Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Taxonomy of Learning Activities

The Virginia Tech Model

The article http://www.edtech.vt.edu/edtech/id/models/index.html details an approach to looking at classifying learning activities based on the degree of social interaction between instructor and student.

The classifications are excellent descriptions of the various types of learning a learner may be directed or participate in.  For the purposes of developing the model the degree of cognitive conflict the student undergoes is considered. 

 Cognitive conflict is used here as a term to define relative demands made on learners to change or reinterpret their pre-held  concepts.  It is a type of conflict centred on completion of task.  In order to change their understanding of concepts and principles students/participants have to be involved in the learning journey.

We often use this term in Science education in the UK.  A classic example might be the difference between mass and weight ie which is heavier, a tonne of feathers or a tonne of lead.  The cognitive conflict is centred around the word heavier.  By activity/experimentation, discussion the learner eventually changes understanding of heavier to more defined concepts of weight and mass.

The types of learning activities used to effect the change will be dependent upon the starting skills and understanding of the student.  How the cognitive conflict is managed to effect the change in understanding by learning relies on selection of appropriate learning activities.

Reworking the model proposed by Virginia Tech the graphic below may be a useful next step to adapting this to the classroom.

  This graphic is my personal interpretation of the Virginia Tech Model.  The labels to the right are the taxonomy from the Virginia Tech model that can viewed vis the link in the first paragraph.

Please comment on the graphic if you feel so inclined.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Right tools for learning: Part 1.

Virtual Machines

One of the problems with a MOOC (see previous blogs for definition) experience is having the correct tools to access the materials that have been placed online.  There is one solution in using Google tools such as Google plus for social interactions on the course.  What if you want to run a programming course?  How can you standardise the experience across all platforms?  How can you enable at low cost all members of the MOOC no matter the depths or shallows of their course to take part?

Sounds like a tricky problem with asking for a lot of different resources to tackle all types of platform.  The MOOC I have joined edX CS50x Computer Science 1, approaches this problem using  virtual machines.  It offers Linnux emulators that runs on either a Mac or Windows.  It is within this that the virtual machine is opened and the programming language in this case C can be entered.  Versions are offered where the native operating system is Linnux.  The Linnux platform they recommend is Fedora which again they give the instructions for downloading and installing.

I am in the process of installing of the applications and should start using it in the next 24 hours.  I will also have a go at installing the Fedora from clean on another machine and see what the experience is like between the two.

Online Faculty Learning communities

Snow could arrive this weekend!
Shot taken  last year of Hamlet Green
100 m around the corner. 

 The Friday Reflection!

Reflective practice in action in  less than 500 words.  A worthy aim see if I can achieve this self imposed limit.  This week has been a very good week for the Bank Street College of Education OFLC (Online Faculty Learning Community)  activity.  One of the problems, often, with a "normal" teaching job is the inability to find time to reflect.  The demands certainly of UK education has reflective practice talked about but often not considered a vital of good practice.  I admit I have been guilty of this in the past!

 I set myself a number of tasks when planning my Google Calendar for the week last Saturday morning. The calendar I have been using now for more than a  couple of years for time management. This will be one of the tasks I will doing on Saturday morning.

The major task for the week was formalising a specific project for attention.  That has been initiated and completed up to the point of planning the logistics.  This has also been shared with the OFLC ready for comment and collaboration.  On reflection although the proposal looks to be a self-contained project of delivering CPD to a specific aim of familiarising teacher with Scratch, that may not be all that is needed!

 The article highlighted by one of our collaborators (not mentioning names since this blog is in the public domain) , College is dead ... in Time magazine was instructive.  I have previously used articles in my own Life Long Learning in another blog    from the Harvard Business Review.  A journal I have a little familiarity with from all the Daniel Golman reprints that fly around British Schools.  Time is a publication not usually looked at by an English Audience certainly not in the context of Professional Practice.  Point to note then is that not all publications have to have a direct subject specific target audience to be useful.  Articles of mass appeal and importance are sometimes better where they can viewed by the greatest number in this case Time.  After all we do own our own learning, don't we?

So up to this point how are we doing.  Word count 348 to the question mark.  Enough reflection and food for thought for next week.  A medium term plan would be for me to look at how the OFLC schedule fits in with the project and also the other working commitments. A long term plan up to the end of the OFLC schedule and beyond encompassing maintaining collaboration and extending collaboration and skills would be  an aspirational task.  Probably now on or near the 500 word limit and have some achievable aims for the next week?    OK, copy and pasted into OpenOffice and word counted (440 words).

So enough written now.  We have a snow day predicted in Suffolk.  Visitation from sister, niece , nephew and bouncy Spaniel.  Cat is really going to enjoy that.  But all part of maintaining the Work-Life balance!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Right Slate!

The Roman Wax Tablet
(from Vindolanda)

Technology in the classroom!

On the face of it the use of a tablet is today a "new" concept.  The advent of cheap paper has led to the prevalence of a one time use recording medium.  The Roman Wax Tablet and the Victorian slate with hard or soft (chalk) stylus. The Victorian slate is still within living memory, especially with some of the 80 year olds who frequent my local pub!

So on the face of it paper in the classroom for recording thoughts has a relatively short history of general use.  The re-emergence of the age of the tablet age in the early 21st Century is  another milestone in mass education.  

The Victorian Slate
Looking at the Victorian slate the shape would be instantly recognisable to any child over the age of 4 (probably younger).  It's purpose apparent as long as the stylus was present. Cheap and abundant materials, often recyclable as  "everybody" had a slate roof in the Victorian Britain, that can be made into a essential classroom tool.

Here is the sticking point.  Cheap materials and universal access to the tool.  Manufacturers of learning tools, in this context tablets, have quite rightly used patent law to recoup their investment. The ongoing litigation between two major companies as to who invented the "wheel" is  possibly going to delay some of the take up of both products.  The entry cost and the propensity for updates or new operating systems is another headache.    


Google's latest offering, the Nexus 7 is a tablet I really like.  Experience of designing and procuring a whole school IT system, makes me wish there had been a solution such as this ten years ago.  The  cost per unit of £159 is reasonable could be a lot cheaper.  Android based tablets running Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean are available and perform the function but may not have the big brand coolness of a Google or for that matter Apple (there mentioned it) product.   

I have to admit I have only used a Nexus 7 so far in a PC World store.  I had until 4 months ago a Scroll tablet running Android 2.0x, and a USB keyboard/case.  This was all well and good until I signed up for the Telegraph Newspaper for Android.  Having not read the small print that the Telegraph content required Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) my experience was a bit curtailed.  The reason: the Scroll tablet was not powerful enough to be updated to Android 4.0.  The tablet had been bought about a year or 15 months ago, so really early in the evolution and visibility of Android tablets, and already was not able to run the latest Android.  The ARM race (pun intended) was  only just starting.  

Use of Google type hangout technology and other Google Apps for Education even removes the need for expensive projectors and Whiteboard Technologies.  The ownership of a single tablet through a pupil's learning journey is a bit like the Scientific Calculators we used to buy when we were 12 (pre-PC in the classroom).  I was using mine right through 1st year University Physics and beyond.  Increasingly pupils are being encouraged to carry internet enabled in schools as an aid to learning.  The distraction factor of these technologies and the monitoring of on task behaviour may become a problem initially especially with the  "Facebook Addiction" problems a lot of educators are concerned about.  Bluetooth may be one technology that could make a comeback within rooms.  It may also address some of the "open network" issues that fall in the remit of Safeguarding.   

Longevity of technology is a  key factor as much the physical layout of the learning environment.  Many traditional classrooms do not readily lend themselves to being digitised.  The schools building programme in the UK is a contentious issue with standardised  layouts being proposed that appear to rectangular boxes a bit like a shipping container.  These is even a designated cost per square foot that cannot be exceeded unles schools pay for it themselves (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-19787570).   

 Hopefully, the architecture of the Android or Chrome OS has reached a stage of maturity that it will not become any larger or require a better chip set to just to run.  The claim of the manufactures is that the Chromebox is future proof.  This is something that Windows has not been able to make that claim.  I have seen everything from Windows 3.0x onwards and will probably see Windows 9, 10 and ....     The Chrome box appears to address the increasingly less frequent need for keyboard and hardwired networking at cheap unit price (£270) with provision for HDMI which seems to be becoming the standard.  Traditional one connection type monitors appear to be a passing trend.  HDMI TVs are becoming very cheap and are built to last and are pretty robust.  Printers are not necessarily a future requirement in the digital classrooms.  

So stripping out the hardware requirement of providing for access to IT resources leads to consideration of the network environment.  Windows networks require administrators, technicians and specialised software to produce a safe working environment.  The solution offered by Google is through the Chrome set up http://support.google.com/chromeos/a/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1289314.  This looks like a great solution especially for small schools which do not have access to technical expertise all the time.

A very Googlecentric  blog post but I personal think the Android/Chrome platform has a lot to offer.  The impact of technology should be there as a tool to be used appropriately and not because we have invested so much money in a lot of shiny boxes and need to use them!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Meta MOOCing

Seeing the wood for the trees!

Meta MOOCing a phrase very much like the sign on the left can convey many meanings.  Are you about to see a column of Tolkein's Ents? Is it one of John Wyndhams' Triffids?  Or something Big and Yellow with  wheels as seen by Arthur Dent in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy?

The MOOCing aspect and definition I touched upon in the previous blog (http://kritirecharge2012lifelonglearning.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/moocing-to-boldly-go-where-no-one-has.html).  Meta is one of those phrases is, I feel,  increasingly used for a developmental stage though which we pass to obtain a definitive understanding or product. 

As the VLE or MOOC develops and passes through a meta stage terminology becomes in itself a barrier to learning.  As part of a OFLC (Online Faculty Learning Community) we have recognised that the field dialect needs to be understood and equivalences recognised.  Sustainable Learning Communities are all about understanding the tools (the vocabulary) that enables the exchange of learning experiences.

A challenge would be to put together a frequency of use list, if on reading this you feel able to post a comment on a term you have used or seen related to  Virtual Learning Environments please do so!

Friday, 19 October 2012

Away from the Chalk Face!

The Friday Ladder:  Grimes Graves, Brecklands

Friday at the finishing post!

A Friday morning, still dark at 5.45 am (UK time),  time to see where we have been since Monday morning.

The picture of 5000 year old industry to the right is a very apt hook for this blog.  On Monday I started the odyssey away from the Chalkface.  

The semester for edX's CS50x (see link above in bar) commenced on Monday .  Semester strange term to the English eye, where terms are more usual linked around the major holiday periods.  Eleven weeks for the lecture cycle.  This is an example of MOOCs ( see previous Blog), an interesting experience of viewing lectures remotely.  A little bit of Scratch was introduced (something that I have used in a Summer School that I ran), an assignment to be completed.

Wednesday saw the start of an interaction with Bank Street College of Education, New York.  In this interaction/course, with online resources and courses interaction seems a better description of the experience,  we are as a group seeking to push forward our collective and individual understanding of VLEs (Virtual Learning Environments) for want of a generic term.  There at the moment does not appear to be a classification yet of the different types of learning experience available on line.  To this end I have created a GoogleDocs Spreadsheet for viewing trying to classify the types of learning experience and some of the terms used.  As with all new areas different people have used what to them is the most appropriate term.  As an educator I am more interested in the learning outcome based upon these tools rather than the elegance of the tool.  If it takes 10 hours to produce a whizzy presentation that lasts five minutes that is 9 hours and 55 minutes too long in an ideal world!

So having had the traditional platform of undergrad teaching transferred to the digital world with edX this week, what is happening next week?  Further exploration of the topics on the edX course will happen, I have to say that I am impressed by the level of support materials provided.  How this translates into something that can be used in the Virtual Classroom ( there another term ) would be an area to explore within the  OFTL interaction with Bank Street College.

A clear link for classroom teachers between learning  objective and learning outcome needs to be made with appropriate selection of the best IT resource.  Interactive Whiteboards are fine but not if the wall on which it is mounted moves due to poor workmanship (have experienced), or the room is the wrong shape for projection with pillars at inappropriate places.  (Architects please note this when designing new buildings).  

The cost implication is also a consideration in the especially in the UK at the moment.  The investment in computers we made many years ago has produced the model where we are often tied to particular delivery equipment and mechanisms. This is often due to the fact we have bought a system rather than analyse first what we want to with it!  (Headteachers are often guilty of being impressed with the look at the package what it can do in the hands of the salesman and say wow must have this, then it sits under a cloth in the corner of the room to be wheeled out when Inspectors arrive!)  And more importantly we may have neglected to audit the training requirement of staff who are going to use the equipment.  This is actually more difficult to do than it would at first seem owing to the human factor.  A period of sending round survey forms asking which IT resources staff used and what they would like often drew a blank, but many good intentions to fill out the survey to shape the experience.  This is because  most teachers in my experience are still not  100% confident the technology will work when they want it to work!  It is an after thought!    

To see the spreadsheet, initially, if you email me through the Google+ network or leave a comment I will email the link.  The spreadsheet is work in progress.  

So weekend maybe have a look at some Sicilian food http://2pointfiveageofman.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/sunday-foodie-bit-sicilian-cookery.html!  There is life beyond the Chalkface!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

MOOCing: To boldly go where no one has been before!

MOOCING for all!

The age of the STAR TREK ACADEMY is here.  Distance learning was something that became included for younger members of the Star Trek Enterprise in the popular saga by Gene Roddenberry.  The concept was already there in the Australian idea School of the Air.  Now we have the MOOC!

Massive Open Online Courses have arrived with the sites such as edX, Coursera and ALISON (see links at top of the page).  In order to understand this experience myself (and to formalise my own self-taught learning) I have joined an edX course CS50X .

As part of a group examining online course delivery "based" (world wide collaboration via Google tools)  at a separate institution I became aware of the idea of MOOCs.  An article (http://sleve.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/why-mooc-engagement-is-so-hard/) was one that the Bank Street College  OFLC Course/Group recommended for reading.  Having read the article I was struck by the my own experiences using social media and the ways I have been instructed post 16 years old.  

In classes for A-Levels we had 30 per class for Maths, Physics and Chemistry but only 10 for Biology!  The engagement socially with the learning experience was better in the smaller groups as the interaction between tutor and pupil were easier and more immediate!   This  pattern of pupil to real-life tutor  experience continued through my Scottish University where we had classes of between 100 and 200 in size with tutorial time spent with a group of 7 to 8 pupils in the early years.  This last model was a better experience than Sixth Form A levels but owing to previous training of how to learn in a formal context was like being at school.  At later stages in the first degree experience we had increasingly less formal instruction in  "class" but there was still "traditional" engagement techniques.  After all these were research Professors with a teaching load of Undergraduates as opposed to teaching Professors! Plus they did not have the whizzy presentation to engage pupils as we have today and break up the delivery of material.

Having seen the first lectures of the CS50x course I was struck by the content compared to my experiences as an undergraduate 20 years ago.   Key concepts although delivered at quite an active pace were not that many in the 2 hour lecture/MP4.  What was apparent was the audience participation and the "pausing" to explain the learning outcome.  The online experience was also made more interactive and a non-popcorn/coke/beer movie experience by the occasional question appearing to check understanding of key concepts.  This is a simple but key trick to keep the solo listener engaged.  The peer pressure of note taking neighbours being absent in this environment.  That was also apparent in the auditorium the lack of note taking materials when we did see audience shots.  The material was online in the form of video recordings of the lecture, transcripts, Tutorial  materials and most importantly web-links (the most difficult thing to note down quickly).

The forums signed up for the and program critique requests  starting to appear, addresses some of the MOOC's social limitations.  It does require a collective interaction of learning.  It does require confident self-learners.  It does play to the strengths of undergraduate enthusiasm in asking the question, why? Or more important that very difficult statement , I don't understand.  This is the  a potential pitfall of MOOCs that social media can overcome by doing what most pupils from the age of 3 do without thinking they are doing it, which is peer to peer learning!  It is also a challenge to the "closed filing cabinet" state of traditional academic work.  If you are not on the privileged list of one to one personal contact that knowledge acquires a proprietorial existence. 

The universal aspiration of knowledge being free can be a reality but only if a MOOC  engages social interaction in a learning community.  Competition to be the first to think of an idea will always be there, social interaction dose spur uncovering of  new concepts.  Would we ever have known about Darwin's theories in his lifetime if he had not been in correspondence with Wallace?  Historians of life sciences argue who was the greater Wallace or Darwin? And who should be on the pedestal carved in stone?  MOOCs potentially have the ability to speed up dissemination of  understanding of knowledge but have to overcome the inertia of lack of communication between learners.  A problem experienced in UK, if not all UK classrooms, for the majority of pupils driven by need to fulfil a curriculum!

So the major conclusion of the article http://sleve.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/why-mooc-engagement-is-so-hard/, is to start to engage socially.  Be confident to record your experiences in a learning journal or blog.  And more importantly to be persistent and leave your "footprints" in the sand to see where you have been when you look up to see where you want to be!


Monday, 15 October 2012

Computer Science for Instructors

Learning Computer Science

Recently I have been blogging about the positioning of IT or computer science in the school curriculum   As a science specialist who did their first degree when desktop computers were only just becoming available. Laptops were unheard of let alone tablets.

 I am looking at my skill base.  The skills I have have been from necessity and mainly self-taught.  So to address the all round perception and make myself a little more modern and into the 21st Century I have been looking at courses.

With a limited budget for my own CPD I have been looking at the courses available on-line.  The three main course providers I have been looking at are Coursera, edX and ALISON links to these sites can be found at the top of the blog.

I have registered for a course with edX for CS50x Computer Science 1.  This apparently is the most popular first course at Harvard now online.  Will start to keep a series of blog posts as the course develops.  First day was today.  Looking forward to seeing the first lecture!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Who is teaching IT?

National Curriculum and ICT.

The debate is it  ICT or computer science we are to teach in English Schools.  I say English  since we have differing Curricula in the UK between the home nations.  For those not aware of the difference Information Communication Technology is the use of propriety software to improve the user interface, while computer science is loosely taken to mean how to code and understand how the black box works.

The past 15 years or so of the National Curriculum has sought to make people Microsoft Office literate.  Great if we were in the UK    to be the great service economy as promised 25 years ago.  Over the years the teaching of ICT has been dominated by Microsoft Office programmes.  Even though there is no stipulation anywhere in guidance notes or the curriculum that stipulates Microsoft products.  It has just happened that way!

In my experience, even I have to hold my hands up to this, most teachers of ICT do not have anything to do with the maintenance of the servers or the day to day admin tasks.  As a head of ICT I operated with a technician off-site (who was originally employed by me in the school), anything to do with server they sorted out.  Most Admin tasks I was able to carry out but also being a Head of Science I did not have the time to do the Microsoft Server work.  It is a very labour intensive system environment prone to falling over.

With new Academies setting up and the emergence of Linnux and open licence software, Google Chrome and Android Apps there is the chance to move away from Microsoft and Apple.  The cost of the licensing and equipment (more so in Apples case) is a major part of the cost of putting in an ICT suite.  Having been responsible for the installation of  a suite of 30 desktops, furniture, with Server and optical networking plus WiFi in 2005 across a site having 35+rooms for just over £30,000.  The frustrating part was having to pay for the educational licenses.  This is especially gauling since we are training users of Microsoft technologies  who will more than likely be captive users for the rest of their lives. Old habits die hard!

The idea of coding with the community of ICT teachers is something that is often considered too hard.  We took part in the Schools Organisational Review as one of the first schools in Suffolk and Federated with an Upper School that eventually subsumed the school.  The help that was sent down to bring ICT "up to speed" was very dismissive of the suggestion that we should start to think about adding XML  for some of  the brighter pupils, since "we don't teach hard coding".  The wind of change is now blowing!

Looking at the coding issue an article that seeks to address the issue (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/9600921/Computer-programming-who-is-teaching-our-children-to-code.html) of who is actually doing the teaching.  In the vacuum between out with the old in with the new of curriculum change some indutrial interests are getting involved.  One approach is Apps for Good where Dell apparently send people into secondary schools to help with the coding.  Mozilla is  there with Webmaster.  Scratch which I have mentioned in previous blogs is also mentioned.

A colection of websites for coding from the above article are below:
A visual programming language for children age 6 and up, developed at MIT. Allows users to create and share interactive games.
In-browser 'x-ray goggles' which allow you to see the HTML elements that make up every webpage - and lets you edit them yourself.
Code 'spellchecker' and preview window which makes web editing simple. Create your own functional page in minutes and host it online.
Hackety Hack
Learn the Ruby programming language from scratch with this free downloadable software.
Code Academy
Learn the basics of Javascript, Python and Ruby through these fun interactive online course. Suitable for teenagers and upwards.
Code School
More advanced tutorials in Ruby, Javascript and CSS design which allow you to share your progress with the coding community.
The idea of coding is a apparently a worthy aim to aspire to.  If the coding is hardware independent it has longevity.  In the last 16 years we have gone through many changes in the perception of the pint delivery of digital services. The ability to manipulate the hardware with coding skills is admirable but there needs to be a reason to do so.  Identification of computational skills as more important than actual programming skills is proposed in the blog http://drtomcrick.wordpress.com/?blogsub=confirming#blog_subscription-4.  Essentially this is problem solving.  To access this requires probably stronger mathematical skills than some might have. This is possibly a push for the IT curriculum to be a part of the Maths curriculum and not a stand-alone subject!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Raspberry's and Pythons!

Raspberry Pi, an education platform!

Raspberry Pi, low cost credit card sized computer , has initially been put together by the charitable trust that designed it as an educators platform.  The primary intention to educate the young (under 18 year olds) in the mysteries of computer architecture and programming.  

A step back to the days of self build computers in the late seventies and early eighties.  I do remember buying Personal Computer World and looking at the Commodore PETs and wincing at the price beyond my pocket money.  Migrating to the more techie magazines where bare boards could be bought and made up the costs again seemed to escalate.  The Sinclair ZX80  arrived, still too expensive (half a weeks wages for the average for the worker) then the ZX81 (I finally managed to own one of these).   Then came Windows! 

Each time a new "consumer" computer arrived the machine became more enclosed and a black box culture started to emerge of plug and play.  In amongst this the educational use and then the UK National Curriculum for IT or ICT arrived.  This sought to educate people in the end use of technology as opposed to understanding the technology. The lack of understanding of what is within the black box was obscured by the use of WYSWYG applications that bridged the gap between hardware understanding and programming skills.   Basic engineering and STEM (the new buzz word) skills were no longer there since the cost of the item was so expensive tinkering with the engineering was naturally shied away from.  The Raspberry Pi again gives this feel of a new start to computing.  

Raspberry Pi is a Linnux based system with the operating system stored on an SD card which in effect is a solid state hard drive.  This comes in various different versions and images downloadable from the Raspberry Pi foundation.  The interesting feature for me at the moment is that the latest images are supporting Python.  Python is one of the fundamentals to Google Course builder.  As system is Linnux based, a precursor of Android and uses an ARM processor it should be possible to get the Raspberry Pi to run the App engine.  

Manufacturing of the Raspberry Pi has only really just started to go into volume.  At a price of £35 for the basic unit a more economical way of ensuring cheap access to the digital classroom than an Apple or a Samsung solution.



Thursday, 4 October 2012

Google Course Builder: Pythons and Apples

Android vs Apple

A school decides that that pupils can keep their mobile devices on.  This may go against most school policies but will become more common.  This is the choice of a Federation of schools in Cambridge.  They have gone down the route of having work available on the website.  IPods are the device of choice.  IPads would be even better.  Having a niece attending the Federation the cost implication is something that this of concern.

The cost of using the mobile device for data transfer is prohibitive if it with 3G connection.  The coverage in East Anglia is quite sparse outside the A12 and A14 corridor.  So WiFi hot-spots would be the connection of choice.  The so called free WiFi operated by most internet providers are not actually free as you have to be a subscriber to that IP.  "Public" WiFi within a school usually requires a key or Login, a bit like a Fon account.  In Cambridge there is a cheaper alternative the Cambridge Matrix outside of school, allegedly there are many places in Cambridge where access is actually free.

Assuming the connection you have is cost effective what should parents be consulted on if they are being asked to buy the device that enables the education.  The choice is obviously now between two platforms Apple based or Android based.  The speed which Apple appears to be turning out new products is a bit like a post cold war arms race.  Can parents afford to have the most recent Apple incarnation?  Question need also to be asked on the reliability of the technology and ethos of releases  as Apple struggle with complaints of  handset   quality and access to Apps. This also against the background of the reliability of Apple suppliers as their Chinese suppliers experience industrial unrest!

Android is available across a number of different suppliers.  The solutions are often cheaper than Apple's and may with Android based operating systems have greater longevity.  The use of  an Android fork version by Amazon for it's Kindle Fire tablets, Google's own Nexus.  The Nook (Barnes and Noble's) offering also provide some new insights to 21st Century digital classrooms.  The big question is what is driving this the needs of the students or needs of the needs of the companies' to establish their product as the must have educational tool to exclusion of other platforms.  

Sitting in the background is the Software giant Microsoft.  I can consider myself one of the first generation of IT literate teachers to be trained.  Owing to the nature of Geography and the School Centrered Initial Teacher Training Course in 1996 to 1997 we were provided with Laptops.  In conjunction with BT had the possibility of using video conferencing to link up schools and training sites in the hinterland of the north east Essex coast.  The Microsoft Academy status of some schools has in my limited experience of being attached to a said Microsoft Academy had not been implemented across whole school.  Looking at the website again it appears to be again a system designed for large organisations and expensive laptop and PC solutions with  limited portability between institutions unless you are a licensed Microsoft Academy or educator.

So the choice.  On strictly cost basis both for educator and student the route of Android would seem to be most likely to promote longevity of resource relevance both technological and economically.  This is also a consideration as the nature of classrooms change for 11 to 18 year olds where the educator does not need to be in front of the pupils all the time.  Investment in buildings is increasingly becoming a concern in the UK, the size and shape of schools is proposed to be standardised.  Digital classrooms and virtual classrooms will increasingly be looked at especially by rural education providers.  As school transport becomes more expensive educating pupils in their own neighborhood in smaller groups in rural areas may become an option for part of the week.  The term Teleschooling may become an everyday term. 

So more Google Course builder investigation.  Today I am downloading Python and preparing to have a go at my first coding in the next few days.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

A world View!

Something we made earlier!

A companion blog that I have been maintaining for the past two years is http://2pointfiveageofman.blogspot.co.uk/.  So called because I am about half way through my second of age of man. I am  involved a few other blogs but these are my main two at the moment.

As we are considering World connections today I have copied the body of the blog from http://2pointfiveageofman.blogspot.co.uk/ to this post.

My Readership!

For the past 2 years or so I have been blogging.  I have been using blogger and at one point WordPress.  In fact I have plans to return to using WordPress again at the beginning of the New Year.

In that time it has been interesting to see the number of different countries that my blogs have been read in over the years. Some posts have been read by one or two people some by more than a hundred.  

Why do we blog? In my case to keep my interests.  We are flooded by so much information today.  Some relevant, some interesting and some in the category of "where did that come from?".

The digital community has great benefits to understanding of others and communication instantly of new ideas and opinions.  It would be interesting for me if some of you that read my blogs to join me on a Google+ circle.  Google + is starting to grow on me as a subtly different process to to Facebook and Twitter.  Twitter has become almost a ticker-tape of views with very rarely any feedback.  It is starting to become a little congested unless you run something like Tweetdeck you have a fleeting chance of picking up relevant tweets!   

The other blog that I am currently working away at is:

At the moment I am experimenting with learning spoken Mandarin Chinese and Greek.  Spanish is another  world language I am also going to try and master.  A few Google+ hangouts with native speakers would be interesting to participate in.  I will use Google Translate a few times just to see the response to the tool.  We make a sweeping assumption in England that is somebody can't speak English why should we bother to learn their language. Wrong!  For many reasons not least from a point of view of excluding some people. 

In terms of exclusion Dyslexia affects between 5 and 10% of the population in the UK.  At the top of each blog I am adding a link to OpenDyslexic  fonts to redress the access issues!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Digital Classroom and Dyslexia

Opening access for people with Dyslexia

Look at any group of people in the UK and the chances are that between 5 and 10 % of that group are dyslexic. That is assuming that they have been tested.  The general population over a certain age would not necessarily be diagnosed but their difficulties in reading and writing may be still a problem.  In "Western" societies where proficiency in written communication is a judgement on how successfully people interact with their environment, this is a hurdle for the digital classroom.

How do you include 10% of the bell curve?  Clearly a solution for such a large group of people who may be excluded from the digital community to a greater or lesser extent has to work across many platforms.

A font known as OpenDyslexic is the possible solution.  A recent article  on the BBC website describes how this font has started to be taken up by many of the major apps and browsers.  I have downloaded and installed the extension to my browser of choice, Google Chrome. Using the settings and extension menu it very easy to check the box to enable and enable the app.  The only disadvantage would appear to be relative complexity of installation on Apple products.  As digital classrooms develop the choice will increasingly become one of Apple or Android (Windows 8 apparently is being enabled to run Android based apps).  The Tablets by Chinese company Huawei and the Kindle Fire by Amazon all work on  fork versions of Android (which itself is a derivative of Linnux).  Kindle apparently does not support font embedding so OpenDyslexic will not not work on a Kindle.  Samsung appear to use a non-fork version Android and will remain part of the mainstream developers.  The customer is not tied to the one provider of apps.

So, installation of the OpenDyslexic font.  First access the OpenDyslexic page (click the link on word OpenDyslexic).  Choose the tab get if for Get it Free! select your product.  It is as simple as that!

I will be adding the link for the OpenDyslexic font to the top of this blog.  A source of information regarding dyslexia is  the British Dyslexia Association http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/.