Thursday, 26 June 2008


It's after 6pm and I am still at work.
I am trying to get through assessments and other stuff before the end of the week. After starting so well on the online subject selection i have found that I have hit a snag. I needed some hosting and a domain. This came out of a meeting last friday about this system. They want it available anywhere, and 24/7. So students can have a conversation with their parents about the subjects they have selected and where they think that will take them in their possible career.

Well. with that has also been another couple of websites that i am having to launch really quickly. One is a voting system that we want the students to have their say on who was the best at talent quest. I have even thrown some graphics together to make it look interesting. Plus it is a play on some words. I kind of wish they had said something sooner, then we would have some branding on the event. Thank god for blogspot. As this done what I need it to do. Polls that close at certain times, Multiple Polls in fact. the ability to put pictures, video and text on. And make it real good.
the person asked me how long it would take. I said 10 minutes, ok, it took 8 minutes to have it all done, minus a few spelling errors, and the graphic. But a working model was on her desk by lunchtime.

As well as an environmental action group want a website showing what they are doing on environmental issues at here at the school. For this I want them to work on it, and am waiting on the Acceptable Use Policy to be written up and put through the final discussion before I let the students loose with this system. I plan on using our google apps for this one using the sites area.

Will wait for an email to come back before developing the environment site further.

Also it is difficult having two gmail accounts, three blogs and a google apps account to maintain the student system, you get lost on what account you are working at, until you wnat to post something and it shoots back errors. Oh well

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

The computer lab as a crutch

Once in a while I find a blog that is interesting reading, it talks about computer labs at schools and how they are being used.

I ran into a thought provoking blog post the other day. Mike Sansone is a blog coach – a consultant who makes a living helping people blog better – wrote a post called “Are Computer Labs a Crutch?” In it he says that “the computer lab shouldn't be the first (or only) stop in teaching computer and Internet skills.” He’s right about that I think. He lays out a structure for an Internet workshop that sounds pretty good to me. Of course the schedule calls for a class session that is 75 to 100 minutes long and that isn’t happening very often. Perhaps in a school with a long block schedule. The plan is good though.
One of the things he suggests that I used to good effect is to start with a demo. In computer applications classes or programming classes the first thing I tried to do was to demonstrate what I wanted students to learn. I found this to be surprisingly useful in applications classes. Often students had no idea what an operation was supposed to look like. While some students figure it out from the book a lot of students really need to see it live in action before they can picture it for themselves. Personally that is true for me. Show me what you are going to teach me. Then teach me. Then let me try it for myself and then let’s review. That to me is a great way to teach and learn in a computer lab.
But honestly the title of his post made me think about other ways that computer labs in schools are used improperly. The problem I see too often is computers, usually in labs, being used as little more than babysitters. I don’t mean by “computer teacher” who generally take full advantage of the teaching resources the lab provides. No I mean “other” teachers who sometimes take advantage of a computer lab and student’s willingness to go to the lab. The student gets out of class and the teacher gets rid of a distraction. And of course to administration it looks like the students are leaving for educational purposes. I guess in theory they really are. The plan to do research. Or perhaps work on a paper. Sounds good in theory and sometimes it actually works that way. Not sure it is a way to bet though.
There are a couple of problems on the lab side if it though. If the lab is empty there is no, or at least insufficient, supervision. Perhaps is the lab is a monitored study hall, or a library, or a dedicated research/work area this is not a problem. Expecting a computer teacher on a prep period to supervise students isn’t really fair though. And if the lab is in use, for a regular class, it really gets to be a problem. I don’t know any other classroom that teachers feel free to send students to without prior arrangement. Can you see students showing up at a social studies class saying “our teacher sent us here to read your copies of Newsweek” or showing up to gym class saying “we’re just going to play basketball while you run you regular gym class.” But it happens in some computer labs.
Clearly a teacher can say “no you go back to your regular class” but the room has been disrupted. So often if there is room a teacher will let them stay. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it becomes disruptive. Either way it tests a teachers classroom management skills. But really this is trivial.
The real problem is that far too many students still do not know how to use the computer resources they have. So they waste a lot of time. People sit back and think “oh good they are getting a lot of computer time” without realizing that much of this time is wasted. This also contributes to the idea that computers are not helping. No tool that is not well used can really be of real help. We need to teach students how to really use the tools we hand them. And we really need to get over the practice of using computer labs as a dumping ground for distracting students.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Cooking for 60

What of the things that I have to do as manager is prepare the feed for the aftermatch function. i made a decision to not get junk food from the chip shop, either Chinese or chips. We prepare the home game food on the Saturday morning.
What i m preparing is pasta and mince. This started off being spirals and mince, the second home game was roast potatoes and mince with sour cream, and today was lasagna, but not the once that I normally make a it would require 3 kilos of cheese, and 12 litres of milk.
It does take a lot of time to get done, by the time you plan, get the food from the supermarket and cook it it takes around 5-6 hours for something that is gone in 10 minutes. But the boys think it is the best, though I should start looking at some pacifika foods. I think they want corned beef.

But saturday is a good day in general, it is more stressful that a day at school. I think it is the compeition that you hve been preparing the team for. They know the plays, they know the game, but it is up to them on how they play it on the day.

Training during the week was hard and fast. A number of boys have considered dropping out if we did not make the final 8 in the championship round. Pity for them that this week they won and now in the champ round. They are going to have to up the intensity at training this week to be able to perform their best as they go against the other teams in the pool.

What to make next home game for the aftermatch, I had someone suggest nachos. though I somehow don't think so.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Recent government iniatives

* What are (if there are any) the current government initiatives and/or plans for IT in high schools

The Current initiatives do not just go for Secondary schools, they are from Early Childhood right through.
There are ICTPD Clusters
The intended outcomes of the programme are:
Implementation of the New Zealand Curriculum / Te Marautanga o Aotearoa through the use of e-learning;
Increased capability of teachers and principals to improve students' learning and achievement through e-learning;
Strengthened professional learning communities and increased collaboration within and across schools;
Increased e-learning leadership and ICT strategic planning capability of principals and teachers;
Increased understanding of the educational contribution of e-learning by teachers, principals, students and school communities.

This research report is submitted to the Ministry of Education as part of an ongoing evaluation of the Information and Communication Technologies Professional Development Cluster Programme (ICT PD), a teacher professional development initiative announced in the strategy documents Interactive Education: An Information and Communication Technologies Strategy for Schools (Ministry of Education, 1998) and Digital Horizons: Learning Through ICT: A Strategy for Schools (Ministry of Education, 2001, Revised 2003). This report on the 2004-2006 cohort of ICT PD cluster teachers supplements, and makes comparisons with, the evaluations of the first four ICT PD Cluster Programmes submitted to the Ministry in 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006. Read more

TELA Laptops, this is a scheme to get laptops for teachers and data show projectors into classrooms
The purpose of this evaluation was to investigate the impacts of the Laptops for Teachers Scheme: TELA (referred to from here as the TELA scheme) on teachers’ work.
TELA: Laptops for Teachers Evaluation Final Report Years 7 & 8
TELA: Laptops for Teachers Evaluation Final Report Years 9-13

ICT Resourcing in schools, this is something new that has been announced from the minister as part of the budget.

Used effectively ICT has the potential to bring about improvements in educational outcomes for all 21st century learners. To achieve this, however, it is vital that ICT becomes better integrated with teaching and learning. This report outlines the proposals for the development of a framework for the resourcing of ICT across the schooling sector and to inform policy advice to the Minister.

Read more here.

Online Learning Objects - Digistore is the New Zealand gateway to a collection of quality digital content (digital resources and learning objects) being developed through The Le@rning Federation (TLF) initiative.
In Digistore, you can register your interest in accessing this content, search the digital warehouse (repository) containing thousands of items of digital content and get ideas on how you might incorporate this curriculum content into your existing classroom programme.

Microsoft Licensing in Schools
The latest Microsoft software products are available, at no cost, to all state and state-integrated schools.

Enabling the 21st Century Learner,
The e-Learning Action Plan for Schools 2006-2010 outlines the key outcomes and actions for e-learning in the New Zealand school sector for 2006-2010. It describes the goals for e-learning in schools and the projects, tools, and resources that are being developed to adddress those outcomes.
e-Learning Action Plan

Network Standards and Broadband uptakes
This project is about bringing school networks up to an acceptable quality and providing a standard for networks to adhere to.

There are a number of websites dedicated to ICT in schools, two of these are the Ministry of Education click here and click here

* What is iLearn and how does it fit in the over-arching IT solution - are you able to point me to any documentation you may have?
iLearn would seem to me to be a Learning Management System(LMS) or a Content Management System(CMS). There are a number of providers out there who are trying to get into schools. Ultranet, knowledgeNET, moodle, Joomla.
There are some questions and some answers about looking at a CMS or LMS available through tki,
It is called Managed Online Learning Environments and provides information on selecting a Learning Management System, a 2 Phase look at identifying needs, analysing priorities, as well as looking at how Student Management System can integrate into the LMS.

These are just some of what is going on out there. It is big stuff but the government still needs to get a curriculum or an outline of where ICT should be going, ie Achievement Standards for Computer Science.

The NZ Computer Society today released a highly anticipated report reviewing the NCEA ICT-related Achievement Standards in Secondary Schools. This report raises extremely serious concerns regarding the state of secondary school computing education. You can download the full report here and the associated press release here.

Thinking about your questions

1) How to get staff more enthusiastic about using IT in their teaching

2) How do they identify the required hardware/software

3) Putting together an IT plan for the future that can be presented to the board

IN brief
1. Many ways including ICT committee members(each department has a member on the committee to raise ideas and generate discussion around how ICT could be used in their department, what the department needs are), ICT PD sessions (developing skills, we look at inspiration(mind mapping/brainstorm software), managing your email, clickview(video on demand) e-asTTle training, what you have on tape, how can you get it off the tape and onto your computer(video editing) getting staff to show how they are using ICT in their classrooms), conferences (Ulearn and Learning@School 08 Conference And the Board paying for the lease on the teachers laptop.

2. ICT committee members plus IT Manger works continually with every HOD to discuss needs and opportunities. Also integrating a bottom up approach, getting the teachers to think about what they require (Interactive White Board is an example) rather than a top down approach, “you must use a… “. Example, Teachers and students have pushed the need for student email, so the management listened and have implemented a trial at the moment with a number of classes, to see how the network, internet data usage, will be affected.

3. In our ICT plan to develop a 5 year plan, term 3? This is looked at every year with the changing IT landscape

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Reflection to date

Reports -
yet another mid year reports has come around and it has been nice not to worry about another class of reports. with the change of the number of periods it has reduced the number of classes that we teach. Though I still need to look at the time that I put aside to do the reports, i need to start them earlier rather than waiting to the last minute. I have manged to use very few copied comments this year, preferring to type my own comments on each student. especially in the senior subject classes. it has been difficult with some when you seem to use the same start phrase with each student. i need to learn to be able to start off differently.

IT Support - issues and successes(printers, ssl, option choice)
i have had to in the last couple of days deal with the hp helpdesk, it is interesting that they are in india and when you say where your work is you can hear the gasp with fear as they have never heard of that place, especially because it is in maori. after the hour of script and them asking for you to b e right beside the printer, the printer was three blocks away from where i was on the phone, they managed to get there heads around that I had a p3005 printer but it had a p3004 formater board in it. someone had replaced a part in it with the wrong part number. the main fault was that we needed duplex printing which had been removed as the p3004 formater board did not support this function.
we are currently trying to get ssl working properly with the exchange software we have at school, the reason for this is that we want to start using mobile devices to connect to the email system when the senior leadership are not at their laptops, so they don't miss those important emails. plus it will help me with my little wee ipaq.
creating an online app os starting to become interesting, i have seven people that I have to work through, all wanting different features and all want an understanding of how it will work. this will be my first big job in a number of years, as normally i deal with one or two people as my client. my biggest fear is of the feature creep as more and more people want to remove the choice of subjects for the students by stating what English and maths class they will be in.

Manager - difficulty with losing, rules being changed
I have been the manager of the schools 1st xv rugby team, which has been an up and down experience. you have a up when the team wins and feel the pain when the team loses, because you know how much effort they have put into the game. the last game probably hit me the hardest. the touch judge came on to the field with his flag out and we had a penalty changed from our to theirs, as well as having a try disallowed. a number of the players and myself had been to associate refs training where this question was raised, if the game was a sancitaned game and the refs were appointed then they can come on, if not they can only signal out. so far noone has been able to answer if they were appointed.

School- three programming languages all at once.
I am teaching visual basic with the year 12s, visual c# with the year 13 and php/mySQL with the year 13s. i am starting to get confused with variables and syntax which is causing me some issues, i am starting to print out the solution so i can solve the students issues and problems.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

open source to make more of an impact in high schools?

Linux in education: Open Source provides a better solution for schools
By JT Smith on May 17, 2002 (8:00:00 AM)

- by Matt Butcher - Linux has been making inroads into K-12 education for years, but Microsoft's move to require an audit of 300 school districts nationwide has brought Open Source into the educational limelight. As schools analyze alternatives to hefty licensing fees, LUGs and Linux-in-education organizations are pointing out that Open Source solutions are better suited to the educational environment, and are only a fraction of the cost.
"We're seeing the stand alone desktop PC as a colossal failure in schools." says Paul Nelson, Technology Director for the Riverdale School District in Portland, Oregon. "After several years of installing PCs in classrooms, it is evident that schools do not have the staffing to support them and keep them running. Often infected with viruses and subjected to student abuse, these systems can quickly turn into a useless but expensive pile of junk in the back of the classroom." A traditional desktop PC environment often costs more than $1,000 per system -- and that's a price that Nelson and others say is too high.

A better model for schools, says Nelson, is the thin client. With diskless workstations running K12LTSP, an educational variant on the Linux Terminal Server Project, workstations can be locked down, making them tamper-resistent and immune from computer virii and malicious code. Without the requirement of a high speed processor and a hard drive, K12LTSP systems run well even on older hardware, and systems obtained through computer recycling programs like STRUT prove to be ideal low-cost but functional clients. The average cost of new hardware required for a client workstation running K12LTSP, says Nelson, is $200 -- a fifth of the cost of the traditional setup.

Kirk Rheinlander, principle consultant for KPJ2 and a veteran in Linux integration in schools, noted other areas where Open Source software plays a significant role in educational institutions. "It is all well and good to provide stuff for classrooms, but managing the school is a big issue as well." He pointed out Schoolmation, Schooltool, and K12Admin -- all tools for school and student administration. In fact, the SEUL educational application index has over 400 applications listed, covering everything from library software to budget tools to schedule planners.

Both Nelson and Rheinlander noted that the foremost concerns that schools express when contemplating migration to Linux are installation and support. And both gentlemen point to Linux User Groups (LUGs) as the primary source of the tech skills that meet those needs. Members of the Portland LUG provide what Nelson calls "24x7 support, without a Visa card" via listserv. Members of the Northern Colorado LUG volunteered countless hours along with Rheinlander to install an Open Source solution into an area charter school. Even the entry of Red Hat into the arena is indicative of the "grass roots" nature of the movement. "It's interesting to note," says Nelson, "that Red Hat's involvement in K12 comes from the interest of their own employees wanting to give back to the community."

Another concern voiced by schools considering Linux is the user interface. Many situations demand a simplified user interface with only a few applications to choose from, keeping the students focused on the task at hand, and reducing the learning curve for teachers. There are efforts underway to produce a simplified desktop as part of the K12Linux project, and Nelson expressed his optimism over the improvements in Linux desktop environments as a whole.
Open Source software is providing the tools that schools need, made to fit. In an environment where general purpose operating systems are failing, Open Source methodologies makes it possible for existing and stable applications to be tailored to the needs of the educational community -- and that software won't require costly audits or even annual license fees.

Friday, 13 June 2008

developing school software

I am in the process of going through and developing a project document for our school. We want to move the subject options from students wandering around to teachers and getting forms signed to a more electronic form. This has been asked for, for a number of years now, but now with a change of management and knowledge it is being implemented.

I have been in the process of talking to a number of stakeholders about what they think the system should do and getting information about the current system from the information that we already have, to what we can export from the SMS and what we need to import to the SMS.
Talking to the stakeholders they can see a number of benefits of the new system, however, timeframe and availability have not been discussed. If we are to get all senior students to enter their subject choices, howe is this going to be carried out Do we take a compulsory class and do it with them, who will support the students in logging in, how are the students going to login to the system. Or do we make workstations available around the school so students can go to the page, enter their information and select their subjects, think web koisk.

I am looking at using my favourites, php and mySQL. Just doing some basic database development today I think I can get it down to two tables.
One is subjects, where all the subjects are listed containing details of codes, name, restricted entry, content, assessments.
The other one is the student, details, password, current subjects, proposed next years subjects, comments.

This has provided me with a blueprint on what information I can pull out of our SMS, which is all subjects, plus a hell of a lot of errors, there are students doing languages, year 9 courses, Gateway, and all students have form class. It has required some replace development in excel which will possibly need to be moved to being a macro so if i leave someone else can do it.

I don't want it to be complicated,

After a meeting today with a manger, he has said that he is to be involved, which is good, though he keeps asking why we can't develop this in Microsoft Access. I basically told him that noone using access anymore, they are more likely to use php and mySQL. He then went forward to talk about using Filemaker Pro, which now has a web interface. It would be nice to use, however there will be a learning curve which is required to do this. My comment back was why don't we use, microsoft SQL server installed on a Microsoft Server 2008 running sharepoint. Sorry I had to use something from the meetup last night.

One of the problems that I didn't see coming was that they want to change the way that the information is collected, yes they are doing it online, but in the past they have selected option lines for certain subjects to go into. Now they want the students to select the subjects that they want and then they will let our SMS shuffle it into a timetable that we can use next year. if there are too many clashes they will go back to those students.

I am starting to use a backup of the information kept in my google documents. it seems to be running ok. Though I am starting to wonder if I keep a copy of my .csv or .sql file in there as well as this would be a useful way of managing work from home and home to work as development backups.

Once a student selects a subject there needs to be a check on whether they have taken a subject before or have the required NCEA credits to take the subject. If I was to include this information in the database I feel that I would get lost and have a large problem. To get around this I propose to have boxes come up with the required information that they have to click "yes" or "no", yes means they can move on, no means that the subject will be removed from the selection.

Other problems are the main streamed students that have to take a required course through there provider, do we tag these students? or do they select and have an subject removed at a later stage.

Also required in the project is if they are coming back to school or not, if not what is happening. Possible Career needs also to be entered, this was on the old paper form, it might do well to be included on this.

Access, do we make it available to deans, SLT, other personal so they can see what students are choosing. Other reports would need to be made to help report live what is happening with the classes and selections. If we select a option it gives us who is taking that option.

I think I can do all that is required, though it also need to be able to look professional. If I develop this right there will be opportunity to use css and html.

Do we make this available out on the internet, so parents can get involved in their sons/daughters subject choice?
someelse on the internt is asking if this has been developed before, see

Until next time

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

ICT in Education

It goes without saying that technology will only grow as an important part of NZ life, and the NZ economy. Hence the standard of our education system in relation to ICT education is vital to us.

Now I missed it at the time, but the NZ Computer Society has had a panel of professionals spend a massive amount of time assessing 18 NCEA ICT-related Technology Achievement Standards, to see which which of them were most suitable in preparing for tertiary study and for end-user computing.

Their 119 page report is here. And for those who want the summary, the press release is here. They key paragraph:

NZCS Chief Executive Paul Matthews today said he was horrified to discover that not a single Technology Achievement Standard proposed for access to ICT and Computing met the set criteria. “Secondary School Computing education should be about preparing our young people for further ICT-related study and for computing in general” Matthews said today. “This report has found that New Zealand’s current ICT-related Technology Standards are failing terribly on both counts”.

The NZCS is the professional education and standards body in the ICT sector. So when they say 0 out of 18 NCEA standards meet the grade, you have a problem. TUANZ have also expressed their concern and their frustration at the lack of progress.

NZCS makes a number of recommendations:

  1. Creates appropriate achievement standards to address the assessment vacuum that exists in the area of Computer Science at the secondary school level.
  2. Recognizes that Computer Science is NOT a “technology”. Computer Science is about computation (numeracy), logic, and the study of algorithms and problem solving within a computational paradigm. It needs a syllabus which defines a coherent body of knowledge, relevant practices, and associated achievement standards.
  3. Removes computing from the grasp of the technology curriculum and align it with subject areas that are more relevant to the various disciplines. For Computer Science, Mathematics is the logical choice. End-user computing fits best with the subject areas that use the tools.
  4. Establishes a rationale for defining achievement level criteria. For example, in achievement standards which require production of a product, the sole criterion for achieving should be that the product works according to specification (bar minor deficiencies) - i.e. is fit for purpose. Merit criteria should require that the product works (as for achieved) and has desirable qualities (such as well-documented, efficient, easy to use, robust, maintainable, extendable, …) and excellence requires the previous criteria plus planning and other deliverables which relate to the particular practice (not necessarily Technology) that is being assessed.
  5. Creates externally assessed Achievement standards which assess a common body of knowledge under exam conditions similar to those available in the Mathematics curriculum.
  6. Re-moderates the technology achievement standards with a view to aligning the cognitive levels to the NQF level definitions.
  7. Surveys technology, computing, and potential computing teachers to gain insight on their perceptions of the value, relevance, and effectiveness of the existing technology achievement standards with respect to their effect on teaching workload and morale, and student attitudes towards computing as a future career.
  8. Surveys year 10 - 13 students (and their parents) across the country to determine what motivates them into choosing (or not choosing) computing as an area of study at tertiary level.

The next Minister of Education should be looking at these as a priority. Our skills shortage will only get worse if we don’t even made the grade with our own students.

Copied from

Sunday, 8 June 2008

more issues with e-asTTle

this is an interesting time learning e-asTTle and managing the 1800+ students that are to be placed on it. Once we get over the hurdles of getting all the students on it, ended up having to split the .ast files into each year and import them that way. The next problem is that the groups have not been automatically created, especially for year 9 and year 10 learning classes. 
Also we are having some issues downloading all the student account details, works at home, but not at school.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008


I have been busy trying to get teachers to go through the teacher training so we can get some teachers and students using it. As we are part of the pilot scheme we need to be able to send some feedback through to the developers.

Due to it being a long weekend and teh number of transiant students we have, I decided to do the import of students on Tuesday night after the new students had been added. 
The file exported fine from our Student Management System, and when I put the file through the validation process on the e-asTTle website, no errors were thrown up. However, when I tried putting the file into there system to create all the login details and passwords it failed. It just hangs. Who would have thought that a 378k file would crash there system.
Its what, only 1800+ students. We are not the largest school in the country and it broke. 
I have been in contact with the helpdesk and they have said this

"I have been looking at your file and there seems to be nothing wrong but when attempting to load it into pre-production to test the upload all things come grinding to a halt.
There is a known issue with larger files such as yours that the correct succesful import message does not come up but the students are still imported. The issue here is I cant even check if that is the case so I will have to escalate this to our applications support team to investigate."

So I sit here and wait for this to be sorted out, they have now escalated this problem to the development team who I understand have been trying to split the file into smaller chunks and import it that way, so far this has not worked. i love how they do all the processing live, why not upload the file, have it process at their end and email you the result. Would this not be a better way to handle "large files" and when was 378k called a large file, to me a large file for mySQL or such would be 1-2Meg.

Oh well, will keep you up to date on how this goes

Monday, 2 June 2008


what should I be teaching students. I have a number of old wireless access points and wish to teach the students wireless access security. I have an almost unlimited supply of hardware and a VLK for Operating system software. Should I teach my students about WEP security and ways of protecting themseleves from it, through the use of MAC address and usernames and passwords. I wonder if I should be teaching these forms of security. I am an eee pc also availbe for the students to wonder around theschool and find the location of every WAP in our workplace.

Sounds like fun, it is