Monthly Archives: July 2006

Been playing with QuikMaps over the past week and found it to be a really easy tool to use especially if you don't want to mess around with geographical coordinates. I put a map in preparation for my workshop that shows where comments are coming to this blog from around the world. I couldn't seem to get the code to stick in this blog so here's a screen grab linked to the actual map so that you can click and see who's commenting from where. I've had to add a few quite distinguished names to the map lately but I appreciate all equally.

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Earlier in the year, Will Richardson highlighted a pay for test results plan coming out of Texas that had him "oy"ing in dismay. I was astounded at the time and said so in the comments section but thought that maybe it was a particular peculiarity of that US state. After all, Wes Fryer was putting the Texas education system under the blowtorch in his most recent post.

But our federal leaders obviously think that plans like this are the way to improve Aussie education, as highlighted in The Australian yesterday and today. It's still unclear how the rewards would be calculated and whether they will be tied to standardised test results. Why do we insist on following other system's harebrained ideas in the name of accountability, when these ideas don't even have the support of their own educators?

Thanks to the edubloggers who responded via comments and personal e-mail to my request about personal blogging habits. Your methods are as individual as you all are. I just know that how to fit in blogging into lives that are already pretty full is going to be one of the questions I'll get asked at my workshop. Mike Seyfang responded via trackback and as he points out, ".....6 days is as an eternity to the blogosphere...." but if anyone else still wants to share their blogging practices, I would be really grateful.

I attended an informative meeting tonight of educators interested in exploring the potential of blogging within our education system as a follow on from the Blogging Masterclass of last month. Now the purpose of this post is not to rehash the proceedings or the discussion from that hour, as productive as it was. I didn't take notes, so my recollections could be erroneous and I don't have permission to paraphrase other people's utterings. But I'd like to expand on what I think I see here in South Australia and whether we have the opportunity to establish and nurture an Education Blogging Community. The interest group consists of several experienced edubloggers, some educators who have dabbled but haven't launched into the full "blogging experience" and some beginners still working out what it all means for them. As for teachers who weren't at the Masterclass or participating in the comments section of the Masterclass blog, then it is impossible to gauge whether there is a community in the making or whether most teachers will just not want to know (too busy, too close to retirement, not confident, not informed, not caring!) and we are just indulging in wistful thinking. Considering that most bloggers have stumbled into this form of communication, a measured approach just might not work. And providing a sheltered place for interested educators to find out more (Moodle, Janison) is self defeating. Mastering the technology is just the first step. But users won't take that step unless they have some idea about the commitment, the purpose and potential of using a blog. I do think we need to focus on getting teachers to try blogging for themselves before we try and develop teachers blogging with their kids. The possible solutions to manage a class full of blogs are there but a learning curve needs to take place first before you even know the tools exist. This post from Dean Shareski really explains how the evolution could take place:

But if we as educators have never entered into a global conversation, it’s not likely we’ll ever create that opportunity for our students. But as we all know and I told the administrators, kids are already having them so when will we?

I think that the Masterclass blog (or a new one if needed) is a reasonable starting point for interested teachers to start dabbling. I am prepared to share things I've learnt along the way at that online venue and get others commenting and joining the conversation. I'd offer more beginner type stuff that I wouldn't post here because I believe the vast majority of my readers are ahead of me anyway! The more I think about it, becoming part of a blogging community is a very organic experience and can't really be planned or organised - an interest group can plant some seeds and watch to see if it grows. The group needs to support our less experienced but equal partners or risk having them turned off and their spark of enthusiasm snuffed out by the wind created by over fast movement. I realise that students are interacting online (often unsafely) and that they need guidance and structured opportunity. They need teachers who have some expertise and answers to the non-technical aspects of interacting with and publishing to a potential global audience. So I think we (the interest group) should set up a starting point for teachers who want to know more and use the expanded Masterclass blog as a jumping off point.

At the July CEGSA conference, I will be presenting a workshop titled Blogging As Professional Learning as well as co-presenting with Al Upton in a presentation. Now I don't want to be presumptous about anyone who reads my blog, but I have a favour to ask anyone reading for a considered response. As part of my presentation I will be describing how I fit blogging into my daily routines but that model will probably not work for everyone. What I need is other examples, other models to suggest to my participants. So, how do you do your blogging? Do you set aside specific time or is it more opportunistic? Do you weave into your work day or add bits and pieces to posts as you go whenever you get to be online? You can leave me a comment if you want, or if you don't want your contributions in this public space, drop me an email (wegner.graham[at]gmail.com) and I can broaden my suggested array of blogging strategies. Any conditions regarding the use of your information will be honoured in accordance with your wishes.

Thanking you all in anticipation.

Mobile technologies are constantly being developed and released into the marketplace with wireless being touted as the solution to accessing networks and the web whilst on the go. This is going to come into play more and more in education and if schools want to implement wireless solutions, then we'd better have some people on staff who can make informed decisions about what it all means. With that in mind, Robyn, our network manager enrolled herself and got me as well to go to a Wireless Network Seminar held in the city at the very swish Radisson Playford hotel. It wasn't strictly aimed at education but was being provided free by intechnology.com.au and was officially titled "The Basics and Fundamentals of 802.1x Wired, Wireless and EndPoint Security”. Not what I'd normally sign up for but anything that adds to my general knowledge about computer technology is a good thing. Plus we do have longer term plans to introduce wireless hotspots at our school with maybe a set of laptops so I was hoping to soak up some information.

There were a lot of blokes in suits with flashy PDA's that made my battered old Ipaq look a bit dated, and a severe gender inbalance where each female attendee was outnumbered 10 to 1. There were a few education faces there as well - I overheard a few people introducing themselves to each other as being from some of the more expensive, up market private schools. I was surprised by the age of the crowd as well - a lot of older faces while I thought IT was a young person's industry.

That was shown by the first speaker who looked like he was still in the beginning stages of his twenties. His name was Neal Wise, who is what is known as an ethical hacker. He specialises in setting up secure wireless networks and check for security loopholes in existing setups. His company is assurance.com.au and he had an education connection as his company built a secure wireless network for the Victorian Dept. Of Ed. with 10, 000 access points across 1800 sites. So he started by showing us an image of a building covered in dishes and aerials - leased out to various wireless companies. He said that wireless is often implemented before the security surrounding the network is mature enough to do its job. He had a great quote that went along the lines of "Technology tries to jump around and avoid the problems created by itself." Different products are continually being developed for different frequencies to avoid traffic overload and interference. Every time you open your wireless note book it automatically searches for networks, known and then unknown. This then could be compromised by someone else's wireless that deliberately seeks to use your notebook connection to access your network. An open wireless network means someone else could steal your bandwidth. He talked about common technologies used to secure wireless which was very informative, having only encountered these acronyms when I was setting up my home wireless router. He talked first about WEP - this only provides basic security, can be breached on a network basis - certain things can still be accessed - ie. SSID. The next technology to evolve from WEP is WPA which has greater security.

The part that was most fascinating for me was when Neal talked about the practice of wardriving. This is also close concept wise to warchalking which involves finding an open network and chalking the details on the sidewalk so others can access the insecure wi-fi. Neal seemed to think that this was a bit of an urban myth. For his wardriving (remember he is an ethical hacker which means he tries to breach wireless security for a living!) Neal used a GPS system, antenna, software for interrogation and a system to run the software. He told us about one job where his team "staked out" a warehouse that was unaware of their surveillance but under contract from the warehouse head office. The antenna used was actually bits and pieces taped together! He showed an image of his Commodore wagon showing his "get out of jail" card, the official letter that explained his activities to anyone from security (the big burly type) who wanted to know what they were up to. He did explain that this was necessary as computer experts weren't renown for their strength! He showed us a few of the hacking tools he used and showed us live what wireless activity he could detect from the hotel window and showed us how he detects and then "attacks" an insecure network to fully expose its weaknesses. That was amazing but hacking in this way is not a quick process. To crack a WEP encryption takes 1.2 - 1.8 G of data before it can be unlocked, and 15 minutes to 1 hour to get the key but while this going on, it is obvious from within the network that it is being breached. As he pointed out, any use of these tools cross the line of "if you're not authorised to use a network, then you shouldn't be accessing it." The important detail Neal emphasised was any encryption is better than none because it prevents accidental connection. He was a great speaker and I really enjoyed a peek into this world that clearly tells me that my ICT savvy is very shallow compared to these very talented people who design and troubleshoot security for all of our digital data that we take for granted.

Photo Credit: 1092835800 by wonko, Flickr Creative Commons Images.

Just watched a very interesting doco on our "fifth" television station here, SBS, on the spreading influence of Google. It was titled, "Google: Behind The Screen" and was an interesting expose behind the rise of Google and its widening and sometimes tightening grip on our world of digital information. It was put together by a Dutch documentary team but thankfully was screened in English (for this monolingual blogger.) Not sure how anyone could get to view it if you wanted to but it was very watchable. I love the 20% rule that is in place for Google employees. One day of their working week is given over to employees pursuing their own choice of work related interests - imagine if educators were valued that highly!

Although it is rarely a good idea to do something just because everyone else is, I can't resist the call emanating from the Cool Cat Teacher Blog, challenging edubloggers everywhere to list their Top 10 posts. I assume it's a personal choice because otherwise I'm going to have to go digging through my Google Analytics data again to work them out by viewer popularity (although that's not the phrase used within GA). I like the idea because it does give me an excuse to review my body of work on this blog, and if you've only been reading this blog for a while (I think I have 31 Bloglines subscribers now!) it's a good way to read some handpicked highlights where the words fell together in a coherent and informative way. I'll try to show a good spread across my categories and a very brief extract for these ten.

10. Read Blogs Anywhere, Anytime
My obsession with my Pocket PC was in full swing and I was regularly downloading blogs to read at this stage.This obsession waned this year when I got my work wireless Tablet PC but it's actually easier to read and digest bloggers' thoughts on a handheld.

9. Disagreeing With A Legend
Will Richardson was one of my earliest blogging role models (still is) and I thought I was being brave going out on a limb critiquing one of his posts. I thought I was safe in my anonymity but I was blown away when Will himself commented on the post and was really encouraging.

8. The Magic Of RSS
My first attempt at blogging a workshop here - still, turned out pretty well and demonstrates how much the learning can be captured.

7. My Copyright Ignorance
Blogging introduced me to the Creative Commons concept and has given me a fuller understanding of Intellectual Property issues. This post was important in helping me to put common educational practice here in South Australia into perspective.

6. Is It Possible To Have Self Directed PD?
Ahhh! My utopian dream of providing just in time PD for my staff using this idea was shattered by the Common Report, the glaring focus of Interactive Whiteboards at my site and the fact that everyone else didn't have time for a new approach. There's still hope and it is my personal PD model.

5. Flattening The Pyramid Of Influence
Speaking of utopian dreams, this post combines hope and cynicism in equal measure and had Stephen Downes applauding my mathematical ability.

4. Blog On
By far, the biggest comment response for any post on my blog so far. I must have hit a nerve.....

3. Portfolios - To E Or Not To E!
This post had its genesis in the comments section of Leigh Blackall's blog and introduced me to the forward thinking Alexander Hayes. So much extra learning and broadening of ideas have occurred from all three of us participants and I just tried to summarise the conversation.

2. On The Go Or On The Wall
I'm really proud of this one. It followed on from conversations with Alex regarding mobile technologies and the cartoon that was almost an afterthought was remixed here, here, here and here!

1. My Mate, Tom.
I worked really hard on this one, crafting it as opposed to just writing it. I dug back through email archives to get accurate information and it is as much a tribute to a really good friend as a story of my journey through the history of the internet.

Cheers, Vicki, for the challenge. You're in for a bit of reading. Oh yeah - technorati tag: mytop10eduposts

I signed up for a Google Analytics account a while back and got set up in early May tracking stats from this blog. As it is one of the plugins here at edublogs.org, it was very easy to get going and the Analytics site gives you a full array of data and pretty graphs to look at. I think that having this in place from the birth of a blog would show some real elements of growth, but over the past two months, I think my stats are just variations on a theme.

When I open my account for a look, the first thing I see is the Executive Overview - 4 graphs designed to give me key information at a glance. There's a line graph for Page Views and Visits, two pie graphs showing Visits and Visit Sources and a Geo Map similar in style to a Clustr Map. Here's my earliest Overview and the latest.

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So what does this tell me? My return visitors have increased - that's got to be a good sign. The maps are similar - who is that checking out this blog from Fairbanks, Alaska? How people are finding this blog is also interesting but pretty predictable. Once or twice, Stephen Downes has featured something from me and then downes.ca drives in a bit of traffic on its own, early on edublogs.org was a factor to be replaced by Technorati. My panic whenever Bloglines drops the edublog/incsub feeds is obviously trivial as only 5-6% of visitors come via that path. At least I know they're readers though. I wonder how much of the stats can be accounted for by spammers?

I can dig around for all sorts of interesting bits of data and make some assumptions about those bits. My most popular blog post - Blog On, 188 visits with an average of 4 minutes, 3 seconds spent reading it. Nothing else makes the top 5 content list as an individual post. However, a significant number of people come here looking for the Interactive Whiteboards tag - 130.

Does this help in becoming a better blogger? Very doubtful, as comments from others are the best feedback on how this blog is doing. The nerd in me enjoys the statistics but they are best enjoyed infrequently.