Gotta Write More

They’re catching up.

I’ve now officially got more spam on my blog than posts and replies.

Thank you Akismet for hiding it from the public and letting me know just how many errant posts you’ve stopped for me.

I guess I’ll have to up my posting quota to stay ahead of the spambots and scrapers and …

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Use of computers in the classroom

A Manitoba research report talks about the harm that computers can have on student learning.

In today’s Windsor Star, a story on the report appears. Representatives from both district school boards in the area were contacted and commented on the report.

The Montreal Gazette reported on the same story.

There are some broad, sweeping generalizations in the report but it should serve to remind us all that we are under scrutiny. There is a concern expressed in the report about the cost of putting technology in schools.

I’m reminded of the quote by Derek Bot. “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance”

If we don’t provide equity of access and instruction in public schools, where will students learn the attitudes, skills, and knowledge to be a responsible citizen in today’s society? In Ontario, we do have a program of Ministry licensed software that benefits all financially and importantly provides the opportunities for all schools for a common tool. (Disclaimer: Author is a member of the OSAPAC Committee)

With computers, we enable students to have access to more information, think deeper and more analytically, and view problems in ways never imagined in a traditional classroom. The challenge for us is to prove that it’s money well invested.

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A Fragile Internet

If you recall, over the weekend, access to YouTube was interrupted.  I happened to be following the discussion on Twitter through the BBC Technology feed.  There was wild speculation about what was happening but it seemed to boil down to the desire of the Pakistan government to block YouTube from its citizens.

Apparently, there was a video on the service that was determined to be very offensive.  So, to protect is citizens, steps were taken to address this.

This morning, an article from the BBS describes what they think happened.

To me, the issue isn’t what was happening from the government end.  What concerns me is that impact that such a move has globally.  The incident serves to remind us that the internet is a living entity.  It relies on the component parts.  But, what of those of us who rely on its availability for instant information and communication? 

The situation was resolved on two fronts.  Service was restored in a couple of hours and the offending video was removed from YouTube.

Locally, we had a similar incident yesterday.  Certainly not of global proportions but we were trying to arrange a get together of some colleagues and we were bantering back and forth via email about the weather conditions and the drive that some would endure.  Until internet access was cut for one of us because of construction.  We ended up having to resolve it the old fashioned way.  Telephones.

This poses a problem to those who provide these services.  What is considered to be acceptable up time?  For those of us on the other end as consumers, what can we consider to be acceptable services and do we all need to have a “Plan B” in our pockets?

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Gadgets versus Widgets

It has been a very disruptive past little while.  For a long time now, I’ve used Google Desktop.  It’s been a spectacular performer and I had a few of my favourite Gadgets sitting in the Google Sidebar.  So, as I’m doing my regular work, I would get the regular stream of news from BBC, Reuters (I really enjoy Reuters Oddly Enough) and of course digg.

Then, for no obvious reason, they stopped working. 

Every time I’d go to add a new gadget, I’d get a message indicating that the gadget could not be registered and to check the manifest file.  Did all that, did the restore point, uninstalled and reinstalled a least half a dozen times.  Not only was it frustrating to see failure, but I was going without a news fix.  Ever been hooked on engadget and then have it go away? 

In a last ditch effort, I deleted it altogether and tried to go back to Vista’s Sidebar.  It was OK but I couldn’t find the functionality that I really wanted.

So, I decided to give Yahoo! Widgets another go.  It had been a while since I tinkered with them and you know what?  I’m really pleased with the results.  It’s a different way of looking at things.  Instead of sitting in a fixed sidebar, they just float.  I would periodically detach my Google gadgets but they always found themselves a home back on the side.

I think I’ll give this a shot and see how it works out.  I would be interested in hearing if others have had problems with Google Gadgets; there sure are lot of hits if you do a search for the error message but no solutions that have worked for me.

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Online course offering

A lot of people got to add “Bernie Dodge” and “Webquest” to their vocabulary of computer terms though his work in the design and promotion of webquests as an pedagogy for teaching with the internet.  More than using the Internet as a place to “get information”, the Webquest model, when used properly, elevated student engagement and thinking/analysis to higher levels.  I was an adopter of the philosophy, quickly becoming a big fan.  I wrote some webquests of my own.

A “No Bullying Proposal” Webquest
Choices into Action” Webquest
Computer Science Research and Development” Webquest

Through workshops for GECDSB teachers, many have allowed their webquests to remain online here

As a result of Dr. Dodge’s efforts, there were many people who become proponents and created resources to support the efforts.  I created a “Webquest Locator” which indexed webquests by grade level and subject area according to the Ontario Curriculum.  Do an internet search for webquests and there are thousands of resources created by followers and believers.

I think that it’s important when the online community gets behind a great effort.

Recently, Dr. Dodge offered a Saturday Teaching with Technology series courses called “Using Problem-Based Learning to Enhance Decision-Making Skills“.  The content of the course is particularly relevant as teachers take a look at current practice and think about how they can make it better.  It’s a terrific offering for those people who were able to make the trek to the classroom and participate.   The content is a next logical step to those who used Webquests effectively.  The current state of technology allows for more collaboration, and most importantly, the opportunity for more student questioning and thinking.

For the rest of us, the class is online and available to all through the use of Wiki technology.  Follow the link above to experience the course.  It’s a very powerful and far-reaching concept. 

In a world of constant change, this model offers a powerful way to get the concepts delivered to the masses in an efficient and consistent manner.

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