Technology

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ESSARP Conference 2013

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With Sugata Mitra, TED winner, at the ESSARP Conference 2013. Wonderful speaker on the global emancipation of computing technology into the hands of everyone.

Loved the idea of Grannies in the cloud and am already mentally signing up my parents.

He has found a new acolyte!

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Using Twitter to make maps

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This is a really interesting article about how Twitter can be used to make maps here. If a tweet is geotagged it can be used as a sort of choropleth map.  Love the city maps especially and it would be great to print them out for our walls in our apartment.

I’ve actually slowed up on Twitter use due to the amount of irrelevance I was beginning to see. Prefer Google+ now.

Chromebooks in education

Education Chromebook Review Update

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Chromebooks in education

As I’m off to the first UK Chromebooks in  Education Summit at Google HQ in London I thought I’d update my experience of Chromebooks in the classroom following up my previous post on them here.

Ian Nairn from C-Learning kindly lent us half a set of Chromebooks for a week.  The response form the students was mostly very positive and from a administration point of view it was also a reatively seamless experinece.  The hardware turned out to be very robust and at no stage did they need to be sent to the IT technical team.  The only time we had what appeared to be a dead screen which was quickly recitivifed by a hard reset involving a small hole and a paper clip on the base of the Chromebook.

The students really liked the instant on nature of the Chromebooks as well as how light it was which made it pefrect for carrying around from classroom to classroom  I would however still advise a padded case for this as school bags are notoriously badly treated around the playground!

Student Positive Comments:

  • Liked the webcam
  • Really easy to use
  • HAs an SD card slot for cameras
  • USB slot too so mouse can be used for those who aren’t keen on the trackpad
  • 10 hours battery life is great for a school day
  • They’re cute and very light and small – easy to carry around
  • Much faster than normal laptops
  • Can’t get viruses to slow the laptop down!
  • Quick to boot up
  • It has google dictionary (? – not sure about this one!)
Student Negative Feedback
  • Trackpad took a little getting used to particularly the right click
  • Double login aspects of getting through the proxy aare a little confusing
  • There is no disk drive (Not sure what they need this for – more to do with the XBox generation assuming everything has to be installed via traditional media)
  • We had one SEN student who much preferred the tactile nature of the iPad which he has been using for the past year.
  • If the internet is down you can’t use it at all (there will shortly be an offline option which will make a significant impact in this area)
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Google Chromebooks in UK Schools

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UPDATE:  I’ve carried out further trials and blogged about them here

I think I’ve discovered the perfect laptop computer for use in schools.  It’s a Chromebook.  I’ve been trialling one for about 6 months now in a Cornish classroom in the UK.   I’ve found that it ticks many of the boxes when it comes to the use of computers in an educational setting.

POSITIVES

  1. The biggest issue I find with students is the need to be able to have access to their files wherever they are.  A student who is working on an essay or assignment in Geography may wish to carry this on later in the library and then pick it up again at home.  Because of the fact that the operating system is essentially a web browser and students simply login with their Google Apps password everything is automatically saved onto the school Google apps domain.
  2. No wait of boot up.  From complete  poweroff to the login screen is 10seconds.  The login takes a couple of seconds.  The average time for a school networked windows machine in a school environment is between 2 – 5 minutes.  This is to a login screen which then requires a login and can take another 1-2 minutes to login once all the drivers and file set up process takes place.  This is too much time for a student to be bashing, crashing, poking, fiddling, pulling cables etc and the average teenager is pretty impatient!
  3. 8-10 hours battery life!!  I was sceptical of this at first but am truly amazed at how good the battery life is.  This means that a laptop fully charged at the start of the day will still have a good 25% left at the end of a typical school day even with intensive use.  I can vouch for this through practical experience at Bodmin College.  Your average Windows/Macbook laptop needs recharging after 2-3 hours.  Not practical if you want to move them quickly from one class to another and you can’t have power cables running across a classroom.
  4. Chromebooks can be completely figured to fit in with your school network environment.  See here
  5. No virus updates required as all is driven from the browser
  6. No costly licence fees for software such as Office/Virus Protection / Back up solutions / Network software
  7. No need to worry about backups as everything is on the Google Cloud and lets face it if Google can’t get that right then no one can
  8. Updates seamlessly done so no need for any downtime due to patches/upgrades etc..
  9. It has a keyboard.  Try typing an essay on an iPad..

NEGATIVES

  • On Amazon UK a Chromebook is £349.  In the US on Amazon.com they’re $349 which is £225!  That’s a lot cheaper.  
  • The education version being sold to the UK which includes an administrative panel, is supposedly of a higher build quality and includes a no questions asked returns policy if the Chromebook fails, is £540!  This is too expensive especially when you compare it to a Windows Laptop despite all the issues with regard to them (slow boot, not cloud integrated, poor battery life). Come on Google start subsidising these especially to schools.
  • The current hardware is on the lightweight side and I have noticed that You Tube on occasion can be a little choppy however more recent models are better specced apparently.  
So come on Google, you could be sitting on a potentially superb product perfectly placed for an educational environment.  Get it to a competitive price particualry to the UK market before their gazzumped by schools going down the iPad route with all its limitations.
I’d be interested to hear of any other experiences of Chromebooks in the UK so please comment below!
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Amazing facts about the internet

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So this image below tells us about the internet after 10 years.  Where will it be in 10 years time?  The explosion of smart phones must have something to do with it especially the use of Twitter. I own a HTC Desire and its revolutionised how I access the net but has turned me a little into a phone stroker much to the annoyance of my long suffering wife..

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Video Screen Advertising in Magazines

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Would you buy a magazine with a video screen inside it?  They’re already doing it in the States as this article shows.

Will there be no break from screens ever?  I go to work and use my laptop, I come home and use my desktop, I watch TV on my FlatScreen, I watch Vodcasts on my Zune,  play games on my DS, look at the LCD on my watch…

We all need a screen break.  Go out and watch some cows in a field!

Kenya leads the world on Cashless Transactions

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A really interesting article on the BBC news website which looks at the growing role of Mobile phones in many parts of Africa.  Kenyans are able to buy small items simply by sending text messages to the sellers.  In the video the journalist deposits 500 schillings and then buys samosas at the local shop using the technology.  You have to enter a Pin which provides some form of security.  Interestingly there are more people who own a phone than a bank account which makes the M-Pesa solution ideal for many Kenyans.

Why is it taking so long here?  It has been attempted and I suppose the Oyster travel card scheme is the most similar but how often is it used for a cashless transaction? The Daily Mail reckons it could be by 2012 we’ll be using phones as credit cards and we’ll have the true potential for a cashless society.  It seems as though the Kenyans are already there!

Google Earth 5.0

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It snowed heavily on Tuesday which is always great for Geographers.  We were concerned, however that baby PJ may make a sudden appearance but I got all excited about giving it a wintry geographical name such as Blizzard or Storm.  Snow White was also discussed but quickly dismissed.

Anyway it gave me the perfect opportunity to have a go on the new Google Earth.  You can now venture beneath the sea, fly to Mars and create tours so much more easily than the previous version.  You can even track large fish and whales and see the video footage.  Shipwrecks are also shown.  There is historical mapping which is brillinat for settlement studies.

Definetly worth a download!

The International Space Station View!

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Here‘s a ‘view’ of earth from the International Space Station.  How cool is that!  Thank you Mr.Caine

The virtual tour is fun too!

Fusion and lasers creating energy

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The BBC has an article about future the future of energy production could be in the use of lasers squeezing together atoms of hydrogen.  But I thought lots of energy was needed to create a laser in the first place?  Who knows?  Well I guess the scientists at the Iter Fusion venture do.

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