Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Adopting a bring your own device policy

For cash strapped schools, a bring your own device (BYOD) policy if implemented correctly can greatly improve ICT provision and coverage with a minimal budget outlay. In some ways, it is a better preparation for the real world that students will inhabit. Although some swanky cafes suggest otherwise, we do not inhabit a world where everyone has a shiny new ipad. It is a good idea for schools to provide a mixed ecosystem that is more like what students will experience outside of school. Learning to share information across a range of devices is a necessary skill.
There are many issues with implementing a BYOD policy such as security and web filtering. In a discussion in my own school a colleague asked if adopting such a policy would be opening a pandora's box. My response was that students live in a world with pandora's box already open and school is the only place they come to where it is shut. I took his point however. The box probably does have to be shut.
I stumbled across this excellent video on Youtube. It is a little long but covers a lot of ground on how to effectively and securely implement BYOD.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Using the Google Drive app on the ipad to create student portfolios

I'm a little bit busy this week to write a full post so I have decided to do a repost instead. It would have been difficult for me to write anyway after dropping my ipad a month ago damaging it beyond repair and facilitating a wholesale switch to android so here is an excellent post from Richard Byrne at ipad apps 4 schools.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Would you like to guest blog?

In mid-January I started the blog freetechforschools.com to try and keep track of and share with the global teaching community all the amazing free products available for schools to use. I have had an amazing response so far and have really enjoyed making contact with teachers across the world who share my passion for free technology.
I would love to see this blog grow into a fantastic resource that teachers consult to help make better use of free technology but I have to admit that it is only growing as quickly as I can write, currently about 1 article per week. I would love to see other teachers using this to share their expertise. If you would like to be a one-off or regular contributor, send me an email at [email protected]. I will accept articles which are an exposé on a free product, or articles on innovative uses of technology either in the classroom or for professional development.

Hoping to hear from you and to start to build a collaborative network which is useful to all educators.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Remember everything: Using Evernote in education

Evernote is one of those apps that once you use it you wonder how you ever lived without it. I first discovered it in Argentina about 18 months ago on a holiday learning Spanish. On the holiday I had an iPhone and iPad with me and I found it was a simple way to keep track of my notes from my lessons (taken on my iPad) and anything of interest that I wanted to learn when I was out on the town (on my iphone) looking for my next rib eye steak and Malbec fix.
My initial use of this app was quite basic, focusing on simple note taking. Now I use it for everything such as taking pictures of books I want to read so I can download on my Kindle later, remembering things as they pop into my head, keeping a record of websites I want to view and of course planning my next blog post.
Of course as educators, you want to know how you can use it in school. Well this is how I use it. This may sound a little bit low tech but for keeping track of things in work, I actually use a paper note pad. Why? It fits in my pocket and is quick to boot up, just open and click the on button on your pen. At the end of each day I then take a photo of each page and upload to Evernote so it syncs to all my devices (now android) and my Mac at home. I also use it to photograph and sync documents in meetings.
I am currently trying it out with students. One of my students who is undertaking a research project is keeping a record of all his research using Evernote, so I can check the range of sources he has consulted and if I think he is following the wrong path, put him on the right one before our next meeting.
The great thing with Evernote is the range of apps that also work with it like Skitch for quick sketches. It also works well with Google Chrome if you download the web-clipper extension for keeping track of research. Evernote is one of the best productivity apps around and I am sure I am only scratching the surface on its potential uses in education. If you are using it creatively, please add a comment below. I would love to hear your ideas.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

When I wish upon a wall: A guide to using Padlet

This week I would like to review an excellent tool called padlet (formerly known as Wallwisher). It is a great and easy to use tool for collecting ideas either from students in a lesson or from staff in meetings. The beauty of this tool is that you don't even need to log in. You just click "Create a wall" and you are ready to go. Once you are finished, you can then email the link to the wall to the contributors. It is also possible to log in although I never do as I like to use it quickly.
It is fantastic for peer review and in a classroom where students each have access to a device, be that a set of laptops or even their smart phones and they can all contribute and then instantly see each others comments if it is projected on to a white board.
Here is an example of how I used it.

The students have given feedback through padlet allowing them to share their experience of the learning activity.
Give it a go. It's really easy. Just navigate to www.padlet.com

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Training on the train: 3 useful tools for professional development

Professional development  for teachers should be an ongoing continuous activity and many teachers take a proactive approach, however there are some teachers who think of professional development is 'one of those courses you go on'. I don't know about you but generally I find sitting in a room sticking post-it notes on a big sheet of A3 about as useful as an inflatable dart board. Don't get me wrong, I have been on some very useful courses and often the best thing about the course is the questions it makes me ask, but I generally find that I learn more by researching something that I need to do, as and when I need to do it. The problem with the latter approach of course is that you sometimes don't get exposed to new ideas or approaches. Time is of course another factor with professional development. How do you find the time to keep up to date with the latest developments in education? Here I would like to explain my personal approach. I hope you find it useful.

My approach uses 3 free tools which I encourage every educator I know to use; Twitter, Paperli and Pocket. I use Twitter as the backbone of my professional learning network (and occasionally Linked In). Up until 3 months ago, I was a Twitter denier. I had never tweeted (or is that I had never twat!) and I couldn't see the point in messages of only 140 characters. It seemed like it had concentrated on the most annoying part of Facebook; the status update. What I found though was that with Twitter, it is much easier to only receive information related to certain interests, in my case, I use one account to keep abreast of topics on leadership, educational technology and developments within the British education system. Twitter is great for receiving information but it's as visually attractive as Ricky Gervais in a mankini and I find myself clicking backwards and forwards to get back to my home page. I needed something more visually appealing. Another educator I follow on Twitter, Doug Woods, was using a new product called Paperli, which displays posts that people share on Twitter as an online newspaper, gives a much more visually appealing way to digest the information shared on Twitter. Every day I get Doug's Edtech Daily straight to my inbox. I now aggregate all posts from my Twitter professional learning network into my own weekly paper called the Edutech Review. This lets me view lots of relevant articles from fellow teachers on a weekly basis, often giving me excellent new ideas for blog posts.
As I mentioned at the beginning, time is an issue when engaging in professional learning and I try to fit mine into my daily train journeys (10 minutes to and from work). Sometimes I am half way through reading an article on my phone when the train arrives at the station. At this point I save it to Pocket. This useful tool lets me access it later from my phone, tablet or computer and even read it offline.
If you are a teacher, consider how a potential employer will view your job application. I often look at CVs where people have listed 10 courses they have attended and then they mention nothing about it in their accompanying letter. All this shows me is that they work at a school with a healthy CPD budget and that they have sat in a room for a total of 10 days. I find a potential employee much more appealing when they talk about HOW they have developed professionally and what steps they take to constantly take to improve themselves as a teacher or leader. Putting yourself in a situation where you actively seek out information and act on it will make you more likely to get that next job so get on Twitter, engage with other teachers and make professional development a daily activity.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tech for Africa

53. That is how many used plastic bags I guessed it would take to make a village football, a simple toy made by stuffing used carrier bags inside a net. There was a lot at stake with this guess. There was a competition to win a Kindle Fire HD. Free tech for me! I didn't win, but I did have a wonderful conversation with the people who work for Computers 4 Africa.
Wondering around the Bett conference at the Excel Conference Centre (also home to a very big arms fair) is like Charlie's visit to the chocolate factory; full of surprises and technological temptations, oh, and free sweets too. I was there with a buy nothing, how can we do the same as that with a free product mentality. My focus was firmly on providing value for my school. In the chocolate factory, looking for value can make you forget your values. Meeting the people at the Computers 4 Africa stand made me step back and think. As long as we are living in a world where we take technology for granted, whilst children in the developing world don't have access to the same wonderful enabling tools, then the gulf of inequality will only get wider.
What Computer 4 Africa do is quite simple, they take computers which schools and businesses no longer need and supply them to schools in Africa that otherwise could not afford them. It is run as a social enterprise with a 'hand up not a hand out' model. Beneficiaries pay a contribution towards the preparation and shipping of the computers but at the best price available in their locality.  They also donate 10% of the computers to the poorest causes.
If you have computers which are going to landfill, think twice. minimize waste by sending it to Computers 4 Africa knowing that you are giving some children the chance to access the same opportunities and information that we have. Equality of access will promote equality of opportunity.

note: I have no link whatsoever to Computers 4 Africa but I like what they do. If you are interested in what they do, check out their website. http://www.computers4africa.org.uk/index.php