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.

GameSalad

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 …

Pro’s

  • 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

Con’s

  • 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
http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-10443246-1.html?tag=twitter2
Is it fair to compare Apple’s iPad to a netbook?
http://blogs.smh.com.au/digital-life/gadgetsonthego/2010/02/01/isit…

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

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!

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.

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!

It’s your Uuorld?

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A couple of days ago the MathTrain sent through a link about an application called Uuorld (don’t ask me how to pronounce it!) This application reminded me of one of my favourite Ted Talks by Hans Rosling where he brings vital global data to life through a series of visualisations.

Well, Uuorld turns out to be a great application for visualising data with students and adults. Once downloaded, you can choose from a variety of ‘data sets’ and then choose which countries (or the world) and the time frame for visualising the data.  There are a large variety of ‘data sets’ made available through the application. At this stage you can’t import data but the future for these sorts of tools, in encouraging higher order thinking, looks good!

Uuorld

In additional to taking a still image of your data, you can also export your visualisation in a number of different video formats. They have versions for Mac, Windows & Linux.

Will Richardson on the Ed Tech Crew

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edtech crew logo

I don’t often mention my other podcast ‘The Ed Tech Crew” on this blog. However, in the past week Tony and I have been fortunate enough to have interviewed Will Richardson from weblogg-ed.com. Will is one of the earliest educational bloggers that I know of, and has been pioneering learning in online spaces. He is very articulate and passionate about working with students online. If you have the time, I strongly recommend a listen. Also check out his ‘Powerful Learning Practice‘ network site. Enjoy!

A perfect flickr storm

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I’ve just finished reading Sartz’s blog where he has been discussing the usefulness of flickr in education (and making bad horse puns!)  Flickr is a photo sharing site powered by Yahoo! that allows users to upload and share their photos. Sartz explains quite a few services based on flickr such Taggalaxy, Flickrcc, PhotoSoup, Bubblr and 10 by 10. All interesting sites based on mashing up publicly accessible photos.

Which leads me to one of my flickr favourites flickr-storm. ‘Flickr storm‘ is a simple tool that allows you to search flickr based on a keyword, select the pictures from the results, and then save those results as a web page that your students or friends can access. In addition, it also adds a link to the flickr user as well as the licensing terms. My short bridge example is here.

Flickr Storm

In actual fact, I hardly ever use Clipart for presentations anymore, preferring to use pictures that are in the public domain or licensed under a creative commons license and making sure that I give attribution to the author. For creative common searches on flickr try http://flickr.com/creativecommons You could even add it as a keyword search in firefox!

Seeqpod – Playable search?

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Searching for content within podcasts and videos has always been difficult given the nature of any audio or video file. While text is easy to search, audio and video is not! So the next best thing is to able to search by topics and/or related content. I’ve just discovered this new search engine for audio and and other rich media called ‘seeqpod‘. It appears that it uses a combination of topics, keyword and other data for determining results.

… instant playable search results. Clips, tracks, and presentations can be played, embedded, or shared immediately …. From video to audio, slideshows, and Adobe Flash, the vast multitude of rich media files …

The best part about this search engine is that you can play and preview the material without having to downoad it. Particularly useful given the size of rich media files! I’ll definitely be investigating further the possible uses of this search engine.

Free Moodle from ninehub.com

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Ninehub.com is offering free Moodle hosting for anyone. Fantastic!

Everyone who reads this blog will realise that I am a big Moodle fan. In fact, the very reason we registered the need2learn.net domain was so that we could allow any teacher in the district to have their own Moodle classroom without the need to setup and maintain their own servers.

The good news is that anyone can now have their own Moodle setup free of charge with their choice of name eg myschool.ninehub.com You also have full administrator permissions.

The bad news is that you will need to suffer Google ads at the bottom of each page. These are not intrusive but would it be acceptable at your school?

ninehub.jpg

Google Sky

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Some of you may be aware that you can use Google Earth to view the sky. Well now you don’t even need the standalone application – you can do it directly from your web browser just like using Google maps! This is good news for teachers in schools that don’t allow the use of the Google Earth.

google_sky.jpg

The images seen in Google Sky are identical to those found in Sky in Google Earth. We have changed the projection to display these images within Google Maps (the Mercator projection). As with Google Maps this means that we cannot view the northern and southern celestial poles.

Australia’s Digital Revolution

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I’m not sure how long this website has been up, but the government now has a dedicated website for the so called ‘Digital Revolution’ to happen in Australian schools.

http://www.digitaleducationrevolution.gov.au

The Commonwealth Government is committing new funding of $1 billion over four years to provide:

 

Scratch 1.2

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A new version of Scratch (the free multimedia programming software) has just been released. This new release includes a number of new code blocks. A full list is here!

The new blocks include volume control, music tempo, new math functions and more sensing values for creating games and determining sprite properties.

Embeddable Google Maps

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Google has added a great new feature where you can embed a ‘Google Map’, just like you can for a youtube video, a slideshare presentation or other web2.0 media.

This is awesome, not only have I learnt how to use the “My Maps” feature where you can:

Mark your favorite places on your map
Draw lines and shapes to highlight paths and areas
Add your own text, photos, and videos
Share your map with friends and family

But now I can add all this to my blog! Here is map of of a recent boating trip we had on the Murray River. We boated from just below Wentworth to Ned’s Corner. (I didn’t take any pictures on the trip but you’ll get the idea)

The Google Map Embed “How to” is available from the LongLat Google blog.


View Larger Map

Teacher ‘scratch games’ are now live!

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scratch.jpg

I’ve just uploaded a number of games created by teachers to the Scratch website. Well done to all those involved!

http://scratch.mit.edu/users/smsn

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