21st Century Education in New Brunswick

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I recently came across this video from the New Brunswick School District in Canada that really captures the shifts that ‘should be‘ happening in education and the shifts that are happening in society at large. It reminded me a little bit of the ‘Did You Know‘ videos. I particularly liked the quote that “Today’s pen and paper has changed” and so should the ways in which we teach! Enjoy :)

From the user who submitted the video ….

“This video was created to serve as a discussion generator in New Brunswick – and generate is has. We have received inquiries from all over the world. Feel free to use it in whatever way that you find helpful.”

View & Interact with Scratch Code Online

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Many educators use the multimedia media programming language Scratch with students to promote creativity, programming and ICT skills. In the past, you could always view the thousands of community projects online but if you wanted to play with them, see the code and change things, you had to download them and open them up in the Scratch programming environment. While not this is not difficult, things have just become a whole lot more interesting. Scratch now has an experimental viewer that allows you to interact with code online. The ease of interacting directly with a project in your web browser is simply awesome. You can:

  • Run the program online as usual
  • View individual sprites, their properties and their code
  • View used code by coloured blocks
  • Interact by changing code and running the program

Click on the image to view in full size.  To opt into the experimental viewer just go to http://scratch.mit.edu/experimental.

Create Digital Texts From Your Blog Posts With Anthologize

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I have recently discovered a great WordPress plugin called Anthologize. It was built as part of the One Week One Tool project. It essentially allows you to create electronic texts from blog posts. You can create texts in ePub, pdf, TIE, or RTF formats. It also allows you to create chapters to organise your content.

This is a wonderful opportunity for the thousands of educational sites currently using WordPress. It allow students and teachers to export their best content as an ebook or pdf at the end of semester, a project, or learning period. I know of a number of schools who use WordPress Mu as their student digital portfolio platform. This will allow them to easily create an electronic book/portfolio of their best work. The plugin is in ‘Alpha’ at the moment but I have managed to get it up and working relatively easily. A short three minute screencast is below. This is a very promising development effort for the web and education. Well done to the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University for creating this software.

You can download the screencast here or on Vimeo.

Update: More possible educational uses have been outlined by Hope Greenberg. A good post plus another screencast.

Here come the tools – mobile ones!

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In the last few weeks there have been some really interesting tools emerge for creating games and applications on mobile devices. These software tools will make it easier for the non programmer to create.


The first one I came across was GameSalad for developing games on the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch. It is Mac only but has a very easy to use interface. The software is free to use but has a subscription model of $99 per year if you want to publish your games to itunes (which you need to do to get them on your device). There is also the option of publishing them to the web and using a web browser plugin to play them.

App Inventor

The second one I came across is App Inventor for Android which is not quite in beta but you can still sign up to access it in the coming weeks. It is a free, web-based software tool for creating Android applications.

As the video above shows, it has a very low entry point which is great for students starting to learn about programming and ICT. It is very interesting to note the style of the App Inventor application. It borrows heavily from other environments that students have loved using such as Scratch and to a lesser extent Star Logo. The App Inventor team acknowledge this stating that the “Open Blocks visual programming is closely related to the Scratch programming language.”

App Inventor Code

What I am really interested to see, is what students can do with these tools. What a great motivation – make an app for your phone or ipod (I know not all kids have Smart Phones but there are a quite a few with iPod touches!)

Scratch 2.0

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I’ve been using scratch versions 1 through 1.4 with students to create multimedia and interactive projects for at least a few years. It’s programmable multimedia and it is a great piece of constructivist software. Students love using it and it has a low entry point but high ceiling. Well now we get a peak at what version 2 may offer. Watch the 3 minute youtube video below for an introduction and check out the new features at about the 2 minute mark. They include:
1. Sharing on mobiles (Are you listening Apple)
2. Connecting with social media (eg facebook and others)
3. Create and remix within a web browser (Now that would be to too kewl :) )
4. Join together in collaborative teams (Multi-authored team projects. Not sure how it would work but it sounds great!)

And make sure you follow the developments on twitter: @scratchteam

Xinha for Web Forms

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One of the things that annoys me most is when I have to use technology that should be based on open standards but isn’t! A case in point – Microsoft’s Share Point. It’s a web based CMS very tightly tied to the Microsoft browser and Microsoft office products. It’s hard to get anything done unless you are using a PC and Internet Explorer (especially if it’s tied to Active Directory as well). You’d think a web based product would work well with different browsers and different OS’s – well, no it doesn’t!

After being told that our regional workgroup had to report fortnightly via a sharepoint wiki. I decided to to try a variety of different browsers on the Mac (No IE available). All browsers I tried didn’t know what to do with Microsoft’s proprietary text editor (see image below).

Fortunately, there are free, open source browsers like Firefox that allow developers to innovate. And the Firefox extension that came to my rescue was Xihna. It’s FireFox plugin that will allow you to use a portable rich text editor on ‘any’ web form.

The following image shows the Xihna editor in action. You can also choose to pop out the editor into it’s own window!

Xihna Editor

Should we compare the iPad to the netbook?

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All of last year I was working with teachers and students to help implement a 1:1 computing environment with netbooks.

Given all of the press around the ‘iPad announcement‘, I’m wondering what are the pro’s and con’s for this device in education? And how does it compare with other portable devices such as netbooks?

Is it a netbook killer? Is it a kindle killer? Is it just a distraction? Is it only a media device with iphone apps and a web browser (is that all we need?) Is it something that would be useful in your classroom?

Obviously, for those schools making good use of mobile devices like ipods, this will be a natural extension as the device has the same operating system as the iPod touch and iPhone. The larger screen will allow for better input – inclucing note taking and a better browsing experience at the very least.  And while I’m sure there will be a number of schools that will jump all over this device, I still think it comes up short in a number of areas.  I’ll be the first to admit that I wanted a cut down Mac OS X rather than an appliance! I just can’t imagine not being able to multitask with applications. The issue of multitasking can be fixed in software but if the iPhone’s anything to go by, it won’t be happening anytime soon.

Here’s some of my thoughts …


  • Awesome interface, ipod/iphone users will immediately recognise
  • Great industrial design
  • Great ebook reader and media device
  • Most people who have actually used the iPad rave about it – may be I need to see it and use it!
  • Very responsive OS with 10 hours battery life


  • no multitasking – one application at a time
  • no USB port – no memory sticks
  • no camera
  • no flash support for websites (come on Apple and Adobe!)
  • no SD card slot, HDMI port, or video out – without buying adapters
  • more DRM content

Will I buy one? Probably! Will this be a good device for education. Certainly, as education software will follow this device! But the lack of multitasking and a USB port is a show stopper for me. This product could have been revolutionary. It could have decimated the netbook market. But it still falls short as far as I am concerned. Perhaps I should wait for version 2.0 or 3.0? May be then I can get access to the things that would make this device simply awesome.

Some more thoughts on the iPad can be found here:
10 things Netbooks still do better than an iPad
Is it fair to compare Apple’s iPad to a netbook?

Let us know what you think in the comments! And if you have time why not fill in this short survey for the Ed Tech Crew http://bit.ly/bc3Ms8

Still Scratch-ing an Itch with a Moodle Course

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For some time I have been meaning to finish my Moodle course about Scratch. It has been on the back burner for at least a year! The course itself is mostly finished but has a few areas which desperately need some attention. I was hoping to finish it and put it on Moodle Commons like I did with the Web2.0 course. But I don’t think that will happen anytime soon :)

moodle scratch course

So here it is – unfinished and unpolished – but it may be of some use if you have access to a Moodle server and want to do some learning about Scratch with your students.

Download it here: moodle_scratch_course.zip

Introduction to Freemind

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The  ’1 to 1′ netbook project journey continues! This week we are looking at the free and open source mind mapping tool called FreeMind. You can download FreeMind for Mac, Windows and Linux. In this video I give a brief introduction to some of the features available when using FreeMind.
You can also download the video here if you are not subscribed via the podcast.

Introduction to FreeMind from Darrel Branson on Vimeo.

Playing with Google SketchUp

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As part of the ’1 to 1′ netbook project, I have been working with a number of schools to look at how Google SketchUp can be used in the classrooom. And while there are plenty of good videos to show how to get started with the tools, I wanted to try out a new screencasting program so I created my own short tutorial. I hope it’s useful to someone! You can download it here if you are not subscribed via the podcast.

Introduction to Google Sketchup from Darrel Branson on Vimeo.

I’ve also found a new website dedicated to resources around screencasting. Check it out here: http://scrast.net It looks like it is a great place for all of your screencasting needs.

ICTGUY0903 – ’1 to 1′ netbooks with Doctor Rob

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Podcast number 3 March 22nd, 2009.
[ICTGUY0903.mp3 Running time: 24:52 mins, size: 11.5 MB]

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download it here!

Rob Sbaglia: http://lmultranet.wikispaces.com

Rob’s Twittering: http://twitter.com/sbaglia

1 to 1 project: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/management/ictsupportservices/netbooks/

DEECD wiki: http://netbooktrial.wikispaces.com

Loddon Mallee Region Ning: http://one2onelaptops.ning.com

ICTGUY0902 – Netbooks & Tom Barrett’s Blog

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Podcast number 2 February 19th, 2009.
[ICTGUY0902.mp3 Running time: 10:37 mins, size: 7.4 MB]

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download it here!

John Pearce: http://johnp.wordpress.com

Tom Barrett’s Blog: http://tbarrett.edublogs.org
1oo ideas: http://tbarrett.edublogs.org/2009/01/26/100-interesting-ways/
Tom’s presentations:
Google Earth
Interactive Whiteboards
Google Docs
Pocket Video

Netbook links

Local Events – Podcasting Session

Free Web 2.0 Moodle Course for Teachers

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web20In term four of 2008 we ran an online professional development course for teachers through Moodle. The aim was simply to be an introduction to the world of web2.0 and how it might impact on the classroom.  The course was undertaken over five weeks with the following areas of focus each week.

  1. Blogging
  2. Social bookmarking
  3. RSS and personal homepage tools
  4. Collaborative document creation including wikis
  5. Digital story telling online

In addition we had weekly meetings using the Elluminate conferencing software.

Having benefitted greatly from the opensource community I am offering the course as a download, as a very small way of giving something back. You will need your own Moodle installation, or you can always get a free one at ninehub.com.

You can take a look and download it on Moodlecommons.org or download it directly from here.

ICTGUY0901 – Team building, links, and the ‘Collaborative Age’

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Podcast number 1 February 3rd, 2009.
[ICTGUY0901.mp3 Running time: 14:51 mins, size: 8.6 MB]

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download it here!

Team Building

BBC News article on  BETT

Skype in Schools

How to embed


World Without Walls: Learning Well With Others – Will Richardson

iPod touches / iPhone Apps

50 iphone Apps for education


WordPress 2.7 blogging bliss

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WordPress 2.7 has been released!!!

This blog runs WordPress, as does a whole lot of the educational blogoshpere – Edublogs, Globalteacher, Globalstudent etc. I have been using it for a number of years on many local school websites – Koorlong PS, Irymple South PS, Cardross PS and others.

This ‘point‘ upgrade should really have been WordPress 3.0, the changes in the interface and usability are absolutely brilliant. Check out the two minute video introduction below.

I am continually amazed at the quality of opensource software efforts. Well done WordPress.org!

Got Game @VITTA

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I spent number of days at this year’s VITTA conference. The theme was “Shift Happens – Technology alone will not save us!” For those unaware of the Shift Happens viral video, you should look here. There are also lots of supporting materials on the shift happens wiki.

Two of the opening keynotes presentations were focused on the role and impact games can have on education. Derek Robertson from Scotland gave a excellent keynote on day two titled ‘The Future of Gaming’. He discussed the ways in which he is investigating and researching the use of COTS or ‘commercial off the shelf games’ in education. In Scotland, they believe this area to be so important they actually have what they call a ‘consolarium’ to investigate game use in education. Derek’s blog is one I’ll be following in the future. Some of the work and a 48 page research paper can be found here.
Some the games Derek used were:

What was most interesting about his work, was the way the teachers he worked with used ‘games as a contextual hub’ for the learning. So the games were not an ‘add on’, or a reward, but were integral to the learning. More on this later, when we hope to get Derek to discuss this on the Ed Tech Crew.

Andrew Owen did the keynote on the third day and continued the theme of using games in the classroom. His keynote was titled ‘Games: Not the Educational Tool of Tomorrow, the Educational Tool of Today‘. He did an excellent job explaining how he used games to engage students in their learning. Many of the games he used were new to me. They included:

He also discussed the ‘Step It Up‘ program that he runs for work experience students. This is where students come into the workplace and work in teams all week to produce a game. The focus is on learning new skills, teamwork and producing something of value (not your usual making the coffee and getting the smoko type of work experience!)

Now all I need to do is to find some time to play some of these games – for research purposes of course!

VITTA Keynotes

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I have been attending the 2008 VITTA conference this week and have been using “Cover It Live” to live blog the keynotes. If you are interested, check out the ‘live page’ here. The keynotes have been excellent!

The most useful part about ‘Cover It Live’ is the all of the ideas, links, comments and resources you receive from other participants contributing to the conversation. More on the conference later …

Webspiration concept mapping

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If you are a big fan of Inspiration and Kidspiration the good news is that there is now an online version called webspiration. It is currently in beta but you can sign up to give it a run. The interface is pretty much the same as the inspiration product and behaves in pretty much the same way. So if you have used any of their products, you will be instantly productive!

Some interesting features include the ability to collaborate with others in real time and uploading and downloading of Inspiration 8.5 files. One interesting omission in the product is the ability to upload an image

So for all those teachers that have wanted to use Inspiration but couldn’t get it past their school’s IT budget, go and sign up while it lasts. I couldn’t find any details of future pricing or premium services. This is oviously a response from the large number of other web2.0 services that offer free visual thinking tools – bubbl.us, mindmeister.com, mind42.com, gliffy.com and others.

Chris Lehmann’s Pecha Kucha

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A week ago on the Ed Tech Crew Podcast we came across a presentation format called Pecha Kucha, which is basically 20 slides, times 20 seconds for each slide. So you end up doing a short, and hopefully impacting presentation, in around six minutes.

This is a very interesting format that would be interesting to use with students. The combination of clear oral communication, some precise limited text, and visuals, makes this a good medium for students to communicate an idea(s), be persuasive, or make a stand on an issue in a passionate way.

While going through my delicious network tonight, I came across a link from Hey Jude that lead to me a page of educational videos where I found Chris Lehmann’s pecha kucha presentation on School 2.0. I have actually read some Chris’ blogposts on this podcast. This is a great short video of Chris in action!

Virtual Box – open source your virtualisation!

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Virtualbox.org has just recently posted version 2.0 of it’s virtualisation software!

For quite some time now I have been using Virtual Box, a free opensource alternative to virtualisation from Sun Microsystems who also contribute heavily to Open Office. Virtual box is available for Mac, Windows and Linux.

Virtual box homepage

I am also the owner of some other virtualisation software solutions for the Mac. I have paid for copies of both Parallels and VM Ware. However, I have found myself increasingly using the open source solution. It may not be quite as a polished or integrated as the other solutions, but coupled with open source operating systems (Ubuntu, Gos, OLPC and others) it gives you the flexibity to try different OS’s and software services, and also to pass them on to others. What’s even better is that you can try out open source alternatives for free, on your windows machines without having to partion disks, dual boot etc … just before you make the switch ;) BTW it also runs Windows XP at very, very acceptable speeds!

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