Computing in School. Is the time nigh? October 20, 2012Posted by ianinsheffield in CPD, Musings, Twitter.
Tags: CAS, coding, computing, programming
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The other night I attended a local CAS Hub Meeting at Sheffield Hallam University; the first I’ve been to. Attended by an eclectic mix drawn in the main from ICT teachers and leaders from local schools, but also including colleagues from HE, PGCE students and representatives of companies in the digital sector.
… a closely knit national federation of university-led local school networks … A central goal of the local networks is to build a sufficient capacity of expert schoolteachers with the competencies and capabilities necessary to support the development of other computer science teachers.
Phil then took us through some of the robotics projects the recently established South Yorkshire CAS Hub had undertaken in conjunction with local schools. The evening hospitably drew to a close with a few nibbles and the opportunity to network with other attendees.
What was serendipitous though was when I got home and checked in on Twitter to find an ongoing discussion along the same lines as that which I’d been listening to barely an hour earlier. I think I’m right in saying it started with this from Neil Winton:
It’s as simple as it is obvious. The ability to code is as important as the ability to read and write: venturebeat.com/2012/09/04/est…
— Neil Winton (@nwinton) October 18, 2012
and blossomed to include John Johnston, Charlie Love, Rob Hill and Richard Anderson who touched on the value of coding in the curriculum, the skills associated with coding and computing and the dearth of computer scientists in the UK employment market. Although I chipped in briefly, I don’t have an agenda here. As ICT Development Manager in school, my responsibility is to ICT across all subjects (and beyond!) and my disposition towards it stems from the potential it offers to encourage, enhance and extend, promote and enable learning. That said, I’m only too well aware of and sympathetic towards some of the serious issues surrounding Computer Science, like the marked decline in numbers of students studying Computing in school and subsequently in higher education and the shortfall in the numbers of CS graduates available to fill jobs in the IT labour market.
There is a push then from organisations like CAS, the BCS, NAACE, from Government and from teachers in field to address the problem. That’s good. I support that and will lend my shoulder where I can. There’s a recognition that the shift of emphasis towards ICT during the past decade has left the teaching workforce denuded in people with expertise and capability to deliver Computer Science. That too is being addressed with Government incentives and through the efforts of CAS.
In support of the case, it’s often rightly argued that studying computing or coding is of value in itself, providing an ideal opportunity through which to develop logical thinking, critical reasoning, problem solving and being creative. These skills can be introduced as early as Key Stage 1 using devices like Bee-Bots and continued through school using applications and initiatives like Scratch, Kodu, Small Basic, Code Academy and more. I wholeheartedly agree with these propositions … yet have a nagging worry at the back of my mind – one of equity. It’s the same one I have when we put on open evenings where departments/faculties showcase their subject in order to help(!) students choose which subjects to study. If you’re a good enough teacher, then you ought to be able to ‘sell’ your subject, highlighting the unique aspects which help it stand out from the crowd and make it worthy of inclusion in a curriculum (whether the narrow one chosen by older students or the broad one imposed(?!) on younger students). I’m certain an equally compelling case could be made whether it’s Psychology, Latin, Economics, Media Studies, Politics, Anthropology or Sociology.
So I guess my point is, are all subjects created equal? Or should some subjects, like Computer Science, be more equal than others?
Signing your life away? March 27, 2012Posted by ianinsheffield in Musings, Twitter, Web 2.0.
Tags: registering, terms & conditions, terms of service
Last night I fired off a tweet providing notice of the latest post in my #366Web2.0 series. As it happens it was about Flixtime, an online application providing functionality similar to that of Animoto. Shortly afterwards a colleague replied asking:
Are the films created the property of Flixtime like Animoto? Is flix ok to use for pupil photos?
Well there are two things there I guess, so in the order they appeared:
1. This is a very valid question and one we perhaps ask ourselves all too rarely as we sign up for ‘free’ online services. How many of us take the time and trouble to read through the Terms of Service and simply put a tick mark in the checkbox saying we agree to them? On this occasion since I’d been prompted, I went back and took a look. Five and half thousand words later, I still couldn’t really answer the question fully. The ones at Flixtime aren’t particularly abstruse, but they’re still largely written in legalese, a language just fine and dandy for lawyers in a courtroom, but hardly accessible for an ordinary member of the public. I suppose I can consider myself reasonably well read, so how would the ToS appear to a 13 year old or to someone with learning difficulties? Yes a company has no choice but to protect itself from possible litigation, but is it reasonable to expect that a potential user will have read and understood over five thousand words of legally-oriented terminology? Here’s a sample from Flixtime’s terms:
This Agreement shall continue in perpetuity unless terminated in accordance with this Section 13. Flixtime at any time may terminate this Agreement in its sole discretion, including, without limitation, for breach by you of any of your representations, warranties or obligations under this Agreement.
I wondered if others were similar. Here’s a few words from YouTube’s three and half thousand:
14.3 You agree that if YouTube does not exercise or enforce any legal right or remedy which is contained in the Terms (or which YouTube has the benefit of under any applicable law), this will not be taken to be a formal waiver of YouTube’s rights and that those rights or remedies will still be available to YouTube.
And from Prezi’s four and half thousand words (which to be fair appears somewhat less inaccessible):
When you upload User Content on or through the Service, you represent and warrant that, with respect to all User Content that you upload, transmit, publish and disseminate through the Service, (a) you have all the rights and licenses necessary to use, reproduce, publish, display publicly, perform publicly, distribute or otherwise exploit such User Content in connection with the Service (and to grant to Prezi the licenses set forth in this Agreement);
And let’s not even think about PInterest!
Anyway, in answer to the original question, this phrase from Flixtime’s terms might help:
You hereby grant Flixtime a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual license to use your Submission for the purposes of providing the services contemplated hereunder.
Which suggests to me that Flixtime is at liberty to use your stuff, but doesn’t become the owner … however I’m more than happy to be corrected if my interpretation is too loose!
The second point is perhaps a little easier to answer … possibly!
2. “Is Flixtime OK to use with pupil photos?” I’d suggest requires pretty much the same answer as “Is it OK to post pictures of pupils on the Internet?” I’d guess that most (all?) schools have a policy regarding the taking and use of images, so that should be the starting point. If the policy doesn’t specifically discuss posting images, then a re-write might be in order. As do most schools, we post heaps of images of students on our official school website; we want people to be able to see students enjoying their time with us and we feel it’s important to recognise and celebrate student achievements. But we do so following guidelines which parents are aware of and have agreed with. Are sites other than the school website covered by the same terms? Should they be, or are they different?
Me? Well I’d be inclined to play safe and try to arrange my activities so that imagery used does not require inclusion of students, if I know the output will be posted to the Web. That way, the issue never arises. Or is that being too paranoid?
Weighed in the balance … BYOD October 28, 2011Posted by ianinsheffield in Inspiration, Musings, Tools, Twitter.
Tags: #edchat, BYOD, cons, debate, discussion, pros, technology, twitter
At midnight on Tuesday, just before I retired to the Land of Nod, I made the mistake of a quick peek at the Twitterstream. #edchat was just about to start on the topic of BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. This is a topic very near to my heart at the moment, since we’re improving our school infrastructure to allow us to enable BYOD should we so choose. Hearing (reading?) what people have to say on the topic took precedence over my need for sleep, so I joined the animated discussion.
Wanting to be able to refer back to what people had said and catch up on the myriad of tweets I missed, I checked out the archive. Having thought I might Storify the stream, adding the numerous extra resources that people had referenced, it soon became apparent that wouldn’t be possible. The following day (after a good night’s sleep) by the time I started to pull the Twiiterstream for #edchat through, there had been so many subsequent tweets with that hashtag, that Storify couldn’t go back far enough to the BYOD discussion.
Instead then, and because the debate raised many issues both against and in favour of BYOD, I turned to Pro|Con lists. Using the archive, I pulled out all the comments on each side of the argument and listed them in Pro Con, then applied what I felt were appropriate weightings. The results are here, BUT they’re clearly only my opinions. The great thing about Pro Con lists is that others get the chance to influence the results – democracy in action? Hover over each of the arguments and you can say whether you agree or disagree (you do need to sign up (free) or you can log in with Facebook).
Overall then, it would appear that I tend to favour BYOD … but maybe you can change that! For or against! (Do check the interactive elements of the results chart)
Wouldn’t this be an interesting and useful tool to use with your students for summarising a debate on a controversial (or non-controversial) issue? Have the discussion in class, create the Pro Con list from the group’s responses, then perhaps as a homework task have them visit it to contribute whether they were for or against the group’s arguments.
Thanks to all the good folk of Twitter who participated in the aformentioned #edchat session for your ideas and advice. In particular the following who provided the Pros & Cons: @fereydoon1975, @sammorra, @Jena_Sherry, @MrsBecks25, @Luke1946, @cybraryman, @mmebrady, @diginativenick, @patjlee, @Digin4ed, @tomwhitby, @mrsblanchetnet, @drdouggreen, @drdouggreen, @DMS_Principal, @DaretoChem, @mrnichol, @mrsgosselin, @irasocol, @javafest, @blairteach, @MrReidWSS, @MisterTelfer & @tomgrissom
(Hope I attributed the right people!)