Monday, October 31, 2011

Schools that astonish.

Derek Wenmoth has a thought-provoking blog post over here with a great video of Stephen Heppell talking about how students should find schools, "the physical spaces, “astonishing”, and be “wow-ed” by them as places that stimulate, engage and excite them to learn."

A second thing that has me thinking about innovation is John Key's announcement that the partial sale of our energy assets is going to fund more innovative schools in New Zealand. I thought it appropriate to showcase a few of the stunning schools being built at the moment, within the existing Ministry of Education building programme. These are schools that astonish.

Amesbury School in Churton Park, Wellington, NZ
"Amesbury School is a new decile 10, year 1-6 school in Churton Park, Wellington. The school will open on February 1st 2012."

Hingaia School, Auckland, NZ
"We are a state Y0-8 school opening in February 2012 for all year levels."

Stonefields School, Auckland, NZ
"Stonefields School is a learning organisation that designs learning to cause learning for each learner. It is a place that is committed to building the necessary knowledge and competencies for students to thrive and succeed in learning and life. The School, opened on 3rd February 2011, and is located at the centre of the Stonefields development. The School has a supportive and encouraging community."

Albany Senior High School, Auckland, NZ
This is our school. While this video focuses on the school in general, there is quite a bit of time dedicated to the learning spaces:

Ormiston Senior College
"Ormiston Senior College is one of New Zealand's newest and most forward-thinking senior high schools. We cater for Year 11-13 students (generally aged 15-18 years old). The students are firmly at the heart of our school. We are focused on preparing and inspiring them to achieve their very best in a global society. Although academic excellence is our key focus, we are also striving to develop and hone their skills socially, culturally (through sports, art, culture) and globally so that they are able to reach their full potential across a wide range of subjects and interests."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The fallacy of the digital native

Dan Pontefract has a nice rebuttal of one of the most persistent myths in e-learning: that of the binary digital native/immigrant split. This construct is almost as persistent as that other great baseless invention, learning styles. As Dan says:

"Through the first half of the article, Prensky paints the picture of Millennials (Digital Natives) being hard-wired differently from birth automatically leading to a digitally enhanced learning style. The non-Millennials, (Digital Immigrants) are therefore luddites incapable of learning and/or teaching and/or living like said Digital Native.


Nicely said. (HT @jedd)

Google+ comes to Google Apps

I don't think Google+ is a Facebook killer just yet, but if it can crack social networking for organisations, it'll take a big step in that direction. Facebook's strength lies in it's ability to connect individuals, but it doesn't do a good job of coping with our complex, context-based social interactions. Depending on whether I'm in a work or family context, or talking geek or sport stuff, I'm a slightly different version of myself. It makes sense that whatever social networking tool I use reflects this kind of nuanced approach to my personality and I think Google+ has the making of this with it's circles. That's why I think it's a better fit for business and organisations than Facebook. Being able to share a link with my organisation and my geek friend but not my family, or family and organisation but not geek friends has the potential to be a very powerful way to connect with others.

Edit: I note in the admin information that Google+ is only available for higher education if you want to use it with Apps for Edu. It would be nice is expands to include high schools at some stage in the future.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Google Street Viewer comes to Pompeii

This is stunning. Whether you've visited the ruins at Pompeii or not, spend a few minutes wandering around them using Google Streetview. It's one of many historic and cultural sites that have been opened up recently by Google's clever map people.

Open source collaborative video editing

As December gets closer, I'm getting excited about this beauty landing in my stocking. For a long time, video editing has been less than spectacular on Linux, but with the release of Lightworks in December, that's about to change. A previously proprietary application, on which The King's Speech, Martin Scorsese's The Departed, Mission Impossible, Pulp Fiction, Braveheart and Batman were edited, Lightworks is a stunning product that is being open sourced. It's not for beginners, but if you know what you're doing this will have you nominated for the best picture category in no time.

As well as offering all of the features one would expect from a non-linear video editor, "Multiple users can work on the same Lightworks Project at the same time, collaborating on edits with fast, intuitive user permission controls." This is the real potential of video editing and something that is long overdue. Linux release 19th December 2011

Three cool features of the latest Android phone

Here's a nice video about NFC (near field communication). The latest Android phones, equipped with NFC, allow people to pay for purchases using credit card details loaded onto their phone. As the video shows, you can tap the point of sale terminal with your phone and have small purchases deducted from your account.

The second cool thing about NFC is its ability to share content using 'Android Beam'. It works a bit like bluetooth, and allows users near each other to share just about anything: videos, website links, contact details, images etc. Just tap and go.

The other cool thing about the latest Google phone? You can unlock it by smiling at it. :-)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Blackboard embraces creative commons

What a difference a few years makes. This is a powerful acknowledgement of the importance of creative commons, collaboration and open access:
"Critics called for a boycott of Blackboard in 2006 after it used a flimsy software patent to sue a rival, and raised fears that it would sue universities that were using their own teaching software tools rather than Blackboard’s products... last week, it announced it would help instructors tag their material with Creative Commons marks, a system of licensing that allows others to use a work without fear of being sued for copyright infringement."

Advice from The Steve

Okay, so I'll be the first to say that I'm not Steve Job's biggest fan. He's been spectacularly successful at developing a closed computing ecosystem and determining what users have access to and what they don't. It's quite different from my view of the way digital tools should work: seamless interoperability, regardless of hardware or software choices, with the user (and not the corporation) at the centre of everything. However, The Steve's advice to Larry Page of Google on how to be a good CEO is exceptional:
"We talked a lot about focus. And choosing people. How to know who to trust, and how to build a team of lieutenants he can count on. I described the blocking and tackling he would have to do to keep the company from getting flabby and being larded with B players. The main thing I stressed was focus. Figure out what Google wants to be when it grows up. It's now all over the map. What are the five products you want to focus on? Get rid of the rest, because they're dragging you down. They're turning you into Microsoft. They're causing you to turn out products that are adequate but not great."
If you want to take over the world, this would be a pretty good starting point.

Linux Desktop Faceoff

To be honest, I'm still not 100% convinced by the new Unity interface for Ubuntu, so I was particularly interested to see this article: 'Linux Desktop Faceoff: GNOME 3 vs Ubuntu Unity'
Whatever your view, it's clear that operating systems are thundering headlong towards the tablet as the key device in coming years. Big buttons, apps and gestures, all coming your way.

Revisiting the digital divide

Steve Wheeler has a nice post over here about the persistence of the digital divide. Raises some interesting issues around access and participation in the digital society if people can't (or choose not to) be present in the digital world.