Friday, September 25, 2009

Reading the right thing

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This maybe what happens when people read this blog post. If not it probably because
we have chosen to or are seeking to learn about text vs visual language
through an emotional connection.
If from our perspective this is meaningful to us our brain will store it. I see visual information as more inately engaging.
Did the use of the red bold text get our attention? Is this a method of making the reading have more perceived benefit?

I plan to use visual text and prior reflection to help select what material, media, genre that students I work with will be exposed to.
Enthusiasm and engagement will need to be established before they start reading 
Even better if they are part of the selection process it may help to ensure they predict benefit.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Networking for 1 to 1

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With future posts I will look at pedagogy but this post will consider networking and it’s implications. The reason being that often people don’t understand the implications of adding more devices onto their networks, where the bottlenecks are etc. I hope that this post will make some of it easier to understand and help those making decisions for 2010. Otherwise we may hear this type of talk…

“We have got a whole lot of netbooks and all of  sudden the network seems awfully slow.”
”We used to have good internet and now students are waiting a long time for simple things to happen.”

There are large implications to increasing client density on our school networks (these are not just about our internet connection but internal also). 
What do we need to understand, do to create and maintain a network suitable for 1:1 student use?

5 Big ideas

  • The Network is now the most important part of Schools learning technologies infrastructure
  • Network contains 4 main components – Internet connection – Backbone – Network Layering (segmentation) – Wireless Access
  • These components have to match with client (device) density if the users experience is to be a good/successful/meaningful one
  • Wireless access is the only suitable way to deliver ubiquitous/natural learning technologies
  • "the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system" Metcalfe's law ie the more people connected the more learning the more opportunities.

A closer look at these

The Network is the most important part of the Schools learning infrastructure

It used to be that schools spent their money preparing servers to host mail, files and programmes. Now much of this functionality is moving to places outside the school. Schools are pooling forces to consolidate these like Nayland College who share a server with Nelson Girls. Network connectivity is the key to this. For a school to host the increasing number of devices that are being plugged in; or to enjoy wireless networking attention to this is important. In our school over 250 more devices are connected this year than last. Next Year and additional 230 are predicted. It could be  a bit like trying to fit a cities traffic down a normal road if we don’t take a few crucial steps.

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The Four Main Components

Internet
As shown above High speed internet to maintain service levels if we connect more devices to our network. Jetstream is not able to put information from our schools onto the internet nearly as fast as it can bring it down so when more of us want to use web 2.0 tools we will struggle to do so.

Backbone
The connections between buildings and switches (think old telephone exchanges) is our backbone. Fibre optic cables and fast switching are needed if we want to avoid bottle necks and teacher frustration.

Network Layering
When a computer or other device on a network wants to talk to another one it can happen in number of ways. In most school networks traditionally the device would ask all of the others if they were the right one ie send its message everywhere in a hit and hope type exercise. This was not such a problem when there were a small number of devices involved but now there are hundreds it can make things noisy and slow. To speed things up we can segment a network (make it layer 3) and send the traffic directly to where it needs to go. The important message here is to use layer three capable switches in our networks.

Wireless Access
The most difficult to get right but the most important in many ways because this is the where connections to the network for 1:1 devices will start. Schools need enterprise level wireless to manage 1 to 1 devices. A good system will be characterised by a central wireless management unit. What this does is ensure that access points are not competing with each other and that clients are handed on seamlessly from one to another.

The match to Client density
More devices = more bandwidth required for the same experience. Work using local software if the network can’t support multiple online users.

The value of 1:1 has come from the value of the network ie the value of connectivity.
We need to get our network environment right for the value of connectivity to show through. My next post will be a reflection on the realities of pedagogical (teacher readiness) for 1:1

For a look at the ideal world of a 1:1 implementation read this on Wesley Fryer’s Blog and then read the comments which allude to a hardware environment being funded but teacher readiness not. To get teachers ready is a more complex process than getting the students and their devices connected. In my mind we jump across and action research our way to individual teaching success. See easy isn’t it?


Monday, September 21, 2009

Students View

What some students thought when asked if schools should go 1 to 1. They were also asked what they were proud of in their use of a Netbook. Interesting to me were that they all had different personal ideas on this and that their reasoning for why was based on sound ideas rather than the gadget factor.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Quizlet learn it and have fun

My son Jack is studying for NCEA Spanish. Being a geek and believing that a computer and the internet will solve all ills I looked to the web for a way through. I was amazed at how empty searches were when looking resources that would really help. I was taking part in an online meeting with 0ZNZ educators and by chance one of them specialises in modern Languages He had alot of ideas about learning using technology. His name is Joe Dale and his wiki is found at http://joedale.typepad.com/. Michael Fawcett a local blogger who I have alot of respect for was talking about what his daughter used as study tools and both confirmed the use of mp3s and flashcards as the major tools for exam preparation. I have started to work with these ideas and Jack has recommended Spanishdict.com. I have also come across Quizlet which is an online flashcard place. Between now and the end of the year Jack will put some of the NCEA vocab into Quizlet. I have embedded a match up below see how you get on.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Purchasing/maintenance Questions for 1:1 programmes

Having been through a year of 1 to 1 laptop use in our school I am preparing for a workshop at ulearn09 looking at what schools need to prepare for 1 to 1 learning. Many people will be seeing this as a simple transition to a greater density of devices on their networks. The best way for us to decide and think about this is probably to consider the implications of future events. The following are discussion starters for some important questions in this process.

  • We have got 50 devices and over half of them are having a problem with not starting up properly what should we do?

  • We can get a high power laptop for the same price as a netbook that should be better?

  • What are the hidden costs of this programme? are there any?

  • Should the parents/students be able to bring any laptop of their choice?

  • The device choice is not too important most devices today are of a good quality let’s just get on with it?

  • A parent is able to secure a good deal on a netbook for us should we take it?
  • And the answers are…
    Well ok No answers but there is no doubt these are important questions. We have had to increase our network support in-house to accommodate this. We purchased a very robust looking computer the classmatepc. We have 130 of these being used by year 7 students who take them home and we have had dealt with one issue that effected over 50% of these. So the two Big Answers To Purchasing and maintenance…

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    • a warranty for three years
    • proven track recording the student space
    • nothing that can be pulled off
    • has protective bag
    • no point of stress eg tablet with only one central hinge
    • battery guides so pins cant get bent
    • a sturdy mechanism for where the power cable from adapter will go

    And

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    • understand the supply chain
    • ask for an open book submission which shows cost from manufacturer
    • look at what added value they can provide
    • will they attend information evenings
    • how will they prepare the units for you
    • manufacturer has an online knowledge base with forums, usergroups etc

    Possible scenarios that might make sense

    If you do not have on site tech support provide a service where the device can be dropped off at the schools reception desk and picked up by supplier from there.

    If you need tech support to be managed by parents the information evenings and





    Here is an example of an RFP (request for proposals) that may help you if you want to use one.

    Rfp Netbook Template