Thursday, 29 March 2012

Grade 5 Science meets Web 2.0

The students in this unit were focused on the the way people use the scientific process to challenge, investigate and clarify ideas. A science unit is good place to use spreadsheets, for recording the data from their class inquiries, analysis, identification of trends and patterns using basic functions and formulae, and of course to create graphs. But after the initial weeks of guided enquiry, we wanted to find a way for the students to be able to effectively present their understanding of their final experiment.


Traditionally students would have tracked and recorded their investigations using paper, which while being a very powerful medium, is not dynamic and it does not provide animation, real-time feedback that facilitates a capacity for continuous expansion. If a student 'messes up' on paper, they either have to try and 'fix' it without ruining it, or ... start again... with ICTs this process is not only painless, abut actually helpful, as it facilitates the feedback process of using assessment FOR learning.

Dylan Lau


Integration of ICTs into this process allowed for more dynamic teaching, and more importantly, they allow students to show what they know in non-traditional and non-linear ways that more closely approximate the skills they will need to be successful in the following Exhibition unit. 


Web 2.0 presentation tools were an ideal choice to allow the students to formatively record and ultimately present their understanding of the scientific process, and easily incorporate images to document their inquiries and even video, something which would be far more difficult on paper. Students were introduced to four tools in the first part of the unit, so they are ready to use them by the 4th week of the unit. 

Just for this unit I also wanted the teachers to free from the 'tech' and focus on the Science, so I utilised a model of teaching the students to teach each other

We split each of the none classes into 4 groups, and assigned them tools to learn and use in this unit. The tools we used are:

  1. Prezi
  2. Vuvox
  3. Simple Booklet (accessible via GApps)
  4. Slide Rocket (accessible via GApps)


We used the Techsperts model, I ran one session at lunch time per tool, and invited 2 students from each class to attend that intro session, 9 x 2 students = 18... So I ran 1 session per tool, a total of 4 sessions with 18 students per session. I’d covered these in the first couple of weeks so the kids are ready to use the tool by the latter part of the unit.

Another question to consider was...

Why use Web 2.0 vs Locally installed programs, eg SlideRocket vs Keynote?

Keynote is awesome, so why use a Web 2.0 tool that does the same thing/less, like SlideRocket or Google Presentation?

Why?

Because there are a few things that cloud based apps like SlideRocket et al., does that Keynote does not:


  • flexibility - cloud based, so not tied to one platform/machine
  • collaboration options
  • Ease of sharing (eg, emailing a keynote/ppoint is difficult and tedious)

But the Achilles heel of Web 2.0 is its stability/reliability... pros & cons as always.


Finally often the fully featured programs like Keynote are usually overly complex for what we need as educators, the problem with these programs is they are so feature full that kids get lost - distracted/confused by the 90% of what it can do but they don't need. Sliderocket et al, focus on just doing the 10% of what we actually need/use.

Bo Hye Park

Monday, 26 March 2012

Back to basics with Google Apps

The presentation below is a short recap on Google Apps for a group of English teachers. With a single student sign in, teachers can offer students a huge range of online tools.

Some of these are part of the Google Docs collection (Docs, Spreadsheets, Forms, Drawings and Presentations) and others are available under the wider Google umbrella. The Google Apps umbrella includes some of the following, all of which can be accessed with a GApps username and password.
  • Google Sites - build your own online learning environment.
  • Blogger - develop a blog for a class project
  • Picasa - share video, photos and comments throughout.
  • Google Moderator - allow students to submit and vote on questions.
  • Google Scholar - provides a search of scholarly academic literature.


Saturday, 24 March 2012

Why?

 



Why? Why use digital technologies? Why not just use pen/pencil & paper?


The bottom line for me is I honestly believe that virtually any teaching/learning context + digital technologies = better.


I started using ICTs properly, ie to learn/create, when I was about 18 (1988) using CAD systems on PCs for drafting, on an Industrial Design Diploma in West London, and from that day to this, one thing has remained consistent, I struggle to think of anything since that day which, related to my own experiences as a learner, now as learner and a teacher, that has not benefited from the inclusion of ICTs. As the technologies have evolved I've been able to add more and more ICT to things that I maybe couldn't before, and as far as I can see it's always been more awesome afterwards.

Hence my passion for all things technological and digital. So the problem is I am convinced, but are you? I don't need a WHY to justify the inclusion of ICT to almost anything, because I just KNOW it will be better - honestly I'm sitting here, trying to thing of a learning/teaching context which would not benefit from sort of ICT inclusion, and I really can't!

I have a more detailed rationale for this, I wrote it as an element of my Master's dissertation, it is here if you do want to read it, all 3000 words. It is fully supported by the literature, and of course there is a separate list of references if you would like them.

Ultimately, sure, we could teach the next unit as teachers have for a 100 years with paper and pen/cil, or we could do that AND make it more AWESOME with ICT.

I genuinely believe that if half of a team of teachers chose to use NO ICT for a unit, and half did, the kids in the classes of the half that did would be much, much better off.

So - if you could use some convincing, keep reading, if not, thank you for taking the time to read this far.



Here are the main reasons, taken from the full document, here:

  • Paper is a very powerful medium, but it is not dynamic and it does not provide sound, animation, real-time feedback that facilitates a capacity for continuous expansion. Integration of ICTs allow for more dynamic teaching, and more importantly, they allow students to show what they know in non-traditional and non-linear ways that more closely approximate the skills they will need to be successful in the adult world—, the world outside schools. 
  • Critically, in my experience, it is the unanticipated, unplanned for possibilities that are powerful: ICT as a part of routine class activity offers unexpected sources of inspiration. This inspiration has an impact on learning interactions in ways that are often serendipitous for the teacher. It is more widely acknowledged that technology can inspire students, for instance by enabling them to make their own discoveries, perhaps more importantly, it often equips students to be sources of inspiration for others. 

ICTs make possible new forms of classroom practice. 

  1. This is apparent in three distinct areas: The reconfiguration of space so that new patterns of mobility, flexible working and activity management can occur, a finding also corroborated by a completely separate non ICT related study, (Hastings & Wood, 2002) who argue a pedagogical, empirical and essentially intuitive case for arranging the physical environment to support the attention and activities that a task requires. 
  2. New ways in which class activities can be triggered, orchestrated and monitored. 
  3. New experiences associated with the digital ‘virtual’ resources for established and routine practices – such as real time modelling, shared document editing, or manipulating spatial representations. 

ICTs create the possibility of a wide variety of learning practices.


Overarching this variety are three central activities, which are significantly enriched by the increasingly ubiquitous availability of technologies:
  1. Exposition which is animated by the opportunity to invoke rich shared images, video and plans,
  2. Independent research which is extended by the availability of internet search opportunities, and, 
  3. Creation, construction and presentation, which is made possible by ready-to-hand ICT-based tools. 

  • It also important to consider that ‘technology’ does not simply mean PCs or netbooks. Some class activities depend on access to a variety of technology tools perhaps only briefly, especially when utilising mobile technologies, these experiences are about much more than working at the computer and typing a document, but requiring students to move around a room filming each other, making audio notes, taking pictures etc. 
  • Engagement – students find ICTs ‘fun’. Student's who are motivated learn better, trust me. Used properly ICTs enhance classroom participation, feedback provision and pace of learning, offering multimedia presentations and the authentic link to future potential professions. 
  • ICT practices invite an approach to understanding that considers the impact on learning practices, rather than the impact on learning outcomes. This not only shifts attention from attainment products to engagement processes, it defines activities in terms of learning practices rather than instructional practices (emphasis in the original). Likewise, Starkey (2010) notes that this enabled teachers to have students self-pace their use of digital technologies to meet their personal learning needs, giving the teacher time to spend with individual students.
  • positive benefits are reported relating to motivation (Becta, 2006b), Passey et al. (2004); on self-esteem, interest, attendance and behaviour among hard-to-reach students 
  • Successful integration of ICTs in schools can help students to develop skills, both specific to ICTs and more generally, that will be useful for them in their future academic and professional lives, enabling them to use ICT skills to access, compile, synthesise and exchange information effectively.(ie in Grade 5, they will be better at this, having been exposed to this). 
  • "… if the support for ICT usage in the primary school remains unsystematic, variable and unreflective then there are two significant dangers: the first is that young people with ready access to technology out of school will develop an incomplete and unreflective capability, unsupported by adult guidance, with risks both to their learning progress and their safety. The second is that a digital underclass, lacking opportunities for wide-ranging use of technology, will be permanently excluded from a world mediated by ICT." (Becta, 2009)


What we are really concerned with here is learning in a way that is most effective in an age dominated by digital technologies. The information revolution of the past couple of decades has created an impetus, to reconsider what learning should really be about – leveraging the tools of the digital age to ensure that the skills that have been the province of the few, become universal.
What is also new are the actual types of experiences that learning in a medium where screens are so ubiquitous as to almost become invisible, I would argue that these experiences are very different to anything that has gone before.

How? I'll tell you how. These kinds of experiences, or modes of learning are being transformed by 5 unique aspects of working with digital technologies, that I call 'SAMMS', learning which is transformed by:


  • Situated practice (work anywhere, anytime, any place)
  • Accessibility (to information)
  • Multi-modality (image, audio, video, interactivity, reciprocity)
  • Mutability (provisionality, flexibility)
  • Social networking (access to people) 


Of course the bottom line is that as far as we are concerned UWCSEA as an institution is already committed to this so the WHY is a moot point, those that lead UWCSEA are and have been convinced...



... so really the question we should really be asking now is not WHY, but HOW.

How can we use ICTs most effectively?

That's a question we can only answer together.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Visualising Thinking with ShowMe! Economics and Geography

One of the most powerful tools for helping students demonstrate their understanding is a new app called ShowMe! available on the iPad. ShowMe is a simple tool, which allows students to annotate what looks like an electronic whiteboard, whilst also recording their voice. The interactive whiteboard concept is really neat and intuitive for all students.
Recently I worked with Gary Smith and his Economics class and also Paul Brogden and his Geography class, using ShowMe app as a revision tool. We asked them to explain one of several ideas that they have covered in class. In Economics each of the questions were very abstract and covered the concepts of revenue and costs for firms. The students were encouraged to visualise the concept and tell a story of an example.


As you can see from the student example above, the tool really allows the teacher to see the student’s thinking and metacognition as they explain a concept. In a 35 min class each student produced an explanation and the teacher could later look at the list of presentations linked from a Google Doc. Students could also peer review and look at each others work. Previously the teacher would attempt to conference with each student during the class to see how they understood a concept.
ShowMe is a great example of how you can see the levels of student conceptual understanding very quickly and at the same time students are learning in a powerful way when they are forced to teach and verbalise a concept to others. It is also one of the nicest tools I have seen that shifts students away from the text-rich tasks and encourages creativity.


In Geography students where encouraged to use visuals as part of their presentation. See an example below from Jessica on Foreign Direct Investment. They also collected their work in a Google Doc and completed some excellent feedback on each others work. This activity was a little like an expert jigsaw activity where kids become experts and then teach the other students.


For a nice explanation of using this technique in Mathematics, have a read of these excellent blog post by a fellow Apple Distinguished Educator, Jennie Magiera – Show Me More Maths Metacognition


Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Video Games & Violence...

Much has been written about this subject, maybe too much, but someone must be interested as the The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) in the UK, published a document reviewing official government recommendations to improve children’s digital and video game safety. POST is an office of both Houses of Parliament, charged with providing independent and balanced analysis of policy issues that have a basis in science and technology.

The original document, in its entirety can be located here.

I have taken the liberty of highlighting the points that I as gamer and a father find particularly interesting.

First I should come clean, am I biased? Yes - absolutely, as a gamer of many years, and one who not only permits his children to play games, but actively encourages it, and have done since they were very young. Here's my son playing Dora and the Purple Planet when he was 4.

The backpack actually waits for my answer? No way!
Truth be told given the choice between coming home from work and seeing my kids slouched on the couch passively gazing at a television screen or excitedly interacting and participating in a video game, I'll always choose the latter.

My concern is what I can only call media bias, for some reason it's considered OK to blame games for the ills of the earth, but not TV, or film? If someone is a little hot under the collar after playing a video game, it can only be because of the violence, right? Wrong. Speaking personally, yes, games can sometimes leave me a little hot under the collar, but then very often so does sport, for the same reason, frustration, good old simple - this is really challenging, and I can't believe I find it so hard, frustration.

No, it's not mine. Really.
If anything, I am more likely to get wound up by a level in a Mario game than a level in Call of Duty.

So - to the article, all are direct quotes selected by myself, with my contributions in brackets or italics:
"There is debate surrounding the impact of violent video games on behaviour. This document summarises the key aspects of the discussion, and other potential impacts of gaming such as addiction. It also examines the educational use of games, and reviews mechanisms to ensure children’s game safety.

As gaming increases, particularly among children and adolescents, so have concerns over the games’ content, influence and excessive use. While the main focus of research and policy has been on violent games, other impacts of games on addiction, brain development, social interaction and education are also considered

  • Some, but not all, research suggests links between violent video games & aggression. However, causation cannot be proved.
  • A small minority may play video games excessively, but there are no firm criteria for diagnosing video game addiction.
  • Video games can be social, educational, and allow for personalised learning

Research suggests that social, cultural and genetic factors have a stronger influence on aggressive behaviour than video games. For instance, gender, personality and violence in the immediate family environment are important influences on aggressive behaviour.

Desensitisation is the result of reduced emotional reaction due to repeated exposure to violence. It is thought to increase aggressive responses in individuals and to fuel a demand for more extreme games as gamers search for new excitement levels. However, this is not specific to games and applies to all media.

Many young gamers (aged 15) are upset by violence in games that are rated 18. Just as exposure to violence in films, television and the internet can be upsetting so can violence in games, and this is why content in games is age restricted (my emphasis).

[Young children are] more susceptible to negative, especially scary, content in video games and media. [Again, all forms of media, not just video games].

Despite the media focus on violent video games, the impacts of gaming are diverse and can be positive.

On average, 5-16 year olds play 1.5 hours of video games a day, but many gamers acknowledge that it is possible to devote too much time to games and many parents also worry about this. [Of course, it is possible to devote too much time to all media… Especially television]

A recent review of the literature reports that (only) 8-12% of young people (mean age 21) engaged in “excessive gaming”, whereas “problematic gaming” was present in (only) 2-5%."

Addiction?


"There remains debate over whether gaming addiction is a valid concept, with some researchers claiming that dependency and withdrawal are not observed in video game addiction. The American Psychiatric Association has stated there was not enough evidence to include video game addiction in the latest edition of the widely used Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders."


In my experience the symptoms often attributed hastily to 'addiction' would be better attributed to 'flow'. Something game developers work very hard to facilitate, and something that only the very best games are capable of inducing.

"A sense of that one’s skills are adequate to cope with the challenges at hand in a goal directed, rule bound action system that provides clear clues as to how one is performing. Concentration is so intense that there is no attention left over to think about anything irrelevant or to worry about problems. Self-consciousness disappears, and the sense of time becomes distorted. An activity that produces such experiences is so gratifying that people are willing to do it for its own sake, with little concern for what they will get out of it, even when it is difficult or dangerous." (Csikszentmihalyi, 1991)

"Educational" Games

Some of the most popular games are 'educational' (e.g. brain training games). Generally, educational games are developed to increase pupils’ motivation, communicate information, improve specific skills and test competencies. They can allow for personalised learning by being able to target specific learning difficulties and can also be used with groups of children, allowing players an active role that demands a wide range of skills.

Importantly, there is a difference between learning skills such as problem solving, and learning behaviours from video games. Playing video games can improve reaction times and visual skills related to attention and problem solving regardless of their genre. However, it is more difficult to show that behaviours, both positive and negative, transfer from video games into the real world (my emphasis).


Ratings...

Video games that contain film footage or include violence, criminal or sexual activity are accounted by for by only approximately 6-7% of all games. (BBFC)

"There is an on-going need to educate parents about their responsibility to monitor game play."

Here in Singapore, most games originate in the USA, and as such their ratings will be governed by the ESRB. The problem is the ESRB ratings have been over politicized, to the extent that they are not that useful, this is because the 'adults only' rating is rarely used, instead they prefer to use the 'M' rating, which is misleading, as many games that get the M rating are definitely adult games. For this reason I advise parents to refer to the European ratings instead.

Ratings from the USA—not so helpful

Games from the EU will be governed by the PEGI classification system . Both classification systems have indicators that are obvious, but the advantage with PEGI is that they are more practical, as they are not afraid to use the adult rating (18).

European ratings, not afraid to use the 18 rating

The problem is, even when a game is rated adult, as they err on the side of caution, this can also be a little overzealous... eg both the Batman games, and GTA get rated 18, but there is no way you can compare those games, and when they do it makes a mockery of the whole ratings system.

Fortunately, there are sites out there like Everybody Plays, that include reviews for parents.  Common Sense Media have also got a great review section which is very helpful, although I do find they also err a little too far on the side of caution to be useful, just aping the rating on the box. The Parent posts are a better way to gauge whether or not a certain game would be appropriate for your child.

Put simply, if in any doubt, go by the rating on the cover—ignore this at your peril!

Last, but certainly not least, the best approach is communication. If there is a game your child is desperate to play, there will almost certainly be plenty of game play footage on YouTube that you can use to get a sense of the level of appropriateness of the gameplay. Below I've included an example from the 'adult' rated Batman games, which I allowed my son to play when he was just 12. Having watched the gameplay footage (search with the keyword 'combat') I felt the level of violence was no worse than a typical action film—far be it from me to be guilty of media bias!



These sites also provide guidance on the kind of content you can expect to find in all popular video games.

If you're interested in learning more on this subject, you can download my presentation in PDF format here.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-D9puOdZdp3U/Txl5TEqkeGI/AAAAAAAAAMY/Vmhu7EZi2OY/s1600/Baghdatis+Racquet+Smash+1201+Full.jpg
http://www.fullerinstitute.org/wordpress/wp-content/themes/dynamik/css/images/addiction_definition.jpg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/fr/5/5b/Flow-logo.png


Monday, 19 March 2012

Robyn Treyvaud Visits Dover Campus


Our school is fortunate to attract some world leading presenters. Recently Micheal Carr-Gregg presented about parenting challenges. This week, as part of ThinkB4U week, Robyn Treyvaud, the Director of Education & Global Initiatives for the Internet Keep Safe Coalition ran a series of workshops with Dover Campus students, centered around the theme of Digital Citizenship.

Robyn worked with a range of students, teachers and parents during a very busy two days. She met with students from Grades 5, 6, 7, 9 and 11. Her sessions with the Primary and Middle School students consolidated their week’s focus on themes around safe and responsible online behaviour.

The enduring themes of her discussions were around the concept of the Digital Footprint, the rapid growth of Social Networking and Gaming.

Digital Footprint

The Digital Footprint is the idea that every action on the internet leaves a legacy, a kin to the idea of a Digital Tattoo that cannot be removed. For our students, living and participating in a world of online Social Networking Tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumbler their activities leave a long digital trail.

Robyn’s message for our older Grade 9 and 11 students, was to actively manage their online footprint by being very selective in how they share photos or make comments on blogs, or on other Social Networking Sites. Students were also encouraged to do an audit of their Digital Footprint by “googling” their own name and to set up an alert when information is published about them. Massaging an online presence is something that businesses do, but the concept is also very important for students as they move onto further study and the prospect of applying for jobs. A simple process of untagging themselves from photos and encouraging their friends to act in a similar way is a good first step.

Social Networking
Robyn also encouraged our students to think deeply about the responsible ways that they use online tools to socalise with their friends. At several meetings including our Monday night parents workshop, Robyn shared a powerful metaphor of the “Where do you stand?” and “The Line”. This was explained through a video created by a student, which explained how students portray the pluses and minuses of their online activity. The positives for most students are so clear, but the temptation to be drawn into negative uses such as social pressure groups, bullying or inappropriate use is a constant concern. The video provided a point for deep reflection for students as they discussed their online presence.


Social Networking was also the main discussion point for our Grade 6 focus group that discussed the ways that students use Skype. Skype is a powerful tool for communication, but it is also becoming a compulsive tool for many Grade 6 students. Students use it to share news and to recap on the school day just like we used a phone long ago. The outcome of the focus group was the development of some practical hints on how they can use Skype responsibly. These ideas are being shared back with the wider grade as a guide for online behavior. 

Gaming
With the plethora of online tools and applications available, gaming is perhaps the one element that parents find most perplexing. Parents have exposure to books, movies and television and therefore use their past experience as a guide to what is appropriate to their children's media consumption.

Games are equally, if not more, engaging for our students as books, or movies are. Games continue to developed in such as way to draw them back, time and time again and they are now available on more platforms such as Console Games (XBox, Wi), iPad or iTouch games or games available on laptops. The motives to explore new levels, gain badges or high scores, or to develop a online avatar or character are powerful, for both younger and older students.

Robyn’s recommendation was to start a discussion with our children about their gaming experience.  What are the games they are playing, what is the motivation of using the game? For parents it is essential to discuss the age restrictions of games. Some games have excellent educational benefits, but others are more graphic and are therefore appropriate to different age groups. For more information about Game Ratings, we recommend you look at the Common Sense Media reviews. They have a simple rating system, which grades games according to age appropriateness and then uses a simple traffic light system to highlight concerning content. Many of the games that our Middle Schools students mentioned (such Call of Duty) are highly inappropriate for their age group.

For more resources, please check out the following links:



 

Friday, 16 March 2012

Autograph in Maths - Douglas Butler

Douglas Butler, visited our school recently and conducted a series of workshops and modeled a series of lessons using the Autograph Software. Douglas is one of the creators of a piece of software called Autograph. Alongside the graphical calculators, Autograph is one of the most effective tools for students to model, visualise and solve mathematical problems. It is designed in a way that the relatively intuitive for the students to use.

The workshops were focused on the some of the following concepts. Throughout the sessions, our two resident experts Stephen Lumb and Daniel Gaudet documented these ideas and developed out Maths Curriculum to include these transformative ways of teaching mathematical skills. For more information and examples, please talk to either Stephen or Daniel.

Workshop Focuses - March 2012
  • IGCSE Grade 9 Class – Quadratics
  • IGCSE Circle Theorems 
  • Diploma HL and SL focus on Probability Distributions 
  • Diploma HL and SL focus on Calculus
  • Diploma HL focus Statistics and 3-D vectors 

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Parental Controls on the Mac



If you have young sons and daughters at UWCSEA, your may be interested in the Parental Control options built into the MacBooks and the Lion Operating System. Parental Controls are a powerful tool to lock down parts of the Mac. These tools are a option for parents, but in our opinion should only be used other options to manage laptop use have been exhausted.

Some basic steps to reduce dependency and distraction are to...
  • Discuss and develop a Family Media Agreement for your family.
  • Set time limits for laptop use at home and especially on weekends.
  • Provide children with opportunities for socializing and sport.
  • Encourage children to work on their laptop in open spaces and not in the bedroom
  • Place the MacBook outside the bedroom to charge at night time.
  • Encourage them to avoid distraction, by signing out of apps like Skype.
  • Remove any distractions, such as games from the dock.
This post should serve as a quick guide to help you understand Parental Controls on the Mac and the implications of setting these up. Effective use will make it safe for your kids to use without your direct supervision. 

Implications of using Parental Controls:
  1. Early in the school year, or when the operating system is updated, students will need to administrative password to add printers at school. For this period of time it would be wise to share the admin password, and then change it back to something different, once the upgrades have been complete/ 
  2. You are encouraged to use parental controls to block adult website, but not to use the option to allow only a list of websites. This causes issues at school when students try to access education websites. We would struggle to provide a full list of these websites across the school. 
  3. The student files and folders (The Home Folder) needs to be shared across accounts, otherwise the student will be unable to access all files. 
  4. The list of applications currently available on the school MacBook should all be allowed.
  5. Be careful about setting time limits in Parental Controls during the week. During the school day our students may use their laptops for between 5-6 hours in lessons, and will need to use them to complete homework. 

The process is quite simple (as is standard operating procedure with all things Apple), but I realize you may be starting from one of two different scenarios.
  1. Children’s Account does not yet exist
    Starting from scratch is easy. Open System Preferences (under the Apple icon) and choose Accounts. Click the “+” button to create a new account profile. The very top line is a drop down menu — from that drop down, select “Managed with Parental Controls.” Create the rest of the account as usual. As soon as you finish that screen, the new account is visible with a button at the bottom to take you to the Parental Controls Preference Pane.
  2. Children’s Account already exists
    Converting a pre-existing account is just as easy to convert for use with Parental Controls. From within the Accounts Pane of System Preferences, select the account you want to change to Parental Controls. At the bottom of that profile page, all you need to do is check the box that reads “Enable Parental Controls” and then click the button to open that Preference Pane for configuration.
To get started setting the parental controls for this account, you’ll need to select the account from the list (if there is more than one available to be managed). If when you click on it your Mac beeps at you, you’ll need to unlock these settings by clicking the padlock icon below (at which point you’ll need to enter your password). It’s probably easiest to run through each of the high level features one at a time, so let’s take a closer look.
Systems
The System tab is where you decide what they will be able to use and what (if any) privileges you allow them. You can also go through all of the applications installed on your machine and only put check marks next to the apps you want them to be able to use. We strongly encourage you to maintain access to all of the school apps, installed on the MacBook. Lastly, there are some items that you can give them access to administer or not with their account. Please allow them to administer printers. 

Content
Protect your children from inappropriate content in this tab. The most important concern for most parents is how they will be allowed to browse the web. There’s an unrestricted option, which is a best effort on Apple's behalf to filter websites which might have potential to contain R18 content. It therefore blocks Google and other sites which are perfectly acceptable. We suggest the parents dont select this option, and instead check with your internet provider such as StarHub Smart Surf to see if they can filter your internet connection at home. We have similar safe filtering at the college. 

We also strongly discourage you from selecting the last option to allow access to only these websites. Even blocking the 

Across our vast school it is impossible to come up with a list of educationally related websites, and in our experience using this option creates significant barriers for the students learning experience on the internet. 
Time Limits
Within Parental Controls you have the ability to limit the amount of time, you child spends using the Mac. You can determine the number of hours by week days, as well as weekend days. There’s also the ability to set the hours of the day they are not allowed to use the computer — like Bedtimes, for instance. The bedtimes option is perhaps the best option. You will need to be liberal with the weekday limits if you choose to enforce them. 
Logs
This option allow you to check on the websites that have been visited, the websites they’ve tried that have been blocked, iChat transcripts, and applications they’ve used through this account.

There are different methods of organising this data (like the length of time Logs are kept, and then grouped by Date or Content/Contact). These Logs are probably more important if you’ve left more control to the user, but either way, is good peace of mind. 
As you will now realise their is a tremendous number of options available under the Parental Control options. You can choose to implement some of these, such as logs and to block adult websites and this may provide you with some peace of mind. Alternatively you can lock down very specific aspects of the operating system, set time limits and access to applications. I high degree of control, requires ongoing refinement and changes to ensure that the controls are not overly prohibitive towards the education experience.

The other important aspect to managing your child digital experience is being a active parent who talks to your child about their technology use. They will be interested to hear that most parents battle with the constant stream of distractions and we are learning to adapt at the same time.

Footnote:
The structure and much of the content of this article are borrowed from the excellent website - Gigaom

Monday, 12 March 2012

Picasa Email Uploads

Picasa is an awesome image sharing tool which just gets better and better.

Upload by email is a great feature, which is perfect if you want to allow an undetermined audience/group to submit images to you simply and easily.

First lets look at two ways to manage this.

If you haven't yet activated your Picasa account you'll need to that first, just Google 'picasa web', or click here, picasaweb.google.com/home to activate it with your school password.

Once in there you have 2 options...

Option 1

This is great if you want to ask a class of students to contribute an image/s to one album, or maybe parents to contribute photos they took on a school trip etc.

Create  an album with a sample image in it, and share that with the students/parents who are participating, and tick the '' box, here:



Now they can just add images to that album themselves. This works better for a specific class, or grade or email group like Parents, not so much for a larger or undetermined audience, for that - you need option 2:

Option 2

This works well if the you don't know who the contributors are, or how many there are.

You can adjust the settings in your Picasa account to enable upload via email, this link explains it well, and I've included the text below to save you the stress of clicking:

Email upload


Use email upload to upload photos to Picasa Web Albums by sending them to a secret email address, especially useful from your mobile device. This allows you to stream and caption photos on-the-go. To get started, follow these steps:
  1. Sign in to your acount at http://picasaweb.google.com/.
  2. Click the gear gear icon icon in the top-right corner and choose Photos settings.
  3. On the General tab, in the "Upload photos by email" section, select the "Allow me to upload photos by email." checkbox.
  4. Enter a "secret word," 6-15 characters long. As you enter this word, an email address appears.
  5. Click the Save changes button.
  6. To email upload your photos, just attach them to an email message and send it to the newly-created address.
Use the email "Subject" line to add captions or to include the photos in a specific album. If the email "Subject" line matches an existing online album title, your photos will be uploaded to that album. Otherwise the 'Subject' line will instead be added as a caption and the photos will be placed in the Drop Box album.



You can attach up to 20 MB of photos in JPG, GIF and PNG formats.



IMPORTANT! The participants will need to put their name in the SUBJECT of the email, if you want to know who sent the image... Or if you want the images to automatically go into an existing album.

I've set it up in my account so you can see how it works.

115729468016446857469.smcuwc@picasaweb.com

If you send an image to this email address it will automatically appear inside an album designated for that called 'Drop Box' nothing to do with THAT other web service. Or it will be added to an existing album if the subject matches the name of one of your existing albums.

If you want to move images out of the default 'Drop Box' album to another album, choose 'Organise' then 'Move' to move an image or 10 or so, to another album.