School’s out Friday

By Internet standards, this is old news, but seeing as how I’ve failed to post School’s out Friday for the last two weeks, I’d like to share it with those of you who have yet to see it. It was filmed as a prank for the Jay Leno Show in the US, and this couple make me smile every time I watch them. They are joyous in their approach to life, and heaven only knows we need more of this in the world and less of the bad news stories that seem to flood our news services on a daily basis. Take a look at the follow up video too, where the couple appear on the Jay Leno Show and entertain the audience as members of the band.

Another video shared this week that made me think about the way to live life was this one. My last days – Meet Zach Sobiech.

Zach died on Monday of this week. His story is a gift to all of us. I hope you take the time to watch it.

Have a lovely weekend. Reflect. 🙂

 

Teenagers and Social Media – new research from Pew Internet

The Pew Internet American Life Project conducts regular research into the use of technology by all sectors of the US population. Their latest research focuses on teenagers and their use of Social Media sites. Here are some of the key findings from the report:

Teens are sharing more information about themselves on social media sites than they did in the past. For the five different types of personal information that we measured in both 2006 and 2012, each is significantly more likely to be shared by teen social media users in our most recent survey.

 Teen Twitter use has grown significantly: 24% of online teens use Twitter, up from 16% in 2011.

 The typical (median) teen Facebook user has 300 friends, while the typical teen Twitter user has 79 followers.

 Focus group discussions with teens show that they have waning enthusiasm for Facebook, disliking the increasing adult presence, people sharing excessively, and stressful “drama,” but they keep using it because participation is an important part of overall teenage socializing.

 60% of teen Facebook users keep their profiles private, and most report high levels of
confidence in their ability to manage their settings.

 Teens take other steps to shape their reputation, manage their networks, and mask information they don’t want others to know; 74% of teen social media users have deleted people from their network or friends list.

 Teen social media users do not express a high level of concern about third-party access to their data; just 9% say they are “very” concerned.

 On Facebook, increasing network size goes hand in hand with network variety, information sharing, and personal information management.

 In broad measures of online experience, teens are considerably more likely to report positive experiences than negative ones. For instance, 52% of online teens say they have had an experience online that made them feel good about themselves.

The research is from the US, but I do think there are messages to take from this that are applicable to the Australian experience. My discussions with students indicate that Facebook is on the wane, with many gravitating to sites like Instagram for their social network experience. My observations in discussions with parents is that Instagram is not seen as much of a threat to their children as is Facebook. There’s more of a comfortable willingness to allow their children to participate there. I think we need to help our parents understand that sites like Instagram are social networks, not just photo sharing places. They require just as much open discussion about things like oversharing, managing privacy settings and who you add as a friend as does a site like Facebook.

There are some very encouraging signs in their key findings with quite a high percentage of teenagers actively managing privacy settings and taking steps to manage their reputation online. What does concern me is teenagers apparent low level of concern about 3rd party access to their data. The report says that insights from focus groups suggests that teenagers may not have a good sense that their data is being used by any third parties. Again, this finding echoes some of my experiences with students who seem unaware that sites may be sharing information or mining their data to discover their likes and dislikes. We do need to find room in our busy curriculums to have discussions with students about social media and what might be happening with their data. An informed citizen is in a position to make sound decisions, and surely that’s what we want for our young people in today’s world.

I’d encourage you to follow this link and take a read of the full report.

Chromebooks, Google Apps…and all that Jazz

My quest to discover more about Google Apps and Chromebooks led me to Google’s Sydney offices today, where a session hosted by Suan Yeo (Head of Education at Google Australia/Asia) was being held for schools interested in pursuing this line. It was great walking into a room with some familiar faces, and it ticked off one of those bucket list items for me – getting to see what Google looks like as a working environment. More on that later.

First up. I’ve had a Chromebook for near on a month now. Mine is the Acer model, purchased in large part because of the extra ports, especially the VGA connection that would allow it to hook up easily to projectors and whiteboards at my school. I love it. Honestly, I do. Most of my life is spent in connected environments  – I move from home that has constant wifi access, to school that has constant wifi access, and if I can’t find wifi access, I can tether the Chromebook to my iPhone and I’ve once again got the access I need. Earlier this month I attended a day at ISV learning about policy formation. I took the Chromebook with me and used an app called Scratchpad to take notes offline, then moved to tethering the phone when I wanted to check up on websites they’d mentioned, then untethered and headed back to Scratchpad when I’d no need for Internet connection. Right now, I’m on the plane back to Melbourne, using Scratchpad on the Chromebook once again to write this up. Easy.

English: An Acer Chromebook showing the introd...
English: An Acer Chromebook showing the introductory screen walking news users through the touchpad’s features. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before I left for Sydney yesterday, I uploaded word docs from my hard-drive on my Macbook Pro to Google Docs, so I could access them last night when I needed them. I can look at them on the Chromebook, but can’t edit them – this will come soon enough (end of the year maybe?) when Google releases its Quickoffice app to the general populace that will enable editing of Microsoft software within Chrome and Google Drive. There are USB ports on the Chromebook, and I could have brought one of those with me with the Word docs loaded on that as it’s easy to open the contents of a USB on a Chromebook. My son describes the Chromebook as an ‘on the fly’ computer, and I have to agree. It’s light, smaller than my Macbook and easy to put in my handbag, and it’s become my preferred hardware for using as I sit in a recliner at home and catch up on email and what’s happening in the world of Twitter.

I do have to access the Web version of Outlook to check the school email at the moment, but that’s not really a big deal. Over the past couple of months I’ve become a seriously heavy Google Drive user, preferring to create most documents there rather than using what I now view as the clunky Word options on my computer that don’t offer me the sharing and easy editing options Google Docs do. I’ve been using Google Docs to share meeting agendas and notes with staff, hoping that their ability to easily edit will rub off and they will see the benefits of working this way too. My students certainly can see the benefits. In our latest PBL venture, groups are already creating Google Docs to collaborate on idea formation. They’ve seen the benefit of the comments feature in Google Docs, and I’ve been providing feedback to them when they were creating an extended writing piece. There were times over the recent school holiday period when students and I were online commenting synchronously – a seriously good opportunity for personalising the learning experience.

I haven’t been easy on it either. I’m a 20 tab girl most days – I’ve got 18 tabs open right now and that’s my usual modus operandi. When I was editing student docs, I was flicking between tabs, watching YouTube vids, looking at a constantly refreshing Tweetdeck – you get the picture. One night I did find that Docs were dropping out and I had to kill pages, but they were easily restored by just heading back into Drive and accessing the page again. I haven’t seen that happen again over the last couple of weeks. I’m not bothered by the smaller screen, and the keyboard is responsive, if a bit plasticy feeling. But let’s face it – this is a $295 machine, not a $1200 Macbook. I’m not expecting miracles. The trackpad is nowhere near as good as my Macbook Pro, and I notice that most when I’ve been using the Macbook all day at school and revert to the Chromebook at night. I’ve been solely using this Chromebook for the last 24 hours, and I’ve got to that stage where it’s feeling pretty normal. I know I’ll notice the difference again when I fire up the Macbook again. But. like I say, this is not high end hardware – it’s the on the fly computer and for that purpose, it’s doing me just fine.

Battery life on this Acer model Chromebook sits around 4 hrs depending on what you’re doing with it. If you’re accessing a lot of YouTube vids and streaming content, you’ll see it suck up battery life. The Samsung model has longer battery life (and looks cooler – very Macbook Air looking) but it has only 16 G of hard drive storage. This Acer model has 320 G of storage capacity. That’s pretty remarkable given its size and weight.

I’ve had a lot of fun exploring the Chrome Web Store and downloading apps that I could see used in a school setting. I did sit there the other night trying to figure out what I’d be stymied doing if this was my sole device. I figured video editing would be the biggest problem, but then I discovered WeVideo in the Chrome Web Store and spent the night creating a simple video using it. It was very intuitive and shares the same editing principles of MovieMaker and iMovie.

What appeals to me about Chromebooks in a school setting is the management console that is available if you buy Chromebooks for your students and pay an extra $30 a device to hook them up to this console. It’s there where you can deploy apps and arrange to time the frequent (around every 6 weeks) Chrome OS updates. This way you’d have an always updated computer and could respond to classroom needs if a teacher discovers a new app and wants it available to the students quickly.

I also like the idea of offering the Chromebook as an option for older students who aren’t pursuing subjects requiring access to high end video editing software or tools like Photoshop. It’s an option where they could use Google Apps for word processing and could take full advantage of the sharing and editing options at that critical time of their education. It’s also providing them with an excellent entry point if they are about to move to university environments that are using Google Apps across their campuses.

Now, to the Google session today. What was great about this was the opportunity to hear from real life teachers and technology directors who have deployed Google Apps across their school. I wanted to hear about the migration of staff mail over to Gmail and how that had been managed in terms of people’s level of comfort with security and our duty of care. A representative from the Catholic Education Office spoke how the move to Google Apps was precipitated by the need for the renewal of Microsoft licensing for Exchange. Moving to Gmail saved them money and allowed them to utilise savings for professional development training. They had their lawyers look at the documentation from Google and were satisfied that their security concerns were covered. They now have a vast number of people within their diocese using Google Apps and have been overwhelmed with the buy in from schools wanting to step up and use the system. The point was made by the panel that the tools within the Google Apps management console were sufficiently granular to manage retrieval of data should you need it and disable access if that was required.

Seeing Google in action was very exciting for a geeky person like me. (I never thought I’d ever describe myself as geeky, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that’s probably the best way to describe me now!) I didn’t go into their staff working spaces, but we did get to have lunch there. With a view of the Harbour Bridge and a wide array of food choices at your disposal at no charge, it’s a nice way to support your workers while they have a break.

I do think that Google are offering something pretty impressive for education, and it’s free. From my perspective as someone responsible for eLearning, I want my students and staff to understand the potential of collaborative cloud based software. Like I’ve said here before, using systems like these require an informed populace, people who understand how things work and what you’re doing when you use them. One thing I’m very interested in exploring further is the Hapara Teacher Dashboard, a third party service ($4.00 a student I think) that allows you to oversee what is happening across your school with the creation of docs, blog posts etc. As I explore things further, I’ll try and find the time to share my learning here.

Signing out – Jenny 🙂

*fully composed on an Acer Chromebook.

** Forgot to mention – a Chromebook boots up in around 8 seconds.

Creating climates of possibility

This is Sir Ken Robinson’s latest TED talk. Ken’s ability to convey powerful ideas with smatterings of humour really does make him the consummate speaker. It’s worth investing 19 or so minutes listening to his message that is directed at the US system but has relevance to education professionals everywhere.

I couldn’t help but think as I watched that Ken might be impressed with Jeff Bliss, a student from Duncanville High School in Texas. Jeff’s classroom outburst was recorded (unbeknownst to Jeff) by another student on their phone and posted to YouTube, where it has gone viral with over 2.9 million views after just three days online. While I don’t subscribe to posting video without the consent of all parties, and I think the administration of Duncanville High School must be enacting some serious damage control and checking if they have a signed Responsible Use Policy to refer to, Jeff’s words spoke to my heart. See if they speak to your heart too.

Sir Ken concludes his talk by saying that we need to create climates of possibility in our schools. Both what and how we teach need to be the seeds that make possibility grow and flourish for our students. I don’t know if Jeff has ever seen a Ken Robinson talk, but his words make it clear that he subscribes to this thinking too. For once, I encourage you to read the comments on the YouTube video featuring Jeff. While you’ll encounter some trolling behaviour, much of what is said supports Jeff’s outburst and many comments seem to come from young people present in school systems today. It’s worth it to watch an interview conducted with Jeff after the video began spreading – he has an interesting perspective to share.

What this video certainly does teach us is that social media can have far reaching implications for teachers, especially if they are filmed unknowingly in their classrooms. The teacher in question has been publicly shamed here and apparently has been put on administrative leave. We haven’t had an opportunity to hear her perspective yet and we may never hear it. It goes without saying that we do need to have Responsible Use Policies within our schools that are read and hopefully respected by our student populations. It doesn’t mean they’ll be adhered to, but they do give us opportunities to discuss with our students the moral and ethical considerations they should bring to their use of devices with recording ability and social media.

School’s out Friday

It’s been awhile since an Improv Everywhere video featured here, but this one is worth watching. I can see the benefits in this service, can’t you? We really need this kind of service to combat the behaviour of people in cars – cannot tell you how many people I see looking down while driving and who are obviously reading screens or texting. Unfortunately, it’s a by-product of a population immersed in quick access to information. I’ve fallen prey – my phone sits beside my bed acting as my very efficient alarm clock and it’s there when the dog or cat wake me at some ungodly hour to be let outside. I read, watch videos and send tweets at some very odd hours for my time zone. There are others out there like me – I often see other Aussies in the twitter stream at hours that are deigned for sleeping and not tweeting!

I began a Project Based Learning task with my Year 9 students today and I hope to find some opportunities to blog about its progress over the coming weeks. Today was a lot of fun as we launched ‘What does it take for an idea to go viral?’. Next week will be telling as we move into investigation and the students begin to determine what their product will be. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing where this one takes us.

I hope the weekend treats you well. Chilly days forecast here. Electric Blanket is on – all is good with the world. 🙂