Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Evolution of the "Class Website"

A few of the teachers at my school are planning on rebuilding their "class website" throughout the upcoming summer in preparation for our student laptop learning program. I created this little sketch to outline how instructional websites have changed over the past 10 years. To me the biggest difference is who can  contribute. In 2000 the class website was pretty much driven and managed by the teacher. In 2010  both the teacher AND students have the capacity to serve as curators of the site. 

I'm hopeful that this proves to be a simple little graphic to help folks along as they plan out the different components and parts they'd like to build into their online learning spaces.

Click the image for a larger view:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

WiMAX in Schools

I'm absolutely thrilled that our school was just awarded a no strings attached grant from the Association for Continued Education and Clearwire. This grant includes WiMAX broadband data access, professional development via the Discovery Education Network, and nine iPads (we had the option of selecting from a range of different hardware choices-we've chosen the iPads).

Here is what this means for us:

-Our school will receive a WiMAX modem for campus coverage (I think coverage might extend well beyond our campus using the WiMAX modem, but we'll find out more about this when we start using it). This means that standard wireless 802.11 b/g (not sure about "n") devices like laptops, iPads, etc, will be able to connect to this modem from anywhere on campus without the need for a hardware wireless WiMAX adapter. WiMAX offers true broadband data transfer, with speeds running between 3-7 Mbps and bursts up to 10 Mbps. We'll be able to use the modem and USB adapters free of charge for three years. Setting the WiMAX modem up is supposed to be super easy-they're sending it to our school pre-configured and ready to go out of the box. This system will not be replacing our traditional LAN and WiFi system; it is simply being used as a compliment to what we already have.

-We will also receive as many USB adapters as we'd like for access to the WiMAX network in most any peninsula communities running from San Jose all the way up to San Francisco. This may be useful to students who are traveling for sports, teachers who don't want to continue paying Comcast for Internet access (like myself), and any students/families who are in financial need. I'm interested to see how students and teachers use it to go out into the community to collect data and work on projects. Their network coverage will be fairly limited for starters, but we do know that it will work in the peninsula communities like Palo Alto, Menlo Park, etc.

-What will our iPads be used for? I really don't know, but I'm interested to see what kind of creative uses our kids devise. Perhaps some will form an iPad band with multiple different musical instruments and maybe we'll make some available through our school library to check out as eReaders...who knows.

-Discovery Educator Network professional development - I'm really excited about this. We'll be able to build a custom professional development experience for interested faculty along with a DEN facilitator (hopefully Hal Davidson, but who knows). I have no idea when we'll do this, but I could see it providing a great Fall 2010 follow up to our Summer Learning Institute.

We should be receiving our campus WiMAX modem at some point before the school year is out...I'll be sharing updates on how well this is working throughout this project.

I'm really interested in pervasive data access that isn't dependent on physical location-perhaps wide area broadband systems like WiMAX will be part of such a pervasive broadband wireless solution. I'm definitely looking forward to learning more about how this technology can help school learning communities achieve their goals.

A special thank you is in order to ACE and Clearwire for making this opportunity available to our school community!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Why the iPad Matters

I'd like to start out by saying I'm not an iPad owner and I'm a HUGE critic of the tightly closed platform. However, this category of computing devices that offers a multi-touch interface bundled in a highly portable form factor with great battery life truly is a game changer.

Here are the reasons why...

First and foremost, the iPad is making content and information more accessible to folks on the fringe. Don't believe it? Check out the following two videos. The first is of a 99 year old woman who has been unable to read books due to vision problems - this changed recently when she read a book on her iPad-I'm guessing the brightly lit screen along with the ability to customize the font size helped make this possible. The second video is from a toddler interacting with an iPad - the intuitive and natural touch interface is clearly increasing the accessibility of this platform to very young children.

The iPad is changing our concept of the book. Instead of simply reading a book, we can now become part of the story. Below is the highly interactive Alice for the iPad application. Imagine other stories coming to life with a format like this.

Finally, the iPad is making musical instruments more accessible. Check out these two applications-these are just FIRST GEN apps! What will gen 2, 3, 4 and 5 music apps look like?

Squiggle from Henry Chu on Vimeo.