Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Graphics App ‘Pinta’ Updates, Brings Improved Tools, Layer Blending

Graphics App ‘Pinta’ Updates, Brings Improved Tools, Layer Blending:
A new release of graphics app Pinta has been made available for download.

Version 1.4 of the simple drawing tool sees a number of new features and improvements made, along with fixes for various bug and performance issues.

To read the rest of this article visit

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Open Source GIS Software

Actually there is a ton of free GIS software out there, but I've found QGIS to be the best of the bunch:

"Quantum GIS (QGIS) is a powerful and user friendly Open Source Geographic Information System (GIS) that runs on Linux, Unix, Mac OSX, Windows and Android. QGIS supports vector, raster, and database formats. QGIS is licensed under the GNU Public License. "

  • Direct viewing of vector and raster data in different formats and projections. Supported formats include: 
  • Mapping and interactive exploration of spatial data. Tools include: 
  • Create, edit and export spatial data 
  • Perform spatial analysis,  
  • Publish your map on the internet using QGIS Server or the "Export to Mapfile" capability (requires UMN MapServer
  • Adapt QGIS to your needs through the extensible plugin architecture.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Unity3D embraces Linux

Each Wednesday at our school students get to choose what they study. It's called an impact project and students work with teachers and mentors from the community to learn deeply and make the world a better place. Our school's contribution to the world is to help students see opportunities, innovate, be creative and become entrepreneurs. It's an awesome day to be a teachers and it's equally awesome to see what students are capable of when they are put in charge of their own learning.

A lot of students choose to build their own computer games, and a lot of them use Unity3D as their game development engine. It's an awesome open source engine that helps developers get up and running quickly. So I was pretty excited to see that the next release will export native Linux games:

So, yeah, I'm pretty excited.

Virtual Electron Microscope

"The Virtual Microscope is a NASA-funded project that provides simulated scientific instrumentation for students and researchers worldwide as part of NASA's Virtual Laboratory initiative. This site serves as home base for theImaging Technology Group's contributions to that project—namely virtual microscopes and the multi-dimensional, high-resolution image datasets they view. Currently we provide 90 samples totaling over 62 gigapixels of image data. The Virtual Microscope, which is available for free downloadsupports functionality from electron, light, and scanning probe microscopes, datasets for these instruments, training materials to learn more about microscopy, and other related tools. The project is open source and the code is available on Sourceforge."

Sunday, July 8, 2012

How safe are your blueprints?

James Bond and Knight rider might have had to resort to using tiny cameras to take photos of secret blueprints, but it seems today's data thieves don't need to go to such lengths. There are reports of a virus spreading through installations of AutoCAD that is sending sensitive data to email addresses in China.

Free software has fewer viruses, partly because everyone can see the code (warts and all) so everyone can spot potential security breaches. Sadly if you keep your code hidden from your users, you're really just helping writers of viruses do their work.

If you're worried about the security of your CAD data, use something open source like Draftsight.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Get off my lawn!

If you've ever told any of those young punks to get off your lawn, or found yourself despairing at 'kids these days' it's important to remind yourself that thus it has always been. One of the constants since the beginning of time has been one generation despairing at the next. Even Socrates felt that youth should be trained in such things as "when the young are to be silent before their elders; how they are to show respect to them by standing and making them sit; what honour is due to parents; what garments or shoes are to be worn; the mode of dressing the hair; deportment and manners in general" I bet he chased a few kids off the lawn.

Just so we remember that the kids are alright, here's a study to show that children these days are no "less attentive or more distractible than kids in the past"
"The study gave a large sample of kids the "Gordon Diagnostic System" GDS test of sustained concentration ability. This dates to the 80s and it consists of a box, with a button, and a display with three digits. There are three different tasks but the main one is a sustained attention test. The goal is to watch a series of numbers and quickly press the button whenever a "1" is followed by a "9". Easy... but it takes concentration to do well.
Over the period of 2000-2006, the researchers gave the GDS to 445 healthy American kids, not diagnosed with any learning or behavioural disorder and not taking medication. They compared their scores to the standardized norms - which were based on a sample of American kids back in 1983.
The results showed that today's kids scored pretty much the same, on average, as the 1983 kids. The average age-standardized scores were extremely close to the 1983 means, across the board. Children diagnosed with ADHD, as expected, scored much worse. Oddly, kids with an Autism Spectrum Disorder did just as badly as the ADHD ones."

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Free is better, even when you can pay...

I spotted this little fairytale on Wes Fryer's blog recently. It's a tale of learning, budgetary constraints and the triumph of free software.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Make Space: Tools

Make Space is a book about space and how it is used for learning. It's organised along five themes:

  • Tools (useful things that fill up a space)
  • Situations (quick, repeatable configurations or patterns)
  • Design template (breakdown of the elements at play in a space, or the game behind the game)
  • Space studies (first person dispatches from the front lines of space design), and
  • Insights (kernels of understanding we've discovered through our 'trials and errors')
Here are some of the great tools from the book:
Transit trolley where the G clamps holding it
together form handles

Rear projection screens
Bar clamps with eyelets used to hang displays from.

Modified clothes rack becomes a 'z rack' or
mobile whiteboard / screen /divider.

Hanging screens could be combined with suction
cups/plungers to be affixed to  walls/windows etc.

Portable 'scoop stool' screen

T-walls for portable display space.

T walls in different configurations
can create many different spaces.

Your imagination + Arduino = Anything

Here's Massimo Banzi's TED talk on Arduinos. It's a wonderful talk for anyone who has an imagination and a desire to do cool things with technology.

Some of the projects he mentions are:

  • An RFID-powered cat feeder to make sure Fido doesn't eat Felix's food.
  • A quadcopter powered by Arduino
  • A TV that mutes itself when Kim Kardasian comes on.
  • New musical instruments
  • A glove that interprets sign-language and prints the message the signer is signing.
  • A PS3 interface that allows children with limited movement to play games
  • Plants that tweet, and even...
  • A chair that tweet when someone farts.

"Massimo Banzi helped invent the Arduino, a tiny, easy-to-use open-source microcontroller that's inspired thousands of people around the world to make the coolest things they can imagine -- from toys to satellite gear. Because, as he says, "You don't need anyone's permission to make something great." "

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What works in schools: Best Evidence Synthesis

Published waaaay back in 2003, the BES on Quality Teaching for Diverse Students remains a go-to document for effective pedagogy in the mixed-level classroom. Adrienne Alton-Lee and her team conducted a meta-study of research into what works in schools and their findings can be reduced down to: quality teaching makes the difference. Defining what constitutes 'quality teaching' takes up the remainder of the study. Read the 15 page executive summary for a cheat sheet on how super teachers are created.

These are her findings, in order of effect size:

1. Quality teaching is focused on raising student achievement (including social outcomes), and facilitates high standards of student outcomes for diverse learnersTeaching should be about learning and achievement. Set and maintain high expectations of what students are capable of.
2. Pedagogical practices enable classes and other learning groupings to work as caring, inclusive, and cohesive learning communitiesLearning is a social activity and we learn best when in a caring community. Communities give care and support to learners.
3. Effective links are created between school cultural contexts and other cultural contexts in which students are socialised to facilitate learningAcknowledge who students are and let them bring this to the classroom. Use it for learning.
4. Quality teaching is responsive to student learning processesKnow how learning occurs in the brain, but also know that every brain is different. Account for this.
5. Opportunity to learn is effective and sufficientGive learning time to occur. Use the students' timeframe, not yours.
6. Multiple task contexts support learning cyclesUse a range of different approaches and arrangements: theory & practical; abstract & real world; individual, group and whole class. 
7. Curriculum goals, resources including ICT usage, task design and teaching are effectively aligned Everything in the organisation should be geared towards giving teachers and students what they need to learn.
8. Pedagogy scaffolds and provides appropriate feedback on students' task engagementGive specific, effective, appropriate feedback that helps students to learn better.
9. Pedagogy promotes learning orientations, student self-regulation, metacognitive strategies and thoughtful student discourseTeaching should encourage students not only to learn, but to become better learners.
10. Teachers and students engage constructively in goal-oriented assessmentTeachers and students should all what is being assessed and how it will be assessed. Assessment should impact positively on student motivation.

The other fascinating (and scary) piece of information in the executive summary is this:
"Quality teaching is identified as a key influence on high quality outcomes for diverse students. The evidence reveals that up to 59% of variance in student performance is attributable to differences between teachers and classes, while up to almost 21%, but generally less, is attributable to school level variables."
In short, the difference between the most and least effective teacher in a school is far greater than the most and least effective schools. I say this is scary because it means that schools leaders are far, far more important than a Ministry of Education in having an impact on student achievement.

Monday, June 25, 2012

What works in schools: Classroom Instruction That Works

While this is not related to software specifically, I'm going to begin a series of blogs about effective pedagogy in schools.
I've revisited this book recently and it's still as good as I remember. Robert Marzano's meta-study of effective pedagogy pulls together research from over 100 studies and looks at the most effective way to raise understanding with students. If you've never read it, here's the spoiler. The most effective classroom strategies are (in order):

For those who need a little interpretation here. If you had two classes and continued as normal with one class (let's call it the 'control' class) and were to explicitly focus on teaching and reinforcing the skill of identifying similarities and differences with the other class, the second class would achieve at a level 1.61 standard deviations (or an average of 45%) above the control class. In short, if you're looking for a silver bullet and a magic wand rolled up in one, here it is. Add to that the compound effect of using more than one strategy at once and you've got a pretty effective intervention.
Dust off the Venn diagrams, the double bubble maps, the classification charts and get busy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Open Source Video Editing

This year promises to be a big year for open source video editors. For a long time open source video editing has been the poor cousin to graphic design's Gimp, Scribus and Inkscape, but that's about to change. Firstly Lightworks is currently available in beta for Windows with OSX and Linux versions coming soon:
"Lightworks is the fastest, most accessible and focused NLE in the industry, because it is based on the simple idea that the editor, not the computer industry, knows what’s best. The latest release of Lightworks is based on the cumulative knowledge from twenty years of top-flight editing.

At the same time,, the Ubuntu version of Novacut has just been released. The quantum leap that Novacut makes is that it offers realtime collaboration. This feature alone has the potential to completely change the way we think about editing. As Christie Strong says on the Novacut blog:
"Novacut is not just a video editor, it's a revolution. An open source, collaborative, cloud-enabled platform that is created by artists for artists. The ambitiousness of the project, the passion of it's team and their commitment to the filmmaking community inspires me. They are thinking about the entire pre- to post-production pipeline and designing tools that empower storytellers and support the creative process from the ground up. If this is the future of filmmaking, sign me up!"

In addition to these heavyweights, there are always the old faithfuls: Openshotvideo and PiTiVi

Sunday, June 10, 2012

OER: from left field to mainstream

I really enjoyed catching up with Derek Wenmoth over the weekend to work with some schools in Wellington, and while we sparked off each other in a number of areas, one of the threads we kept coming back to in our discussions was the potential of OERs: Open Education Resources. We use OERs a lot, mostly through Wikieducator, but we're always looking for ways to grow the community and expand the work we are doing. We have a Creative Commons policy at our school which means that every policy and teaching and learning resource our teachers produce is made available under a CC licence by default. Our staff and students build collaborative teaching and learning tutorials and resources online which can be used reciprocally by other students, classes and schools all over the world. When Derek blogged recently about OERs, he neatly captured some of the things I've been mulling over for a while:

"This is indeed the challenge – how we move from the peripheral interest in OERs, driven mostly by individual practitioners at the edges of their 'day jobs', to where there is wider acceptance and adoption of OERs as a core part of an institutional approach to the organisation and management of resources to support learning"

Open software behind open science

This article on Tech dirt (via Glyn Moody) has a good exploration of the importance of open source software to the open science movement:

"Although the traditional image of a science laboratory typically consists of a room full of test tubes or microscopes, the reality is that computers now play a central role there, just as they do for business and life in general.

Computers need software, and some of that software will be specially written or adapted from existing code to meet the particular needs of the scientists' work. This makes computer software a vital component of the scientific process. It also means that being able to check that code for errors is as important as being able to check the rest of the experiment's methodology. And yet very rarely can other scientists do that, because the code employed is not made available."

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sculpture and Sine Waves

This is one of the most beautiful things I've seen in a long time:
"Reuben Margolin is a kinetic sculptor, crafting beautiful pieces that move in the pattern of raindrops falling and waves combining. Take nine minutes and be mesmerized by his meditative art -- inspired in equal parts by math and nature. "

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Google Knowledge Graph

This looks like a really nice enhancement to the way Google presents its search findings. I like it.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Google Apps to replace the LMS?

I've been musing this over for a while. While I'm a great fan of Learning Management Systems (LMSs, or VLEs) like Moodle and believe they have huge potential to create engaging, meaningful activities for students while providing excellent data to teachers, but I also believe that most teachers don't use them to anywhere near their potential. When I saw this article come through, I was reminded of a slide Martin D used in his video conference keynote into NZ's MoodleMoot in 2011:
He talks about the pedagogical progression possible with Moodle, but also acknowledged the fact that most teachers spend their time using it (and most other LMSs) to store and share files. It strikes me when reading this article that if all teachers want to do is share worksheets, they don't need an LMS.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Free software; free society

I was lucky enough to catch this interview between RadioNZ's Katherine Ryan and Enrique Penalosa, Colombian politician, and former mayor of Bogota responsible for major changes to the city's transport infrastructure, including a bike paths network and the TranMilenio mass transit system. The thing that struck me most about the interview was how deeply his views on transit issues were grounded in a very clear vision of what democracy is. He says in the interview that transport is as much an issue of democracy as anything: the person riding a $300 bicycle should never feel that they are less important to the city (or the nation) as the person driving the $30,000 car. It's a great point and it got me thinking a lot.

It struck me that there is a lot of crossover between what Penalosa believes and what people like RMS believe when it comes to software: no person should feel less important than another because of the way they use technology. Access to education is seen as a human right in most countries, and I would argue that access to digital tools is equally important, if not essential for democracy to thrive. If the software required to educate, innovate, communicate, empower and transform are solely the preserve of those who can afford them, then I think we have a serious problem ahead of us, and it's a problem that goes well beyond technology. It's a problem, not just of widening gaps between the haves and the have nots, it's a problem that strikes at the democratic belief that all people are equal. The larger the inequality, the larger the underclass (the 'digitally poor'), the less we can say we truly believe in the ideal of equality for all.

On a practical level, there are two sides to the problem of access: hardware and software. It's no good having software if you have no computer to run it on, and vice versa. But if the local public library or a friend with a computer can solve the issue of hardware, that only leaves software. How do we make available to all citizens the tools to create, innovate, investigate, research, convince and communicate? Well, it's difficult with proprietary tools. Let's imagine that you are without a computer, but you want to learn more about a particular topic or (even better) build something that demonstrates your understanding of that topic. If a friend loans you their laptop so you can use the proprietary software installed on it, they have most likely breached their software licence agreement. They've definitely breached it if they want to continue to use software themselves. You and your friend are in a tricky situation: your software licence agreements are standing in the way of your friendship.

There is an alternative of course, and it's one that readers of this blog will be familiar with: free software. Users of free software are never constrained by licence agreements that restrict their ability to share that software, in fact they are empowered by the GPL to share. Free software is one of the great democratising powers in our society: it means that everyone, no matter who they are, where they come from or what their financial means, can participate in our society and contribute in a way that is unique to them. It's something I deeply believe in.

Here's RMS performing the software freedom song. I include it here for no reason other than I love it.

Sunday, March 18, 2012 books for the people

I saw this on the O'Reilly Radar blog, and absolutely love it:
"We all have books we love so much, we'd like to give them to the world. We want to share them, but also reward their creators. With digital books, it can be hard to do both. offers a win-win solution: Crowdfunding. We run pledge campaigns for books; you chip in. When, together, we've reached the goal, we'll reward the book's creators and issue an unglued ebook. Creative Commons licensing means everyone, everywhere can read and share the unglued book - freely and legally. You've given your favorite book to the world."
If you could gift one book to the world, what would it be? Head over to to see what others have come up with.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Koha 'how-to' videos

Nicole Engard has been producing a series of videos to help people learn more about Koha. Head over to her blog to see how she's getting on:
Lately I have been recording a series of tutorial videos on Koha. I’m going to be sharing them here, one per week – and here’s the first in the series:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Games make kids smarter

In Gabe Zichermann's TED talk 'Games make kids smarter' he mentions Andrea Kuszewski's work on maximising cognitive potential, or the science of learnable intelligence. It's a fascinating subject, rapidly evolving and worth further reading. Here's the TL;DR version:
  • Seek novelty
  • Challenge yourself
  • Think creatively
  • Do things the hard way
  • Network
It's great article, and well worth a read:

Monday, March 5, 2012

To BYOD or not?

Gary Stager (for whom I normally have a lot of time) had a shocker when he wrote this piece entitled 'BYOD: Worst idea of the 21st century?'
Here's a good counter: 7 Myths About BYOD Debunked dispatches a number of Stager's points.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Student-led learning: Desert Island Day

Good blog post and nice video from Happysteve about 'radical self-direction':
"So, day 3 of the year. 180 kids, 90 new, 90 veterans. Establishment phase. Here's the premise: you have crashlanded on a desert island. There are no teachers. How on earth, logistically, did [these teachers] manage this? Well you should ask them on Twitter. From what I gather and observed (I spent about 30 minutes of the day in attendance in person): the 6 teachers hid outside the open space, observing the kids via video links and open windows. They tweeted clues in via a large twitter screen that acted as a well of knowledge. They used a P.A. system to phone-in further clues. They had established rules: students must remain within 2 metres of their team. Students must ignore 'spies' (adults who entered the space, dressed in costumes). It was pretty much pure game-based-learning. Simulation. Here's the environment we've curated, now prove yourselves. And LO AND BEHOLD, they did! "

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What silicon valley executives keep getting wrong about education

This is a great article from Dr. Keith Devlin which starts with Sun Microsystems' co-founder Vinod Khosla's reading of what is wrong with education:
' "Education 2.0 [...] we have not experimented enough with [...] out-of-the-box approaches but have instead tried to force-fit [...] traditional (often broken) ideas into the 'computerized' model."
Devlin's critique bring in Sal Khan and the flipped classroom and makes some good, balanced points about it:
"Which might sound fine if this statement were not preceded by his explicit mention of Khan Academy as one of the new experiments. For KA is precisely a traditional approach transported onto the Web, namely one-to-one instruction, sitting side-by-side with the teacher. Is KA valuable? Sure it is? But "all" Sal Khan has done is take the traditional textbook instruction and put it up on YouTube."
Devlin's great point about the Khan Academy (which a lot of people miss) is..
"what resources like Khan Academy provide is instruction, not teaching/learning. Anyone who has been lucky enough to experience good teaching will know the difference"
He goes on to say:
"Khan is a good instructor -- he explains well in a highly non-threatening, "I am your friend" way. That's not an easy thing to achieve when the entire information channel consists of his voice and a screen-trace of what his hand writes on a tablet screen." 
"Watching videos of people playing golf will surely help you learn to play, but you won't get very far without going out on the fairway, frequently, and doing so with a good coach who can watch what you do and correct your inevitable errors. Not once but many times, over a long haul." 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Three ways to do away with desktop computer

I wish computers were more portable. I wish they could easily be taken out into context and be used where learning should occur: the real world. Here are three great products that will help free us from the shackles of the desktop computer:

  • The new Samsung Galaxy S III is basically a full-blown computer masquerading as a phone: Quad-core processor, 1080p HD screen and so on. It's an incredible phone:
  • The Raspberry Pi went on sale yesterday. It's a credit-card sized computer you can carry around with you and plug into external monitors and keyboards. This video is a great demonstration of what it can do:
  • And there are more and more of these little devices popping up all the time. "FXI is preparing to launch the Cotton Candy, a tiny computer that looks like a USB thumb drive. The device, which can run either Ubuntu or Android 4.0, has a dual-core 1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A9 CPU, 1GB of RAM, and a Mali 400MP GPU that allows it to decode high-definition video."

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Online Collaborative Textbooks

Two links about OERs (Online Educational Resources):

It will probably come as no surprise that the magnificent David Wiley is behind in the Utah Open Textbook project, which seeks to get inexpensive, open, online textbooks into the hands of students across the state of Utah. A project I'll be watching (and supporting) with interest.

The second link is to a blog post by Scott Leslie about OER 'book sprints':
A book sprint “brings together a group to produce a book in 3-5 days. There is no pre-production and the group is guided by a facilitator from zero to published book. The books produced are high quality content and are made available immediately at the end of the sprint via print-on-demand services and e-book formats.” The idea of a “sprint” originates in the coding world, where a group of developers work in a concerted way over a short, intense period to produce some new code. Originally they were face-to-face events, often held in conjunction with a conference or some other gathering, but in the last few years I have seen them sprout up as online events, both tightly and loosely coordinated. Similarly, while Book sprints began as face to face efforts, they too are starting to migrate into online-only events.
I like the idea of a book sprint a lot, and will see if I can arrange something along these lines for later in the year. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Crocodile clips blog

I know quite a few people use the software Yenka (which used to be known as Crocodile Clips) for chemistry, electronics, physics etc. They have a useful Tumblr blog that not everyone will know about:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Do you teach from the bandstand?

Ewan Macintosh asks the right questions:
"Do you have a plan that you stick with, no matter what? Do you have a plan at all? Do you have a plan that you're prepared to give up totally when a student proposes something, anything, interesting? Are you patient, listening to what's going on, allowing yourself to be pulled, and slick enough (skilled enough?) to react and create something magical out of your box to make a lesson sing?"

Monday, February 20, 2012

Android@Home seeks to rival Apple's Airplay


"One area in which Google has yet to catch up with Apple is home entertainment. That may soon change, as Google is reportedly working on an Android-based home music system called Android@home. Such a system would likely be among the first products to come out of Project Tungsten, which Google demonstrated at their I/O conference last spring. There, Google showed a tablet that could manage various aspects of the home, including turning lights on and off, sending music from the Internet to a hi-fi, and speakers laced with an NFC chip to initiate music play."

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Who really benefits from putting high-tech gadgets in classrooms?

I think technology is one of the most potentially transformative tools in a teacher's arsenal, but it's always good to remember to have your eyes wide open when making decisions that affect our learners. This is a really thought-provoking piece from the L.A. Times. It reminds me of one of Seymour Papert's great lines:  "Of course “technology doesn’t work.” Technology doesn’t do anything. People do. "
How much genuine value is there in fancy educational electronics? Listen to what the experts say.
"The media you use make no difference at all to learning," says Richard E. Clark, director of the Center for Cognitive Technology at USC. "Not one dang bit. And the evidence has been around for more than 50 years."
Almost every generation has been subjected in its formative years to some "groundbreaking" pedagogical technology. In the '60s and '70s, "instructional TV was going to revolutionize everything," recalls Thomas C. Reeves, an instructional technology expert at the University of Georgia. "But the notion that a good teacher would be just as effective on videotape is not the case."

Two ways to export your Google Docs

It's always good to be able to take control of your own data, and Google is certianly leading the way on this:
"Google Takeout supports a new service: Google Docs. Now you can use the same interface to batch export your documents." From
It might be that Google's open approach to data has 'encouraged' Facebook to offer users the ability to download their information.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Open source surgery

Not quite do-it-yourself surgery, but an open source surgical robot nonetheless. Ensuring that corporations don't own, limit and control the technologies used to save lives is extremely important. I'd love to see more of these open, transparent and shareable approaches to medicine:

"A multidisciplinary team of engineers from the University of Washington and the University of California, Santa Cruz, have developed a surgical robot, called Raven 2, for use as an open-source surgical robotics research platform. Seven units of the Raven 2 will be made available to researchers at Harvard; Johns Hopkins; University of Nebraska-Lincoln; University of California, Berkeley; and the University of California, Los Angeles, while the remaining two systems will remain at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the University of Washington.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Seriously solar-powered OLPCs in Haiti

Great video on a large solar installation that charges 500 XO laptops at a time. The installation was completed by a team from Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago, Green WiFi, and Haiti's National OLPC Coordinator and took place at EFACAP school in Lascahobas, Haiti.

"With the system having been designed and built to power 500 XO laptops it was - and very likely still is - the world's largest single-school solar laptop charging deployment."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ali Carr-Chellman - A Closer Look at Cyber Charter Schools

A different angle on the charter schools coming to New Zealand. Ali Carr-Chellman looks at cyber charter schools in the US. 4 million students took part in cyber charter schools in the US in 2010, 250,000 of whom were full-time. She links cyber charter schools to the wild west and the goldrush, saying that, like in goldrushes in the past, people are making a lot of money out of cyber charter schools at the moment. Huge amounts of money are being diverted from public schools: US$1 billion in 2010. That includes paying private company CEOs annual salaries of up to US$2.6 million.

That's public money, remember.

Classroom-less schools in Sweden

I came across this from Stephen Downes. WARNING: images may make educators extremely envious:
The principles of the Vittra School revolve around the breakdown of physical and metaphorical class divisions as a fundamental step to promoting intellectual curiosity, self-confidence, and communally responsible behavior. Therefore, in Vittra’s custom-built Stockholm location, spaces are only loosely defined by permeable borders and large, abstract landmarks. As the architects explained, “instead of classical divisions with chairs and tables, a giant iceberg for example serves as cinema, platform, and room for relaxation, and sets the frame for many different types of learning,” while “flexible laboratories make it possible to work hands-on with themes and projects.”