Un-Acceptable Use Policies

AMEN! That was my immediate response to reading this blog post over at The Edjurist that Will Richardson tweeted out this evening.  Acceptable Use Policies, opt-in vs. opt-out forms and the like are enough to drive me crazy and I’m a classroom teacher, not a tech facilitator.

We are now starting to move past the era when the Internet was extra-curricular into the era when the Internet is the curriculum. Much of what teachers are teaching these days has Internet based components and even Internet based activities. When we view the Internet as a standard part of the curriculum, the AUP doesn’t make sense as a contractual endeavor because the school cannot contract for the delivery of curriculum.

This year I had only two students without Internet permission. However, they were in two separate classes which meant I had to find modified assignments to be used at different times of the day.  To make matters worse, the students didn’t have access at home either. This raised several questions for my team:

  • How does this relate to Internet activities used on the SmartBoard?
  • What about our school’s online gradebook? They wouldn’t have access to the immediate feedback like the other students.
  • Our school had moved to Accelerated Reader online, and while I’m not a big advocate of the AR program, the students could not be asked to take an AR test (a requirement across all three grade levels) because they would have to have Internet permission.
  • Was it the teacher’s responsibility to police those two students when lab or laptop activities were done to make sure they weren’t using Internet applications?

Eventually, the parents decided to allow the two students to use the Internet and you would have thought it was Christmas day for both of them.  This is a battle we must fight as educators. We must let parents know that the Internet is a curriculum delivery service, no different from textbooks in the past.

How about your school? Do you have an Acceptable Use Policy, or as Karl Fisch is quoted in the post, an Unacceptable Use Policy?

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iCloud: Web-based Desktop

That sound you heard was the sound of Google’s execs collectively spitting their morning coffee out of their mouths.  Well, maybe not, but there’s a slim chance they should be. The reason is iCloud, a very good look at what a “cloud”-based operating system would look like. I took iCloud for a spin last night and must say, I’m quite impressed at their early workings.

Familiar Experience

One of the first things you notice about iCloud is that it feels very familiar. Obviously modeled after the major desktop environments folks are used to, an XP user would feel right at home inside iCloud. Currently, iCloud is best accessed through Internet Explorer, though some limited functionality for Firefox does exist. Their choice of browser and “desktop” feel make it obvious that iCloud is directing themselves at the largest market of computer users out there, Windows users.

Since iCloud is accessed through your browser, it works on any computer anywhere (running IE at least).  The desktop allows you to access your files and applications as well as a sidebar with many widgets much like the Vista sidebar. The “Start” menu is found along the left vertical edge of the desktop which will take a bit of getting used to for those who have never stepped out of a Windows environment.  There are a number of desktop backgrounds to choose from and you can upload your own images to create a wallpaper of your choice.

Applications

iCloud has a number of applications built in including: Word Processing, Calendar, Email, Instant Messaging, ToDo list, Photo/Video/Music storage, web browser (would this be browser in browser?), RSS feed reader, and numerous games. Most of these applications have the basic functionality necessary for cloud based users. The best part of the applications is the fact that the Video and Music storage doubles as a way to play your files wherever you go. You are given 3 GB of storage space initially which would give you the chance to store a selection of your favorite songs to be playable wherever you go.

Downsides

The fact iCloud is currently limited to IE and basic Firefox function is a limitation for many folks. When full Firefox support is completed this will no longer be an issue. Also, the homepage for iCloud says you can get up to 50GB of storage, but I’ve yet to find a way to upgrade the storage amount or a cost for that upgrade. Perhaps this is a future plan that hasn’t been implemented yet.

What Will Google Do?

It should be no secret that Google has plans for the web as an operating system. iCloud is our first look at a possible implementation of this idea. The question now is, does Google go with a similar service, perhaps even purchasing iCloud or develop their own web-based desktop experience? The thought of an iCloud like system with access to Google’s full Docs suite, Picasa photo editor, GMail, Google Reader, Google Calendar, and Google Talk is quite a heady idea to say the least. How much longer before we see such a system from the company setting its sights on world computing domination?  Not much longer now I believe.

Required Technology Experiences?

The current school year isn’t even over and I’m already beginning to think about next year. I’m thinking of moving toward a digital portfolio style of assessment using my classroom wiki. Each student would have their own page as a starting point and would document activities completed in class to show proficiency or their path toward it. This would allow me to give some focused instruction on a skill/tool early on and students could use it as needed throughout the year.
My current notebook system is not far from this model. I have a selection of about 25 activities that I give students at the beginning of the year. They choose from those activities for their homework to process information in class. The activities cover a variety of learning styles and are things I model near the beginning of the year.
Next year, my goal is to do something similar with digital tools for processing information. As my classroom is a science classroom, I always show them methods for graphing data using spreadsheet software. I’ll probably also do some discussion of Presentation Zen style PowerPoint presentations to avoid the dreaded Death By PowerPoint.
My question for you all is this: what experiences/skills do you think I should include for my students early in the year? Granted, I know there will be new tools that crop up during the year, but what would be a good smattering of what is out there to start with? Keep in mind some boundaries:

  • I’m in a science classroom
  • This is 7th grade so starting the year most of my kids are only 12…as a side question, how do you all work through that issue?
  • I do not have daily access to student computers. Early in the year I could probably get close and a vast majority of my students have computers at home.
  • Things I’m already considering: podcasting with Audacity (would love something like GabCast for the under 13 crowd), hyperlinking within the wiki, VoiceThread/Animoto/PhotoStory, Creative Commons…

Looking for as many suggestions as possible.

Friday Moments of Zen

So for the past several weeks I’ve been doing this with my students. On Friday’s I offer them a little glimpse of some technology piece I’ve discovered during the week. It’s little more than a 3 to 5 minute overview most of the time. Some times it becomes a discussion, other times it’s just a “Hey, check this out”. The kids seem to enjoy it and the week I missed it, they of course asked where their Zen was 🙂 That’s when I knew it was catching on. Here are some of the past few weeks “Friday Moments of Zen.”

Siftables

Siftables are a new computer input device that involves playing with blocks that interact with each other. I mentioned this one in a previous post, and the really mind-blowing moment is near the end when they’re being discussed for audio mixing capabilities.

Wii Fit-Google Earth Mashup

German organization has found a way to control Google Earth Flyovers using the Wii Fit balance board. This gives the appearance that one is “surfing” over the surface of the Earth. Could have great applications if the software gets sophisticated enough to judge “walking” motions. Virtual field trips anyone?

Phun

This “game” is a 2D Physics simulator. Create objects by drawing and watch as they are affected by the Physics of the environment. Initially set to mimic the real physics of Earth, every element is customizable, including forces. This software is often called “struggle-ware” since students have to struggle with the software to get it to do what they want it to do. Great application for the price…FREE!

Cooliris

Extension for Firefox that turns photo pages into 3D “walkways” of pictures. Great visual search of a number of photo sources. I have also recently seen a number of presentations using Cooliris as a way to organize the photo slides rather than PowerPoint, Keynote, etc.

Digital Dossier

This video comes from information in Born Digital by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser. The amount of digital information about you is ever increasing in today’s society. Who owns that information? What is being collected about you that you’ve never considered? What does this all mean for the students we teach? Great, thought-provoking video.

What other ideas for “Friday Moments of Zen” do you guys have?