Tuesday, 29 May 2012


I went to a scholarship forum today that talked about how students could achieve better in this. We need to look at more scholarships in technology and ways that we can help our students to attain these.
In reality it came down to innovative projects that did not have a predefined outcome. That the outcome came out of the stakeholder and client feedback.
Through the forum I was thinking about how can I help students through this. I think I need to really get to grips with the technology literacy.
There are a number of exemplars available as well as markets reports that I am going to have to find and make available to the year 12 students this year so they can develop and come up with a project for next year. But one question I find myself asking is how will the new digital technologies strands be applicable. Currently we are working on the "old" technology generic achievement standards.

Monday, 28 May 2012

School's in for ICT professionals

New Zealand Computer Society has launched its ICT Connect progamme in secondary schools

Michael Peterson is filled with pride every time he receives a reference request from IT employers regarding his former students. In the past year he has taken three such calls, and the ICT educator says he hopes to receive many more in the future.

Peterson, who is the head of ICT at Hukarere Girls’ College in the Hawkes Bay, says the students at the low-decile school face significant challenges in finding employment after leaving secondary school. By encouraging his students towards careers in IT, he can help them gain stable employment in the future, he says.

“I’ve been talking to people in the industry, they want more women working in IT. There are some now, but not many because they get snapped up very quickly. There is a need for them and we as educators need to show them the opportunities available to them,” says Peterson.

Peterson is a strong advocate of ICT as a subject and of the industry as a career. He has criticised the lack of importance given to ICT by the Ministry of Education, which he says is discouraging students from considering ICT as a career.

“The IT industry is changing the world, and bringing so much to the New Zealand economy,” says Peterson.

“At the moment a lot of people who come into IT come into it through the side, from business or project management roles. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the students were coming into the industry deliberately?”

Three years ago Hukarere Girls’ College and 11 other New Zealand schools, were a part of the New Zealand Computer Society’s (NZCS) pilot programme to evangelise IT careers in secondary schools.

The pilot involved industry professionals visiting schools and talking to students about possible IT careers.

Peterson says programmes like this go a long way towards encouraging secondary students towards career paths in the ICT industry, by passing on the experiences of people they can relate to.

“One of the successes I’ve had was getting a young woman in the IT industry into a class of young girls to talk about her IT experiences. The girls thought it was cool and they could see themselves with a similar future,” says Peterson.

“We have had similar things before, but they usually felt like vendor pitches. We can’t be showing these girls just crusty old guys in flannel.”

This year the NZCS programme has been revived and is being rolled out to 50 secondary schools, under the name ICT-Connect.

Ben Smith, projects and engagement coordinator at NZCS, says he has recieved interest in the programme from over 400 schools, which demonstrates the need for it among ICT teachers.

Smith says every secondary school in New Zealand will be given the opportunity to participate, but a particular focus will be placed on engaging with girls’ schools, and schools with a high number of Maori and Pacific Island students on their rolls.

It is clear that the only way New Zealand IT companies will manage the current IT skill shortage is by making ICT an interesting subject, says Smith.

“Fresh blood is needed in IT. You can see this with the skills shortage that almost every second tech company in New Zealand is talking about. If we want these people coming in to the industry, the people who are already established in the industry need to pitch in.”

Smith says NZCS will be reaching out to the ICT industry for volunteers to participate in the programme. Volunteers will be expected to give around 30 minutes of their time, four to five times over consecutive weeks to share their ICT career experiences.

Schools will use an online booking system to facilitate visits from the volunteers.

Earlier this month, NZCS sent out a prospectus for potential industry partners to sponsor the initiative.

Smith says he is unable to mention the full details of sponsors who have signed on so far, but NZCS CEO Paul Matthews has previously said that Orion Health has made the $15,000 pledge to become a premier partner.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Plagiarism in schools

One thing that amazes me is the amount of copying of other peoples work and just he copy and paste mentality that happens in students assessments. Why is it that universities put in place systems that will help prevent the copying and pasting of students work and websites but schools don't Are we not preparing our students?

A couple of months ago I put onto a listserve the question -
I have had a request by English and Social Studies Departments to look at how plagiarism detection could be used with students handing in work. As with assessments now and the internet students could just use the copy and paste method to handin an assessment. What modules are schools using other than turnitin.
Turnitin - the most popular option but it is expensive to maintain the license.

To which I received:
Turnitin is definately the most widely used here in NZ - another option for Moodle that integrates really well and is cheaper than Turnitin is Urkund:
They are really good to work with and focus purely on the plagiarism detection service and the reporting is just as good as Turnitin - the biggest drawback is that their database of student submitted content isn't as big as Turnitin's, but their comparison against web content seems just as good.
Another option I'm keen to investigate further for NZ clients is the open source tool "crot" - there's a plugin available but it's not ready for mainstream/production use - it relies too much on the moodle server (causes a big performance hit) and doesn't cope too well with large numbers of submissions. I've been hoping to get some funding to tidy it up and turn it into structure so we could set up an NZ based "Crot" server - then a group of Moodle sites could connect to the single "server", share the hosting cost and enable a "NZ database" of submitted student files to be stored centrally for comparison. It also relies heavily on the Bing search engine and if the Terms & conditions of using their API change it could mean the web-search functionality was no longer available - it needs to allow other Search engine API plugins.
If anyone is interested in helping to fund some development on Crot to allow it to be used on a production site,

Now we have an issue, bing have changed there terms and conditions...

Link to version 2.0+ versions of crot http://moodle.org/plugins/view.php?plugin=plagiarism_crot
and the terms and conditions of the bing API have changed, only allowed 5,000 queries per month free, else it starts to cost.

However, there is a crotpro available now - http://beta.noplagiarism.org/ that now allows for a free trial.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

NZ Gambling Act

Am busy trying to work through the New Zealand Gambling Act at present to make sure that a potential student technology assessment doesn't break any New Zealand laws.

dia information http://www.dia.govt.nz/Services-Casino-and-Non-Casino-Gaming-Gambling-Act-2003
fact sheets http://www.dia.govt.nz/diawebsite.nsf/wpg_URL/Services-Casino-and-Non-Casino-Gaming-Fact-Sheets-%28Gambling-Act-2003%29

Class 1

Class 1 gambling cannot have a prize or turnover greater than $500. All proceeds from the gambling (including interest), if conducted by an individual, must be applied to the winners. Only Class 1 gambling can be conducted by individuals.


Saturday, 19 May 2012

Something different

One thing that we are always told as teachers is to make the class work as realistic as possible, the work that we should develop for students show have a real world context.

That we should look at at adding richness to learning with real world experiences.

Now this is where is starts getting interesting, I have a number of students who are struggling with the current assessments, they need to get through a course and not disrupt other students from their learning.

These students have been withdrawn from class a number of times, have cause issues and disrupted teaching a number of times, how to get them reengaged and working towards attuning the requirements of course completion.

There are a number of competitions for students to enter in and this one is yet another, but it has a spin with it, I will buy the student who wins lunch. Every student once hearing that wants to be involved. But I have limited it to a year only, I have limited entry to year 13 students only, if it works well this year we have a possibility of extending it next year, however, we have to abide by the New Zealand Laws and at the moment I am wondering if this can be done.

There is the rugby competition in the region i am at which has a good number of team, and over 100 games of rugby played within the season. So the idea is to get the students to develop the material and infrastructure needed to create a pick competition out of it. Now it would have to be limited to a year group first as a proof of concept. However in following years this could be opened up to all year levels and also other schools. This would require a significant amount of development work.

Would a development like this be suitable in school?

Friday, 11 May 2012

Teachers Professional Development

It is essential that teachers of Digital Technologies receive ongoing training and development if they are to facilitate relevant learning. Unfortunately this generally means that teachers undertake training on Saturdays, Sundays or holidays. Fair enough you may say, but would this happen in government or private sector businesses? We are talking essential training here, and in some cases (not at my college) teachers I have met pay their own fees. (Is there a tax rebate possible?)
My view is that  teachers of Digital technologies should be allocated 2 weeks training p.a. and $5-$10k in fees each year, at least whilst new standards are being introduced and many teachers require up-skilling. The current “voluntary” and ad hoc approaches are not good enough in my view.

Comment: I agree with the statements that are made above, we need training, and I lose a lot of time to be able to keep up to date with what is going on, though people do tell me I have 12 weeks off, though in reality I have four, most of my holidays is working on building up my profession, through reading, programming, developing resources, ideas, interaction with colleagues, attending conferences both in the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors.

Digital Technologies is an ever changing field, I would like other curriculum areas to challenge us on how much there areas have changed, at present this is due to the change of standards, but with Digital Technologies we have a whole new curriculum area with learning objectives for the first time, and they are still be developed, Level 3 NCEA and NZC Level 8 have yet to be finalised and there are a number of issues with the new levels that have yet to be sorted out.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Learn coding online - issues

Over the past couple of weeks I have had a number of people point out to me that they can learn programming online, nothing wrong with that, however, they are learning on old code source.

labs.codeacademy.com - You're running Python version 2.7.2.
http://www.pyschools.com/ Python 2.5.2 running on the Google App engine

I will see what others are around and add them to the list

Friday, 4 May 2012

Moodle login messages

I have been bust working out a different auth login for a project, these students have access to there own school moodle environments, however there environments wont allow a specific question type to installed and run, so we have been working a new server install to allow this type of programming development to happen.

For this project we using the auth/gauth plugin http://www.moodleinschools.org.nz/node/4248 and is available through https://github.com/piersharding/moodle-google which allows students to use their openid google username as an authentication method, we have also set it to allow account creation based upon the information passed from google apps.
This will allow the possibility of schools that are not using moodle to be able to use the moodle course as we have some schools that are using alternative Learning Management Systems.
auth/gauth - OpenID authentication with Google
Activated as an authentication plugin, and must be configured.
Key configuration values are:
  • Domain name - the Google Apps domain name which forms the OAuth consumer key
  • OpenID username mapping: the field from the OpenID assertions that is used for matching to Moodle - usually 'openid', but can be 'email'
  • moodle username mapping - the field in Moodle that maps to the above OpenID userfield - usually 'idnumber'
This is available through the www.moodleinschools.org.nz 2.2.2. installation.

Now we need to allow students to login, so changes to the login page are needed, I have been wondering how to do this for a long time, so reading the documentation on the git hub, it was explained:

If you want to use another authentication method together with auth/gauth, in 
parallel, change the 'Instructions' in the 'Common settings' of the 'Administrations
>> Users >> Authentication Options' to contain a link to the 
auth/gauth login page (-- remember to check the href and src paths --): 
Click /auth/gauth/index.php to login with SSO
However, looking at the instructions, this is under, Site Administration -> Plugins -> Authentication -> Manage Authentication
and in the
textbox Instructions

Here you can provide instructions for your users, so they know which username and password they should be using. The text you enter here will appear on the login page. If you leave this blank then no instructions will be printed.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Computing at School’s Raspberry Pi manual

Computing at School’s Raspberry Pi manual – call for contributions!

Liz: Commander Coder, one of our friends from Computing at School, left the message below on our forums last night. Because I know not all our forum visitors read the  Educational applications section, I’m copying what he posted here. Please consider whether there’s anything you can do to help out – we really value community input and we’d be really chuffed if you can take part.
I know a lot of you are interested to learn more about what we’re planning for this year’s educational release. Myra, our educational co-ordinator, has been working on the project for more than a month now, and I hope we’ll be able to publish something about her plans for the run-up to the next academic year later this week.
I’ll hand over to Commander Coder:
Over the past few months the Computing at School’s working group (CAS) has been working on a user manual to be ready for the educational launch.  The manual is destined to answer that question to be asked by many Raspberry Pi owners; “What do I do with it?“  The manual will be right there on the desktop when the Raspberry Pi boots up. Thus, the owner won’t need an internet connection to get started.
The manual will answer the question with a series of “step-by-step” guides and “type-in and run” experiments in computer science. CAS has agreed with the Raspberry Pi Foundation that the following languages will be available on the educational launch SD card in a few months. There are hundreds of other languages and systems, but these will be enough to give Raspberry Pi users an experience of computer science.
* Scratch
* Python 3 (including PyGame, PyQt4 and similar libraries)
* Greenfoot
* Geogebra
* Java
* and C/C++ (naturally)
We have created a series of experiments for the owners to try out but we’re hungry for more. This is a call to the Raspberry Pi development community for your contribution to the educational manual.
As in the good old days of magazine listings, we are looking for short programs followed by a description of how they do what they do and preferably how it relates to a computing concept. If you’d like to contribute you can contact me at raspberryfilling@live.com.  Ideally, point me at a website which has your experiment, add it to the Wiki Manual section, or simply send a zip or tarball containing the program and readme. Please don’t send links to material you don’t own. We want your contribution, not someone else’s.
Thanks in advance for any contributions and any we use in the manual will be properly attributed to you. We can’t promise we’ll use all the contributions, and I’ve seen a lot of them already mentioned on the forums and the wiki, but we’ll try to collate the most appropriate for teaching computer science to the Raspberry Pi owners.
Even if you don’t want to contribute anything to the manual you can follow our progress on Twitter @rasp_filling, and our Facebook page.

Pycode install developments

Today has been a busy day, changes to the site have been a plenty.
Updated from 2.1.5 through to 2.2.2
This has allowed some other changes to be implemented, one of these is a different authentication method, OpenID authentication with Google

Built into the moodleinschools.org.nz 2.2.2 version.
auth/gauth - OpenID authentication with Google
Activated as an authentication plugin, and must be configured.
Key configuration values are:
  • Domain name - the Google Apps domain name which forms the OAuth consumer key
  • OpenID username mapping: the field from the OpenID assertions that is used for matching to Moodle - usually 'openid', but can be 'email'
  • moodle username mapping - the field in Moodle that maps to the above OpenID userfield - usually 'idnumber' 
I have been thinking about the fact that we have two schools that could potentially use this at present. Can I lock the domain names down to the two schools, or do I leave it open, and inform schools that the method of authentication is website.nz/auth/gauth, this would mean that only the schools that know can access, also the method of enrollment is the next one.
I am thinking about using "Self enrolment (Student)" and applying a password that is made available.

Using the enrolment settings we can look at unenrolling students after a certain period of time after the course has been completed, the other is the users on the moodle instance itself, these can be removed using moodle as well. So management of users could be left up to the system to manage. 

This was a concern by another user, how would it be managed, so through systems that are built in and have been added it seems that there is little to do apart from making sure a cron job happens.

Update: 20 May 2012, looking at the github https://github.com/piersharding/moodle-google/tree/master/auth/gauth support has now been added that I can limit the auth domains, I can limit them with a ",". This will allow me to do schoola.school.nz, schoolb.school.nz, schoolc.school.nz so it is a great possibility.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Pycode history, why moodle and the changes to pypy

Last year the only type of questions pycode supported were of the form "write a function blah(x, y, z) that takes parameters .... and returns .... ". pycode was inspired by the excellent Python drill site http://codingbat.com/. But i wanted the integration with Moodle so I could set different question types and also record marks. I also found the write-a-function question a bit limiting, e.g. we couldn't do anything with files or classes or functions that did I/O or anything requiring any sort of state. So what you have is version 2, which permits "helloWorld", for example.

You can get plenty of ideas for 'write-a-function' questions from codingbat.com.