Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Holiday thinking

So I tried being clever and installed google gears because I knew that I would not have an internet connection. First I installed an offline blog reader/creator, but i can’t seem to access any of my blog posts or create new ones. I kind of new if something went wrong I would be able to use Google Docs since this would sync up when I get back to the real work. Well I can read documents that I have created and edit them, but I cannot create new documents. I knew I should have tested this more fully before I went out into the non internet.

The campsite I am at does not have internet access, however if I was further in town the camp there does. It is becoming common to have internet access at the camps now. Which is cool for those people that cannot stay away, but some of us need time away from the net just to get back down to earth.

Which brings me to a comment that I say on twitter just before I left, I follow a couple of teachers who in the mist of there holiday are talking about the new curriculum. There messages started off looking at junior classes who are using laptops to do there school work in class and at home, and the problems that traditional teachers are facing when they have these classes. Traditional teachers are used to chalk and talk, ok, whiteboard marker and worksheets, imagine having a class that is constantly collaborating, e-mailing, checking up the teachers facts, coming up with there own conclusion on how something happening, instant researching. 

These teachers believe that ICT will be a passing fad and will not have to bring it into there classroom. This lead onto another discussion about the use of mandated use of ICT in the new curriculum, I don’t think teachers have quite thought about what this will mean for them, it will not mean taking students to a lab and getting then to do a 10 minute research task and the rest of the time playing games, it will mean work that is integrated in both the real and virtual world. We have seen where things are heading with quest Atlantis at school, and how the intermediates are using this for the key competencies, Though it still has a long way to come, as I do not like to use of MMORPG to go around and find tasks, and then use word to write up your tasks and email it in. If you are going to use a virtual world to engage students you need to have a better way of transporting tasks.

Will the new curriculum die off and leave us where we are at now. The curriculum's we have came out in the 1990’s and most saw this as a way of being able to get all schools teaching the same content and syllabus, it helped to bring up schools that had been lacking and gave a standard of what students at various year levels should have. We in technology have not been so lucky, we have students who have done very little technology coming through and when we look at there levels we are shocked to see level 1-2, and possibly a level 3. We have seen this and probably have not been doing our best to help with this, as we are teaching ICT skills as this is where we have seen students lacking. The subject has changed at year 9 and 10 with less periods available to teach the students. Year 9 used to be two periods a week all year, now it is three periods for a term, some terms are 9 weeks, other are 11, you do what you can. Year 10 previously was three periods a week all year, now it is two periods a week all year. A two week assessment that covered a number of technology practices used to go for six periods, now we have to do this over three weeks, which the students find hard to keep going, especially if they misses a period due to sickness of absence. Also were in the timetable affects this as well, if you have then monday and tuesday, you don’t see them until the following week where they have forgotten what you taught them. I am looking at a flash assessment to do with them at the moment based on a dida assessment from the uk. It is looking at taking almost 6 weeks to do.
Getting back to the conversation they were discussing whether teachers will be waiting for the new curriculum to fade away and go back to what they are doing at the moment. I dont think this will be the case, I can see the new curriculum being a force that will engage learners and develop students who can think, interact with others, use technology, and... isn’t that what we have now?

This needs some more thinking on my part.
Other things are coming in, for senior subjects there will be guidelines on various methods of assessment and what topics, ideas could be used to help foster these. Techlink have come out with a booklet giving some various topics and how they have been assessed using “current assessment standards” I must say there are some interesting ideas in the booklet, materials created a street luge, Foodtech looked at creating your own sachets to mixed with instant noodles, ICT developed various multimedia cd-roms to be used in a kiosk environment, snore.

I would love to see a more challenging topics being covered in ICT, yes everyone can do multimedia, design, word documents, how about thinking outside the square.
  • How about trying to created your own streetview, but for a mountain bike track, so people can see what competitors are going down, where difficult parts are, GPS of the track. This would require some initial money and time, but getting the students out and involved in something out of school is what is needed now with client interaction at NCEA level 3, there are a number of tracks in Auckland, Woodhill has 200km of tracks, Hunua and Whitford. It would give people a chance to see what the tracks are like, what jumps are available. This would require a GPS and a way to sync up the helmet cam footage, I would probably think more about using the virtualhighway.org.nz that New Zealand Transport Agency has put up on the net, which is just a forward view. 
  • Wii fitness, getting students to work out how to do the testing and record results using an application taht is simple to use. Kind of like the previous Year 12 programming course looking at the dietary intake of the family.
  • Xbox 360 development, I went along to the dtg symposium and talked about what I am doing with my students, I was talking to a former teacher college mate who said, no one there had any idea what I was talking about. I find this rather difficult, but when I read various message boards and list serves, I see that they really do have no idea, there are some teachers who are getting into python, but really teachers are teaching VB, Java. Why? These are languages that the polytechnics and Universities are teaching the students. Why not introduce students to something different, something fun.
  • Ok, robotics, yes everyone who is anyone is now getting little LEGO robots going, sorry, BIG LEGO robots going and getting them to battle, dance, do tasks, but the assessment for this is rather funny, there has been a large amount of discussion on the listserve that talks about what are the principles of robotics. It is nice getting the students ready for the robotics cup, but you need to look at timing in the year and whether you make it a unit of achievement standard, Students now are crediting hunting, the course that offers Achievement Standards attracts students, off Unit Standards and you might as well say goodbye to your area.
What are we trying to prepare students a school to do with Technology-ICT, are we preparing them for the workforce, Tertiary Education, or something to be a bit more knowledgeable at home.

I teach a topic called hacker high school which there are no standards attached to, it is a topic that the students are interested in and develops there level of understanding on how the internet works, why Microsoft and Apple have to keep putting out security patches and what to look out for when someone is trying to access your computer. I should probably look at integrating a network Unit Standard into this so that the student can get something. But they love getting into things that noone else in the school has access to. Ok its a Linux box sitting on the network that that have admin rights on, but they relish the fact that it is different. Also we do have Ubuntu as a Virtual Machine that they can play with as well.

I hope to have dreamspark in the school next year, this will allow students to have windows server 2008 and a number of programming and development environments. this would be a major boost to schools who lack the funding to get the latest software. One of the best parts is that there a number of already developed curriculum resources available on academicresourcesenter.net for this.
  • Creating a Remote Operated Submersible is also another one of my ideas, since looking at the slashdot article in 2005, it is a pity that I cannot find the pdf that explains the process or the images of them putting it together. I believe that ICT is not always about sitting in front of a computer, there are real world applications and ideas that can be developed. Imagine last period on a thursday going down to the pool and throwing $300 worth of parts and a webcam into the water and bringing up the images and video on the poolside. Then developing a way to make it move.
  • Live results from a cycle race using Twitter/GPS? How could you link into the transponders, 
  • Developing a curriculum that is worthwhile and different are my aims, i do not want to be like any other teacher.
or am I thinking too big, Are some of these University projects, but I would love to get students engaged in their learning.
  • As I think about some of these projects more and more I would like to look at the feasibility of how they would work and could be developed. 
We looked at things this year in a Library Competition System which was a good idea, we just ran out of time developing the administration interface for the teachers, another was developing a wireless hotspot system for a motel and for school, our biggest issue was that we took over the school network in giving out IP address and Internet access. We needed a live system to access the internet to do the downloads, we just didn't realise we had this power.
  • i would like to look at Virtualization using vmware ESXi, I have a couple of Dell machines that I brought for the wireless hotspot development, and I would like to get rid of a couple of the old servers that are cluttering up my office, I can see the Pent 120Mhz being imaged and dropped onto the virtual machine, that same for H1, which no longer works due to a issue with a system fan. I would also bring the house system onto virtualization as well, as all it is doing is running wordpress. This would also allow for students to run there own virtual web server that wasn't running on there own machine, they can run phpadmin, mysql, php and apache all through wamp and control what happens themselves, through shares and remote desktop. The only issue would be that students need access to mstc, the microsoft remote desktop application. I am looking at a 1Tb hard drive x2 of course for raid mirroring, and 8 Gig of RAM, though it may need more.
Ok it looks like i am going to have to apologise as it looks like the blog.gears is now working, it looks like i have to be in Offline mode when starting up firefox.

Now that my battery is charged up, I must sign off, but I will be back to write up some more of my thinking.

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