges. Kids want to get to these sites to fill their needs for defining themselves and all manner of other things… you know all that growing up stuff. I don’t think this is ever going to change, social networks might be the new rock and roll or comic books or anything else that children have been using to rebel against their elders.

In the end it’s cat and mouse and those who really want at these forms of rebellion, they will find their ways. Along the way, it never hurts to know what is happening right?

BTW… my guess is these sites likely make a shiny bit of coin on the emails that they harvest.

2008 Predictions

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By , December 20, 2007 7:43 pm

This is one of the few last posts of the year as I take a bit of a break and as has become tradition, here are my predictions for the coming year and a review from what I said last year. So here we go.

  • Social Systems
    • Advertising
    • Buyout
    • Search

    I think that this coming year we are going to see a more rounded implementation of social networking and we’ll find it in more than one part of our lives. Facebook’s Beacon program showed where the line was as they assumed that personal information actually was their’s to do with totally as they pleased. Granted, it’s in the fine print when you sign up, but between the range of privacy laws and common sense, one would assume that Facebook and others would not take their most valuable resource for granted. That resource is of course the mass of volunteered metadata that users attach to their user name. If this isn’t respected, people are going to stop providing it. Many people already have. People will hopefully also start asking real questions about what apps do with your personal data, what happens to that data when you remove an app and what is with being able to receive messages from apps that you haven’t installed and then find that there are messages waiting for you there (eg. Superwall).

    I think there is also going to be a buyout of some of the smaller networks, or those networks will simply wither because there isn’t a critical mass of individuals subscribed. My guess is that Google, MS, Yahoo, Facebook and MySpace will suck up other systems like Ning and Spock. Since MS and FB already have a relationship, I think this will get closer, or FB will be a common ground where the search engines battle for advertising. Fox owning MySpace certainly helps it stick around, so I don’t have an idea how the search engines will approach it, or if MySpace will even look to the engines for clicks.

    Speaking of search, social searching systems will likely become much more common. Del.icio.us and other social content sharing systems will likely become more important as the companies that want to take your money online start looking for ways to ensure their add dollars hit the eyes of only those who have a hope of caring about their product.

  • Change in LMSI think the LMSes that are out there right now will all start to be questioned. Blackboard will have to move faster to keep up with things like social networking, and it won’t be good enough to create their own networks. Blackboard will have be able to connect into Facebook or other systems if it wants to stay relevant with students. This also means that educational admin will have to learn to let go of the idea that they can/have to control all their related data all of the time.Moodle has a leg up in that it can link into Open Social, but it needs to get it’s Open Source attitude cleaned up. It should only have features enabled that are ready to go completely out of the box for the main download. It’s fine for there to be soft spots for institutions that can afford to tweak, but I don’t know how many of those there are out there. Back to the social network thing, this could be what takes Moodle over the top in terms of adoption.

    There is also going to be a change in what people will consider to be vital as part of a PLE. So with that, I think there is also going to be a boom in the use of Wikis and other collaborative software.

  • Technology integration failingJust as there has been a massive push to integrate technology into the K-12 curriculum, it seems that isn’t going to work out as politicians have planned. There are an enormous number of kids coming up into the university system who are not actually computer literate – in being able to use the computer as a whole – but only application literate (Word, PPT, IE/FF). Seeing this, there should be an examination of what really needs to be taught as computer skills. Are we trying to teach everything overly generally?
  • Fractionation of technology useJust as all the advances in technology have made it easier to get all manner of content created, creating this content well however has become a challenge as the tools don’t just make things magically. It takes some skill, effort and patience, something that many people aren’t willing to invest. So this is going to fractionate the use of technology again as to make really good content, the tools are getting ever more complicated.
  • HD WarsIn the theme of the fractionation of technology, the HD wars are going to leave heaping mounds of spent coin and plastic. People are not willing to go through the VHS/Beta thing again. If there is going to be a winner, I’ll predict it’s going to be Blu-Ray. PS3 will slowly come down in price to be only slightly higher than a stand alone player, at which point, the second wave of early adopters will start to pick it up as a player first and a console second. Without a “vector”, I don’t think HD DVD will have as good a chance. I also know that combo discs are not going to get anywhere as it’s going to cost whoever makes them a fortune just to get both logos on one disc (assuming that is even allowed by the legal teams).
  • Net neutralityThis is certainly going to heat up as there are more ways than ever to get online and the ability to “control the pipes” is such an abhorrent idea to users that many would likely rebel. But wait, the free bastion that is the ‘net is no longer free and all the democratization that came from blogging and other technologies in terms of being able to put forward your own voice will be in jeopardy if ISPs and the like are allowed to shape traffic and modify content “in stream”. Well then, encrypt the data you say? Well they will just block that as well? What about the banks? Well, I think that is where the ISPs will be forced to show their hand. I doubt that many banks would be willing to lose their online banking services because customers can’t use encrypted connections. Of course, this is just an idea and I have no idea if it is actually something that would ever come to pass should the neutrality of the net be compromised.
  • BloggingOn the topic of free speech, I think we’ll certainly see blogs in the news again with another US election, an election in Alberta and perhaps nationally as well. But I think there will be a shift in the type of blogs that are considered relevant. Everyone has a blog now because they are cool, so there are going to be many to choose from. The trick will be to find the wheat. This will be an exercise that will also reveal any neutrality issues as there will be rather obvious changes to a message if traffic is being shaped or content is being modified. Now, on the NN side, it might end up just being traffic, but the free nature of commenting and participation online will keep showing why it is important to keep all data equal.
  • Canadian mobility ratesIt’s a pipe dream, but between the stronger dollar and the spectrum auction, I can certainly see there being significant changes to the wireless landscape in Canada. Not anything that will make it cost effective to use in schools (darn last year), but enough to make mobile computing something that is “average joe” stuff.
  • Casual gaming and alternative interface explosionThe Wii is still selling out, that tells you something. People are getting the new interface and I think that these alternative interface games are just going to take off and with them, the casual game – the ones that are on phones and other ultra portable devices. We’ve already seen this happen, but I think it’s going to move into the public eye more this year and not just in the eyes of teens and phone geeks. – and yes, I finally have a Wii and GH3

Now from last year, what happened in terms of what I said?

  • The Wii is the top console
  • Living room computing is getting closer (the Apple TV almost ran and Media Center with the PS3 are starts again)
  • Mobile computing has boomed, but not ultramobile. The price of laptops has crashed and with the arrival of the XO, they are at commodity prices.
  • There was a boom in web based apps
  • Dirt cheap cell service did not arrive
  • The spec race seems to have died in computers at least – you don’t hear the processor specs as loudly in ads anymore, noe it’s all about how big the hard drive is. Cameras are still having a bit of a race, but not in MP as much as color depth.
  • The semantic web hasn’t arrived, but there is some inkling of it with the creation of mountains of metadata with the boom of social networking.

That’s all for this year deep post wise. The last post of the year will be the picture of the week

Play Against All Odds

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By , November 13, 2007 6:53 am

If you are in touch with a class doing anything with refugees, you might want to take a look at this game.  I haven’t really take a look yet, but it looks pretty good to be sure.

Japan & DS

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By , September 21, 2007 8:15 am

Well it looks like the DS finally has caught on with at least one school – and in Japan to boot – Thanks to Wade for the heads up.

At just one-fifteenth of the cost of a personal computer — around 17,000 yen (150 dollars) each — the DS is an economical teaching tool, he said, adding that results in an initial trial showed the English vocabulary of junior high school students using the DS had soared by 40 percent.

The private Otemon Gakuin Elementary School in the western metropolis of Osaka used Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP) from last September to March this year in a class of 38 fourth-graders, aged nine or 10.

Teacher Toyokazu Takeuchi did not need to print out or check tests. Instead, his own console received real-time data showing which students were making mistakes and what mistakes they were making.

“This is e-learning made in Japan — traditional efforts in reading, writing and calculating coupled with the power of information technology and game machines,” he said.

With the pilot programme wrapped up, Takeuchi plans to expand the use of PSPs to second graders from April next year. If the project is extended, it would cover some 800 students in Osaka.

While the education ministry says it has no policy on using game consoles in the classroom, this new application has come as a pleasant surprise for the machine makers.

Kenichi Fukunaga, vice president for external relations at Sony Computer Entertainment, said he believed the educational uses would spread further, as game consoles were easy-to-use, high-performance machines.

There was still some tough opposition to game machines, he said, but added: “In every era parents have worried over a new medium they cannot understand but their children are absorbed in.”

Hirai, the teacher, said game consoles could be put to use in developing countries.

“You don’t have to print sheet after sheet with a copier. If you can just secure a source of electricity, you can build your basic academic ability on your own.

“This is a revolution in education in that you can learn basic things without teachers who blindly believe their only mission is to direct children to study.”

While I think there may be a certain element of “learning because of novelty” here, I do agree that”it matches the kids” and I also think that things like this open up the entire debate between Clark (1983) and Kozma (1991&1994).

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