Friday, February 27, 2009

Asus making Phones? - Nokia making laptops?

If ever evidence of convergence was needed it has been cropping up in interesting ways recently.

How about the news that Nokia, the biggest manufacturer of mobile pohones, are thinking of moving into the laptop market -

or the various stories about Asus, primarily a computer manufacturer, showing intentions to have a mobile phone on the market by the end of this year.

What really brought it home for me though is the news that Asus, who led the way in the netbook market, are now looking at releasing a new netbook - not running Windows or Linux but Googles mobile phone operating system, Android. A computer running on a mobile phone operating system - now that is what I call convergence.

What will be the implications for education brought about by this trend? How can we harness the power of the devices that students will be using in their every day lives? Will we continue, as happens in many if not most classrooms, to ban such devices from the classroom? Is there a danger that life at school will become increasingly separated from the real world?

The video below is from 2007 and depicts the opinions of a group of 3rd level students. I wonder are we heading towards the same kind of thing here in Ireland and will younger students at 2nd level start to experience the same kind of digital severance between school life and life outside of school. Perhaps I'm showing my age when I disapprove of students using internet chat during a lecture. Perhaps we need a level of digital severance to preserve the good things in schools.

As with most things I suppose we will need to find a balance between what can be done with mobile internet devices and what has educational value for our students. I think though simply banning such devices as a mere distraction to educational activity will not the way to go.

The amount of change over the last decade in mobile computing and mobile communication is staggering but what I am becoming more aware of is the rate at which this change is happening.

If someone had suggested to me three years ago that I would check my email more often by mobile phone than on a computer, that I would have all my calendar and contact details online rather than on my phone or computer, that my most important documents would be stored online rather than on a desktop computer, that students in my school would spend more time on the internet than watching TV, I would have simply not believed things would change that much that fast.

It leaves me wondering what ICT stuff I will be teaching in three years time and the simple answer is I just don't know. I expect that all other subject teachers in my school will be teaching pretty much the same thing they are teaching now. They may be using more/better ICT tools in their teaching but fundamentally they will do pretty much the same job in the same way. This will be considered normal as the Junior & Leaving Cert. exams won't be all that different either.

At what stage will the way we are doing things simply be the wrong way to educate 21st century learners? I wonder are we there already.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Student Management System - A Better Way?

What we have now at second level

Circa 800 schools running 800 servers. Each school does its September and October returns and sends them in to the department on thousands of discs and associated sheets of papers for processing.

If schools want to provide remote web access to teachers so they can fill in reports or to parents so they can check their child's progress then the school has to pay considerable annual fees to run add-on modules to do this. These web access modules only work properly with Internet Explorer so it is a pretty much Windows only solution.

What we could be doing

A few high spec. servers in a centrally managed location. Teachers, students, parents, admin staff, department officials etc. can log on from any computer with Internet access and get sufficient access rights to do what they need to do. Everything written to open standards so any web browser on any operating system works fine. There would be an annual running cost but it would be considerably lower than what schools are currently paying. The service would be professionally managed and therefore more reliable. Schools wouldn't have to invest time and energy keeping their own systems running. No discs back and forth to the department as they can dip in and get whatever information they need whenever they need it. Each school would still be responsible for inputting data and keeping things up to date but all the technical stuff would be handled by professionals.

The student management part of this is just the first step. Other modules could be developed/integrated to handle an LMS/VLE system. Modules to send SMS messages to parents cheaply. Timetable modules, resource booking/management modules etc. In short everything necessary to help manage and run a school.

I haven't mentioned Primary level schools here as I'm not familiar with their needs. Do Primary schools have a need for a computer based management system or do they have one already?

If such a professionally managed student management system was available tomorrow would your school be interested?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Some Post Conference & Web 2.0 - Creativity Thoughts

Relaxing up in Portrush this week following the hectic time over the last few weeks helping to get things organised for this years conference. Being involved in organising the CESI conference is a joy because of the opportunity it gives to work with a number of selfless, committed and talented educators whose backgrounds and interests are often quite different from my own but who share a basic common belief that this computers in education thing ain't going away any time soon.

My biggest regret about the conference is that I got to attend so little of it. I missed the Keynote from Laurie as I was involved in the registration desk and missed presentations because I was involved in a workshop on Google Apps for Education. Pádraig O' Dubhaigh and I along with Tom Kendall hope to do more on this soon but more on that when it happens. I got to Enda Donlons Wiiremote IWB talk and Paul Munroes talk on Video Essentials. Both were excellent and it makes me wonder what I missed from the 14 talks and 3 workshops I couldn't get to. I think next year we have to look seriously at video recording all the talks and making them available online - would you be willing to record the talks you attend? It only needs half a dozen of us to record the talks we attend to make all of them available to all of us.

It can be hard reading or writing up here sometimes as the view out of my window is 160 degrees of sea. That picture up there shows about 1/3 of the view - off to the right lies the Giants Causeway and on a clear day I can see Scotland. I can spend an hour sitting here and find I have read half a page.

But it's night time now and I have been reading and wandering round the web for much of the day.
  • I listened to the latest Teachnet podcast on Web 2.0 applications with Cliff Brown, Simon Lewis & Joe Molloy as guests and Mick Hallissey in the Chair - . I heard about the podcast through Twitter - I'm not much of a Twitterer but find it interesting and joined up following John Heffernans performance on the Friday Night CESI-Meet, a very enjoyable evening pioneered by Mags and her team.
  • Read through Noel Cunninghams blog at and ordered the latest Ken Robinson book he recommended. Agreed with his views on the value of CESI but then I find I usually agree with pretty much all of what Noel has to say.
  • Played with mind maps using the online mind map application at as demonstrated by Enda Donlon at the Friday night CESI-Meet.
  • Headed off to Classroom 2.0 of which I, and over 18,500 others are members. I intend to join in their meeting tomorrow evening, 5pm our time I think, discussing VoiceThread - details here
  • Somwhere along the line I ended up on Slidshare and listened to Steve Hargadons hour long talk entitled Web 2.0 is the Future of Education - the Slideshare site itself is worth checking out

The thought that kept coming back to me throughout the day was how Web 2.0 facilitates creativity and the collaborative creation of content.

This year in my school we decided to get involved in a course called Digital Creator - more details here . Ciaran McCormack, who presented at the conference on EuroCreator, put me on to this at the tail end of the last academic year and we got a few teachers trained up and rolled the course out to our TY students this year. It is run under the auspices of IADT and like ECDL the course is split up into modules and students can get a certificate on completing sufficient modules. However the similarity to ECDL pretty much ends there. The various modules deal with the creation of digital content (image, audio, video) and the sharing of the content created by a variety of means (web, DVD, CD, mobile device etc.). The course is run through a Moodle and all the course materials and resources are available there. Students save their work and receive feedback/assessment through the Moodle site. There are many things I like about Digital Creator but the fact that the Art, English and Music teachers are now teaching computers in the school along me is pretty near the top. But of course they are not teaching computers they are teaching digital imagery/photography, digital audio/music, media studies/language of film and the creation of multimedia presentations. I know of no other certified course available to 2nd level schools that integrates the use ICT into courses already on the curriculum so completely. With the courses on offer for the Junior and Leaving Certs. teachers will often make use of ICT but high levels of integration of ICT in teaching and learning are very difficult and therefore very rare.

So a long and wandering blog entry reflecting a relaxing day wandering the net but it is becoming more and more clear to me how important Web 2.0 and digital creativity is in my life and in the lives of my students and how disconnected that is from the Junior & Leaving Cert. education experience on offer in our education system at 2nd level. I hope to write in a more focused way on some of these themes in future blog entries.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Sign Of Things To Come

A sign of things to come…..

A wide selection of books & magazines scanned and available to read on googles site. In some cases you only see extracts, in others it will show the complete book or magazine.

Rather than giving you a web version of the content they give you a high resolution image of each page as it appeared in the original book or magazine. Not as pleasant to read as having the book or magazine in hand but cheap and convenient if you are looking for information or just want to browse around.

You can search within the book for particular words and phrases which may be useful for those doing research.

Where they don’t have the book you are looking for they will give you information about the book, where you can buy it online and information to make it easier to search for it in a Library.

They have recently added a version suitable for use on mobile devices like the iphone at - no magazines and a smaller selection of books.

It Starts Here

Inspired by some interesting blogs I have seen and decided to go it a go here. It has been said that everyone has a book in them. It has also been said that that is where it should stay. The same may be true of blogging in that while everyone can do it perhaps it would be better for all if everyone didn’t do it. Which category I fall into…….. time will tell……….