Saturday, 29 December 2007

Failed Internet Bookings, Community Projects and Mountain Biking

I have managed to get away from the City of Sails for the summer break. Oh the holidays! I travel south to the Garden City for some time to think, work on my scheme for the next year, to get some different ideas for units of work and get away from the rat race of work. I reflect on the year that was and what next year could be.

I normally travel south down the Island visiting various people and places along the way. However this time I have headed west to a small alpine village called Hanmer Springs. I came here six years ago through the Outdoor Education papers at Teachers College, where we walked the tracks, had a shower under a waterfall and had to plan and run a full day Outdoor Education programme with students from around the area. This has turned out to be an interesting experience coming back.

I booked my accommodation online, and should have realized something was wrong when I didn’t get a confirmation email from them, however being the time of year I though, oh they are just busy. I should have rang. I turned up to the top 10 mountainview holiday park expecting to have a tent site sorted, instead they wonder who I am and once they hear that I booked through the internet, they said “not another one, this is the fifth time its happened in the last couple of days, we haven’t been getting bookings from the internet, we need to get it sorted out” and me thinking, “its not my fault, do you have a tent site”. They had a tent site for one night and couldn’t fit me in for any more nights. So, its do I go back home, or find other accommodation. Right lets see what is round here. I find myself at the Hanmer Springs Forest Camp for four nights.

I have been and had a look around the camp and to be honest it hasn’t changed much. It has had new buildings which are cabins, however they were here last time. The old huts have had a paint job, and some more silver birch trees have been planted at the tent sites. It is good facilities and a large area to play, pity I don’t have a frisbee in the car, I wouldn’t be able to hit anything.

But why blog about this, I found a sign near the camp track which got me thinking. It explains that the camp track was built by Shirley High School Six form students in 1983 as a community project. (The camp track is a 1-2km walking track between the Forest Camp, which used to be a education centre and the Department of Conservation Information centre on the outskirts of Hanmer Springs in the historic forest) This has gotten me thinking about other school community based projects. In Christchurch there is a bridge built by Burnside High Students students at “The Groynes”. Where are these projects now. Will the new curriculum help get some of these projects off the ground again, or has the governments Resource Management Act, or the Health and Safety Act killed off these projects. The skills that these students learnt through these community based projects would have been, planning, design, building, evaluation and teamwork. Some of these are found in projects carried out at school. But to get students away from a school environment and out into the community is fantastic. In the following years those students would have gone back to the project and seen how it grew, changed, and is now used and would have said to their families, “I helped create that”. The amount of pleasure they must feel when they see it used now.

What other projects are there out in the community that schools help to create?

As I think about this, I start to see little educational projects, tree planting down a stream to show riparian planting and how it creates an environment that helps insect life and stream life improve, the worm farms that show students that they don’t have to throw everything away, recycling schemes that help the family at home with their green bin each week. Sustainability, is where this comes in, and environment. Litter campaigns to get the students to put it in the bin, this has been going for 18 years now and it still hasn’t hit through, and slip, slop, slap, put a hat on at school. But I guess my main point was where is the big projects that schools become involved in.

I find it difficult in my area of Technology ICT, can I say the same, probably due to the changing nature of ICT, in 1983 there wasn’t the internet, and computers were expensive and connecting them to each using ethernet. Not really, It is the hard materials that these type of projects get done, and with so many jobs in the education gazette crying out for technology teachers that this type of community project has probably been killed off, probably as well as the subject. Other groups that the seniors might get this type of project out of would the be environmental group at the school, or at out school the ki wanis,

As for me, tomorrow brings the Mountain Biking tracks of Hanmer, tracks like Dog Stream, Tank, and Detox. Then to take a load off in the thermal springs that Hanmer is famous for.

A hint: Purchase the Mountain Bike map from the local i-Site, the proceeds go towards maintaining and building new tracks in the Hanmer Springs area.

I also have been trying to find a wireless connection in Hanmer Springs to be able to check my email to see whether that a certain conformation email has come through. (It hasn’t) I have a copy of the Telecom Wireless Hotspots for New Zealand and there is one at the Heritage Hotel, however since I am not a resident of the hotel I have managed to find a location outside it on Jollies Pass Road, beside a walkway to gain access to the Telecom Wireless Hotspot. Pity that I was attacked by mozzies in the process of checking my email. I would have had a wireless connection at the top 10 mountain holiday park as they have wireless throughout the whole park. Oh Well, I am on Holiday.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Rise of the Videogame

Five part series by the Discovery Channel on The Rise of the Videogame

Level one:
The video game started not with a bang, but with a ping. Where did simple games like Pong and PacMan come from? And how did these global phenomenons usher in the videogame revolution?

Level two:
In the late '70s, early '80s, video games gained their face. Game creators became more liberated to create more complex video games and icons like Mario and Zelda began to give way to grittier characters. Learn how video game technology has evolved.

Level three:
Video games go 3-D, but the details they capture in the new virtual worlds are both awe-inspiring and disturbingly realistic. Critics begin to question if games are becoming too real, too violent, too addictive. Game designers begin wrestling with ethics.

Level four:
"God Games" begin simulating entire worlds and allow players to experiment with sometimes troubling cause and effect. Artificial intelligence creates lifelike characters and opens up opportunities for new learning tools and for artistic expression.

Level five:
Can a computer game make you cry? Games gain an emotional dimension, interpersonal connection, and Hollywood worthy story lines as they evolve and move onto the Web. What do these virtual world games tell us about the way we live in the 21st century?

Saturday, 15 December 2007

barcamp auckland

Standards are hard, presentation by mozilla (Robert O'Callahan)
webstandards and the problems that are faced by companies creating a broswer. 
Andy Clark, blogger fustrated by the standards committees.
Standards are necessary - if you put someone in complete control, to much power to a single entity. Probelms occur and someones own opinion it overruled.
Clean up existing standards - work going on to tidy up existing standards. defacto stanadrds and the dejuro standards.
CSS 2.1 spec still being worked on
W3C not interested, stopped work on the new standards, WhatWG, open standards group, clean up standards.
Add new features - otherwise things go pear shapped. OpenWeb, make a competitive platform. Video tag for HTML 5
Codifing stuff, 
Search google for HTML 5
Webforms2 extnsion to make html forms more usability.


Thursday, 13 December 2007

Moving Day

What a day it has been. Fare welling staff that have been at the school many years and have become friends. It is the same each year, staff get up, fare welled by the HOD through sometimes moving speeches and the tears of the staff leaving as they look back at their time at the school and the ups and downs that they have had. I think about when it will be my turn to get up and talk about my time at the school, what would I say?

Enough about that, my time to leave the school has not yet come.

Moving Day, it is almost a tradition at the school in the last week of term 4 changes happen, not the changes that you may think. This is the IT change, computers on the move, where unsuspecting year 9 and 10 students become pack mules to the rubbish skips and classroom hauling monitors, keyboards, mice, all the all important system unit to far flung places around the school. Who helps look after all this, the IT teachers, we become the Marshall's at the door telling students to stop, go, what to pick up and where it goes. You kind of feel like wearing a bright orange vest and having walkie talkies with you to make sure the puzzle is going together at the other end.
Yes there are the students that don't want to do it, and the others that "get lost" coming back from hauling computer parts around the school, but it is fun and the students geta buzz out of it because they are doing something different. They are not sitting in a classroom for the fifth time that day watching a video, they are being helpful.

I wish to thank the many students over the past 5 year I have been at the school that have helped move computer, open up the fresh batch of computers that come each year. Thank You.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Code Rules - Visual basic programming idea

I have been busy looking for ideas for my students next year, some new ways of introducing programming for visual basic. One of the websites I came across provided me with a full course that teaches the students programming through four teenagers and a trip across America.

It is called "Code Rules"

Code Rules introduces students to basic computer programming concepts. The simulation involves four students who travel the country in a Winnebago stopping at offbeat places to face coding challenges. This is a complete introduction to a programming course using Visual Basic 2005 Express.

This set includes student curriculum that can be printed, as well as an "eBook" that can be burned to CD for each of your students. For instructors, there is an annotated version of the curriculum, projects and solutions with notes about teaching strategies, possible student questions, and points to emphasize.

Also included are PowerPoint slides to introduce the key concepts of each unit; exams, quizzes, and exercises; explanations and solutions sets for projects; additional projects; and a list of additional Web-based resources.

Designed to be used with VB 2005 Express in high schools it can also be used with Visual Studio 2005.

I hope to use this with my students next year.

This is from Microsoft

Code Rules! Visual Basic Programming Course
Category: Teaching Resources
Submitted Date: 08/06/2007

Code Rules is a course designed to introduce high school students, with little or no background in computers or computer programming, to the basic concepts of computer programming. The course teaches students to create fun and engaging applications using Visual Basic.Net. Through the course students are introduced to the basic concepts of programming, such as writing pseudo code, creating forms, defining and declaring variables and more. Code Rules has been designed to allow students to explore the world of programming, practice creating code and develop a better sense of what it means to be a computer programmer.

Within the course, students are cast as contestants in a new game show called "Code Rules." The game involves four young contestants who travel the country in a Winnebago stopping at offbeat places to face coding challenges which must be mastered before they can move to the next segment. As the students travel from place to place, their traveling companions, Jen, Kirk, Nikki and Cliff will teach them the programming skills needed to face the next coding challenge. At the end of each segment of the trip they will face a variety of engaging, real-life challenges to demonstrate their newly acquired programming skills. These projects will be items useful to students as they travel such as developing an interactive travel journal, a simple form to track mileage and gas consumption, etc.

This curriculum is available in the Academic Resource Center.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Distraction: Desktop Defence

99% of flash games are rubbish, but once in blue moon you come across a flash game. Desktop Tower Defence 1.5 is such a game, deceptive in it’s simplicity, fiendish in it’s hidden complexity. Admit it, you made a spreadsheet to calculate just which tower/upgrade combination was the best value for money or what path provided the most area of coverage versus length. I even attempted to integrate the damage per second inflicted per square per path to figure where those precious points were best spent - all in an effort to prevent some blobs moving from once side of the screen to the other…

Honourable mentions go to Scrabulous - the scrabble knock off that made grandma’s game cool again - and all the great abandonware out there.

Play Desktop Tower Defence » source