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.

#Chat #iTips #Labs #GoogleApps #Gears #google #gmail

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…

#Animoto #iPhone #ipodtouch #Web20

Welcome. Here’s your iPhone

An interesting article in the New York Times, Welcome, Freshmen. Have an iPod, highlights the increasing occurrence of students being given iPods or iPhones to assist in their learning and help facilitate course and school administration.

There is, as noted, the additional marketing ploy:

Basking in the aura of a cutting-edge product could just help a university foster a cutting-edge reputation.

And good on them. Why not take advantage of the way students want to learn and do learn in the ‘informal’ manner of social networking, interaction and sharing?

Four institutions have indicated that they would be issuing iPods or iPhones to new students this semester. There are plenty of others who are actively investigating the use and trialling it in smaller numbers. One of these is the already established iPhone programme at ACU.

Reactions to these exciting initiatives are unfortunately mixed, as one can imagine if you cast your mind back to what university lectures were like for you! Feeling threatened anyone?

Robert S. Summers, who has taught at Cornell Law School for about 40 years, announced this week — in a detailed, footnoted memorandum — that he would ban laptop computers from his class on contract law.

Ban laptops! And we are not even talking about phones yet! Oh no! Hang on… he continues:

“I would ban that too if I knew the students were using it in class,” Professor Summers said of the iPhone, after the device and its capabilities were explained to him.

It’s not the technology mate, it’s how you use it! No wonder the students are bored. Wouldn’t you just pull your iPhone out and engage yourself? A student states:

…that professors might try harder to make classes interesting if they were competing with the devices.

Thankfully, they are not all dismissive of how this technology can engage and motivate students and transform the way you teach:

“We had assumed that the biggest focus of these devices would be consuming the content,” said Tracy Futhey, vice president for information technology and chief information officer at Duke.But that is not all that the students did. They began using the iPods to create their own “content,” making audio recordings of themselves and presenting them. The students turned what could have been a passive interaction into an active one…

The debate of using mobile phones in education is ongoing. I see their use as inevitable and look forward to being in a situation where I can utilise them. But I am not an expert in this field, just an interested observer. I have blogged previously on how I think the iPhone would make an excellent tool for accessing and creating your eportflios, but it would best to click one of the links below!

Firstly, you might like to point our browser here to read a summary of How mobile phones help learning in secondary schools by Dr Elizabeth Hartnell-Young or download the full research report, to get her expert opinion.

Alternatively head over to another 2008 efellows blog to get ongoing insights into how mobile technologies can enhance the learner experience.

#iPhone #ipod

Pages v. Posts v. Categories v. Tags – ePortfolio Organisation

We are about 5 months into our ePortfolio switch from iWeb to WordPress. One of the main reasons for the decision to change was to use the features and capabilities of Web 2.0, especially the ability to comment and provide feedback and student reflections on learning as it is uploaded, from anywhere.

There is not a lot of choice in iWeb as to how to organise learning and reflections when compared to a blogging system like WordPress. Below is a screenshot of an ePortfolio page menu created in iWeb. Essentially it is a list of pages as they are created throughout the year. There are no options to nest pages hierarchically or to categorise and tag blog posts.

By using WordPress we now have more choice in how to organise and structure the layout of the learning presented.

We can have a hierarchical page list with the WordPress page parent option as captured on the left. This is the option we have chosen for presenting most of the learning for our students. The students still use the blog, for a whole variety of uses which compliment and add to their reflective cycle of learning. Each page usually has several examples of learning and thinking included, such as draft versions of work to completed versions, along with associated feedback, comments and reflections.

With this option you need to ensure that the themes you are using enable commenting on pages. Many do not. This can be overridden using these instructions, if you have access to the theme’s editor or files. Some hosted blogging services do not allow you to edit these files so it may not be applicable to use this type of organisation if you want to allow commenting on pages. I would suggest that if you do organise your eportfolio in this fashion you need to be able to comment on page. Without it you are denying the opportunity to interact, collaborate and engage in the whole feedback, feedforward, reflective cycle of learning! Check the themes!

The second option for organising the eportfolio is to have no pages except the main blog. This option utilises the ability to categorise every blog post and add tags to further describe the content just like a ‘normal’ blog. So rather than having a maths page, you would categorise a blog post with maths instead. Additionally you could tag this post with geometry, angles, protractor or anything relevant that describes the content of the post.

So rather than having a list of pages you would have a list of categories and a tag cloud which would act as your navigation. Clicking on a category or tag title takes you to the all the posts in that category or with that tag. Also, the issue of commenting as above is not relevant because the ability to comment on blog posts is always available.

So why did we (I) choose the pages option to organise the eportfolios? A couple of reasons:

  1. The teacher sand students were already familiar with organising the eportfolios using a page system in iWeb. Maintaining this meant a smooth transition into the new system.
  2. Post, tags and categories were all new concepts to the teachers and students involved in the project (fantastic teachers and students though!). Introducing a new system, new skills, new concepts could possibly have taken the emphasis away from the purpose of the eportfolios to support learning, not the learning of new skills.

On reflection, would I change what we have done? I think that either option is really workable and each has their advantages. It really depends on the knowledge of the teacher and how they, and their students, want to organise their learning. If it were me facilitating this process with my own class, then the second option would definitely be for me.

#posts #wordpress #tags #iWeb #pages #categories #rss

iPhone – now the perfect eportfolio gadget, Part 2

My earlier post about the iPhone and its suitability to be the hub of the ePortfolio or even your PLE, has taken another turn as the Apple rumour mills get into the “What’s going to be available for Christmas 2008?” mode.

9to5mac.com this morning wrote UK report claims iPhone nano for Christmas on their website. Pictured above, the phone will cost £150 and be available on prepay. Sounds promising if it is to be believed.

This would certainly get me interested as the iPhone in its current pricing configuration is not really achievable for use in education and therefore in my ePortfolio plans. But as prepay and a one off purchase price, that would be great… if it were only true…

Just like the MacBook touch rumours… or here. Looks to good to be true, but wouldn’t it be cool?!

#touch #iPhone #rumour #MacBook #PLE #ePortfolios

iPhone – now the perfect eportfolio gadget?

I have previously blogged about the potential of the iPhone as a tool for generating and uploading content and reflections to your ePortfolio. This was before the release of the iPhone 3G and the brilliant WordPress app for managing your WordPress blog. This is a pretty nifty app which has been described in more detail here, here, here or here.

There is plenty of evidence of bloggers using the tool and helping with it’s development. You can view these posts, such as this from the highly respected Dr Helen Barrett and others. The really great thing about this web app is that it also works from your iPod Touch too, as long as you have updated to the v2.0 software.

(Don’t worry if you don’t have a WordPress driven blog, there are still 13 other options described here for blogging using the iPhone or iPod Touch).

This web app and others (10 million apps in total were download in the first weekend) designed for the iPhone and Touch really hold the potential for the educational benefits of these mobile tools.

While the iPhone carried with it the hype, anticipation and desirability, it is still a device which lacks in certain areas.

But for me, the learning potential lies not in the hardware, but in the apps that are being developed to support learning. This of course is not a new concept at all, the technology should not drive what you are doing. It gets me really excited to see that a concept that wasn’t really practical or workable a few months ago has been made possible with the arrival of the iPhone v2.0 software and the WordPress web app.

What I would give to be able to afford a class set of iPhones (or iPod Touches!) to really explore this phase of elearning..

Any sponsors out there..?

#iPhone

ePortfolio Criteria

Before deciding on our new ePortfolio solution, the teachers involved in the research project came up with a number of criteria based on a PIMS brainstorm (plus, interesting, minus & solutions). They critically looked at ePortfolios as they were currently being implemented at our school using iWeb and the new direction they wanted them to go. Here are their thoughts:

Web based (anywhere, anytime): Strong interest expressed to create online portfolios rather than saved to CD. The ability to work on and view the ePortfolio from any computer both within school and home would allow greater flexibility for all participants.

Web 2.0 tools integration: Increasingly student learning incorporates the use of Web 2.0 tools such as Animoto, You Tube or Google Docs. Being able to embed or access this learning within the portfolio is desirable as is the ability for interactivity such as RSS feeds, commenting and feedback.

Ability to comment and reflect: Teachers discussed the need for the students, parents and teachers to be able to actively comment on student learning during and after learning is posted in the portfolio.

Ability to demonstrate learning: The ePortfolio solution needs to be able to display (show within the portfolio not provide a link to file) all the possible media that the students will generate or want to share. This includes but is not limited to: podcasts and movies (m4v, m4a, mov), documents (pdf), images (jpg, png, gif) and embedding Web 2.0 content.

Social networking: If the solution could help facilitate collaboration between user and generate a social learning network it would be an additional benefit to assist learners in obtaining feedback and constructive comments for further learning.

Secure: Making the online portfolios secure and password protected is a high priority especially for parents.

User friendly: Teachers were very clear that the ePortfolio solution should be easy to use for everyone from the Year 3 students to the parents and potentially, relatives who are overseas. This will mean the emphasis of the portfolios is on learning and reflecting, not the constant teaching of skills that enable it to be done.

Aesthetics: The presented solution should be visually clean with a simple yet functional layout.

User storage space: The solution requires the ability to provide a significant amount of disk space for each user. Based on the ePortfolios of 2007, this would be an average of 100MB per user.

Manageability: The solution needs to be easy to set-up, manage users, administer and moderate comments. This is especially so for the teachers who need to access a whole class of student learning for commenting and feedback.

Expandable: The solution needs to be able to incorporate any new technology or learning innovation that may occur.

Tech know how: The solution needs the users and administrators free from having any specific computing knowledge such as the ability to program in html or php. Any problems and questions should be able to be answered through the products associated online tech support or documentation.

Tech support: There needs to be an active user community with associated forums, documentation and development.

Free: A free ePortfolio solution would be ideal although this may also incur additional hosting costs.

#checklist #criteria #PMI #iWeb #ePortfolios