Apr 23

If I could do any other job I would love to be an industrial designer. Lego was my labyrinth as a boy and the space shuttle was designed in my bedroom circa 1978. Yes, upstairs in a town house in Scotland mid-Thatcherism I landed a space-shuttle on an amazing car-park my Dad had made me out of plywood. I always had things in mind that might be of interest to others - useful designs as well as the whimsical. It is always pleasure to learn about the work of other designers, but even more interesting is what motivates them.

A fella I have a great deal of respect for, Bryn Jones has an eye for design too. He understands the ICT design elements at play in the world around him. Observing the appearance of ultraportables and touch-screen interfaces he predicted the new MacBook would look like Yves Behar’s design for the X02 back in December at a meeting of WUGWA. The elements of this sort of technology are becoming available all the time and cheaper at that. These designs need software though. There may be other moves towards similar designs in the IT industry. Examples are the widespread use of Ajax in web interfaces and revision of iMovie ‘08 which pre-empts for me the move to a touch screen interface with multi-media. The skim features fit nicely with the pinch features of a multi-touch interface. Exciting times to love design.

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My concerns with these pictures of the new X02 design are that the students aren’t shown to be creating content and that they are mostly passive receptors of content. And where is the built in camera, scanner and green-screen like the iSight? These X02’s need to be able to be used to create music, movies, 3D design and graphics. Extending students to help them develop higher-order thinking skills is not an easy task. Historically, teachers have looked to Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956) for assistance but this has proven to need rejigging for our times.

More recently, Anderson and Krathwohl (2001) have adapted Bloom’s model to fit the needs of today’s classroom by employing more outcome-oriented language, workable objectives, and changing nouns to active verbs (see this page).

Most notably, knowledge has been converted to remember. In addition, the highest level of development is create rather than evaluate.

In assessing effective contribution to learning, the design of these devices need to be seriously analysed for their ability to help students become content and knowledge creators rather than empty vestibules waiting to be filled. Let’s also not forget the most important part of the redisgn: OLPC has sacrificed its commitment to free software and is installing Windows.

The price tag of the Asus eePC, for example, is clearly attractive at first glance, but a closer look reveals it is a device that cannot even run that dog of a program Windows MovieMaker (see the flip-side here). Unless the kids can tell their story effectively and be given a stage for their creative ideas these devices will lose their novelty within a month. Still there is hope! When asked in an ideal world, “what is your single greatest hope for this project?”, Nicholas Negroponte founder of the OLPC Project replied:

A three-step hope: World peace through the elimination of poverty through education through learning. Education is the goal; learning is the means. A lot of learning can happen without teaching. We’re banking on that.

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Jan 23

In 2008 I have chosen to take up a new position with NextByte - a company I have long admired for it’s professionalism and technology support from a curriculum based perspective.

As Education Manager WA I continue my dedication to helping teachers and administrators find the most solutions for integrating ICTs into classrooms. This role will allow me to develop solutions specific to the needs of schools and learners. Also I will be able continue to provide professional development support to teachers/administrators in a similar manner to that I provided during the SLICT Project in 2007.

On the jobI continue to be passionate that ICT use in schools is/should be accessible to all 21C students and teachers. As an educator I have grown to believe we really do involve with the “digital natives” (Prensky 2004) and allow them the opportunity to move beyond a “rip-mix-burn” ideology to one where they “grip-fix-turn” (Flintoff 2006) this digital information into effective communication. This comes with experience, skills in self-expression and using online technologies with sound critical thinking to help solve the complex issues of our times. Specifically I remain interested in the ways effective integration of ICT into the curriculum can engage and enhance the school experience of the digital natives in our classrooms. At the core of this is the ability of students to communicate, are links to the experience of connectivism the have online at home, but with curriculum focus and sound critical literacy. This is also the heart of Rudd’s education revolution policy.
I look forward to working with OSX on an Intel Mac, as proof of the concept that Windows, Linux and OSX can peacefully co-exist simultaneously on the same machine with speed and ease of use - I believe that in the hands of adept educators this set-up has the potential to save schools money and put some really powerful cross-platform tools into the hands of students. I point this out as Macs are often discounted, but it never ceases to amaze me how simply and quickly staff and students use the iLife suite to communicate their ideas expressively across all learning areas. Music, text, video, sound, and online collaboration at their fingertips - all of these mediums of delivery are centred around communication.

To personally continue my lifelong learning via connectivism, along with my passion for web2.0 and Macs, I will continue to maintain a presence in the conversation online.

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Jan 07

20080115-9Gg9Yie1Ydbb1Ew3Dgfsmuah3There was a great deal of excitement amongst educators who can see the potential of technology in helping 21C learners upon the announcement of the new Labor government policy of giving students from years 9-12 access to computers. From March, schools will be invited to apply for up to $1 million each to buy computer and technology equipment for students and classrooms. However, it has emerged there is a gaping hole in this policy and that is to do with access.

Access to the Education Revolution

Access means the students will be able to use the ultraportable provided and connect with the 21C online world they spend much of their free time in. The all-pervasive Internet folks. And yes - it is easy to see the peril and expense and react with fear to this proposition - however there is a simple and cheap solution to the problem - a little known community wireless network solution called Meraki.

In a nutshell here is what it could do:

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  • provide home access for the students to the school network and Internet connection with filters via wireless on their ultraportable
  • works across many kilometres and is only dependent on the number of wireless repeater nodes nearby - as students usually live within 15km of a school coverage will be inclusive
  • $49 buys the transmitter receiver which automatically configures itself to the school work
  • 1024-bit wireless encryption signal (uncrackable)
  • every time a student adds a Meraki repater/booster unit, it not only brings access into their residence, but it also strengthens the network for others
  • powerful backend system which handles the heavy lifting of network analysis, user management, filtering and upgrades behind the scene
  • simple administration tool with tiered access policies, ability to perform live tests and explore sophisticated usage analysis, or view simple overviews
  • allow students to collaborate outside school in person on each others hubs or over the network

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Kevin Rudd’s other promise of access speed of up to 100mbps to schools will provide a significant network link for the school community to access. There may need to be a shut-down time to ensure students get some sleep :-) but in general the benefits of access when coupled with an ultraportable are profound. The basis for the need for access to the safe, moderated school network with the student’s own machine is based in sound pedagogy.Working with teachers across the State in the last year and conversations with educators utilising technology effectively in their classrooms has led me to believe that Connectivism is the learning approach best suited to adapt to this increasingly pervasive access we now encounter. Including technology and connection making as learning activities begins to move learning theories into a digital age. We as teachers even :-) , can no longer personally experience and acquire learning that we need for our practice. We derive our competence from forming connections which is achieved via access. Simply because it allows students to generate meaning, inquiry and higher order thinking skills to fully engage with the the times in which we live……

Large scale deployments of Meraki

Meraki has focused on changing the economics of access since its beginning as a MIT Ph.D. research project that provided wireless access to postgraduate students. Using their research, Meraki got its start at a low-income housing community in the US. News about Meraki’s products spread by word of mouth into over 25 countries around the world. Every day, new Meraki networks bring access to locations ranging from urban apartment complexes in London to villages in India. Large scale WiFi projects have been plagued by poor and unreliable coverage, but Meraki is different.

The more students connected the stronger the network gets

Meraki’s intelligent mesh routing means every repeater you add extends the reach of the network and makes the mesh more reliable by adding additional links. Field-tested by real-world customers who successfully cover dense apartment communities through entire cities, Meraki’s networking platform provides high quality service to thousands of simultaneous users without missing a beat. Every Meraki system works out of the box, without requiring sophisticated site-surveys or command-line setup - all parents and students need to install the device is a power point.

How this fits with the 9-12 policy?

Rudd’s policy of machine access for students from years 9-12 is commendable. The litmus test of the education revolution will be in how students are given access to the 21C world of the Internet. Access to the Internet as their Personal Learning Environment will be paramount. Trying to get an ultraportable into all of these students’ hands will be difficult and no doubt there will be occasions where conservative gargoyles will use the simple tool of fear to block a road to international competitiveness in this arena. But in time access is certainly where we are heading - I hope Australia learns to lead here rather than be forced to follow.

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Aug 11

The wiki was initiated in January 2007, intended as a venue for Digital Chalkies to post links related to the various categories associated with the group blog. But with time and devotion missing, a change of direction was made in August 2007. The wiki has now became a repository for “web2.0 in education” related videos. Click on the web2.0 video wiki tab above to access. Please free to recommend any videos by editing the wiki and adding recommendations. There is a lot of interest in the question of how web2.0 tools can add value to the knowledge generated by students and teachers in class. The issues and technology at hand are complex - video is often an effective way of communicating understanding and ideas.

Digital Chalkie web2.0 wiki

Anyone can edit the wiki pages. Contributions are welcome. Follow the how-to video tutorials mentioned in the previous post or here. Notifications of your edit will be sent to Digital Chalkie moderators.

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