Friday, December 3, 2010
My keynote address from the awards ceremony has been getting a bit of press at the moment so I thought I would link to the video of the speech so others can hear it for themselves:
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Fooling Google Goggles into thinking your head is Mt Rushmore:
..and playing Chubby Bunny with Google Voice search and marshmallows:
Saturday, October 30, 2010
BitTorrent downloads here: http://www.sintel.org/wp-content/content/download.html
Sintel - Third Open Movie by Blender Foundation
Friday, October 29, 2010
The original designer of Moodle. He's a genius.
"When designing Moodle, I wanted a set of values that could act as a compass:
- everyone should be a teacher as well as a learner
- if you understand the context of a person, you are able to teach them better.
- a learning environment should be flexible; as you learn more about the people in it, you're able to change it
- learn by doing and constructing and learn by engagement"
Sunday, October 10, 2010
It got me thinking about the Global Financial Crisis and what we as educators are doing in response to this catastrophic event. The budget cuts are pretty severe across the board and one thing is clear: we couldn't afford our e-learning spending before the GFC, and we can certainly afford it less now. Here's the problem we have: we want our students to have better, faster, more powerful software and systems, and there's less and less money to buy them. So what will we do about it? We either give up on the dream or we do things differently. What are you doing differently?
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Thursday, September 2, 2010
- http://edu.kde.org/ A project to develop free software for younger children. Office suite, paint programme, learning the alphabet, quizzes and games, story writing and animations etc.
- http://activities.sugarlabs.org/en-US/sugar/ Sugar is the operating system that has emerged out of Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child program. It's free software and runs really well on old/low spec computers. Two notable things about it: i) a graphical operating system designed around the needs of young learners and learners with low levels of literacy (you can learn the fundamentals of computer programming without being able to read for instance), and ii) the applications are called 'activities' and are designed for students to play with. There is a huge range of software available.
- http://edubuntu.org/about A version of Ubuntu aimed specifically for schools.
- http://wiki.ooo4kids.org/index.php/Main_Page Open Office for kids.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
I've known about Openshotvideo for a while, but for some reason, I hadn't really put it through its paces. I don't know why, but I didn't think it was very full featured. How wrong I was!!! I spent a couple of hours in the weekend playing with Openshot and found it very intuitive and full-featured: titles, effects, transitions, even chroma keying is easy to use straight out of the box. I've put the video below together from footage of my little son William. Note the 'four square' layout that allows picture in picture. I'd love to say that was really difficult and beginners shouldn't really try it, but actually, all you have to do is right click on a clip and choose 'top left' or 'bottom right'. Easy as pie. Something I didn't put into this video was animations; if you want a clip to slide across the screen and out the other side, there's a preset for that too. Clips zooming in and out? One click. In fact, the only thing lacking from Openshotvideo is support for free video codecs (ogv in particular). It was a bit of a shame that using open software, my own footage and Creative Commons licenced music, I had to export to a proprietary video format. But hey, I'm not complaining: Openshot video is my new best friend.
William aged 1-6 mths from Mark Osborne on Vimeo.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Out this week from the Mahara community: two new features that should prove extremely popular with e-portfolio users:
- Collections: a handy way of grouping a number of pages together and providing a way of navigating through them. Think of having three separate pages for the different phases of a project: proposal, progress and product. Or of having a different view for each subject you are learning. Collections are also a way to give the same access to a number of views at once.
- Plans: "Plans are essentially task lists that allow you to formulate a goal (the plan) and spell out the individual steps (the tasks) you need to take – optionally by a certain date – to reach your goal."
Friday, August 13, 2010
The interweb's running hot with some pretty angry anti-Oracle feeling at the moment...
Thursday, August 12, 2010
It strikes me that there are two bad things here: i) software patents in themselves, and ii) any one company controlling a lot of the technology we use. If this were ever to happen on the Android platform, consumers would be free to go elsewhere. Not so with Apple.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
The big blue button is a collection of 14 different open source tools that allow teachers and learners to collaborate in online classes. It features video and audio conferencing, application sharing and chat. From what I've seen, it's absolutely amazing. I'll get some of our students to install it so we can have a play.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
New Apple Friend Bar Gives Customers Someone To Talk At About Mac Products
While a lot of people are buzzing about this device being the next big thing, I'm a bit more hesitant. As Tim Lee says, moving to more of a closed, locked down operating system, seems to go against the current trends in computing. (RMS calls it the iBad).
I still prefer the Dell Streak for the fact that it runs Android.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
One of the most transformational is what they're calling 'conditional activities'. There has been a bit of debate over whether conditional activities should be added to Moodle because some believe that every student should have access to all learning activities at all times (a viewpoint that has considerable merit) but I'm in favour of conditional activities because it gives educators the ability to reconfigure the learning management system depending on the needs of the learner. In short: Moodle becomes a personalised learning environment.
Image a situation whereby a student gets 100% in the diagnostic assessment at the start of a unit of work, while another gets 20%. These two students need dramatically different pathways through the topic ahead, but traditionally they have had the same materials available to them from this point on. Using conditional activities, a teacher could say "If a student receives 80% or higher in this quiz, then reveal to them these further activities, but if a student receives 20% or lower, allow them to see these activities..." Teachers can set any criteria they like around turning these activities on or off, but used well, this has the power to put the right learning activity in front of the right learner at just the right time. I can't wait to start using them with my students...
Sunday, July 4, 2010
I installed Luciole from the Ubuntu repository (took me 30 seconds to download and install) and it turned my laptop into Peter Jackson's studio. Thankfully it was wet last weekend, so I turned the kitchen table into a brickfilms stage. My first effort was far from interesting (my wife just frowned and shook her head when she saw it) but now I can't wait until my son is old enough to make films with. I'm sure, however, that in the tradition of train sets and meccano, the grown-up will have more fun than the child.
And if that isn't enough to encourage you to try it out, would break dancing plasticine men convince you?
I chose to be a bit less ambitious with my first attempt:
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Sunday, May 16, 2010
- They are designed to protect an individual's or an individual company's 'intellectual property'. It's not designed to protect public ownership of things.
- They are designed to protect incumbents. Companies with good lawyers and deep pockets are collecting patents on just about everything to do with computing at the moment. If young, innovative companies want to make any progress in this kind of market, they have to sell their soul to incumbents before they begin.
- They make lawyers wealthy at the expense of entrepreneurs.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
"Jokosher is a simple and powerful multi-track studio. Jokosher provides a complete application for recording, editing, mixing and exporting audio, and has been specifically designed with usability in mind. The developers behind Jokosher have re-thought audio production at every level, and created something devilishly simple to use."
For an overview of what it can do, check out these screenshots.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
- New design: the aubergine and orange theme is good. I was getting a bit sick of the yellow and brown anyway.
- Ubuntu One is now core: 2gb of cloud-based file storage means the same files are available to me on my work laptop and desktop, home desktop and netbook. No more carrying files around on a USB stick.
- Speed: the aim was to get a 10 second boot time. My old P4 doesn't quite get there, but it's nice to have an operating system get faster with each upgrade, not slower and more bloated.
- Social: twitter/identi.ca, IM and chat are all rolled up into the operating system so you can keep track of all your social networking in one place. (I'm loving Gwibber as an identi.ca client too).
Friday, April 30, 2010
Monday, April 12, 2010
But I had my patience tested trying to download that same album. First of all their website returned a 404 when I went to purchase the album for download. Thankfully that's fixed now, but is symptomatic of the problems faced by smaller bands who shouldn't ever have to maintain their own websites in order to put beer (or honey-flavoured smoothies) on the table. There should be a friendly third party out there could take away the stress of e-commerce- oh if only such a third party existed :-). So then, under some stress, I ended up using the iTunes store, redeeming a gift card a colleague had generously given me. My reservations were two-fold: 1) the iTunes store files are proprietary and full of DRM rubbish that restrict my purchase so much that it's really no longer a purchase, more of a loan, and 2) only a measly 10% of the purchase price makes it to Tommy and his horses. The rest goes to Apple and their lawyers.
That's why I think it's brilliant that Canonical are launching the Ubuntu One Music Store: DRM-free music for the people, by the people. It's criminal that not only is Apple getting 90% of the purchase price of a DRM single, they want to cut it to 4%. I know where I'll be buying my music from.
Oh, and if you see Tommy any time soon, buy him a honey-flavoured smoothie from me. Just don't tell him I gave all his money to Steve Jobs.
Friday, April 9, 2010
A project the Head of Maths at Albany Senior High and I are working on is a living textbook for maths that allows students to film and upload different ways of solving equations using Kaltura. Here's a very rough working prototype of what we've got in mind. (See if you can spot the LaTeX on the page; something Wikieducator handles perfectly.)
Sunday, April 4, 2010
- VYM (View Your Mind): very close to the Tony Buzan idea of mind mapping that uses colour and the relative width of the branches to communicate relationships. Has icon and image support too.
- Vue (Visual Understanding Environment): works like a mind mapping tool should, but this offers the ability to create and lay back 'paths'. "The Playback tool launches VUE into full-screen presentation mode. Presenters can use the mouse, arrow keys or space bar to move through a presentation."
- XMind: this one looks like the best of the bunch to me. It has smoe really nice features like a presentation mode and the ability to work with Gantt charts too. I'll be adding it to the student desktop image next month. (Although there is an XMind 'Pro' which requires a subscription. I haven't signed up for that.)
Friday, March 26, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
We want this to be a project that other schools can hook into, so some kind of federated identity and access management is required (we don't want to be issuing people with yet another username and password; their school credentials should be enough) and, of course, it needs to be open source. The short-list for solutions boils down to two at this stage: Pligg and Drigg both of which support OpenID as an authentication method.
It's quite an exciting thing for a bunch of 15 and 16 year-olds to be building and gifting to the nation. I'll let you know how they get on. And of course, if you're interesting in signing your school up for it, let me know.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
I had the pleasure of running a Wikitaster session for Red Beach School this week: an introduction to Wikieducator. It covers the basics of what Wikieducator is and why it's useful to educators:
"The WikiEducator is an evolving community intended for the collaborative:
- planning of education projects linked with the development of free content;
- development of free content on Wikieducator for e-learning;
- work on building open education resources (OERs) on how to create OERs.
- networking on funding proposals developed as free content." (Link)
And that's perhaps the best thing about Wikieducator: the collaborative opportunities that arise out of contributing to a global project. The sky's the limit.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Thursday, February 18, 2010
"Goal: an easy to use cross-platform panoramic imaging toolchain based on Panorama Tools.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
It's a shame these were recorded on a Windows computer (which means they can't be put into the public domain) but they're a fantastic help nevertheless. I'll be putting my staff onto them next week.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
One of the keynotes at LCA2010 was Ben Mako Hill. His presentation on 'Antifeatures' in software was very nicely put together and for me illustrates some of the madness that exists in proprietary software. An antifeature is something that the developer works hard to develop and include in a product that limits that product's abilities. Sometime considerable effort and expense goes into developing these antifeatures because the developers know that there will be a profit in it further down the track. The best illustration of a simple antifeature is unlisted numbers in the phonebook. Although it's much easier for a telephone company to exclude a number from a directory than include it, somehow it has transpired that in order to have your number left off the directory, it costs you money.
Mako has a long list of these antifeatures in products, and all of them were designed to exploit consumers through:
- extract money from the user.
- segmenting the market.
- creating or extending monopolies.
- protecting copyright.
Perhaps the most well-known example of the second kind of antifeature is the scam perpetrated by Microsoft around the Windows NT Workstation & Server editions. It was the same product, but by changing one digit in the registry, M$ could cripple the software so it couldn't act as a webserver.
Another good example is the Canon G7. All cameras (including the Cann G6) shoot RAW. It's simply the uncompressed 'raw' data from the camera's CCD. Canon decided that in order to push people who wanted RAW into the next price bracket, they would cripple the G7 so it would only produced compressed JPG images.
I love the word 'antifeatures'. It's a perfect label for some of the anti-consumer practices most companies engage in. Let's always remember that companies are designed to make money. Keeping customers happy is only a mean to that end. And let's take back a bit of consumer power- it's our money after all.
- Linux powers 446 of the world's top 500 supercomputers.
- Director James Cameron again chose Linux servers for box-office smash Avatar.
- Google runs its web servers on Linux.
- In 2009, Linux had 33.8% revenue marketshare of servers, compared to Microsoft's 7.3%
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
When the establishment leadership team sat down to design the information systems for the school we looked first at what we're trying to achieve; not the budget we had to achieve it. Our vision at ASHS is:
At Albany Senior High School
- we nurture each other
- we inspire each other
- we empower each other
to achieve highly and become good citizens.
In addition to the vision, we have 11 values which include:
- Families as part of our learning community.
- Fairness, openess, honesty and trust.
- Learning together and making decisions together.
- Curiosity and enquiry, creativity and innovation.
- Contributing to our local and global communities.
- Diversity that enriches our learning community.
By the time the cost of this software licencing is applied to office suites, graphical manipulation, video editing, music composition, 3D modelling, space exploration, language learning, mind mapping, flashcards, vector graphics, animation, desktop publishing and programming software, we have a problem. The decision we faced as a school was to use proprietary software and impose a learning tax on our community or to use open source software and give everyone access to a full range of powerful, free learning tools. It's no surprise which way we went. If you're interested in the software we use, there's a summary here.
Open source software also supports the learning of our community (local and global) through an unbeatable business model. Any features we have developed for us, we contribute back to the community, meaning a dollar spent by us literally helps the whole world. If I pay a proprietary software developer to improve their product, they can then sell that to every customer they have, meaning a dollar spent by us can be used to extract another dollar from that company's other customers. They sell the feature we paid for to everyone else. It just doesn't make sense, and I think it's only a matter of time before the open source business model makes serious headway in software 'sales'.
Just to clarify this also: not all of our software is open source. We still use a couple of products that have no comparable open source equivalent (like Final Cut Pro) because the tool is the most important thing. We won't deny a student the ability to study and learn because of an ideology we have. Our ideology is to do the very best by our students, it just so happens that open source software does this most of the time.
A few posters on discussion forums have also focused on the amount of money the school has saved as a result of being open source. It's true that we save a six-figure sum each year in hardware and software costs, but this is just a handy spin-off from our decision to be open source, not the reason we did it.
It's free as in 'freedom' not free as in 'free beer'.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
First post from Linux.conf.au held in Wellington recently. This is a congregation of the biggest brains in the FOSS world in Australasia. All of the keynotes were extremely good and I was lucky enough to attend a number of extremely good sessions. One that I didn't attend but heard about from a colleague was about status.net, which is an open source alternative to Twitter. It's 0.8 stable at the moment, but when v0.9 comes out with LDAP integration, I'll be installing it for our use in house. I'm a late arrival to micro-blogging (like Facebook), but I can see some benefit for this technology in a school, if it's an open source solution:
1) You can't be a free thinker until the you have control over the tools you use to think. Independence and a lack of partiality is quite useful in education.
2) Micro-blogging produces a useful record of instant thoughts, which, when compiled across time can show the development of a thought process, and
3) It's a great way to flick around to others, things you have found interesting: websites, people, research, documents, quotations, ideas.
Have a play at identi.ca, which is driven by status.net
Friday, January 22, 2010
The first relates to security. It transpires that the security weaknesses in Internet Explorer that Chinese hackers apparently used to compromise Google are so bad that now entire countries are advising people not to use Internet Explorer. Incredibly, the security flaw affects IE6, 7 and 8 on Windows 7, Vista, XP, Server 2003 and Server 2008, which doesn't leave anywhere to hide really. There has never been a better time to switch to Firefox or Chrome. Or even to Linux for that matter...
The second is that reports are emerging of Firefox challenging IE's dominance, saying that in Europe, IE has 45 percent market share but "Firefox is a close second at 40 percent." Once we add in Chrome, the Mozilla-based browsers have already exceeded IE's market share in Europe. With France and Germany recommending users move away from IE and Mozilla calling Firefox 3.6 the best browser in the world, I'd watch the browser stats closely over coming months.
Thirdly, Firefox has been able to do full-screen video for a while now, but to have it native in the browser is another thing:
"Current Firefox 3.6 pre-beta 1 nightlies now feature a full screen option for videos embedded using the tag like the natively supported Theora encoders. Just right click on the video and select Full Screen. While on full screen, press Esc to return to the normal view."
Even better is the fact that the supported video filetype is OGV, the open video format and my format of choice. Exciting things on the roadmap for Firefox 4.0 as well, including two features from Google's Chrome ('tabs on top' and separate processes so one hung window doesn't crash your whole browser.) This is a good example of what is essentially a fork contributing back into the main project. Diversity makes us stronger folks.
Edit: Oh dear. "Researchers have created attack code that exploits a zero-day vulnerability in Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) as well as in the newest IE8 -- even when Microsoft's recommended defensive measure is turned on." Link
When our Librarian and I started talking about self-check, my first thought was 'Oh... I wonder if Koha can support it?' I hadn't heard anything on the lists about it so I was prepared to start looking for some developer funding, but sure enough, it's one of the features Koha has that isn't widely known.
Below is Jo Ransom and Chris Cormack's presentation on Koha 3.2, due out in the next little while. I'm really looking forward to the upgrade: there are a whole lot of new features including enhancements to the federated search feature in Koha.