Thursday, January 31, 2008

Web 2.0: Block It or Embrace It?

With all the discussion on what content should be blocked/filtered, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) sponsored a webcast that questions the practice of blocking all Web 2.0 resources:

eSchoolNews - CoSN to school leaders: 'Think before you ban'
Before school officials prohibit teachers and students from accessing certain web sites, they should think about the positive impact those sites might have on education: That was the message of "Think Before You Ban: How Classrooms Become Communities with Web 2.0 Technology," a recent webcast sponsored by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN).

The Jan. 16 program, moderated by ed-tech consultant Karen Greenwood Henke, focused on how schools can use Web 2.0 tools to foster collaboration and innovation in classrooms.

"We cannot ignore this phenomenon," said Susan Brooks-Young, a Web 2.0 consultant who works with schools on technology programs and integration. Educators should "look at the instructionally sound ways to bring [Web 2.0 tools] in, and help both teachers and kids make the best use of this technology."

Web 2.0 technologies "lend themselves very well to teaching 21st-century learning skills, and our job is to prepare kids for the workforce they'll be facing when they leave school," Brooks-Young added.

The use of Web 2.0 technologies is all about information, she said. These online communication tools extend learning beyond the regular school day and let users share ideas for group projects and other tasks; for example, students and teachers can have anytime, anywhere access to projects or assignments with Google's free Documents tool.
Obviously schools need to be responsible for blocking inappropriate content, but there are two things schools need to have in place for filtering to work. First, schools should establish a process for a balanced examination of the educational value of content with the potential risk of inappropriate exposure. The task of determining education value vs. risk of content should not be left to IT staff--it needs to be handled by both educators and IT staff. That dialog does not happen naturally: waiting for teachers to "complain" about a site not being available does not really work, nor does the process of educators submitting web filtering URL forms. The discussion needs to be more broad than individual sites--rather, questions like "What types of Web 2.0 sites do we want students from our school to access?" need to be addressed by both IT staff and educators in an ongoing dialog.

Because of the constant dynamic change of internet services and content, schools should provide a different level of access for educators to "try out" new sites as they become aware of them. It is difficult to evaluate educational value when the default mode is to have everything blocked. Schools need to find a way to allow educators some "R&D" access with the internet beyond the scope of what students have access.

Frustration can grow if these two processes are not in place. It is well worth the time to have an ongoing dialog about filtering--otherwise IT takes on more of a bunker mentality with educators, dodging their "lobs" of frustration. Worse yet, educators begin to view IT as a roadblock rather than an enabler. They begin to question whether IT staff's value to their educational world is worth it. No one really wins in this setting.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wii Interactive Whiteboard

Okay, I know I'm not in the least qualified to be a girl geek, unless you ask my friends, and I probably won't take the time to actually make one of these, but all I can say about this is "Way cool!" In four words--digital whiteboard under $100.

Watch for yourselves below, or visit this blog entry. And remember to check out Johnny's other projects, too.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Do Schools Do Enough with Inventiveness?

Do Schools Do Enough with Inventiveness?

Click the link directly above to see this entry TIE's Lead blog.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Next Windows OS Coming Sooner Than Expected?

The rumor mill is bubbling up with talk of the next version of Windows, currently called Windows 7. Speculation is that Microsoft is aiming for release the end of 2009, with is significantly quicker than the five years it took to produce Vista from Windows XP (keep in mind Vista was originally targeted to come out much sooner than it's actual release date). Considering the higher level of frustration with Vista from the tech community, it makes some sense that Microsoft would want to move more quickly to the next version of Windows. It may even make financial sense to try to get a version out soon for the IT people who are refusing to leave XP to Vista. But acceptance of new versions of Windows always comes down to new needed features vs. cost. Unfortunately, as more discussion occurs on an expected product, speculation on new features makes it difficult to determine true fact from fiction. We will have to keep our eyes and ears open as more "sightings" occur.

Seven Things We'd Like to See in Windows 7

First shots of Windows 7 leaked? And by 7, we mean Vista. - Engadget

Powered by ScribeFire.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Microsoft Release Some Details on IE8

As we in South Dakota schools discovered with the release of Internet Explorer 7 (e.g. Infinite Campus incompatibilities), being prepared for future browser releases can make life smoother for everyone. PCWorld reports on a Microsoft posting that provided some details of plans for IE8:

PC World - Microsoft Stresses Backward Compatibility for IE8
Microsoft Corp. hopes to balance backward compatibility with Web standards in Internet Explorer (IE) 8 by enabling a new, optional "super standards" mode in the browser, a company official said Monday.

Some Web developers immediately criticized the decision, while others applauded the move.

Chris Wilson, a platform architect on Microsoft's IE team, spelled out the new mode in a long post to the group's blog on Monday, the first time that Microsoft has gotten specific about how it will make IE8 comply more with standards.

The new mode, which Wilson said would be turned on by inserting a single "meta" element, will be in addition to the existing "quirks mode" that debuted in IE6 and the "standards mode" unveiled with IE7.

"We believe this approach has the best blend of allowing Web developers to easily write code to interoperable Web standards while not causing compatibility problems with current content," said Wilson. "We also think this approach allows developers to opt in to standards behavior on their own schedule and as it makes sense to them, instead of forcing developers into a responsive mode when a new version of IE has different behavior on their current pages."

Several times in his post, Wilson stressed the importance of maintaining backward compatibility with existing sites and applications, even at the expense of standards...As usual with posts on the IE blog, Wilson's attracted scores of comments from users and developers. Some saw the new mode as a mistake. "I want to code to standards, not browser versions," said Blaise Kal. "The ideal Web is a Web where you don't have to think about differences between browsers, because there are none. Now Microsoft is moving away from that ideal by introducing another rendering trigger"...A sizable number of those leaving comments, however, agreed with Wilson. "I think the meta tag is a good solution. It lets your old code and pages continue working, while you can embrace the standards for new development," said George Jones.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Edublogs Campus

I've used Edublogs in the past for free blogs, but just got this email promo for a new option from them for schools. Sounds like it's a fee-based service, but you also get total control. Here's what they had to say about
It's a simple, powerful and safe way to bring blogs to your school. You can host the site at your own domain (i.e., create, manage and control all blogs on the site and get unlimited email (and even telephone) support from us.

We'll also set up, host and maintain the software all for you... so you don't need to worry about any technical details. And every Campus client has unlimited bandwidth and storage space too!

You can find out about these and more features at

Monday, January 21, 2008

Top 5 in Word and PPT 2007

This top 5 list was published in the November issue of Redmond magazine and I happen to agree with the features they've chosen. If you don't yet have Office 2007, here's something to look forward to, because you'll probably be getting it sooner or later.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

British Education Tech Agency Recommends No Vista, Office 2007

A strange headline caught my eye--the agency that governs educational technology in the UK (British Educational Communications and Technology Agency BECTA) recommends schools and colleges not upgrade to Windows Vista or Office 2007.

Windows Vista, Office 2007 Expelled From British Schools -- Windows Vista -- InformationWeek
Becta officials said a study the group commissioned found that upgrading school systems from Windows XP to Vista and Office 2007 would increase costs and create software compatibility problems while providing little benefit. "Our advice is to be sure there is a strong business case for upgrading to these products as the costs are significant and the benefits remain unclear," said Stephen Lucy, Becta's executive director of strategic technologies, in a statement...The agency said U.K. schools can consider using Vista or Office 2007 software only when they are buying new batches of PCs. Even then, however, they're advised to take a long looked at alternatives based on Linux and other open source products, such as the desktop package. "Schools and colleges should make pupils, teachers and parents aware of the range of free-to-use products (such as office productivity suites) that are available, and how to use them," Becta said.
We at TIE have made the change to Office 2007 (not Vista), and there is some justification with heavy-duty use of Excel and Access. It is more difficult to justify with casual/typical use of the product. Rumblings are that many tech coordinators in the area are reluctant to make the change. It does beg the question: are the benefits of Vista and Office 2007 worth the extra cost for South Dakota schools to eventually upgrade? While Microsoft has extended the deadlines for continued XP purchases and support, how much longer will they allow schools/businesses to stay with XP? Much of our state's infrastructure is based on Microsoft, so the bigger question is: what is the better alternative?

What do you think?

Powered by ScribeFire.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Laptops Overtaking Desktops

The laptop is gaining and surpassing the desktop in sales. For years, the laptop was a niche market that has now grown to become the main form factor of computer for most people. The Chicago Tribune reports:

Laptops become computer of choice for individual Americans --
Analysts say U.S. laptop sales rose 21 percent in 2007, to 31.6 million, while desktop sales slumped nearly 4 percent, to 35 million. Those figures include purchases by businesses.

Overall, laptops are still underdogs, but they're expected to account for the majority of U.S. computer sales in 2008 and of worldwide sales in 2009.

By 2011, research firm IDC expects portable computers to constitute 66 percent of all corporate PCs sold, up from 40 percent in 2006, and 71 percent of all consumer PCs sold, up from 44 percent.
. . .
In the last four years, though, the price difference has narrowed. Already, some bare-bones laptops can be found for less than $500.

With their newfound popularity, laptops are doing for computing what cell phones did for talking: bringing the activities into public places. With that, new social norms and rules of etiquette are emerging.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Friday, January 11, 2008

IT Leadership

This article does a great job of focusing on the need for IT experts to be more than just gatekeepers or managers of technologies--they need to be educational leaders as well.

Robotics in Shop Class

Today many students don't have an opportunity to even take a shop or family and consumer science courses due to current legislation so I am encouraged to see that one Pittsburgh school is going against the trend. Not only is South Park Middle School offering shop but they are incorporating new technology to hopefully spark student interest in engineering and other technical careers that will continue to grow in coming years. Along with the added technology the curriculum has also moved to a student problem solving method from the typical teacher led instruction. Perhaps in the future more schools will look at South Park Middle School and see that not only can they still have shop classes but by integrating shop and technology they are helping their students become 21st Century Learners.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

OLPC to be implemented in the US?

We have breached the subject of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) in past postings (Low-cost Laptops Battling for Markets). OLPC was originally slated for developing countries only, but there evidently have been some discussion about implementing the low-cost laptops in the US:

Advanced Search - Birmingham mayor seeks low-cost laptops
The Birmingham News reported last month that more than 15,000 children in Birmingham city schools would receive an XO laptop under a tentative agreement new mayor Larry Langford has reached with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) foundation, the organization behind the initiative. The computers would be given to every child in grades 1-8 and would cost about $3 million, or roughly $200 apiece.
If reached, the deal would mark a significant development in OLPC’s campaign to transform instruction through the use of technology, because it would open the door for other North American cities to participate. The effort previously had targeted students in developing nations such as Uruguay, Thailand, and Brazil. Until now, it was believed the only way U.S. residents could get their hands on XO machines was through OLPC’s “Give One, Get One” program.
The deal for Birmingham may fall through because of premature publicity, but it brings up an interesting idea. These laptops could be a great solution for meeting the technology needs of grades 1-8 at a relatively small cost. Should South Dakota be looking at this possibility? OLPC appears not interested in negotiating small quantities, so it would take a collaborative effort. South Dakota could make a case as a rural state that is 51st in the nation for school budgets and some of the poorest counties in the nation. Should we be having that discussion?

Powered by ScribeFire.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Computer problems? It could be a dust bunny?

If your computer is acting strange, run your scans. If the scans show nothing, then get to cleaning your hardware. Dust bunnies can cause computer problems.