Is technology leaving kids behind?

October 5, 2011 at 10:21 am | Posted in Education | Leave a comment
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I have just read this post (Is education technology doomed?) on Edudemic.com. In it, it suggests that by pushing the barriers in education with using technology we may be leaving kids behind. Kids from families that cannot afford high-end computers/tablets/mobile phones and connections to the internet. In essence, this is true. These families are disadvantaged. However, I think, instead of seeing this as a problem that means educating kids in this way is not a good idea (I don’t believe that is what the post was saying, but it could be read into it), we need to look at ways to overcome this problem so that we can continue to bring our education systems/practices into the world of today.

A couple of years ago, I bought an old computer for about $12. This included the monitor, keyboard, mouse and CPU. It was definitely not a high-spec computer. It wouldn’t run the latest version of windows on it. It wasn’t fast and it didn’t have a large hard-disk. I installed Ubuntu Linux on it, and it ran like a dream. How much did Ubuntu cost? Nothing. What came with it? A stack of different programs to do pretty much anything you wanted! And I could download many more free programs.

Why am I writing about this? I’m wanting to get across the idea that perhaps schools need to re-evaluate what technology they use. No, not everyone can buy the latest computer with the most up-to-date software on it. But, I could do just as much on the computer that cost me $12 as I could on my $1000 desktop PC. The physical machine wasn’t as flash, but it worked, and worked well. If schools could consider these types of options (and I know this is happening already), then technology can become more accessible to those who cannot afford it.

As for the internet. Well, the cheapest dial-up plans I know of in New Zealand are about $10 a month. Not too difficult for most to scrape up. Yes, I know not everyone will be able to, but many can. I also no that dial-up is not great for watching videos etc online, however a lot of other things can be done. Remember also, that if you’ve never had the internet before, then dial-up is a lot faster than nothing! I spent many years on a dial-up connection quite happily. It’s hard to go back, but to move forward from no connection, dial-up is fine.

The cheapest broadband plan I know of in NZ is about $25 a month. Again, quite a few people will be able to find this in their budget.

So, my suggestion is that schools think about their clientele – their students and families. What can they access? What can they afford? Come up with a plan or strategy that will benefit those families where they are now. Perhaps you decide as a school to use open source (or free) software only. Perhaps you partner with computer firms to get good deals for your school and students? Perhaps you buy a few cheap computers with Linux installed and loan them to families?

Don’t give up on technology because not everyone has access. Work with your Board and community to find a way forward for all involved.

Google Series – Part 4: Google Docs

June 19, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Posted in Education | Leave a comment
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Well I was thinking of heading to Google Docs for this post, and I will, but I’m not going to post much as a good blog post was recently made. It outlines new sharing and editing options in it.

So next time I’ll start to go into detail about Google Docs, but for now – have a look at this post from Free Technology for Teachers to see if you want to explore it further.

I will say this now – Google Docs has great potential for education, collaboration etc.

iEtherpad

May 7, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Posted in Education | 2 Comments
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I was just invited to observe/join in with a colleague using iEtherpad with an online class. Here are a few thoughts about it’s use.

iEtherpad is the latest take on Etherpad. Actually, only in the internet address is the ‘i’ used – I’m not sure why. Etherpad is a great free collaborative tool for working on a document. It is similar to Google docs, however the synchronous interface seems to work much better in Etherpad.

This was the first time my colleague had used in collaboratively with a class (and the first time I had seen it used properly). I would say the first important thing to remember if you want to use it with a class is to make sure you have already set up some key questions for students to answer on the page. This way they can work in groups and put together a document.

It could be used as a sort of ‘chat’ or question/answer area, but it does have it’s own chat function off to the side (which works well).

iEtherpad assigns colours to each person that is online, however it only has a few colours to choose from and these can easily be used up in which case doubleing-up of colours occurs. When in the main document the text is highlighted by the colour of the person typing it. This is fine unless there are 2 or more people with the same colour. It does not show the name of the person typing it in the document. One clever student actually suggested including their name with what they were writing.

Another issue with Etherpad is that as the number of users increases, the number of people dropping off also increases. Hopefully this issue will be able to be resolved.

The timeline function in Etherpad allows you to see everything that has happened on the document over time. You can go back to a certain point and work on it from there or just see the changes that have been made.

The document can currently be exported as txt or html, however this is not always great. It loses the colours of who has had what input. One way around this is to go into the timeline function and print to PDF. Of course not everyone is able to do this.

Overall iEtherpad is a great tool for collobarative work – and very good for students. It is well worth a look and a play.

Tweet easier with TweetDeck

September 3, 2009 at 12:37 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Ever sign in to Twitter and look at the pages of tweets you need to trawl through? Well here’s a possible solution to this problem.

This is one piece of software I really like. TweetDeck is a free download from http://tweetdeck.com that will help keep you up to date with all those tweets that are coming in. TweetDeck will receive tweets from Twitter and you don’t even have to be in your browser! It alerts you as they come in. Another feature is that you can have more than one twitter account. Perhaps you have an account for home and one for work? You can even receive your friends status updates from Facebook.

What about posting? You can post to Twitter or Facebook from TweetDeck. In fact you can post to them both at the same time! It will let you know how many of your 140 characters you have remaining AND it has a URL shortener for those long web addresses.

You can upload a photo if you like, or TweetShrink your post (get it down to 140 characters automatically). You are even able to translate it!

Well, as you can see I’m a fan of TweetDeck. It really is a great piece of software for keeping yourself up to date! Try it out!

The low cost computing challenge

July 31, 2009 at 9:52 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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I was wondering if I could do everything I need/want to do on a computer with only free software. So I’ve set myself a challenge.

I only had one computer at home, and I didn’t want to cause a hassle with the rest of the family, so I jumped onto TradeMe to see what I could find. I wasn’t looking for the greatest/latest computer, as I had read that Linux can often run on older computers. I spent $12 on a computer. It has a 20Gb HDD, 384Mb RAM, 850MHz processor – it’s not that greatest computer in the world! I then bought a 15” monitor for $1 (which the fantastic trader ended up giving to me for free)! I already had a spare keyboard and mouse, so I didn’t have to worry about that. So for $12 I had my computer to try this out with.

Okay, so I do already have broadband, so I was able to download the latest version of Ubuntu Linux to install on this computer, but you can request a free disc (or buy cheap from a number of distributors). Included in Ubuntu is Open Office and a whole stack of other programs.

So far, so good. I have spent a total of $12 and have a fully functioning computer with an office suite.

Oh and by the way, Ubuntu is great at finding things you plug in to the computer. I connected wirelessly to the internet using a USB wireless adaptor that I already had, and it installed it instantly! Windows didn’t do this as easily for me!

 

A number of the students that I teach don’t have computers. Money is often a factor in this. I have demonstrated already that for less than $20 a computer can be set up with a fully functioning operating system and office suite!

 

I’ll keep you posted on how things go!

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