Friday, December 15, 2006

Sun Times Finally Catches Up with the Whole Story

I blasted them when they missed it - they finally got it right. Linky

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The papers finally catch up

Here is a great break through in information. Guess what? Test scores are late and school report cards are not ready. What brings this great news to light? The Chicago Sun-Times reports today that they won't be able to print their edition of school report cards because schools have no test data to base them on. Why the news flash all of a sudden? How did we go through a whole gubernatorial election and this point wasn't made? Did someone at the Sun-times just look at last year's calendar and say "Oh crap! We are supposed to run the school report card issue and we have no school report cards!" They write the article like this is terrible because they won't have that issue ready, and by the way, the entire educational process in the state of Illinois is thrown off by this. Once again - the press and the public only pays attention to education when there is a hitch that impacts them. Yet there are gobs of pages flowing out there about the "Tomcat" wedding - after all that will be of great importance years from now. Nobody will be able to read about it then because the educational system wasn't nearly as important in the public's eyes as it should have been. This isn't about standardized test scores - it is about the lack of attention that education, and therefore our students, get from the general public - the public who has agreed to give an education to every one of our students.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Blocker vs. The Bringer

I now know what it must have been like to be Jekyll and Hyde. I - Hank Thiele - a true believer in games for learning, the power of computers and play, the impact of open information - has become the hammer of control. I do this for a sound educational reason though.

We have instituted a process through our network that allows us to block users from running any application we choose. This has allowed us to prevent students from installing and playing games on our computers. Couple this with Websense and we have came pretty close to locking games out of our educational setting. This has now allowed me to move to the next step, getting users to delete all of those applications off of their network drives. They can't use them anyway. This is where my uneasiness begins.

It is my responsibility to make sure that the network operates efficiently, has no unlicensed software on it, and is used for educational purposes. So I have laid down the gauntlet and have required that all students clear these items off of their drives by November 15th (see the ultimatum). It is the professionally responsible thing to do. Plus we are migrating all of our network drives to a SAN soon and the less that is on those drives - the easier this process will be. We also face great challenges with our backup system with the way that students hide their games. Typically students will hide their games several, if not 10-20, folders deep. They often will then toss a shortcut in another folder to their games folder (usually called something like "important work" or "Freshman Year Math"). From my experiences in the classroom this makes it difficult for a teacher to find and delete the games students are playing. However, using simple network and file applications I find them in seconds. Here is where the problem comes in - when we back up student drives the software has to re-create all of those nested folders. This takes a lot of time and increases the possibility of failure.

So what we have here is a situation where it is my responsibility to keep the network safe, reliable, secure, legal, backed-up, fast, and basically perfect. We are unable to do this when it is full of applications - especially ones they now cannot use. Along with this I am asking them to clean hose a little and remove extra image or sound files that are not there for educational purposes. We provide a service here for educational use. There are lots of other resources out there for storage of personal files outside of our network.

Now here is where it hurts me. I really believe that students can learn through playing games. The works of James Gee are like gospel to me. Here is a snippet of something I wrote about video games and learning a while back: videogames.pdf.

By protesting this much am I just trying to validate doing this? Maybe, but somehow it is not quite the same. Here is why:

If a teacher came to me ans said they wanted to have students play a game that related to learning, in any way, I would do everything in my power to ensure they had that resource. This is a case of students using the educational network for noneducational resources. Could those games and applications be used educationally? Yes, in the hands of a good teacher. I believe that they will have to if we are going to do the best teaching for our students.

For now, I believe that the best thing to do for the current setting that I am in. I will be meeting with a student from the school newspaper today to share these reasons and ideals with him, and ultimately the student body. I am sure they won't see it the same way I do, but I have to do what I feel is right.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Google Customized Search

I just played around with Google's customized search. There is one on my homepage for educational technology . Feel free to contribute to building it. Nice new application of Web 2.0.

Open Source

Well for the last couple of days I have been getting my open source freak on. I have tried out Ubuntu - of course the day before the new release came out (so -I'll do it again). Is was really impressed by the ease of install, speed of start-up, clean interface, and usability. Included was open office, Firefox, gimp, open office, and lots of other good stuff. I am starting to think that for most users out there that just surf and type this is an awesome cheap alternative - I know this isn't news to many people, but as a long-time M$ lover I wasn't sure I could leave the dark side. I am going to play around with SUSE now and see what kind of interactivity I can get within our environment. I am wondering if in the long run we can save some resources using this in the educational setting. More to come as I experiment more.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Fantasy Congress

I just saw this on fantasy congress. You can join in and draft a congressman and earn points based on the passage of laws. Once again another way games are finding their way into people's interest.

Internet Safety

A report on Internet safety was released from Virginia - I expect that other states may follow suit. Maybe not Illinois -
Offtrack Moment - we can't even get our test scores compiled. Well, that is not exactly true. We finally got our scores. This might teach the politicians not to fire a company until you get you results. Illinois has now hired ACT to administer it's tests. This should make scoring real quick for the high schools because our tests are written by ACT.
Anyway - my original idea in writing this is that people are starting to wise up to the dangers of the net. Now I will wait for the obligatory backlash that the Internet is "bad". Things will get better when parents understand that they can unplug the computer at home and schools work with parents to educate the kids about what is out there. That is what I really like about this document. they talk about what students, guardians, teachers, techies, and administrators need to know about Internet safety. Hopefully others will adopt or follow this model.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Video Games and Education

This is an idea that the educational world better catch up on. This article from CNN talks about the ideas that have been floating around in back circles for a while. The fact that kids don't want to spend 15 minutes learning about complex geography, but they will memorize every map, item, and terminology in Halo. Kids want to be challenged, and video games do a great job of doing that.