Saturday, 7 March 2015

Classrooms, what might a pen and paper look like in digital

I often wonder what it would be like to work in a classroom, where you have your desks, chairs students sitting in rows and working on a task. A chair fails, you get another chair, you don't have a desk for a student as your numbers grow, you grab another desk. A student arrives without a book you can grab them a piece of paper and they can carry on.

Now imagine you are in a computer lab, a computer stops working and you need it fixed? No access to do that, have to wait for the technician.
Your numbers grow in your class and you need another computer? No.
The students need the same piece of software to learn a new skill that is part of a teaching and learning programme that you have asked for weeks before to be installed, it hasn't been done yet as it is further down the tech's schedule of work, and you are hoping it will it be fixed by Monday.
You can't move furniture around a room because the desks are screwed to the floor.
You want to take your students down a path where they are interested to get them to learn more about the world wide wide through ports. Nope, locked down by a school firewall.
Get students working on robots where they need to connect a USB Cable to a computer? No, locked down by the technician.

This has been a great issue with teachers ever since the introduction of the computer lab in schools. They are locked down so students can't cause any trouble with the equipment. They normally are the last to see any tech hours to fix issues because there are wider infrastructure issues at play. This is essential in our jobs, how can we say to a student, sorry you can't do your lessons today as the computer doesn't have the software installed even though all the others in the room have it. That we can't teach you web development it has a perceived security risk as the students will be accessing a server.

Five years ago new digital technologies standards were introduced, where an level 3 assessment task on TKI asks students to install and manipulate a Content Management System. This is something that is widely used today by many websites on the internet. Something you think would be quite easy to do? With the introduction of php and mySQL at NCEA Level 2 as well. Getting students to create dynamic websites. Getting students understanding what they are about and how to create them. If a school does not have a LAMP stack on a server with access for students it is pretty hard to deliver what is an essential part of the curriculum.

There are ways of doing this with USB sticks or Local admin rights on computers, but when you are a byod school using chromebooks, these will not work for teaching web development.

You need a good relationship with your schools technician to make these things work. To ask for a web server to be created and setup in such a way to make it work on the network, things like opening up firewall constraints and port 22 to allow students to ssh into the server to create their mySQL database in the terminal, and port 21 to allow FTP traffic, as well as DNS to access the server name and HTTP traffic to allow a student to actually view their created content.

How do teachers manage to ask for these things to be done, that is now almost essential to deliver to students to get them to develop a understanding of the world wide web, digital information and programming. As I say, this is our classroom, the book, the pen and the paper to be able to innovate, engage and inspire. Are schools listening?

I had a question why port 22, the reason why having students having the ability to access this port allows them to work on a newer version of python for programming, as the chromebook apps that we have managed to find are at version 2.72 rather than version 3.4.x in which all other devices can support. So being able to do development using a server would support more students.

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