Report says classroom walls and industrial-age schooling can go

As reported at eSchool News recently, a new white paper from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) says that while changing the curriculum, using digital pedagogies and training teachers are all important, it is the physical environment in which learning takes place that also needs urgent adjustment if the full advantages of the digital age are to be harnessed by schools. How far along the path to this kind of physically changing learning spaces is your school/ classroom/ campus? If its a new idea for you, don’t fret – all it takes is to read up on some universal design for learning (UDL) principles  (which while coming originally from a disabilities/ learning styles perspective, does now give relevant underlying strategies for transforming learning spaces), and then start experimenting.
From the article:
“Educators can’t truly deliver 21st-century instruction in schools that reflect Industrial-Age designs, with rigid schedules, inflexible facilities, and fixed boundaries between grades, disciplines, and classrooms, according to a new white paper from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21).

Sponsored by Cisco Systems, the paper–titled “21st Century Learning Environments”–describes the kinds of school structures that have been shown to facilitate successful 21st-century teaching and learning: from flexible learning spaces that can be rearranged to fit different class sizes and subjects, to more malleable units of time than the typical 50-minute class period.”



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Can your Smartphone do this?

Not to start any disputes as to which Smartphone is better because several modern platforms are now capable of the feat I’m about to report, but can your phone do this?

Can it: ”Look for files on your remote home or office computer and download those files to your device or e-mail them to a friend or colleague. ’ReachMyFile‘ provides easy, secure, instant access to remote files over cellular (3G, EDGE) and Wi-Fi networks”. In other words, can you browse you home computer and access, download, email etc its files? THIS is what the mobile, wireless, cloud computing, everywhere or ubiquitous computing is all about. Local storage capacity becomes a non-issue with this kind of capability. 
For Education, there a few implications. Firstly, in the coming years it may mean closed, safe school networks can be easily bypassed by students ‘beaming’ in their own files. But secondly, and on a positive note, it means that no assignment or homework can be left at home!

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Google & the Future of Books

In this technological equivalent of a time between times, when the digital world is growing, but still exists side by side with the analogue, this article from the New York Review of Books asks ”How can we navigate through the information landscape that is only beginning to come into view?”

This is in light of Google’s recent digitzing of millions of books and the challenge this has posed for publishers and copyright holders. A legal settlement has just been reached, and this link will take you to a long but fascinating overview of the current situation and what it means for what we’ve always thought of as ‘books’ …

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Best IT Solution For a School?

Walk into any school probably across the western world and you’re likely to find a mix of technologies. Some Desktops, some laptops, some wireless equipment, some handhelds perhaps. The best combination/solution will probably always be dependent on local conditions and needs – but if ever there was an internet discussion that could provide you an answer, it may be this recent one where one teacher at a new school wrote:

“I’m a teacher at a British ‘City Academy’ (ages 11-19) that is going to move into a new building next year. Management is deciding now on the IT that the students will use in the new building, as everything will be built from scratch. Currently, the school has one ICT suite per department, each containing about 25-30 PCs. My issue with this model is that it means these suites are only rarely used for a bit of googling or typing up assignments, not as interactive teaching tools. The head likes the idea of moving to a thin client solution, with the same one room per department plan, as he see the cost benefits. However, I have seen tablet PCs used to great effect, with every single classroom having 20-30 units which the students use as ‘electronic workbooks,’ for want of a better phrase. This allows every lesson to fully utilize IT (multimedia resources, Internet access, instant handout and retrieval of learning resources, etc.) and all work to be stored centrally. My question is: In your opinion, what is the best way for a school to use IT (traditional computer lab, OLPCs, etc.) and what hardware is out there to best serve that purpose? Fat clients for IT/Media lessons and thin client for the rest? Thin client tablets? Giving each student a laptop to take home? Although, obviously, cost is an issue, we have a significant budget, so it should not be the only consideration.”


The full discussion can be found at Slashdot here:

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Fixed-line internet Population Passes One Billion

Well, thats a big number – TechCruch is reporting a ComScore report into fixed-line internet use and if you’re reading this it means you’re one in a billion. Or one in 1.5 billion as the article points to another report that gives that number. Either way, its a long way short of everyone – perhaps price and availability of quality broadband has something to do with this. Even my school in a built-up, new, modern suburb can still only get 512kbps although we pay some thousands per year… 
Read More here:

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Education and the Twitterverse


Twitter, twitter, twitter. Like the chattering that its name implies, micro-blogging turned mass communication tool Twitter now seems to be heard everywhere. So overwhelming has it been that while I joined some time ago, I’ve got serious in the last month and now consider it the fourth leg of my personal learning network after Google Reader, Facebook, and Email discussion lists. In one day I came across a three great articles blogged by others, a wiki, and even a story in my Brisbane paper (a sure sign that its now going mainstream if they know about it). So For all my friends and fellow Educators who are still asking what is Twitter and why does it matter, have a look at these:

Overview and introduction from the NY Times: Twittering Tips for Beginners

Wiki just for teachers using twitter: twitter4teachers

Twitter as a community of practice for eduators: MICROBLOGGING EXPLORED

And ‘follow’ me at Read you there.


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Horizon scanning, or “In 4 years, will my teaching be ready for this?”


The year may only be 24 days old, but the folks at Educause have been busy and just released the 2009 Horizon report. Horizon reports have been a key resource for a number of years for Educators wanting to prepare for the impacts of future technology, and the 2009 version provides the same kind of ‘horizon scanning’ (a Stephen Heppell phrase). Covering topics from mobile devices to cloud computing, semantic web services and geotagging, its well worth downloading and asking the question – “In 4 years, will my school/institution be ready for this?”, and “What opportunities will these technologies bring for learning?”
There’s also a great overview of the report available via eCampus News – (you’ll need to sign up to read it all).

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Microsoft to move further into cloud computing

Sorry to all the Microsoft fans out there, but if MS is getting into cloud computing (as they have by announcing MS Office and Windows 7 will feature cloud-connectivity), then you know that its probably already a happening thing. This article picked up by the automated tech news blog techmeme indicates that MS will shortly unveil a further cloud computing initiative for Windows Mobile devices that will compete with Apple’s MobileMe and the Google cloud-services built into the Android mobile OS. So How many Educators are tapping into such services? How many students are being taught about them? Read more about MS plans here:

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200,000 netbooks for NSW Education

If anything besides the rise of mobile phones illustrates the ubiquitous, everywhere direction that digital technology is taking, its the recent development of netbooks – small but generally-capable laptops that sell for between $300-600. The NSW department of Education obviously has detected this trend, and has announced a tender process for the purchase of 200,000 such devices. Even better, rather than just buy consumer hardware off the shelf, they have specified education-focused conditions – a wonderful but sadly rare example of this happening. You can go here to read more:

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PocketPhonics an example of the opportunities a natural digital interface provides

Education apps for literacy in the lower primary school age bracket have been thin on the ground since the app store opened. However, a new program called PocketPhonics has just been released that looks set to appeal to just this market. I know of several teachers in my state of Queensland and across Australia who are experimenting with iPod Touch’s in the primary school arena – and this app takes a great drill and practice method to learning phonics and letter-sounds. 


More than this though, it harnesses the devices visual, audio and even motion-sensing abilities to engage students. It doesn’t hurt that research has proven that such a multiple learning-styles approach (visual, auditory and kinesthetic) is one of the key ways to increase early success with phonics. This app is definately showcasing just what advantages a natural digital interface (in this case multi-touch and shaking to erase) can bring to education, while at the same time making learning phonics mobile. There is even a lite version you so you can try it out. 


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The iPhone Could Be The Ultimate Study Machine

TechCrunch has this great article up on the state of education apps for the iPhone platform:

With gigabytes of storage, dimensions comparable to traditional note cards, and a full color screen, the iPhone is the ultimate study companion. And, unlike many of its smartphone competitors, the iPhone and iPod Touch have huge appeal for the younger crowds that generally flock to study materials.

Unfortunately the current state of the ‘Education‘ section of the App Store leaves something to be desired – many of the top apps are poorly designed, and some of the best-selling applications in both the ‘paid’ and ‘free’ sections have fewer than 100 total reviews. I blame this mostly on a general lack of awareness.



Its well worth a read if you’re experimenting with the iPhone and learning opportunities – plus the article has spawned a long and growing list of comments on the subject – head over and add your opinion!
(Thanks to Adrian for the link)

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N.B. Educators: Social Media are now legitimate tools of modern life

I know that the Education Department I work for will soon be trialing an in-house, protected social network for Teachers and one for students. Are any others across the world ready to tackle the fact that social media are now legitimate, functioning tools of modern life. See this article for two examples of this (the recent Hudson river plane crash, and President Obama’s harnessing of youtube and twitter) :

So while social media may not yet be required tools, their widespread use for modern two-way communication should get Educators thinking ‘How can  we use them to enrich learning and connect learners?’ 

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Want an example of ubiquitous learning?


Our sister-blog mlearning-world has posted a great video depicting a ubiquitous learning project – harnessing the power of the mobile phones and downtime between on-field action at sports stadiums to deliver science lessons. This is a fantastic example of how to take advantage of teachable moments – but on a massive scale! Go here to see the vid:

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Mobile Software is here to stay

> So, this whole ‘buying software just for mobile devices’ thing is > really taking off! Educators should take note that a major shift > from PCs to mobile/ everywhere computing I’d under way -I mean > 500,000,000 app downloads in 6 months is a huge number by any > technology platforms standards, and with Android, Palm and > Blackberry all having app stores of their own ok the way, it’s clear > that anytime access to software via wireless connections will be an > important part of our students futures. Now to working out what the > educational opportunities if this are … !
> Read more about it here:

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Rising Netbook sales a sign of things to come for Educators

Netbooks, those super-small but just capable-enough laptops, have been around long enough now that their impact can be measured in more than just how many have been released (very many) or how much they have been hyped. While the One-Laptop-Per-Child program that started it all is encountering difficulties at the moment, Education departments the world over have still embraced the mini-laptop concept as the best way of delivering 1:1 laptop rollouts in a cost-effective way.
Tangible proof of the impact of this new class of PCs is showing up in sales figures – the following Appleinsider article reports on recent US sales data showing that Acer has re-taken the 3rd spot at the expense of Apple, which has fallen a place for the first time in some time. Acer’s success is reported as being due to the success of its strong Aspire Netbook line, while Apple has no products at present in this clearly growing category. Apple’s Steve Jobs recently opinioned that the iPod Touch and iPhone were its equivalent, but maybe the current harsher economic times will force Apple’s hand, making the many Mac-using schools of the world rather happy I imagine.
Article is HERE:

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[email protected] has recommended that you check out an application on iTunes

Productivity – well all want to increase it right? If you’re an iPhone user, take a look at this browser app which purports to let you copy and paste, save images of any part of a webpage, email slected text and the pages URL, – all with one search bar (ala Google’s Chrome) and easier tab navigation. There are no reviews yet though – any one like to give it a go?

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Look out, Microsoft Surface – the iTable might just trump you in every way

Seems like the natural digital interface possibilites of multi-touch, first championed for mass-consumption by the iPhone, and more recently touted as a feature of Windows 7, is spreading to other manufacturers as well. Here’s an example from the recent CES tech conference: (via crunchgear)

Who would have thought that one of the coolest things we’ve seen at CES would be hidden in a 10×10 booth at the very back of the South Hall? Like a diamond in the rough, there sat the PQ Labs iTablet.

They’ve essentially taken the idea behind the Microsoft Surface and have done it better in every way. It’s cheaper, it’s gorgeous, and perhaps most notably, it’s not a hulking monster.

Two of the most notable features of the Surface are its multitouch capabilities and the availability of a development SDK, both of which PQ Labs has matched (or, in the case of the SDK, plan to match soon). The number of fingers detected by the multitouch sensor is limited only by the individual software designer’s desire – the hardware itself supports as many simultaneous prods as you can throw at it.



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Student tests face hi-tech overhaul


Most modern educator probably realise by now assessment needs an overhaul to meet the needs of a
ubiquitous computing future just as much as learning does. So see this article for some hope:



Justine Ferrari | January 14, 2009

NATIONAL Curriculum Board head Barry McGaw will spearhead an international project to devise a new method for assessing school students, measuring the skills they possess rather than their ability to memorise facts.

The multi-million-dollar project was launched in London yesterday by three of the world’s leading technology companies — Cisco, Intel and Microsoft. They said the aim was to resolve the gap between what was taught in schools and the skills required in the workplace. 

The project aims to develop a computer-based assessment system that could be adopted around the world and would test students’ knowledge in cross-disciplinary problems, spelling the end of closed-book exams testing students’ memory. 

In a policy paper released at the Learning and Technology World Forum in London, the companies argue that reforming student assessment is the key to transforming education to bring it into the 21st century. 

“Businesses, entire economies and society generally have made dramatic changes over the past decades, much of it enabled by the widespread use of ICT (information and communications technology),” the paper says. 

“Yet most educational systems operate much as they did at the beginning of the 20th century. 

READ THE REST HERE:,,24911114-5013040,00.html

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Windows Mobile to change strategy

After seeing its market share of smartphones diminish recently for a couple of reasons (iPhone, Blackberry …), and before the amazing new Palm Pre smartphone is released, Windows Mobile has decided to cull the number of WinMo phones that are released. Interesting move/ reaction to worldwide converged device developments…

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