Archive for September, 2008

I had an Idea…

Author: GDhuyvetter

Continuing to think about practical applications for the technology we use, I was thinking about Skype the other day.  For any who don’t know, Skype is an Internet phone service providing computer to computer calling for free (and other phone services for cost).  One of the very nice features of Skype is the ability to send video as well as text.  This past summer, while my wife was away, she and I would converse with each other via Skype and webcams.  

All of the new netbooks (it appears that this is becoming the settled term for Eee PC’s etc.) have a built-in web camera, so this type of contact is possible with no extra software and no extra cost.  Since we have outfitted room 503 with Eee PC’s, I was wondering how this could be used.  

One application that I thought about was real-time access to outside resources.  A teacher could set up a call or interview with another teacher across the country or across the world.  The call could take place over Skype, and students could watch the speaker projected on the screen while asking questions.

Another thought I had was to mount a better video camera in the room and alloing a student who is ill to call in to a classroom Skype account and have audio visual access to the class.  Depending on how elaborate the setup is, this person could participate as well as watch.

I guess I’m talking about dabbling with distance learning.  We have all the tools to do this now.  The only thing missing is working out the logistics.

Does anyone else have ideas for use of cameras in the classroom or any other transformative program?

Shiny New Chrome

Author: GDhuyvetter

I follow several technology sites which help me to keep up with the latest developments in hardware and software.  Much of it is just noise, but once in a while I see something that seems to be important both in what it does and what it means in the world of tech development.

This week Google released the first significant new browser in some time.  The new browser called CHROME is currently only available for Windows, though versions for Mac and Linux are expected soon.  I downloaded the beta release and installed it on several machines including my office computer, my home computer and a few of the Eee PCs.

In a few words…I LOVE it.  It’s simple, and fast Fast FAST.  It seems very compatible with most pages and web applications (Acceditation Plus won’t load on it…which probably speaks in its favor).  It works with a tab design similar to Firefox, but the tabs run as independent programs, so if a web page or app. won’t load or crashes, you can close that tab and the others continue running.

I don’t want to take too much time describing and analyzing Chrome, so I’m including two links.

This first link is to a short (5 minute) video demonstrating the key features of the program:

http://demogirl.com/2008/09/02/screencast-tour-of-google-chrome/

This second link will take you to the Chrome download site:

http://www.google.com/chrome/

Why is this important?  The fact that Google is releasing its own browser emphasizes its committment to “cloud computing.”  In this model, the browser takes the place of the operating system, and applications run on web pages rather than on local machines.  This further supports the development of new UMPC’s (or “netbooks” as they seem to be called now).  

Give Chrome a try.

Learning to Fly

Author: GDhuyvetter

As we enter this new year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Wright brothers’ first flight in 1903.  Most of us have seen pictures and primative video of this and other early flights.  This first flight took all of 12 seconds and covered 120 feet.  By all standards of what we know is possible, this flight was an embarrassment.

However, we don’t look at this (or any other new frontier event) this way.  We see these brothers as willing to try something new and willing to fail repeatedly before a limited success.  Without those who try and fail, no one succeeds.

I think it is the same way with educational technology.  This is a transitional period in the history of education.  The brave souls who try new programs and techniques often fail, and often count succcesses by the inch, rather than by the mile.  This is very hard for educators.  We don’t like to fail or to be less than good, particularly in front of the stduents.

No one questions the value of the Wright brothers’ “pathetic” achievement.  Most of the field of aeronautics today can trace itself to this event. And (and this is probably the most important and) people the field grew as much through analysis of the mistakes made as copying what was done.

So perhaps we are the “mistake makers” who will pave the way for our students to soar.  Attempts in this new field are valuable when they succeed and when they define the boundaries of what won’t work.  Someday our students will say, “I remember how badly he did that…it would be so much better to do it this way.”

To use one other analogy, in Medieval times (not the restaurant), those who began building a cathedral knew that they, their children, and grandchildren would be dead before the edifice was completed.  In the same way we have to keep working on this new building, secure in the knowledge that we may not see it, but we will have been a part of it.