Category Archives: eLearning

Why Google Apps?

So the question posed has been why? Why did we need to change our system over to Google? This goes well beyond email (Gmail), which is the only App we have currently implemented across the school, and I would like to think the move sets us up to participate more collaboratively and more effectively together.

I guess the big picture view for me is of the changing nature of knowledge. Traditionally we often held on tightly to any knowledge we had, keeping it to ourselves and maybe sharing it with others on occasion. When we did share, others filed the photocopy away, or watched the movie but gave no feedback.

The notion that knowledge belongs to someone is all a bit bizarre really and thankfully evidence and trends show that knowledge assumes a greater force when it is shared, discussed and built on. Wikipedia of course is the classic modern example. I am certainly not alone in thinking this and perhaps the best known explanation I know of can be found in this clip by Charles Leadbetter.

Other background thinking and recognition of other trends comes in the way of the Horizon Reports, released each year in a variety of formats. The reports are:

an ongoing research project that seeks to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, research, or creative expression within education around the globe. practical models as well as access to more detailed information.

The recently released 2009 Horizon Report K-12 describes Collaborative Environments:

Collaborative environments are virtual workplaces where students and teachers can communicate, share information, and work together. A growing emphasis on collaboration in education — and an increasing recognition that collaboration is the norm in many modern workplaces — has led more teachers to seek tools to facilitate group interaction and teamwork in their classes. Online spaces designed to support groups of students working together take many forms…

The report suggests collaborative environments have a time-to-adoption horizon of one year or less. If we also look at the 2008 and 2009 Horizon Reports including the 2008 Australia and NZ Edition Horizons Report, they also describe cloud computing, collaboration webs, collective intelligence which all describes the ability to create, share and collaborate online.

So really the answers as to why we have changed is really me standing back and looking at the big picture of what not only the school administrative systems might look like in the next couple of years, but more importantly one of the ways the students will be actively learning.

While I can see quite clearly how this will look and develop, I have the advantage of having used this environment for the past few years, Gmail since its conception in 2004. I must always keep this in the back of my mind when planning and strategically implementing the Apps with the staff. Already staff are seeing the potential benefits and I can’t wait for the momentum to keep building.

More Gmailed

We are about four weeks into our school wide move to Google apps and the move is still seemingly smooth.

One minor complaint has been the lack of an alert sound when new mail arrives, as one would get when using a mail client such as Mail. A quick web search solved this problem and by installing Google Notifier, not only do you get a new email alert sound, but a small window opens to inform you who it is from and a gives you a preview of the message. It is actually very good if you are sitting and working at your computer, but if you are like me and most of your day is spent in the classroom with students it serves little purpose… However, it also allows you to set your default email client as Gmail which is a neat feature so that clicking on an email link opens a new web-based Gmail.

The other issue I am trying to solve is around the scan to email function on our Konica Minolta copier. This was an oversight by me and it wasn’t until after our switch and people wanted to scan items that the problem arose. So I spent an hour trying to problem solve this today, religiously following the manual step by step with no luck. I will try the help desk tomorrow.  A little frustrating as I though I had thought of every angle. While it is possible to scan to our server via FTP, scanning to email is the preferred option. Any ideas on how to get this working successfully would be great!

Finally, last week we had one of our iTips PD sessions on Gmail. iTips are our main form of elearning professional development and are optional short burst of learning after school for about 45 minutes. About half the staff attended, some coming with an open mind, willing to be sold the Gmail concept. Most left happy, especially after we had imported their existing Address Book (using A to G) and when they understood the whole Google Gears offline access, filtering and labelling of emails and the chat/video chat functions. Some of the Labs projects also opened up a whole new world of possibilities.

However, some still ask, “So why is Gmail better?” or, “Why did we need to change?”

I will try and cover this more comprehensively in my next post.

GMailed

The past couple of weeks has brought about some major changes to way we are administering our email and calendering systems within our school. We have taken the step to switch our email over from being administered on our own server to the convenience and power of the mighty Google.

The switch happened seamlessly, only requiring a phone call to Inspire to change our MX records to point to Google not to our school’s server. Everything else was completed online, and once Inspire flicked the switch over our Gmail was up and running within a couple of hours once the domain name change had propagated around the globe. After Google had authenticated us as an educational institute, which took about 10 days, we were upgraded to the Education Edition and now have add free services, more comprehensive admin features and the ability to create and manage 100’s of users, all for zero cost. It is very easy to administer the services and like any Google product, there are discussion forums on any conceivable problem you may encounter.

The change has meant some new learning for staff as they have shifted from using Apple’s Mail, to the web based Gmail. Email addresses have remained the same. Those already using Gmail welcomed the transition but others, as with anything new, questioned the need to do it. Managing this change is always the key to making it work.

So why did we change? Here are some of the key reasons.

  • Google apps becomes a one stop shop for school admin. Our existing set-up was a mish mash of systems that meant going to a variety of places to view calendars, check email, shared contacts, chat, video conference, book facilities etc. Google apps gives us that under one log in.
  • Anytime anywhere access. While previously available, the ease of the new system makes the old method seem very clunky.
  • Collaboration! Collaboration! Collaboration! The Google Apps package is built around the notion of sharing, participation and working together.

The one disappointment I have with the Google Apps package is that Google Reader is not part of the service. To access this, you needs to have a separate Google account. Having Reader as part of this service would really make it the hub for all your professional learning network needs. I would also love to see Google’s Custom Search function put in the package.

The biggest challenge I can see is the dependence of staff on using Word or Pages to create documents and then emailing them as attachments to the recipients. While there will always be a need to do this, a huge amount of this documentation can more simple be shared with users. This is a huge change in thinking and approaching how information is shared and worked on among multiple users. Something to keep modeling throughout the school.

Touches ordered!

The good news for me and my students is that I have been given the go ahead to order a couple of iPod touches for enhancing the learning in my class. I am really excited to be given the opportunity to trial these great little mobile devices and integrate them into all facets of teaching and learning.

The problem is that when I did go to order them through the RED online store, they had none in stock and in fact had 1195 on back order!

Amazing! An online educational store with that many on back order. There must be some kind of touch movement I not aware of…

Stayed tuned for many more posts on how the year progresses integrating these mobile devices into our learning, once they arrive.

Animoto and the iPod Touch

With the beginning of the new school year approaching, my interest in using mobile technologies for learning, especially so the iPod Touch, is starting to really take hold. Although I do not, apart from my personal iPod, have access to this technology for my students (yet… right David?!) to use I am investigating new apps and uses for the technology.

My most recent playing around has been with Animoto’s new iPhone/iPod Touch app which allows users to create Animoto slideshows direct from their device.

While the iPod does not have a camera to capture images to use in a slideshow, you can use any image stored on the iPod. This includes photos synced from your computer or any image saved from the Internet direct to your device. This is where I see the real potential for this app on the iPod.

The movie below was created 100% on the iPod. By simply saving images of frogs and toads (let’s assume a child is undertaking an inquiry on them…) and using the Animoto app, the movies was created and is easily embeddable in a blog or wiki.

Great fun and so easy. Motivating. Engaging. Students could complete this at the beginning of a unit of work to get them thinking about the topic or at the end to show a understanding or new knowledge. Artist studies, personal interests, curiosities… anything…

Being literate today…

I have been asked to present some thoughts about what it means to be literate today to an EHSAS cluster conference involving Ashurst, North Street and Roslyn schools from the Manawatu.

The presentation is not designed to provide a list of what is required to be literate in the 21st Century but instead to prompt thought and discussions regarding some of the trends and issues in educating students today all based loosely on what it could mean to be ‘literate’.

I remember a discussion we had on the eFellow forum about this very topic. One can argue that there are no skills or literacies specific to the 21st Century learner. I agree with this to the better part and my main message to come out of the presentation (hopefully) is that we do need to change how we teach to incorporate new technologies and existing literacies that will enhance the ability to create and share new knowledge and understanding. This blend will effectively set our students up for success.

Better explained by the experts, as in the CISCO publication, Equipping Every Learner for the 21st Century (PDF link) describes:

…a key component is the integration of technologies that can fuel new forms of teaching and learning, nurture 21st century skills, and prepare learners for participation in the global economy of this century.

Being Literate Today

View more presentations or upload your own. (tags: ehsas north)

We Think

Thanks to Greg, who posted this video.

We-think: mass innovation, not mass production. Certainly thought provoking.

Ideas take life when they are shared…

How do we earn a living when everyone is freely sharing their ideas?

In the past you were what you owned…. now you are what you share…

We Think is a book written by Charles Leadbeater and the first 3 chapters can be downloaded here.