Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Update and Verizon Mobile Broadband

It's hard to describe how valuable the broadband service I have from Verizon has been to me.  When I was in Indiana two weeks ago for the K-12 Open Minds Conference, it literally saved me from the lack of wireless in my hotel room.  I would guess I use the card for some amount of time every day.

So I was very disappointed to find that after I upgraded my Toshiba Portege laptop to Ubuntu 7.10, my wireless connection would hang up immediately after connecting.  I kept getting a "USB disconnect" that immediately hung up the connection.  I had previously followed Tina Gasperson's directions on setting up the EVDO card pictured above within Linux, but in my searching the web found that Ubuntu 7.10 reconfigured how USB is handled, and apparently the PCMCIA EVDO card is accessed through the USB settings.

But in trying the setup outlined here, which was stated specifically not to work with Ubuntu 7.10 (but that someone later noted had worked for them), I was back online again.  Even better, these directions from the Ubuntu Forums are much easier to automate, allowing me to create a menu item to connect, and so I'm actually glad I had to solve the issue.  As an aside, I did a speed test with the card today from my house, where Verizon reception has always been poor to middling, and I was at 400+kb down and 100kb up.  Not bad for anywhere access.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Classroom 2.0 Explanation Video

Darren Draper, the technology specialist in Utah's Jordan School District, and the creator of the super-viral Pay Attention video, interviewed me last week about Classroom 2.0 social network. Hopefully, it's a good introduction to the network and the whole idea of social networking in education.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A 14-year-old Talks Educational Technology

"Arthus" is the web name of a 14-year-old student in Vermont who has recently become actively involved in the online dialog about educational technology. I find his voice an interesting--maybe a critically important--addition to the discussion. To me, Arthus is not representative of most 14-year-olds, but is representative of the kind of independent, engaged, proactive, and self-directed learner who will thrive in the flattened and connected world of the Internet.

Now the big question: will the use of Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies do more than just highlight intellectually mature youth, and actually help to promote, encourage, and support this learning style? If so, are we ready for it? Some of what he says is going to be very hard to hear for teachers, and will feel threatening--maybe especially because of its accuracy. It's one thing to hear a teacher say some of these things, it's quite another to hear them from a freshman in high school. How will the learning environment of 9th grade, for example, have to change when you have a classroom full of youth this intellectually independent?

  • Arthus started by seeing someone with a blog, and then starting his own. Was a technical interest, then moved to the subject of education. Started at age 11, HTML websites at 12, PHP at 13.
  • Really likes Twitter.
  • He thinks that schools teach students to "fear technology" and to really only use it for limited things and not for deeper conversations.
  • He doesn't feel that he is any danger in the web. The only precaution he takes is the pseudonym. Has never had anything weird happen to him on the web.
  • His school has a good number of computers, and is relatively well-funded, and even though they buy new computers every couple of years, the teachers don't engage with them or use them actively in the classroom. Would really like to see his school go to a 1:1 laptop program.
  • Outside of school he spends "quite a few hours" a day on the computer. He is not a gamer, though.
  • He feels that his life is in balance. He does school clubs. He feels comfortable turning off the computer to do other things. Believes that not using games (a "strict" rule he made for himself) has helped him not become "addicted." (Pretty self-disciplined!) Feels that one of the most important things is to have a "set task" when you get on the computer.
  • He was the one who decided to use a different name online to protect his privacy, but his mom is glad he did. Even though his mom doesn't personally use technology very much, she is very understanding of his interests.
  • Twitter is the "realization" of his network, since you can see what everyone is thinking and doing. You can also ask questions--almost like a "better Google." Twitter is not distracting to him. He feels he can ignore if he needs to, and he also purposely limits the number of people that he is going to follow. He's been blogging for a year, but once he got on Twitter it was amazing how interactive things became.
  • Doesn't like MySpace (interface is "shoddy"). Likes Facebook. Can easily eat up 30 - 60 minutes a day on Facebook. Uses Google Docs (formal things) and Zoho Notebook (planning). Uses Del.icio.us for social bookmarking. Hasn't used wikis very much. Uses Feedburner for tracking. Uses Quizlet.
  • Is considering doing a student-run session at the SLA EduCon.
  • Most of the people he knows who are older just use email and search, don't do any of the "pro-sumer" aspects of web. But same could be said of his own generation--many use social networking, but not other aspects.
  • He's interested in education because he is in the education system right now. Feels that when students come to school their (technology) "tentacles" are cut off. He knows that there is bad stuff out there, but the problem is that we are fearing the technology instead of the content.
  • If teachers are worried about the use of laptops in class for things that aren't related to class, then maybe teachers should be thinking about why students wouldn't be paying attention. Students should have an option of whether they want to pay attention. It's not a given that students will pay attention if you are not talking about something they care about. This whole technology is really good at bringing out the flaws that might be in the system.
  • The current learning system--one task, one person teaching--will just not be relevant in the future. And it's not reflective of what college or work life are like. The education system owes it to students to prepare them for that world. We shouldn't necessarily be teaching the tools, but teaching the thought processes that go into them. The teachers owe it to themselves and their students to be learning these new Web technologies.
  • If he had to pick one technology for an educator to start learning, it would be Twitter. It is the easiest one to use, and is so powerful. Also, if he had one message for his high school teachers for the next four years: they really need to stop being so disconnected from the technology. It's not about learning the knowledge, but the thinking.
  • He has a cell phone, but he doesn't text. Doesn't have a text plan, so it would be expensive. He doesn't watch TV, but watches some NBC shows online. He has an iPod video, but he's never bought a video--the screen is to small. He has 3,965 songs on his iPod--would be twelve straight days to listen to all of them. He listens to his iPod constantly, all day long, whenever he can. He doesn't feel that having the earphones in stops him from socializing. He values face-to-face speaking a lot.
  • He does worry about youth using technologies for "stupid" purposes: YouTube videos that shouldn't be public, that you wouldn't want a college administrator looking at. Has never seen an example of cyber-bullying. His computers at home are not filtered, and he runs the "networks" in his home.
Arthus blogs at http://myfla.ws/blog.

(It is important to note that I spoke with Arthus's mother prior to conducting the interview to make sure she was comfortable with this level of exposure. )

Listen to the the Interview in MP3 format
Listen to the Interview in Vorbis OGG format

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Replacing a Notebook Screen

Originally uploaded by SteveHargadon
Yes, you are seeing correctly. Super-glue and duct tape--part of my late-night project to take the good LCD screen out of a non-working laptop and replace a broken screen on a working machine. All things considered, I did pretty well. What was really scary was having both machines disassembled, and all of the screws sitting out...

However, when all was said and done, the repaired laptop works. I am pretty sure that I broke a wire that will need to be repaired (part of the wireless etup), and I must have tweaked the LCD-to-motherboard connector because there are a series of small horizontal lines across the bottom of the screen. But they are nothing compared to the huge chunk of screen I didn't used to be able to see after I DROPPED the computer some time ago.

It was actually surprisingly easy to replace the LCD, once I was brave enough to try. The hard part was disassembling the rest of the notebook in order to disconnect the wiring!

My Favorite Site for Family Movie Reviews for Parents

Family movie reviews for parents -- Now Playing In Theaters

I just wanted to give a plug for a website I've used for several years now that reviews movies and grades them based on violence, sexual content, language, and drugs/alcohol portrayal.  While our kids are constantly trying to find reasons why a low grade at Parent Previews isn't really reflective of the value of a particular movie, I have so come to trust the reviewers' perspective that the kids have learned that they are fighting a losing battle. 

Once known as "Grading the Movies," the site will, I'm confident, be the source of much discussion when our children are grown--about how Dad always had to check the reviews before watching a movie.  At least I hope that when the kids are grown that we'll have those kind of discussions about parenting as they travel their own roads.  What they particularly hate right now is my parenting-by-guilt method:  "Oh, I'm sure you'll make the right decision about what's appropriate to do..."  We'll see if they don't see the virtue in that approach when they are older!

My personal standard is that I am not likely to enjoy a movie that they give lower than a "B" to, and when I'm feeling particularly careful of my time and media consumption (more and more the case), I try not to watch anything that's less than an "A." 

Nancy Willard's Voice of Reason


I read Nancy's latest book, Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens, on a flight this past week, partly because it's been sitting on my shelf for way too long, and partly because I knew I would be speaking a few days later to youth at a regional church meeting about technology in their lives (those are my notes typed up acting as a bookmark).  It is a great book on the Internet for parents, and don't miss the good material that she provdes at her related website, www.cskcst.com, that you can download and distribute for teaching.

My audio interview with Nancy last year is here:  MP3

Doing the Gutsy Thing

Download Ubuntu | Ubuntu

Started the upgrade on my Toshiba laptop this morning to the newest version of Ubuntu, 7.10, known as Gutsy Gibbon.  So far, it's been as easy as "System" > "Administration" > "Update Manager."  It's interesting that while the web browser has replaced the operating system as my "most critical" platform, I am for some reason very excited to see what Ubuntu has done with this release.  I must say I've been really, really happy with version 7.04, and am using Ubuntu almost exclusively right now.  I do miss webcam/DV support (probably possible, but certainly not out of the box), and am hoping Ubuntu will keep moving forward in ways the support Web 2.0-related technologies.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

200 Students Help Create Video on Education, Model Collaboration

Michael Wesch - Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology - Kansas State University

Michael Wesch is the creator of the significant and viral  "Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us" video.  This past week he posted two new videos to the KSU Mediated Cultures blog.  "Information R/evolution" seems to be his own work and "explores the changes in the way we find, store, create, critique, and share information."  It's comparably compelling to "Machine."

But it's the second video that was really interesting to me.  It's called "A Vision of Students Today," and was created by Professor Wesch and 200 students enrolled in his "ANTH 200: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology" at Kansas State University this past spring.  He writes:

"It began as a brainstorming exercise, thinking about how students learn, what they need to learn for their future, and how our current educational system fits in. We created a Google Document to facilitate the brainstorming exercise, which began with the following instructions:

“'… the basic idea is to create a 3 minute video highlighting the most important characteristics of students today - how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime. We already know some things from previous research (and if you know of any interesting statistics, please list them along with the source). Others we will need to find out by doing a class survey. Please add whatever you want to know or present.'

"Over the course of the next week, 367 edits were made to the document. Students wrote the script, and made suggestions for survey questions to ask the entire class. The survey was administered the following week.

"I then took all of the information from the survey and the Google Document and organized it into the final script portrayed in the video which was all filmed in one 75 minute class period."

Wow.  I love the modeling of collaboration inherent in the project.   Both embedded below.

Open Minds, Open Source, and Success in Indiana

Mike Huffman, kicking of the K-12 Open Minds Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Last week, 300+ educators (maybe 350?) gathered in international hot-spot Indianapolis for the first K-12 Open Minds Conference, focused on the use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS or OSS) in K-12 schools. The brainchild of Mike Huffman and Laura Taylor, this conference was actually a bolder move than it might sound--and maybe will be looked upon as the "shot heard 'round the world" in starting to really solidify the compelling financial, technological, and pedagogical reasons for using OSS in schools.

I arrived a day early to facilitate an international round-table discussion on the development of a road-map for implementing OSS in schools. Extensive resources on the conversation of that day are available on the wiki, where Jim Gerry added a huge contribution to the day by taking great notes, and Scott Swanson took photos of everyone to help us remember the day. Scott also provided an invaluable service to the conference as a whole by acting as the unofficial photographer: see http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/k12openminds07.

Those sessions at the conference that were recorded have been posted in a "podcast" section of the wiki, both in .mp3 and .ogg format. Since I wanted to get them up quickly, we could still use some help in identifying the speakers and the session topics. It was literally impossible to choose between the many, many compelling sessions at the conference, so hopefully the recordings will help folks like me who wanted to go to them all.

A list of my personal "take-aways" are below. Hopefully this is just the start of a continued dialog.

Personal "Take-aways"
  • I need to start developing a talk on "why Open Source Software is so important to education." One of the fascinating themes of the conference for me was the degree to which OSS advocates are really wearing two hat. Engaged and passionate, they themselves are examples of the true learning and accomplishment that comes from the collaboration allowed by the Internet, and they have a fundamental belief in "constructivist" learning and the ability of technology to help facilitate or open the door that that kind of learning. Without even discussing OSS, they wear the hat of caring about education, and about the role of computing in schools, at a time when twenty years of computers in the classroom not really changing educational outcomes is leading many others to question the value of computers in schools at all. A natural corollary of the first hat is their ability to see the value, both educationally and financially, of using OSS in that context. This OSS advocacy is a second hat. Wearing both, OSS advocates, like the adopters of Web 2.0 in education (only just slightly geekier), are passionate about the opportunities for positive change in an educational world that seems to be somewhat adrift and resistant to modifying itself based on the enormous cultural shifts we are seeing elsewhere that the Internet has brought.
  • There is a huge need to be able to share successful practices. Unlike commercial or proprietary software, where a sales force and support team interact/sell/support, most OSS projects have only passionate users to try to communicate the value of the the software. Both formal and informal mechnisms are really needed. Whatever studies around the world there are that verify the value of OSS in education need to be aggregated (and sometimes translated) so that administrators can study them and point to them when making significant IT decisions. While "advocacy" of OSS on an informal level is still very much needed, practical successes need to be measured and documented for formal decision-making, and this will be a good role for the roadmap team.
  • We don't involve students in their own education as much as we should, and while the buzzwords around "engaged and passionate learning" indicate the need for this, it's really in OSS that we can see a model for the truly productive and essential involvement of students in a community of practice. OSS models "apprenticeship" learning and contribution. OSS has 21st-century skills "baked in."
  • We need to be much more attuned to how technology decisions are made in schools. We need to "Be Like Mike," looking at the Indiana model for selling the solution: "Indiana has spent a billion dollars over 10 years, and the average student spends 35 minutes a week on a computer. In order for technology to be transformational, we need to create affordable and scalable models for computing." Of course, the answer to affordable and scalable is substantially going to come from OSS, the pedagogical benefits of which will also become apparent. But if there is general agreement that it takes 4 - 5 years for the understanding of the value of "freedom" and OSS to come, then leading with the message of "freedom" will be significantly less effective than leading with the message of affordability and scalability.
  • We need to be clear that there is a difference between the acquisition cost benefit of OSS and support/maintenance costs. Without support, maintenance, and training, OSS will not actually succeed in K12, and if we try to sell OSS as completely free, we may actually do more harm than good. We need to be clear on the costs, and the importance of, support, maintenance, and training.
  • Hopefully, OSS will also usher in a change in how commercial vendors deal with schools. As was said at the conference, commercial software and hardware vendors "still think they are in charge." As the model for providing value in school computing improves, so will the services offered from the commercial side.
  • Related: Everybody is looking for solutions. Teachers are looking for tools that will help them to get their job done easier or better. Same with administrators. "Freedom" may be great and philosophically compelling, but if we're not solving problems, we won't be given the chance to show what else OSS offers.
  • There is huge value in "killer" apps, for the reason above. These were called "non-intrusive" at the conference, but another phase that better captures the idea is "non-displacing" applications. These are applications like Moodle that can be adopted and are immediately helpful, but don't require leaving another technology behind, or fighting a paid sales force. Moodle does have competition, but the cost difference between Moodle and Blackboard is so dramatic that they might as well be different kinds of products. Content management systems are in the same boat: Joomla, Mambo, and now Drupal don't really have cost-effective competitors, and so can be adopted with little or no resistance.
  • Governmental legislation regarding the need for open standards and open document format has had a real impact where it exists, and lobbying for such should be an active part of our efforts.
  • The practical skills relating to job employment from being trained in OSS should be promoted more widely. Students who learn Linux, Apache, PHP and MySQL, etc. really do have immediate career paths if they want them.
  • Even though we may live in different countries with somewhat different political/cultural/economic situations, there is still a large degree to which the hurdles to OSS implementation are very similar, and it is important that we find ways to work together and share information with advocates doing work in other countries.

Running Linux on My Laptop

Since I knew I was going to the K12 Open Minds Conference in Indiana last week, I thought I'd better get my laptop running Linux full time before I found myself embarassed by using Windows at some inauspicious moment.  I have a Toshiba Portege tablet, and while I have been set up with Ubuntu for dual booting for some time, there have been a couple of reasons that I have kept firing up Windows most of the time.  Primarily, it has been the inability of Ubuntu to recognize my microphone... And my now almost total dependence on Skype has meant that without microphone capability, I just couldn't make Ubuntu a regular part of my day.

So, imagine my delight when I booted into Unbuntu a couple of weeks ago, allowed the system to update itself, and found the microphone working.  Hurrah!  Emboldened by this good news, and with Skype working well, I then checked on my next critical application:  Flock.  (There is something of a theme here--the applications are so critical, that they are driving the choice of operating system.)  Flock is a web browser based on Firefox, but with some very handy media functionality built in.  While I've been a faithful Firefox user for a LONG time, I'm finding Flock indispensible for the ability to easily pull in photos from my Flickr stream, to drag and hold photos or images into the media clippings sidebar, and to post new photos to Flickr from just by dragging them into the photo uploader.  Flock also seems to accomodate almost every good Firefox add-on that I like and have become dependent on (my Verizon minutes alert, session manager, Twitbin /Twitterfox, and Diigo).  So when I was able to get Flock running in Ubuntu, I knew I had it made.  I spend 95% of my time in my web browser.

But the coup-de-grace was getting my Verizon broadband card working.  Wow.  Huge thanks to Tina Gasperson and others who have posted how to do this on the web.

I've been operating almost 100% in Unbuntu since that time, making the conference a much better experience, and also just my day-to-day computing.  Booting up Ubuntu takes just about exactly 60 seconds, from start to productivity.  My Windows XP machine, unfortunately, takes 6 or 7 minutes to really get going.  (I'm not even going to mention the Windows automatic reboots after security updates, since they really tick me off... oh, I guess I just did...)  I spent some of the plane rides reading through the above Ubuntu Hacks book, and was able to implement about a dozen useful tips, and save four or five more for when I want to be really bold.  My next steps are to tackle the tablet computing--I needed help in Indiana to actually take out the pen from its holder and to see that Ubuntu already recognized it (sheepish smile), but need to be able to rotate the screen--and then hook up my DV camera or webcam to be able to "ustream."  

Thanks, Mark Shuttleworth.

Blogged with Flock

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Kate and I Get Some Media Time

My daughter Kate and I were interviewed for a story on homework and technology that appeared some weeks ago in the Wall Street Journal. Picked up by a news outfit that syndicates stories for other stations, a film crew (OK, just one guy and a camera) came to our house and filmed us for the story.

We had almost forgotten about it until yesterday, when I was sent a link for the story to the left, which also includes the final video. Thankfully, Don Knezek of ISTE gets more screentime than I do.

Wonder if anyone outside of Central Texas will run it...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

You Look Good Peru

Adrian Velasquez posted this photo on Classroom 2.0.  There's not a lot of information there about Adrian, other than his affiliation with Markham College, a private school in Lima, Peru.  And there's no information about these kids.  But the picture says it all--or, at least, I'm guessing at what it says, but there is no guessing about the contagious smiles on these boys' faces.  Some other kids, somewhere in Peru or the United States or who-knows-where, through a video connection, are making the world a smaller place. 

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Mr. Watson, come here!

After watching Will Richardson speak live from Prince Edward Island this past Saturday, I did what any aspiring geek would do--I tried to duplicate the technology. I notice that the broadcast was hosted by ustream.tv, and like any good Web 2.0 service, I could get a free account and start broadcasting.

My mind was spinning with the possibilities, and what I really wanted to do was to see if I could produce higher-that-webcam quality in a broadcast. My DV camcorder, a Canon ZR830, doesn't have a webcam mode, but Orangeware's WebCamDV promises to convert any DV camera into one. I downloaded the free trial (10 minutes of use before having to reset by rebooting your computer--ouch!), and got video right away. The audio was harder--maybe because I was too excited to think clearly about it. But after a couple of hours of idiocy, I finally figured out that I needed to put a cable from the DV camera directly into my laptop. Part of the difficulty, if I'm going to not beat myself up too much, was that there was some conflict with Skype video that kept locking up my machine, and the frustration of that made the obvious harder to see.

I've posted a couple of test clips at http://ustream.tv/channel/stevehargadons-show. Don't worry, no "lifecasting" for me. Maybe folks want to follow a young lady all through her day, but nobody's going to go gaga over the life adventures of a 46-year-old father of four. I am intrigued by the possibilities, though. To be able to cheaply (for me, since I already owned a sub-$300 camera, it was just the $20 for the software) broadcast and record good-quality video seems to open a lot of doors. (The sound on a DV camera is likely of higher quality as well.) And I'm thinking that the higher quality of DV cameras over your standard webcams could also make for some more interesting video conferences between classrooms, all you educators.

One Day Left for NECC Proposals - Call for Open Source!

The NECC call for proposals closes tomorrow, October 3rd, and I'm just making sure that the Free and Open Source Software folks who would be interested in presenting in San Antonio get those proposals in!