38 posts categorized "Security"

April 15, 2007

ICT Coordinator: doing your job?

I'm preparing to speak on Thursday to the next batch of school leaders at the second keynote of a series at the National College for School Leadership, and have found a few recent words from the Becta "Safeguarding Children Online" handbook for leaders, which should reassure these decision-makers that blogging, podcasting, vodcasting and social networking are both Good Things and possible provided we're all doing our minimum best. Question is - are you?

The stats would suggest that many Local Authorities are not doing what they should be: 46% divulge 'personal information' online; 57% of regular users have come into contact with pornography; 31% have received unwanted sexual comments, 33% nasty comments online or by text message.

The key groups to target are the eldest kids in primary school and the older kids in secondary (a case of feeling brazened 'old-timers' perhaps?).

If there are three elements of e-safety inspection and standards - education and training; infrastructure and technology; policies and practices - it is the first that often gets missed out as the other two (in the form of "don't dos" and "don't bring it to schools") get the heavy-handed treatment. It's not working.

Importantly, on page 23, the need for education and training in digital literacy of both learners and the teachers supervising them is highlighted.

The point will hopefully be further rammed home with the imminent publication of the final draft of the report from the Home Office's first Task Force on Child Protection on the Internet. Far from saying that social networking and mobile devices should be banned or blocked, a quote from page 13 of the draft, leaked out to the public domain in December, says:

"Education and media literacy is a critical part of keeping children and young people safe online and empowering them to manage their online experience. Responsible use and keeping safe online are now advocated as essential elements of a broad curriculum."

If Digital Literacy isn't written into your school plan for the next year the chances are you are already falling foul of these sound recommendations. If you're banning social networking sites and social media such as blogs, podcasts, vodcasts and photo sharing sites then you're hardly a whisker away from the same thing.

If you're an ICT decision-maker in a UK school - or anywhere else, for that matter - answering the questions in this booklet and putting the recommendations into action might be the best singular thing you do this year to make social technology and mobile learning a reality in your corner of the country.

Update: My brother Neil has written a good piece on his personal blog about why codes of conduct, safety measures and new agreements for social media are not really always necessary. When you read all the links I've mentioned in this post you'll see his point - they sum up what, for most of us, is common sense. Unfortunately, education does seem to have its fair share of folk who just don't get common sense, so making it explicit is still a must in our realm, methinks.

Update 2: Jane Nicholls, in the comments, has realised the hard way how much work is required to lay the ground with this "common sense":

I spent so much time convincing teachers of the educational merits of Web 2 tools and too little time laying the ground work. I like the example of teaching kids how to drive. Cars are great for getting from A to B but there is so much more to driving than just moving a car around.

February 16, 2007

CESI: Why should we innovate?

This is a follow-on run-through from the start of the talk I delivered today to the Computer Education Society of Ireland. You can read the beginning, perhaps, before reading the middle.

PrivategardenStephen Heppell speaks about the innovation cycle: change will always be happening, just a question of jumping on, and jumping off (no-one tells you that part). The successful innovator knows when to jump off and when to keep on just in case. Teachers don’t need to be the ones innovating: students can do that, too. Take a look at this innovative kid, left, talking through her "Private Garden", where the stems move with each incoming and outgoing email, chat, text message, phone call... It's a 21 Century kid doing the innovation, not the teacher, not the school.

Innovation is not something the teacher makes the decision to do, it just happens around us. All the time. Continuously. Not all innovation will lead to better attainment, more fun, more motivation, better learning - some of it is the equivalent of the Pepsi sweetener. Other innovation needs to be drunk by the can - it's not until you've gone through, learnt the hard way and failed a good bit along the way that you and the kids get the benefit.

I use five arguments to justify why there needs to be some evolutionary change in the way we use ICT. We've forgotten the 'C' part (Communication) for too long. The communication doesn't always need to take place through the technology, but can take place Face-to-Face thanks to the technology in a collaborative film-making activity in class, for example, where the communication comes not just from the message in the video but also the collaborative activity (negotiation, role-allocation, instructional language...) taking place in the making of the film. It's difficult to have that level of collaboration between 30 people if one person, the teacher, wants to maintain constant, uncompromising control on each decision, outcome, next step or tangent. The tech is going to change the teach.

Slide023 1. Audience
I always harp on about this, but if my kids produce some work I'd like to think it was interesting enough to share with at least one other person. Parents, peers, other teachers, other countries, the local community - how are you going to let them know about the work your kids are doing, the processes they've gone through to get there, the failures they've overcome...?

In the 19th Century classroom...
...the average audience for student work is one (two for a conscientious student who bothers to read their own work). Even in whole school display I'm not convinced the whole school becomes avid viewers of their peers' artwork or essays. When I was at Musselburgh I stood in the corridor for weeks at breaks and lunchtimes, looking to see who stopped to observe student work on the walls. I was surprised quite so many did, but they were all from the class to whom the display 'belonged'.

Slide019 In the 20th Century classroom...
...there have maybe been some missed opportunities for kids to communicate with their local communities. With more abundant projectors than ever before why are two or three of these not pointed window-wards to project that day's best artwork and sculpture from the school? Passers-by in the community could observe the work taking shape and then, at the end of term, see the final products in their full glory. You could even take things to extremes at certain points in the year, doing what they did at Rouen Cathedral with a couple of Monet prints.

In the 21st Century classroom...
...we invite children to redraft work in its entirety in jotters, workbooks and foolscap paper (it's called foolscap for a reason ;-) In three clicks I can publish whatever I want - this text, links and photos, for example - to whoever wants to read it. Because it's a blog people can subscribe to the content so that every time I write something new they get it in their inbox (find out how to do that). That means that I have an instant audience of around 1200 people for everything (and anything) I pop up.

We don't need to rely on a staff to run our print presses anymore, we can do it with one finger and an internet connection. And we don't need permission - kids are already encyclopedia editors and self-publishers on the net. How many English teachers are there who have published work? Hmmm...

Writing on a blog means that your content is frequently updated which means you have great Googlejuice. The location of today's talk was Coláiste de h-Íde, whose traditional school website has been knocked into second place by RateMyTeacher - RateMyTeacher doesn't even have a 'feed' (wee orange button that replicates the content elsewhere on the web for you, helping others find you) in the same way as a blog does, so the school would find it really easy to create a better web presence just be handing over the school blog to the kids to update daily.

2. Creativity Unleashed
Taking a digital photo is quite creative. Preparing it for publication more so. Publishing the photo and commenting on other photographers' work is highly creative. Publishing the already highly creative work undertaken in schools means that creativity is truly unleashed.

358355868_c4e58d41c2 Take the Five Frame Story or Six Word Story based on one photograph. Besides being a creative enterprise, with thought of storylines, aesthetics and meaning, publishing the photos on Flickr adds an additional creative element: students can leave comments on pictures, so each member of the class can write alternative elements to stories under each photo. Not being able to publish pics of kids may not be such an issue if you let them work around that rule: Play Mobil and Lego can take on a life of their own in a photo story.

What about adding some notes to a photo to explain the history of art concepts from that trip to the museum? You can't do that with one printed photo or a textbook.

Comments from these kids as they made a podcast on their city show that simply publishing their work made them work harder and better.

3. Differentiate by raising the bar
Differentiation doesn't mean that you have to produce a million multi-coloured worksheets. Differentiation might involve a new skill (creating a radio show or podcast) which is in itself quite challenging, but which allows the weaker pupil to stretched in that area while practicing, drilling their basics. Meanwhile, more able pupils get the motivation to produce something for a real reason (why not add your city guide podcasts to a real city guide site?).

300pxbluetooth Making the work of kids digital, even if it is just taking a picture of display work, means that you can also make it portable. Audio, video and visuals can be transferred via Bluetooth to mobile phones - just transferring one example of a 'good talk' or your teacher-made podcast on the life of the Potato Famine to one mobile, you can have a class of thirty spread this video amongst themselves within a 40 minute class. Take the stuff of viral marketing that works so well for Mentos and CocaCola and make it work for learning.

That means, like the PiE Language Project has done, that the teacher acts as guide, encouraging kids to create their products and publish them in a variety of large, medium and small file sizes that can be read on PSPs, DSs, iPods and mobile phones.

What if you're an English language teacher or the project you are working on just involves more words than it does pictures. You could take a leaf out of Adam Sutcliffe's RateMyMates, a weblog where student work is displayed (PowerPoints, text, MP3 audio recordings) and then commented upon by students in the same class and those from other schools, even. Formative assessment in a manageable and fun format, designed with the kids and not the curriculum-makers at heart.

More lengthy text can be seen developing from scratch in the creative writing process blog, Progress Report. From a short first paragraph full of comma splice and cliché, to a finely tuned finished version, built up over six weeks, the student eventually got a huge jump of grades in a seemingly impossibly short period of time. The difference between her and the rest? She blogged her writing bit by bit, and made the process of creative writing more efficient than was being done in the classroom.

It's also just more efficient and, well, greener. Take a look at the amount of paper wasted on producing folios for English language and you see what I mean.


4. Authentic Purpose
I feel that publishing for an audience is already an authentic purpose for a task - the need to interest, inform or entertain the public with what you are learning brings with it inherent authenticity. The next time a kid asks "Why do we have to do this?" will you secretly answer "Why do we have to do this?"? If you do, what could you do to make that task more authentic, where you could publish the kids' work to make it worthwhile? Why write a 'pretend' newspaper article when they can make the news for real by publishing it on a blog for real people?

5. It's not about the Tech, it's about the Teach. Yes, but...
...the tech will change the Teach. This leads to its own batch of concerns and desires to learn. That's for the next post... In the meantime, do you see a change in the role of the teacher in all this?

February 14, 2007

Software to let parents control mobile phone downloads

A Scots firm has launched a piece of software which allows parents to control what their kids download onto their phones. Again, the hook for the story is that the reason kids hit their headteachers is because of the mobile phone. I doubt the software has recognition for stupidity. Now that would be clever...

February 08, 2007

What's blocked in Scottish schools and elsewhere? Help build a national picture

A while ago I helped out Gill from the BBC in setting up a blog project for the Symphony Orchestra. Today she was in touch today wondering if there was any centrally grouped information on what Local Authorities block. I'm not aware of one (though stand corrected if there is).

So, in the name of science (or a kack-handed attempt at it) I'd love to try and survey which of the following things you are or are not able to do. They are all do-able in East Lothian Council, so it's not an unreasonable expectation that you can do everything on the list.

You can answer the survey by leaving your Local Authority, the number of the tool below and a 'y' or 'n'. Feel free in this post to leave anonymous comments, or ones with a pseudonym.

  1. Reading and leaving a comment on a blog on edublogs.org (try this one for consistency)
  2. Reading and leaving a comment on a Blogger blog (try this one for consistency)
  3. Viewing and editing a wiki (try this one for consistency)
  4. Watching a video on GoogleVideo.
  5. Accessing the following Flickr pic and leaving a note or comment.
  6. Manipulating Jacko's face in this Flash page.
  7. Use the podcast directory in iTunes (this assumes that, as a minimum, you have iTunes installed)
  8. Create and/or use Google Docs and Google Groups / forums. (added later)

Spread the word amongst colleagues in other Local Authorities - I, for one, am looking forward to seeing what we get! If you're not in Scotland do let us know, too, what things are like in your area. Just don't forget to tell us where you are!

January 02, 2007

ID Cards sneaking in under the radar?

DK tipped me off about a Beeb story which came out a few days ago. The second largest teacher union in Scotland wants students to carry ID cards to prevent bullying. I presume you ask the lad for a glance at his card before he thumps you to a pulp. How effective. On preparing children for "the realities of identity management in the 21st Century" I am with the Green Party on this one - highly dubious stuff...

December 18, 2006

Windows Vista@LeWeb3

I felt very fortunate to get a sneak preview of Windows Vista and to be invited on to their trial programme for it, until the techie boys at LTS (namely one of the most helpful guys I know) informed me they've been playing with it for months. Bah humbug. I still felt a tingle of excitement when I saw it in Paris.

My advice for any Local Authority thinking of a refresh in the next year or so - hang on. It's worth it.

Windows Kris Hoet from Microsoft Europe likes bloggers a lot, being one himself, and took me for a 40 minute spin of some of the features. Basically, Vista will turn PCs into Macs. Almost ;-) I loved the way you can flick through the windows open on the PC à la iTunes (see the picture) and the animated open and close of windows is similar to the way some of the dashboard functions on the Mac work. Oh, and it has it's own sort of pop out dashboard as well with all your useful bits ready for action.

Best of all, though, on a school organisational note, is the ability to tag files so that you can find them even more easily in the Spotlight-like 'live' search (as you type each letter of what you're looking for it updates the list of found files instantly - good, I presume, for those who do not touch type).

The kind of media centre, with integrated photos, music, video and so on will appeal to the family and granny market for all those holiday snaps and rips of the iLife package nicely, getting rid of some of its inefficiencies (changing music on a slideshow is a doddle).

At the rate I'm going through Macs (no. 1, no. 2 and no. 3 [no. 4 making funny hard disk noises already]) I might well consider getting a PC with Vista on board once they are released. Rick has some things to say on what could be better (the automatic updates are nice but seem a little late in the day) but overall, I've been impressed by Gates and co. this time.

December 05, 2006

East Lothian self-publishing guidelines up for wiki editing

Karen Robertson, ICT Curriculum Manager at East Lothain, posts the first draft of the Local Authority's guidelines for staff and students' self-publishing.

Slide016001 These are based on documents I put together, added to and redrafted for Learning and Teaching Scotland which were based on similar policies which had been drawn up on wikis by staff at Yahoo, IBM, Sun... Each of these organisations has held a two-week wiki session where interested parties have added to and altered the original to better suit their needs and now East Lothian are seeking to do the same.

Why do we need self-publishing guidelines at all?
Well, this isn't anything close to the rubbish the BBC was reporting on. And they will never serve to gag people from being self-critical or critical of the organisation for whom they work - organisations who try to make their people take the 5th Amendment will fail. For staff, there is an emerging importance being attached by newbies to know where they stand and see how blogging, for example, is different from sending email. The idea is that people think before (s)he reveals information from a meeting, gives some news they heard on the bus, or lets people know what 'n' school/organisation/individual is doing (before they know they're doing it).

For staff, we hope, these guidelines will be common sense and a waste of wiki space. There are plenty, though, who have expressed the desire for a crutch to get started in earnest for themselves and with kids - hence the student guidelines.

So, if you have an interest in the way these guidelines might affect you, head over and make your own suggestions or alterations.

November 30, 2006

Intellectual Property and protection versus opportunity

Intellectual Property, Copyright and the violation thereof are often seen as huge threats to business. RedHat's Bob Young tells us that where kids share music for free on Kazaa, iTunes’ Steve Jobs saw the opportunity to sell the same music at a cheap price in return for good service – more free material, wider selections, excellent search…

Copyright has to have an end-date. In the US Disney managed to push through almost unchecked that copyright will last 100 years. In the UK, EMI’s future is in the balance as courts ruled their Beatles catalogue will be up for public consumption, arranging and copying at the end of 50 years – that’s coming very soon.

Our wonderfully glizzy social networks are not new. Bob Young was selling his Linux toolsets through mailing lists of enthusiastic networking passionate people. It’s only natural that this went onto the web when the web came around, but it’s not one guy’s idea.

“I got you babe” was built not on the inspiration of one man, but on the basis of years and years of music from Mozart to tribal music which merged and created rock and roll. There is no ‘new’ thought per se. We stand on the shoulders of giants.

So the next time someone says their thoughts, ideas or practices are copyright, private, unique – just ask yourself the question, “on whose shoulders did they build it”?

November 11, 2006

Bebo: The Movie

Bebo From my good friend Stephen Downes comes this tip, a superb student-made film taking most of the life you can have on Bebo and putting it into real life. Or is it the other way around?

Created by Allan Dixon (that's my first link to someone's Bebo page and not a 'regular' blog, btw) and his friends, who study in Dublin at DCU doing Digital Media Engineering, although that apparently has nothing to do with the "cool video stuff".

A superb resource here, in fact, for getting kids talking about the consequences of their Bebo actions in real life, too. Brill!

November 07, 2006

Blog comment policy

I've been working quite recently on the self-publishing policy for Learning and Teaching Scotland, which I hope to be able to point to publicly soon. It'll give a long overdue model for Local Authorities and schools looking for some guidance on staff blogging, and could be adapted for students.

However, the way someone comments on a blog is also self-publishing but often seen as such. Online Marketing have given in-depth reasons for their decisions on comments, and I've lifted three pointers for people commenting on this blog, just to keep things in the Living Room nice and cosy:

  • Comments are welcome and encouraged. There is no better metric of how much impact a post has with the readers and many times, it is the content within the comments that provides the most value. If you’re not sure whether to comment, just go for it anyway.
  • Comments should add value. If a comment is clearly spam, I will delete it. If the same person or IP makes spammy comments I will add their domain and IP address to my spam blacklist.
  • I am not a fan of signatures in blog comments, and some commenters here have done that. If you do it, I may delete the whole comment. Keep links relevant to the conversation.

About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

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