Don’t be afraid ~ give me Google Apps

It was really fun to read Head in the Clouds from friend and ICT integrator Michael, who works in a large secondary school here in Sydney. I always enjoyed visitng Michael, and admired the sensible way that he adopts Web 2.0 and cloud computing in great ways to support the learning of the students at his school.

Michael says:

Over the past few days, it’s been very hard to contain my excitement over Google’s recent moves to add all the applications from standard Google accounts to Google Apps for Education. While the core suite of applications – Mail, Docs and Calendar – are extremely useful and have put my school on the Web 2.0 map, I’ve been so disappointed that other Google apps like Reader, Picasa and Blogger have been off-limits for so long.

Sure, students can create their own Google accounts, you say? Having worked with frustrated teachers and students who all-too-easily forget usernames and passwords, I’ve really come to appreciate the ability to control accounts as the school administrator and have kids quickly online and using the tools they need to get ahead.

Now when all of my students log in, they get immediate access to an incredibly powerful set of Web 2.0 applications without the need to enter a single name or additional password! Exploring these is going to take some time, but it’s great to know they’re there for anyone to use.

As a technology expert/administrator, Michael  see this the use of these Web 2.0 Google tools as providing a level playing field for all teachers and students.

I also use Google Apps to power my own learning and my work with my PLN (though not at school).  Just last evening the invincible Teacherman79, popped up in my Gtalk, to chat briefly about some stuff he is preparing for a College class he is teaching in Virtual WorldsJeff is a middle school gifted and talented teacher in Montana, and he just wanted someone to run a ‘critical friend’s’ eye over  a handout he was preparing to facilitate kids  choosing  their  OWN way of learning pathway.

You guessed it – he shared his Google Doc with me, and within minutes we were editing that document together ~ and enjoying working! Realtime collaboration is very powerful.

Just one tiny example from me!

In case you didn’t know, here are some of the most interesting features of the new version of Google documents:

  • Real time collaboration: See updates from other collaborators as they edit the document.
  • Higher-quality imports: More consistent imports from your desktop into Google Docs.
  • Chat with other collaborators: As you make your edits, you can chat with other document editors about the changes, from within the document.
  • Ruler: Google documents have a ruler for setting margins, indentations, and tab stops.

There is  so much that teachers and students can do using Google tools these days to collaborate within their classrooms, and beyond their classrooms.

Too easy!

Now, if only more technology experts/adminstrators would take the view that Michael does ~ adapting to  and adopting cloud computing ~  instead of locking down machines and networks to proprietory systems and software within a walled garden.

Horizon Report K-12 – future think!

What a buzz!  I helped with the Horizon Report K-12, which has been officially released.

This volume, the 2010 Horizon Report: K-12 Edition, examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative expression within the environment of pre-college education.

Make sure you read it and circulate it to the leadership team in your school or institution.

Thanks to  Larry Johnson and Alan Levine of  NMC  for inviting me to join the 2010 K-12 Horizon Project Advisory Board as an Australian school representative.

Web of knowledge: the Semantic Web

Last week many Australian teachers & tech  educators travelled to Melbourne to participate in the ACEC 2010 Conference Digital Diversity, an Australian biennial national ICT education conference. Much has been written since then about the challenges we encountered, the message of the keynote presentations, and the interesting experiences and conversations we all enjoyed.

What struck me was the continued conversation about the same things – even the Keynote sessions offered no new insights into the future directions of learning, though there were some challenging messages thrown out to the participants as ‘take-aways’.  For me the absolute  highlight was the  Keynote by Oscar award-winning Australian  Adam Elliot. So refreshing to hear something beyond the usual Gary Stager message of gloom and doom which offered little in constructive strategies for the listeners.  Thanks to Chris Betcher for his Keynote and reflections on Gary’s presentation too. I liked Chris’ presentation much  more than I liked Gary’s – despite Gary’s apparent claim to  fame.

BUT where were the discussions about the future directions of the web?  No keynotes that explored the synergy between virtual worlds, augmented reality, or the Semantic Web.  Nothing that offered hands -on grass-roots understanding about information fluency and knowledge work in a globally connected semantic web.

We have to stop working/thinking in silos!!  It was the same at the Apple  ITSC2010 conference, held over the last two days in Sydney.  Nice stuff covered for sure, and fun hands-on workshops. But nothing that points the way forward. Nothing that deals with reading and  literacy (our inescapable way of cognitive engagement with multimodal texts) on a variety of devices from paper to e-devices. Nothing that acknowledges the virtual, augmented, semantic mashup of connection with the world.

You know, the journey is  just  become interesting – don’t stop now:-

•1980s – Desktop is the platform
•1990s – Browser/server is the platform
•2000s – Web services are the platform
•2010s – Semantic web is the platform
Humanity is being connected by technology – oh not just in a Web 2.0, connected/conversation way, but in the way that Tim Berner’s Lee actually envisioned.
Web 3.0 – the Semantic Web – will revolutionise knowledge discovery.  And here we are still talking about the same old stuff without so much as a’ doff of the hat’ towards the real future of the web.
Do not for a minute think that you have prepared you students to understand how to learn well if you are integrating a bit of fun  technology- whatever the platform you use!  What are the thinking strategies that are underpinning your work?  What are the information fluency tactics that your are deploying in your classrooms?
I presented a preliminary conversation starter about  Web 3.0 and the Semantic web at ACEC2010 – just because I know that too many teachers are not even now looking at the different search engines, and the strategies that can be applied in the current web. How on earth will we expect our students to query the value of the information flood of knowledge that will be more readily available once the Semantic web takes a hold?
Time to roll your sleeves up my friends, and go beyond current thinking to understand learning and teaching when the web is our personalised federated search engine!  Will our students know more? or will they become more easily swayed through biased popular opinion?
Get beyond  your 21st century learning bubble of Web 2.0 tools and technology integration, and start planning for the actual future of learning.

New Media for Professional Teaching Assocations

Yesterday was a great day for a group of educators gathered at our school, as a result of an initiative of the Professional Teachers Council, NSW.

I was given the opportunity to lead a day ” Web 2.0 Tools for Professional Teaching Associations” with members from different teaching associations, to consider how new media tools (Web 2.0) can  and should be used to transform professional practice and empower teaching associations to meet the challenges of learning and teaching in an online world.

This was a big ask – it’s amazing how far we have come in terms of possibilities. It’s even more startling to stop and consider the priorities that now face teachers and teaching associations in supporting student learning opportunities in the 21st century.

I prepared a comprehensive digital handout – designed for the participants to be able to use again and again as they have conversations within their own associations about current and future developments. Let’s face it – in one day you can only point to the potential, not make it happen!

I used all online tools for this full day – starting with a google forms survey before the day; google slide presentation to launch the day; and a google site as the digital handout (with all the videos, slideshares, documents and AZ Toolkit embedded to show how!)

Just to prove the point that Judy is not dreaming, we were lucky to have Ross Cartilage from Google come and talk about “The Cloud” – yes folks, it’s real and it’s beautiful!

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing – the latest handle attached to the idea of hosted Web services used by people and businesses – is beginning to get considerable traction now that there are more companies offering services online. Elizabeth covers some good ideas in her post What is Cloud computing. This is a topic I am exploring for a PD session I’m presenting for the Computing Studies Teachers group.

But meanwhile, remember when we talked about ‘Web 2.0 as platform’?

Now its more and more what we are about, in schools, in libraries, in companies, in fact anywhere. Now we live on line, work online, store personal files online, and more. It’s not about locking to a single IT platform – its about releasing us from platform dependence.

With platforms getting a hold on the marketplace (and hopefully in education eventually) like the iTouch, iPhone, eeePC and more, cloud computing makes a lot of sense for schools – kids can access anything anywhere, and IT doesn’t have to be all centrally run from the school.

Is it really happening? eBay has a full time position open in San Jose for a Director, Cloud Computing Engineering.That’s a bit telling don’t you think? Cloud computing is what Google Apps are all about – and a good example of a major company making a play in this emerging field.

Is Cloud Computing Actually for Real?

The Editor of Grid Today reporting on Gartner’s Symposium ITXpo says that Gartner’s answer to this question is “Yes.” Among the myriad statistics thrown out at the conference was Gartner’s prediction that by 2012, 80 percent of Fortune 1000 companies will pay for some cloud computing service, and 30 percent of them will pay for cloud computing infrastructure. Pretty impressive if it comes true.

I really like where this is all going :-) The guys in this video clip are not all sure yet, but listen to their ideas, get the big picture and move with the times!

more about “What is Cloud Computing“, posted with vodpod