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Ban ’em all! July 18, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, Resources.
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As promised then, a follow-up to the previous post

Mobile devices

From umpcportal on Flickr

The majority of our students enjoy access to wide range of powerful devices from desktops, laptops, netbooks, slates/pads, web-enabled phones, iPod Touches, games consoles and more. Increasingly so as they mature. But when they come into school, those devices have to be left at home or kept in their bag and they’re required to use school equipment. To be fair, they’re quite well catered for there; the school infrastructure and equipment are robust, reliable, well specified, up to date and in good order . . . but it’s not their equipment. There’s no sense of ownership. They have to adapt to the way school has decided to deploy its ICT resources, as indeed most pupils walking through any school gate would experience.

Why is then that we’ve chosen not to tap into the resource base already in place? What are the challenges to be overcome before we exploit that potential? In scanning through a few reports (Naismith et al 2005, Traxler 2008, Schuler 2009), I picked out three basic categories of reason:

  • Technical – school networks in general are set up for security, safety, uniformity and ease of management. This is for the benefit of the organisation, rather than that of the learner.
  • Pedagogical – we’re still developing appropriate techniques for harnessing new technologies, currently to a large extent bending them to fit what we’ve always done. How might our approach change if we don’t have to move to the technology (ICT suite) or have it come to us (laptop bank)? Instead it’s just there . . . all the time.
  • Human – attitudes and norms are more accepting of new technologies in the world at large than they are in school. Teachers using social networking tools to keep in touch with friends and family for example, rarely consider using them to nurture professional relationships.

To examine the factors encouraging and resisting the move towards greater pupil autonomy in device usage, I thought a force-field analysis might help:

Force-field Diagram

Driving and resisting forces

Though the driving forces are largely out of our control, the resisting forces offer scope for reduction. We are already investigating the impact on our infrastructure by exploring an enterprise solution to safely accommodate more devices over our wireless network. With students using their own devices, the school desktop/laptop estate could be reduced, releasing funds to support students for whom equity is an issue. Issues of bullying and child safety should be addressed through the curriculum anyway and may simply need enhancing. If devices provide a distraction in classrooms, we perhaps ought to be exploring the reasons why students feel the need to disengage, rather than blaming the technology.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle however is changing the way we view the encroachment of these technologies into the formal space that is our school. Do we embrace it, seizing the opportunities it provides? Or do we continue to throw up barriers, instead of seeking ways to dissemble them?

I guess it depends whether your cup is half empty . . . or half full.

Naismith, L. et al., 2005. Literature review in mobile technologies and learning. NESTA Futurelab Series. Available at: http://www.futurelab.org.uk/resources/publications-reports-articles/literature-reviews/Literature-Review203/ [Accessed July 16, 2010].

Schuler, C., 2009. Pockets of Potential: Using Mobile Technologies to Promote
Children’s Learning. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

Traxler, J., 2008. Learners–Should We Leave Them To Their Own Devices? Emerging Technologies. Available at: http://partners.becta.org.uk/page_documents/research/emerging_technologies/learners_johntraxler.pdf [Accessed July 16, 2010].

I-Spy Eye-Fi Wi-Fi February 10, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in Resources, Tools.
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When I first followed the link to the Eye-Fi card, I soon realised this would be something we could definitely use.

Eye-Fi card

The most basic 2Gb card

At it’s most simple it’s an SD memory card of the type used in many digital cameras, but at just shy of £50 for 2Gb, it’s hardly the cheapest form of storage!  However it has a much bigger trick up its sleeve because there’s an inbuilt wireless transmitter enabling the card to connect to your wireless network.  What this means is with the card in the camera, a few short seconds after taking a snap, the photo automatically whizzes off through the ether (assuming you’re within range of your wireless network) and lands in the folder of your choice.  Wow!  Now in  a home network that’s kinda neat . . . in a school environment, it’s nothing short of amazing!  All of a sudden the messing about having to get to a computer, find a card reader, log on to the network, then shift the photos to your user area . . . after you’ve sifted through the fifty or so other photos that the last user forgot to delete from the card!  That means that someone could be around the school taking the photos for a project whilst another member of the group is at a computer working on the photos within seconds of the photos being taken.

Only a thought, but could this be a way of providing stimulus material for digital storytelling or writing a newscast?  One group taking a series of photos whilst the others back at base write their interpretations in real time.  Lots of potential I think . . . and I’ve only just started thinking!

A couple of other points.  This wasn’t just a quick load and go.  The setup routine for a home wireless network is relatively painless; in a school that’s far fom the truth.  This is because part of the setup process requires the card to connect through the Internet and to do that, it’s configured to go out through port 80 . . . likely to be blocked in most schools.  After much to-ing and fro-ing between his home and school with card, camera and laptop, my genius network manager Steve (name-check deserved) eventually found a workaround – all credit due.

There are other cards in the range which are of larger capacity and include features like automatic geotagging, uploading of video and online sharing, but this one did what we needed.  Was it worth the price?  Well time will tell in terms of educational gains . . . but I know how much time our ICT Support Team spends uploading photos for rushed teaching staff.  I suspect it won’t take long for the card to have paid for itself in terms of saved time alone.  Now I’ve just got to find a way of providing storage for the bulging folder of photos!

(PS Just found DropResize . .  . watch this space!)