Tag Archives: K-12

The X100e – first impressions

Last fall, I wrote a blog post titled Are Netbooks Ready for Primetime. At the time of writing, it seemed to me that the answer was yes, no and maybe depending on needs and environment.

Certainly, in the time frame of 4 to 6 months ago, many netbooks were running XP home for their OS and consequently were challenging to use in a managed domain based environment. I spend some time testing the Lenovo Ideapad. In many respects this was a great machine, and it showed me the potential of a netbook sized machine for travel and web 2.0 uses. I did not like the keyboard layout and found the keyboard a little to small. The Ideapad also used XP home.

This week I have had an opportunity to try out the new ThinkPad X100e model. This unit is clearly a step up from a true netbook in that it is a smaller ThinkPad with many of the solid design features you would expect from the ThinkPad model line. The clunky keyboard design of the IdeaPad was gone. The keys are nicely sized and shaped, and the overall keyboard layout is very clean from my perspective. The unit I tried came with Windows 7, and worked like a charm – easy to use, no setup issues and the wireless connected easily and worked without issue. I also understand that the X100e unit can be configured to use XP pro, so this gives some options within the managed enterprise environment.

IdeaPad (left) and X100e (right)

IdeaPad keyboard layout

X100e keyboard layout

The unit comes with a number of options including:

  • Windows 7 home/pro (Eng/Fr)
  • 1/2/3/4 GB RAM
  • Eng/Fr keyboard
  • 160/250/320 GB hard drive
  • bluetooth
  • Microsoft software bundles.

Given the Windows 7/XP options, improved keyboard layout and price point, I think the X100e unit could find a real niche in the K-12 education environment – a little more than a traditional netbook, a little less than an expensive laptop. I will look forward to hear what others think about this exciting product.

~ Mark

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K-12: Valuing online communities

I recently had an opportunity to present to our senior admin group to examine new directions concerning access to online resources. As part of the preliminary discussion, I outlined a frame of reference that included:

  • the value of online communities as an extension of school communities and classrooms, and
  • aligning internet resource selection processes with existing resource selection processes to form a basis of comparison as a starting point.

During the presentation, I made the following points to frame the discussion:

A growing body of evidence validates the importance of the sense of community within the learning environment for administrators, teachers and students alike. Benefits include:

  • promote life long learning
  • engaged learners
  • a sense of belonging and support
  • a culture of learning and sharing
  • communities are built on trust
  • embrace Character Development and Digital Citizenship ideals

In his book, Grown Up Digital, Don Tapscott promotes 7 strategies that support a ‘School 2.0’ environment. The strategies are summarized as follows:

  • Focus on the change in pedagogy, not the technology itself. Use technology for a student-focused, customized and collaborative learning environment
  • Reduce lecturing, broadcast learning does not work as effectively for this generation of learners. Allow the students to co-create a learning experience
  • Empower students to collaborate
  • Focus on life long learning
  • Use technology to get to know each student
  • Design programs that leverage the strengths of the Net Generation in project based learning
  • Reinvent your as an educator

Further to this presentation, I have been reading Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel.  Mitch also documents some important characteristics of communities. Although some of these statistics are more business oriented, I feel there is a strong connection to educational based online communities. Mitch notes that community users:

  • spend more money that non community users
  • remain customers 50% longer than non community members
  • visit 9 times more often than non community members
  • login one or more times per day (56%)

Additionally, 43% of Internet user who are members of online communities say they feel ‘as srtongly connected’ to their virtual communities as their real world communities.

To my way of thinking, these are impressive statistics. Online communities are here stay, are highly valued by users and provide valuable professional learning and sharing opportunities. It seems to me that it is equally important to establish online communities as a natural extension to school communities and classrooms. It is time to charge ahead and embrace social media tools within the curricula, not as an option, but as a planned strategy of curriculum delivery and learning opportunties.

~ Mark

Sliding into 2010/2011

I always find this time of year interesting. On one hand you feel firmly entrenched in this year, focused on major projects and making sure things get completed before June is upon us. On the other hand, I find some of my attention starts to drift towards next school year – yikes! Our budget process has just been nudged into action. In many ways, this is viewed as a time to be thinking about priorities for the upcoming months.

More and more though, I am beginning to view multiple school years as a continuum. On the assumption that strategic planning and the Board and department levels have been done well, then projects and strategies still need to be executed in the right order, with the right priority level(s) and resourced appropriately. From my point of view, the bottom line is Stay the Course. If you had the right big picture priorities in the first place, then they should still be priorities. In our case, it will take another 3 years for some of our technology environment changes to be fully completed and implemented in a sustainable way – well worth it, is just takes time to do correctly.

Some of the ongoing massaging of supporting the big picture plan going forward is what captivates my interest:

  • maintaining the energy behind new processes
  • meeting the challenge of keeping staff trained and aligned with the true needs of the system
  • keeping the learning and IT agendas well aligned, stepping ahead in a strong partnership
  • determining the role of new technologies within the curriculum (netbooks, iPads, eBook readers etc.)
  • ongoing support for mobile learning
  • embracing new tools in a systemic way

I enjoy the time to reflect, and the opportunity to tweak the necessary components in an effort to maximize the achievement of our system goals.  More reflecting, analyzing and learning on the horizon.

~ Mark

The iPad and K-12 education

I was great to finally hear the details of the Apple iPad this week. As one would expect, people predictably polarize their opinions on one side of the fence or the other – all raves or a long list of perceived short comings before they have even had a chance to try the device.

I have tried to put these potentially more extreme reactions off to the side. My interest in looking at the device was to consider its potential in the K-12 educational environment. From my point of view, their are many positives. Three in particular, are worthy of specific mention.

  • connectivity choices – wifi with or without a cellular based plan
  • full access to the suite of iPod Touch and iPhone apps
  • readiness for a new eBook and ePublishing strategies

What does this all mean for K-12?

  • internet connectivity: resources, inquiry based research
  • access to writing and collaboration tools
  • access to communication tools
  • well positioned to use new eBook and Publishing options
  • support for mobile learning

From my point of view, the iPad seems to be well positioned for a solid place in K-12 curriculum delivery. I look forward to learning more about the device and its educational potential.

Watch Apple’s iPad video.

~ Mark

Social Networks: What’s cooking?

Social media tools are having an impact in many ways in all age groups of society from pre-teens to ‘experienced’: retirees — it could be a lifelong activity, literally!   Let’s take a look at some current information.

KIDS/TEENS

In a recent surveys of teens,  38 percent of respondents ages 12 to 14 said they had an online profile of some sort. Sixty-one percent of those in the study, ages 12 (jumping in earlier than the suggested age requirement) to 17, said they use social-networking sites to send messages to friends, and 42 percent said they do so every day. Although social networking sites have a minimum age requirement of 13, there is no easy way to check or enforce this criteria. It really operates on the honour system.

In my mind, this trend raises some important questions in terms of use from the parent point of view:

  • Are these sites being used in an appropriate manner?
  • Do parents/guardians actively monitor what their children are doing?
  • How are the children learning about safe online practices?
  • Do the children know to protect their personal information?
  • Are there daily time limits placed on usage?

As a parent, what is your level of involvement? See the Social Networks and Kids: How Young is too Young?  article at  CNN.

ADULTS and the WORKPLACE

In October 2009, the USA Today reported that that 54% of companies completely block Facebook, another 35% apply some form of access limits, leaving only 11% that don’t put any limitations on Facebook use in the work force.

Dr. Brent Coker, of the Department of Management and Marketing at The University of Melbourne, reports that  “People who do surf the Internet for fun at work – within a reasonable limit of less than 20% of their total time in the office – are more productive by about 9% than those who don’t.”

Point for consideration: Is surfing the net really any different than daydreaming or chatting at the water cooler? Some employees may benefit from a little surf time. Not everyone has the same needs in terms of being productive – that is for sure. Hmmm, maybe this is true for students in schools too!

View the full ‘Companies Ban Social Media = Bad Idea’ article at Socialnomics.net. Additional information from the  Australian Social Media study can be found at the University of Melbourne website.

What is happening at your organization? Leave a comment or  send a tweet.

SENIORS/Retirees

Facebook statistics show an increasing number of users in the 50+ age group – boomer connecting with high school friends and keeping in touch with their children. There is a major social connection occurring with users in this age group.

Related Reading:

Ivy Bean: Tweeting at the ripe old age of 104

Social Isolation and New Technology

SCHOOLS

Teachers and administrators are learning more about social networking tools – the good and bad. The bad is usually connected to student bullying issues. Staff at Boards of education are thoughtfully working through some of the key issues:

  • safe, ethical and responsible online activities
  • Digital Citizenship and Character Development programs
  • incorporating social media tools into curriculum delivery in meaningful ways
  • thinking about content filtering in an appropriate K-12 context

The agenda is definitely moving ahead – that is a good thing.  Teachers are developing online Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) through social media tools such as Twitter, Ning groups and blog reading/blogging. Many are really engaged in learning something new every day.  Certainly, this is an exciting time to be in education.

It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds. In the meantime, one can keep learning and participating! See you online 🙂

~ Mark

K12 Content Filtering: centralized or distributed?

Content filtering is always an interesting topic for discussion because it is so multifaceted. In my earlier post I listed the points below as part of the discussion arena. In my context, the framework is K-12 education.

  • filter or not?
  • if you do, how much?
  • if you do, is it done centrally or at the school level?
  • how do you align content filtering with educational resource selection processes for print, video etc.?
  • block or allow social networking?
  • keep students safe
  • sufficient band width
  • how do you define ‘educational content’ in a way that makes sense in a K-12 context?
  • should content filtering be more age or grade appropriate?

There are no easy answers. It is easy to find valid reasons to sit on either side of the fence for each point. More importantly, there is a growing need to keep learning about what is right, what is doable and keeping the agenda moving forward in an appropriate fashion for K-12 education. Further reflection on this post has two aspects of content filtering churning around in my mind.

1. Copyright: Content filtering must respect copyright and your country/jurisdictions laws and regulations. This whole aspect of internet use is blurry in the global community. At face value, what you see in your browser is relatively consistent from your vantage point on the globe. The internet seems like ‘one place’. The reality is the servers, and therefore content are in different countries. What you are able to do with content (copy, download , redistribute, use in a school classroom setting etc.) will likely vary, depending on your regulations and these need to be respected.

2. Equitable access: A couple of weeks ago, I was having a meeting with @socmediatrust (Twitter) discussing Digital Citizenship and his work at schools presenting Internet safety sessions to students and parent groups. At some point in the conversation, we landed on content filtering. As mentioned above, there are many approaches to dealing with this. The focus of our discussion was bullet #3 – centralized or distributed to the school level systems. This led to an interesting talk framed around consistency and equity of access.

Providing content filtering from a centrally run system provides equitable access to resources deemed suitable for use by all students/staff/sites within a system. To me, this makes the most sense. Deem the content that is acceptable for use in a particular system through a fair mechanism to select and align content with educational needs. Then you can work away at fine tuning needs in a strategic way.  I can see value in having a ‘sliding scale’ effect for content filtering so it is adjusted for age levels – maybe something along the lines of  tightly controlled (young students), medium access (maybe grades six to eight) and more open for high school. Validate readiness for each level with a strong Digital Citizenship program to teach ethical, responsible, safe use and digital literacies.

Now, imagine a system where access is controlled at the school level. This could potentially be a dogs breakfast so to speak. Two (or more) schools serving the same age group of students may be serving up completely different content and access to web tools. This leads me to many questions about equity of access, lack of consistent approach within a large system, lack of consistent expectations and use by staff and students and awkward to dialog with parents when the rules (access) varies from site to site. As curriculum leaders, do school administrators bring their own ‘rules of access’ with them as they move site to site over their careers?  Hmmm.

My View: It seems to me, at least at this point in my thinking, the distributed model leaves more questions than answers. I would cast my vote for a centrally run system that allows for the ‘sliding scale’ fine tuning approach that is well aligned with curriculum needs and resource selection processes.

~ Mark

K-12 Education: Content Filtering

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the first Central Ontario Computer Association (COCA) for the 2009/2010 school year. COCA provides a forum for ICT educators representing approximately 25 school boards to dialogue and collaborate face to face 5 times each school year. I always look forward to these meetings as I know the dialogue will be rich and engaging – a tribute to the forward thinking, action oriented people in these roles. Hats off to you for making a difference!

The agenda for this particular session was organized to provide an opportunity to discuss current educational issues and topics including:

  • Report: Ministry of Education licensed software for Ontario school Boards (OSAPAC committee)
  • Brainstorming: What would a Ministry of Education integrated ICT document look like?
  • Presentation: ICT Ethical Use
  • Presentation: iPods in the classroom project with a research component
  • Discussion: Twitter in the Classroom
  • Discussion: Round Table

I will be interested to follow Mike Redfern’s work on his Ethical Use of ICT project which will provide an in depth look at technology and social networking issues in the K-12 educational setting.  I will provide some information about our (WRDSB) iPod projects and research initiative in a future post.

As I anticipated, I found the round table discussion particularly interesting. Many points were raised, but the one that really stuck with me was content filtering. Content filtering is always an interesting topic for discussion because it is so multifaceted.

  • filter or not?
  • if you do, how much?
  • if you do, is it done centrally or at the school level?
  • how do you align content filtering with educational resource selection processes for print, video etc.?
  • block or allow social networking?
  • keep students safe
  • sufficient band width
  • how do you define ‘educational content’ in a way that makes sense in a K-12 context?
  • should content filtering be more age or grade appropriate?

There are no easy answers. It is easy to find valid reasons to sit on either side of the fence for each point. Oh yes, how do you apply content filtering to keep everyone (students, teachers, school administrators, technicians, parents, school board officials) happy?  That is a $64000 question!

Now, throw another huge component into the discussion: copyright, digital rights, document ownership. Yikes. A few people commented that their Board had recently opened up YouTube as part of the progressive move toward more openness in the content filtering in an effort to teach online safety and digital citizenship.

BUT – What about the YouTube end user Terms of Use policy? Section 5 (see below), in the terms of use policy contains some very specific language. I have emphasized some of the areas that I feel need careful consideration from school Boards when making a determination to allow or deny access to this site.

5. Your Use of Content on the Site

In addition to the general restrictions above, the following restrictions and conditions apply specifically to your use of content on the YouTube Website.

A. The content on the YouTube Website, except all User Submissions (as defined below), including without limitation, the text, software, scripts, graphics, photos, sounds, music, videos, interactive features and the like (“Content”) and the trademarks, service marks and logos contained therein (“Marks”), are owned by or licensed to YouTube, subject to copyright and other intellectual property rights under the law. Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use only and may not be downloaded, copied, modified, produced, reproduced, distributed, transmitted, broadcast, displayed, sold, licensed, translated, published, performed or otherwise exploited for any other purposes whatsoever without the prior written consent of the respective owners. YouTube reserves all rights not expressly granted in and to the Website and the Content.

B. You may access User Submissions solely:

  • for your information and personal use;
  • as intended through the normal functionality of the YouTube Service; and
  • for Streaming.

“Streaming” means a contemporaneous digital transmission of an audiovisual work via the Internet from the YouTube Service to a user’s device in such a manner that the data is intended for real-time viewing and not intended to be copied, stored, permanently downloaded, or redistributed by the user. Accessing User Videos for any purpose or in any manner other than Streaming is expressly prohibited. User Videos are made available “as is.”

C. User Comments are made available to you for your information and personal use solely as intended through the normal functionality of the YouTube Service. User Comments are made available “as is”, and may not be used, copied, modified, produced, reproduced, distributed, transmitted, broadcast, displayed, sold, licensed, downloaded, translated, published, performed or otherwise exploited in any manner not intended by the normal functionality of the YouTube Service or otherwise as prohibited under this Agreement.

D. You may access YouTube Content, User Submissions and other content only as permitted under this Agreement. YouTube reserves all rights not expressly granted in and to the YouTube Content and the YouTube Service.

E. You agree to not engage in the use, copying, or distribution of any of the Content other than expressly permitted herein, including any use, copying, or distribution of User Submissions of third parties obtained through the Website for any commercial purposes.

F. You agree not to circumvent, disable or otherwise interfere with security-related features of the YouTube Website or features that prevent or restrict use or copying of any Content or enforce limitations on use of the YouTube Website or the Content therein.

G. You understand that when using the YouTube Website, you will be exposed to User Submissions from a variety of sources, and that YouTube is not responsible for the accuracy, usefulness, safety, or intellectual property rights of or relating to such User Submissions. You further understand and acknowledge that you may be exposed to User Submissions that are inaccurate, offensive, indecent, or objectionable, and you agree to waive, and hereby do waive, any legal or equitable rights or remedies you have or may have against YouTube with respect thereto, and agree to indemnify and hold YouTube, its Owners/Operators, affiliates, and/or licensors, harmless to the fullest extent allowed by law regarding all matters related to your use of the site.

Independent of the nature of the content posted on YouTube, and whether or not there is a clean adherence to copyright and digital rights management, the terms of use document specifies that the site is for personal use. In Canada, classrooms are defined as public, not private.  As I understand this, personal use sites such as YouTube, do not have a legal place in Canadian classrooms much in the same way there are restrictions on the use of music and video. There is definitely more studying and thinking ahead in the complex arena. For now, I think we are positioned well with our current approach.

Related Reading

View the full YouTube end user Terms of Use

~ Mark