Monday, 29 August 2011

Computational Thinking

Advances in computing have expanded our capacity to solve problems at a scale never before imagined, using strategies that have not been available to us before. Students will need to learn and practice new skills—computational thinking (CT) skills—to take full advantage of these revolutionary changes brought about by rapid changes in technology. ISTE and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) are collaborating on a project to prepare young learners to become computational thinkers who understand how today's digital tools can help solve tomorrow's problems. CT is vital to all students as we work to raise the level of achievement, prepare students for global competitiveness, and blend academics with real life.
Download the Computational Thinking Teacher Resources now. CSTA and ISTE intend for the CT Teacher Resources to reflect our commitment to the universal idea that CT can work across all disciplines and with all school-age children. The CT Teacher Resources are an introductory package of prototype materials which include:

•   An operational definition of CT for K-12 Education
•   A CT vocabulary and progression chart
•   Nine CT Learning Experiences
•   CT classroom scenarios
The Computational Thinking Leadership Toolkit is now available for download. This companion piece to the Computational Thinking Teacher Resources, includes:
* Making the Case for CT
* Resources for Creating Systemic Change 
* Implementing Strategies Guide

Radio station part 2

Thanks to one of my former students, he put me in contact with @thecheesefm
aha. Best to stick with high bitrate mp3.. Rivendell is a free automation system for Linux ...
... I use for windows it costs but haven't had any issues with it.
... And make sure your APRA and PPNZ licenses are up to date ;-)

Do I need to get the ppnz license if I already have apra
yes.. One is for the composers the other is for artists. Plus you'll need to pay for two licences should you stream on net

there's minimal website info.. Try also sign up for ...

Saturday, 27 August 2011

School radio

The school has all the gear to run a radio station, and has for a number of years. However, due to things that have happened over the past year it hasn't been running. I found out that the computer running part of it was donated a number of years ago and is pretty much dead. I have managed to get another one up and running.

We have all the nz on air cd's and are looking at converting them to digital.
Windows media player or iTunes? To create play lists or is there possibly something else?

Is there an open source radio station agent?

But it also gives me something to do with my students, creating material for the station.

Monday, 22 August 2011

microblogging within school

I see that ASHS students have been busy upgrading there statusnet server,

W00t! Students have finished upgrade of our #statusnet server. Let the microblogging resume! Gwibber integration test tonight.

could this be something that i could get my students into?
As this can be downloaded and installed on our our servers, there is a development version available for us to try out.

Getting Started:
To get started with StatusNet, from installation to basic configuration, this is the key resource.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Subject Selection

We have been doing online subject choice selections for three years now, using an inhouse designed subject selection web application.

The idea around this was to get rid of the time it took to do the data entry as well as getting better data from the students and also to remove the half day of students running around getting sign off from teachers in charge. Also we wanted the ability for parents to have some input into what there child was choosing.

Luckily our SMS provider helped us out in the early stages of developed on how to do the import from a CSV file into KAMAR, this solved the major issue of data entry and we can now close off the web application and in 10 minutes have all the subject numbers given to the principal to start making his decisions about classes.

The process
Students are given the curriculum guides, to take home and have the conversations with their parents.
Form teachers also have chats with the students in their class about what they are looking at taking next year.
They then can access the subject selection website at home, school, on smartphone and choose what subjects they wish to take the following year. They can do this as many times as they want to, the web application is designed to show what they selected the last time. It also states that there choices are not final, and that subject requirements, course sizes and other factors may exist that they course may not run. the students are given a choice of some reserve subjects in case some subjects do not run.
This is done over three weeks.
Students that don't choose there selections are followed up by the whanau house leaders, or the Senior Leadership Team.  

On the close off day, the data is imported into empty lines in the Student Management System,

The students are then given a time to talk to a mentor about what they have selected, and whether the selections they have made match up with there possible career, that they have previously had with the careers adviser. If there are any issue, they are changed in the Student Management System straight away by the mentor.

This has reduced the beginning of the year changes quite significantly, where we are running full timetables with no more changes after two weeks of school starting.

We chose to do the year 10, 11, 12 students first as a trial of the system, it worked so well, that when the junior subject choices were to happen we did online subject selection for year 9 as well. out of the 1200 students, only 100 students did not complete their selection, this statistic was better than when we were doing the paper based system.

We also had conversations in the school about pathways for students, we started to move away from year levels courses say 11ENG, 12ENG, 13ENG to a more level based course ENG1, ENG2, ENG3, this enabled some of the stigma around students repeating or doing a level below to be removed. The web application was designed to take this into account, where a year 13 student could do level 1, level 2 or level 3 courses, and a year 12 student could do level 2, or level 1 courses. Allowance was made to students that were operating at a level above, some year 12 students were allowed to take level 3 courses, these changes were made during the mentor meeting.

The web application also locked certain courses in for students, A year 11 student had to take, English, Maths, PE/Health/Financial Literacy and had three other options available for students.
The year 12 student had to take English
The year 13 student has to have Independent Learning(aka Study)

The web application also had in it a section on a student leaving school, or possibly not coming back so help and guidance was able to be offered.

Why post about this: there are a number of schools which are looking at doing subject selection online, they have trailed it with one class? they are still doing it by paper, which must cause errors somewhere through the process. This is how showing how we have done it, and now as I move schools how the development of this system is carrying on to my new school.

Friday, 19 August 2011

subject option choice .9a

changes have now been implemented to take into account the students login name instead of studentID number,

Changes have been made to code for the new server and website database that it is now hosted on

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Why am I waiting?

Sorry this is a gripe post,
I have been waiting since the release of moodle 2.1 on the 1st July 2011,

Since then 2.1.1 has been released late July
on the 3 August 2011 had there update, and since then I have been waiting for our hosted supplier to update to the new version.
I look at the new version and it has a number of things that we need as a school to get up and running:
-Mobile device integration
-Updated Quizes
-Being able to restore courses from 1.9 to 2.1
-Moodle 2.1 comes with a built-in web service designed for mobile applications (required to run the official Moodle app)
-Enable mobile web services documentation for details
-Improved Support for Mobile Themes and Browser Detection

How long should I wait for our supplier to update before I get angry...

Auckland Museum: AQUA Trail

I visited Auckland Museum a couple of weeks ago and got to try out there new AQUA Trail.
This has been something that has been in the process and been through a number of ideas an iterations through reference groups and new media departments for a long time.
I wrote about Auckland Museum Secrets revealed - the mysteries behind the museum in 2008. Since then technology has improved, the museum has wifi installed and we got to play for once. I had been to a number of LATE nights at the museum where we got to use the wifi, in the case that I was using it for twitter updates to communicate with others that were at the event as well as the organisers.

But how can you use a technology when it is locked off, You can use it heaps. as i got talking to the new media team and coming up with ideas on opening wifi up on a VLAn and only hooking into one site and being able to access content off it they went away and developed something that I could only dream of. the developed an HTML5 web app which is simple enough to use, has interaction in the form of polls and quizzes, links to content held in various media streams and has some interesting facts for parents to be able to use with groups of students.

More to come...

Looking from the outside in

One thing that keeps me thinking is, should I be showing this blog at my appraisal meetings? This blog is my thinking. It shows me learning, trying things out and reflecting on what I have learnt. Though it is also about me being able to write down what I am struggling with, who I am struggling with as well. Sometimes it is management of my school, or with a certain company that I am dealing with.

This blog provides me notes on what is going on at certain times of the year.

To share: to share what I have learnt, be it with my subject selection app or some new technology that I have an idea in out to evolve it.

To learn: this is very much an unintended benefit of blogging but the act of writing posts and decideing how I wish to organise my thoughts, but it has also made me think of how I will encourage future students to start to organsise there thinking.

Managing my emotions: Being a teacher in Digital technologies, I find that I am constantly on the go and have a range of emotions that can be picked up from a simple grunt to a happy face when something works.  Being able to write about the process of developing an application, or about an incident that happened at work, without using names has been of great benefit, even if the post does not get "published" I have at least been able to get my thoughts in order, and that it is saved somewhere, even if I don't wish to access it again.

To effect change: A couple of times I have had people stumble across my blog that have commented on a piece, once I even got another job out of it. But this is more about how technology has influenced my practice in my career. Education has huge benefits, something which sometimes I forget. I look at our new standards in Digital Technologies - Computer Science papers, these are now the envy of the world, and others are now starting to catch up. I want to start to go through and post some more blog posts around Computer Science and get teachers to see it differently, not just as Programming, but more around the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and of practical techniques for their application incomputer systems.

Telecom Paint Wall

Telecom Paint Wall, using hand movements, or in my case a iPad, I was able to Paint on the Wall. This is a great thing to start doing when you have some time to spare, or in my case I got many strange looks when I started to interact with the wall. Is it because I am an adult, or was it the fact that people around me couldn't understand how I was able to interact.

I look at what the Kinect SDK kit now has to offer, it is one thing that I plan on using with my lessons with juniors, I want them to interact with the technology, I would love to find the kit that they used to create this fun way to spend 20 minutes while waiting for a flight

It also looks like the wall gets used for other things as well, as a tweet wall...

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Computer Science at High School

To give you some idea, here is what is now available for our students in New Zealand

Based upon the Curriculum Guide

around the Basic Concepts in Computer Science

Demonstrate understanding of basic concepts from computer science

Demonstrate understanding of basic concepts from computer science involves: (Achieved)
• describing the key characteristics and roles of algorithms, programs and informal instructions
• describing an algorithm for a task, showing understanding of the kinds of steps that can be in an algorithm, and determining the cost of an algorithm for a problem of a particular size
• describing the role and characteristics of programming languages, including the different roles and characteristics of high level languages and low level (or machine) languages, and the function of a compiler
• describing the role of a user interface and factors that contribute to its usability.

Demonstrate in-depth understanding of basic concepts from computer science involves: (Merit)
• explaining how algorithms are distinct from related concepts such as programs and informal instructions
• showing understanding of the way steps in an algorithm for a task can be combined in sequential, conditional, and iterative structures and determining the cost of an iterative algorithm for a problem of size n
• explaining how the characteristics of programming languages, including the different characteristics of high level and low level (or machine) languages, are important for their roles
• explaining the need for programs to translate between high and low level languages
• explaining how different factors of a user interface contribute to its usability.

Demonstrate comprehensive understanding of basic computer science concepts from computer science involves: (Excellence)
• comparing and contrasting the concepts of algorithms, programs, and informal instructions
• determining and comparing the costs of two different iterative algorithms for the same problem of size n
• comparing and contrasting high level and low level (or machine) languages, and explaining different ways in which programs in a high level programming language are translated into a machine language
• discussing how different factors of a user interface contribute to its usability by comparing and contrasting related interfaces.

The basic concepts from computer science are: the concept of an algorithm; the concept of a programming language; and the concept of a user interface and its usability.

An algorithm is a precise unambiguous specification of how to accomplish some computational task in a finite number of well-defined steps. An algorithm is distinct from a computer program. An algorithm has a cost (the number of steps it will perform) for a task. Different algorithms for the same task may have different costs.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Development of Environment

Since joining with the school, I have busy implementing a number of half finished projects that need to be up and running.

First was Moodle 2, this was up and running from the hosted supplier in May, however the issue was the SMS system doing a sync of teachers, students ad classes. This was first completed on the 8 June, and has not been run since, today was the next successful update.
It seems the issue was around java, since java failed on the system the upload did not take place. It has taken two days working with the supplier to get this working. The next issue is that when the upload takes place, the moodle sync requires user intervention currently, after a month of running this will be automated.
One issue I am having is with the auth/SAML module, as the module we are using is out of date with the one that is now available.

Next was Google Apps, we use the Google SAML module to manage this between Moodle and Google Apps, since we have been getting Single Sign On working, we have had to disable the module till some work happens

SSO, we have SSO up and running, this required up to enter each students SMSid into a field in Active Directory. We have had a number of false starts with this, but now it seems like it is up and running.

myportfolio is our eportfolio system, this has been up and running on an internal authentication system based on the hosted site, we have just gone through and linked it into our SSO, however, it requires that I go through and link up each student with there network username. There is only one issue that I see with this currently and it is around what the students called themselves when they signed up, I have a number of students that I am trying to work out who they are so I can get them access.

I am looking at other SSO server, luckly we have just had a site called created to help us. I am thinking what other things we use, or have potential to use,
Once thing that is not helping me, is the data that is being brought out through the SMS - LMS interoperability, as the SMS is not provising all staff users, one thing is that the principal needs access and is not include, also we need to think about the teacher aides that work with students, they nee access to the moodle courses that there students are in.

Once thing I looked at today was the SMS providers blog, I decided to post a few comments around some the issues:
Is our SMS doing any work around how it handles IAM/IDE requirements that school are now looking for as we move towards Single Single On.
Is our SMS doing anything around being able to handle Single Sign On requests on it Library webOPAC?
How is our SMS taking a more leading role as SMS schema v3 is being developed?
It will be interesting to see how they are going to respond to these questions.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

change of school

Seven weeks ago, I left one workplace to start work at another. It has been a difficult shift. From head of department at a decile 3 school, with 1800 students, to a teacher in charge role at a decile 9 school with 800 students.
I have been thrust into a school of change, and little leadership in the development of change. They seem to think that I can implement the changes required within a short amount of time and a full teaching load.
The staff at the school are looking forward to the changes that have been in the making for 4 years, however, them seems little thought in the way that they will impact the teaching and learning.

So far:
Google apps implementation has been setup by watchdog, provisioning has been setup from moodle to create and manage users
moodle2 has been setup and implemented by dataview, through a rather difficult and issue prone MUSAC websync
myportfolio has been setup and developed by the previous teacher
Single Sign On, this is being developed by the new providers of the idp service here in the city. It is taking longer than I thought.

All of these things are great and we spent 5 years developing, implementing and accessing these at the previous school, however, I am having to get these things done in 5 weeks, through rather difficult conditions.

I am also going through a number of other issues at the school through the development of ICT infrastructure, my classroom looks like something from 3 years ago, with a mixture of 14", 17" CRT screens and at least I have a slightly up to date computers in the room, though they look rough and have PS2 mice connected, which seems to have an issue of be unrecognized by the OS, which mean you have to unplug then, plug them back in and restart the machine, which impedes learning for the student and develops issues within the class.

The classroom, although an interesting design has its own issues, I need to remove a computer from the back of the class which students seem to like sitting at which does not allow to see the board or projector.

The projector is something out of the ark, I have been told that it is probably one of the first ones that was put into the school. Although the remote for it is still in the class, it does not seem to want to work with it, which means climbing onto a desk and turning it one and off by hand.

I keep getting told how great things are now that we have webmail, as well as remote access to the system, something I have been used to for as long as I have been teaching. Considering I now believer that teachers own devices should be allowed to access email systems so they can keep in contact with what is going on.

There is also the development of ICT within the school, I keep getting called into meetings that I am unprepared for around the development of a strategic plan.

21st Century Learning Facilities?

Sadly most of our teaching and learning spaces are 19th century spaces. Needs have changed. We need classrooms with improved technological capabilities, and multi-functional capabilities to enhance leaning by including facilities such as a video conferencing suite. The BOT needs to be proactive in working with the BOP to ensure a major upgrading of facilities which will meet 21st century teaching and learning requirements.

IT needs both now and in 2-3 years

Decile 9 Orewa College has recently hit the headlines “since telling parents the ipad 2 will be a compulsory stationery item for all year nine pupils next year.” While the move is welcomed by IT specialists, critics say “the device is not an affordable option for all parents.” The ipad sells for between $799 to $1148.

“Principals Association president, Patrick Walsh, said it would probably only be 4-5 years before ipads became compulsory but the question remained as to who was going to pay. In lower decile schools the Government needs to intervene and pay, or provide a subsidy if we want to keep pace with the world economy.” He went on to say, “There’s no point the Government rolling out the ultrafast broadband if they’re not going to help provide resources in schools to use it.”

We are a decile 9 school. Would our parents be willing to purchase this technology?

While I do not think that we are ready to make a laptop compulsory, I do believe it is a future consideration. In the meantime I am keen to explore ways to increase student engagement in learning using something they all have great ownership of, their cell phone! This has the potential to take this technology from their pockets and put it on the desk thereby solving a current classroom management issue – undercover cell phone use in class!

We are now connected to ultrafast fibre and while our IT contract over recent years has helped upskill our teaching staff, our infra-structure (both computer and facilities) is not 21st century and we battle to find significant funding to keep pace with modern technology.

Within the next 2-3 years we want students to be engaged in their learning through the opportunities we are currently putting in place. Most importantly we want to be developing and assisting students to access course material at home and continue the learning from class through resources and activities. We want to see students developing their lifelong learning portfolios, their eportfolios and we are putting in action Google Apps – online office and productivity suite to help students communicate online with their teachers and their peers. All of these are available easily for the students through Single Sign On, which allows them to access all of these through one username and password managed by the school network.

Currently we are beginning to see the development of on-line resources in the Learning Management System with the introduction of Moodle this year, both in collaborating in teacher resources and professional development, but much more is needed.

We are also in the process of upgrading the school network to cater for the changes of learners needs, with the School Network Upgrade Project (SNUP), this will allow us to make use of the Ultrafast Fibre connection to the school, as we upgrade the internal workings within the school. Also with the upgrade of the school servers this allows us to develop our internal storage capacity and allow access to services from the outside. However, there are some more developments that need to be made, establishing a backup server to allow us to continue if one server fails, as well as adding a SAN (Storage Area Network) which allows us to build our storage capacity as we move to meet the requirements of Learning and Assessment through developing all of our subjects through digital literacy.

Next steps for us include:-

- Video conferencing facility
- Library computer suite upgrade
- Multi-purpose (or multi-disciplinary) computer suites
- Ability for students to bring own devices to connect to the school network through wifi access, (improved access for boarders to the Managed Learning Environment)
- Investigation of Interactive Whiteboards to assist teachers in developing materials to assist in student learning.

am I enjoying it, I think I was at my last school for way to long and was lucky with what was available for me and my students, something that I think will take a long time to become available at my current workplace.

Hacking Versus Programming

I found this an interesting blog post, something which I want to use with my students,
This is a blog post from

I have many students that ask me to show them how to hack, normally of which the answer is no, or we go through the hacker high school unit of work, which normally gives them a sense of satisfaction. But I had never thought about hacking as ruthless programming.

What is the difference between Hacking and programming? One opinion I have heard expressed is that a hacker can put a lot of code together in a hurry but if a change is needed the code has to be completely rewritten. A programmer may take a little longer but if changes are needed they are more quickly and easily installed without the need for a complete rewrite. One source I heard attributed an observation like this to Maggie Johnson of Google. It rings true to me though. Hacking is usually described as “quick and dirty.” You though a bunch of code together and make it up as you go along. Some hackers are quite brilliant and can do amazing things in incredibly short periods of time. And then they move to the next thing. Or perhaps they stay with the same thing because no one else can understand it well enough to fix it, modify it or improve it. Job security? Perhaps but not a good thing for the people who use, or importantly pay for, the software.
I do a little hacking – that is to say toss something together in a short period of time without a lot of planning – from time to time. I’m not a genius though and typically this ends poorly. The performance is poor, the maintainability is poor, and no one else wants to use it. This may make be biased against this way of doing things I guess. I prefer to program – to think things out, to plan, to proceed in an organized fashion. I saw the difference made clear to me my first year of teaching (a long time ago). I was working on a little game programming of my own and decided to show it to some of my students. As I explained how I had set things up around a number of constants that is hoped would make the program more easily expandable one of the students turned to another and said “Look at that. He’s just starting and already he is planning for additions.” That is one of the real keys, in my opinion, to real programming.
I was a major in Systems Analysis in college. This was during a time when computer science majors were rare and software engineering majors rarer still. But one of the things my professors drilled into our heads was that programs had to be maintainable and extensible. We were taught from day one that programs are not finished but, in a sense, abandoned. More likely at some point you declare victory and more on. But others will maintain these programs and expand them and adapt them. Making their lives easier is a good thing. Think of the Golden Rule – program was you would want the programmers whose code you are modifying to have programmed. I think that is how it is written. Smile
The hackers get a lot of attention these days. These are the basketball players who make the slam dunk that makes it to the highlight reel. But basketball games are won by teams of players executing on the basics – the solid play well executed, the dribble, the layup, the pass that gets the ball to the star. In the long run we need more real programmers to make solid, dependable programs that don’t have be be rewritten from scratch when a change is needed.