Tag: Open Source Software

5 reasons to use Open Source Software

A few weeks back, Mark Berthelemy asked me to speak at an upcoming conference about Open Source Software. I couldn’t make it, but promised to record a video that he could show at the event. I used Mozilla Popcorn Maker to add text, etc. after recording on my Sony NEX-5 and editing in iMovie:

It should be embedded above. If it doesn’t show up for whatever reason, click here. The source video is on YouTube.

What do Google, Open Source Software and Digital Literacies have in Common?

Wordle of my Ed.D thesisMy second post for DMLCentral is now live. It won’t spoil the surprise to tell you that I think the thing Google, OSS and digital literacies have in common is openness. Read the post to see why.

(I’m at the mercy of DMLCentral’s editors who have added sub-titles, including one that states, ‘Openness is a literacy’. This was not my idea – I see openness as a ‘habit of mind’, NOT a ‘literacy’. I’m sure it will be corrected by the time you click on this link!)

Why I’m trying to make myself redundant.

cc-by-nc-sa Kaptain Kobold @ Flickr

(cc-by-nc-sa Kaptain Kobold @ Flickr)

A week tomorrow The Northumberland Church of England Academy opens its doors to students for the first time. As you’re probably aware by now, my role there is Director of E-Learning. I want to be in a position within three years whereby I’ve made myself redundant.

I’ve had the same conversation with a number of people. It usually centres around two basic questions:

  • What will you be doing as Director of E-Learning?
  • What’s the next step after this position?

The answer to the first should be easy, but it’s not. Whilst I’ve got a job description, things aren’t always as cut-and-dried as they appear on paper – as I’ve found out already! It’s also been written by someone who’s not an expert in the field, and therefore should be seen as a starting point to an evolving role. In the main, however, my priorities remain those I set out in my interview presentation:

  1. Attendance – providing for  ‘anytime, anywhere’ learning.
  2. Behaviour – ensuring accurate and up-to-date information flows freely between relevant parties to enable Academy spaces to be conducive to learning.
  3. Communication – allowing for every member of the Academy to be (potentially) accessible both synchronously and asynchronously at any time.
  4. Design – promoting best practices, workflows and – of course – Open Source Software.
  5. Engagement – making staff aware of the latest and greatest, as well as how older technologies can be fused with new ones in a pedagogically-sound way.

If I do my job properly, I should be akin to a Sherpa, guiding and leading the way for Academy staff and students. Communication is my main priority in the first instance, with Google Apps Education Edition and our Frog Learning Platform being the focus. Once these are being used adequately, the second stage is to promote best practices. In this respect, it’s all about the heuristics – something I’ve blogged about before.

The final stage is to ensure technologies are being used to engage students. You’d think I’d start there, wouldn’t you? But I reckon by getting staff enthusiastic about the tools I’m helping provide, this will rub off on the students and lead to engagement in any case. I’m of the opinion that we’re talking less than 5% of staff who will really need their hands holding. Peer learning and time-saving elements become valuable when you’ve got 400 members of staff to get around…

So in the meeting I’ve got next Wednesday where I’m to outline my vision for E-Learning at the Academy to the Teaching & Learning group, the above is pretty much what I’m going to say. I want to be redundant within three years. I want a culture of experimentation, collaboration and blending to take such hold that they don’t need a ‘Director of E-Learning’ any more. I see the role as being akin to that of the DVD recorder: it was a necessary step between VHS recorders and hard-disk based PVRs (like Sky+) but that’s all. I’d like to see aspects of the Director of E-Learning role to merge with those of the Director of Teaching & Learning and Director of Operations.

We come back, then, to the second question I’ve been asked several times – what will I do after this position? What will happen if I’m successful in making myself redundant? My answer: I don’t know. This position didn’t exist three years ago!

Are you trying to make yourself redundant? How/why? :-p

Open Source Schools – Open Source Software: an overview

Cooliris wall

Click here to jump straight to the presentation

I’m down at Felsted School, Essex, tomorrow at the invitation of my good friend and conspirator collaborator, Nick Dennis. The Heads of ICT departments from independent schools in the area get together every so often to share and discuss ideas. I’ve been asked to do a presentation on Open Source Software – presumably because I’m involved in the Becta-funded Open Source Schools project. 🙂

Although I’ve tinkered with Prezi as a presentation tool in the past, I’ve decided I’m not a big fan as it’s a bit clunky and slow when putting your presentation together. It’s also completely ‘closed’ meaning that not only is it against the underpinning of the presentation, but other people (including me in future!) can’t re-use elements of your presentation.

A few months ago I read Alan Levine’s post Tricking out Cooliris as a presentation tool. I thought it looked cool, forgot to experiment, and then forgot about it. That is until last week when I saw that Alec Couros and Dean Shareski had used the method in their presentation entitled 2 guys. Suitably impressed, I decided to have a go. :-p

It all looked very complicated at first until I discovered that Cooliris have a program called PicLens Publisher that does all the hard work for you. All you need to do is save your presentation as a series of images, drag-and-drop the images onto PicLens Publisher and it produces the HTML page and RSS feed required.

Once that was done, all I needed to do was customize the HTML page and upload the folder via FTP to my website. Done! 😀

Update: Dai Barnes captured the audio using his Livescribe. Check it out here!

What does it take to build a community?

I spent today down in London with some great educators and those involved in the Open Source community. We were part of an advisory group for a Becta-funded project allied to the website opensourceschools.org.uk. Part of the discussion naturally focused on starting a community of educators interested in using Open Source Software (OSS) in their schools. The question we were tasked with was: how do we get started?

AlphaPlus, the consultancy firm employed by Becta to run the project haven’t had a great deal of experience in Open Source, although they’ve done a decent job so far. What was great was that there were some ‘big hitters’ there to get things moving along. At the meeting, apart from myself, were:

In the morning session we discussed who we were aiming the website at. It was agreed that there already exist some excellent ‘technical’ website for network administrators and the like, but that more was needed for ‘beginners’ and those new to OSS. At the moment, opensourceschools.org.uk is a framework to build the community upon. We were concerned with how to go from eager early adopters using the site to gaining mainstream traction.

The key question of a previous blog post of mine (Why as an educator you should care about Open Source Software) was used as a stimulus to discussion. The point was raised that actually we need to move one step back: why should teachers even care about software? From there we discussed recent Becta license agreements after which Josie mentioned that at present students are taught how to use specific software (usually Microsoft) instead of more generic skills.

Michelle shared with the group the policy at her school of giving Year 7 students a USB flash drive containing all the software they will need during their time at the school. It is all Open Source and the school computers all run Linux. As a result, teachers can be confident that students have access to the software they need at home as well as school. A representative from Becta built on this, talking about the complex license agreements for some companies mean dealing with OSS is a lot easier for schools.

This got me thinking: wouldn’t it be great if the (eventual) community at opensourceschools.org.uk could discuss and agree on customised versions of the OSS available at portableapps.com? For example, a version of Firefox with useful plugins for students pre-installed, or OpenOffice with everything set up in a way students and teachers alike would find intuitive.

Josie then took over to do some scenario planning for the community we are planning to attract and build on the site. She asked us to split into groups and come up with two axes on a graph in order to think about the type of community we want to foster. our group wanted to steer a course between a place that was almost unbearingly positive and back-slapping and a forum that involved lots of flamewars. On the other axis we put ‘enablers’ and ‘reticent’. Obviously, there’s no point in ‘preaching to the choir’ and just setting out to attract those who already know and use OSS. Whilst those people are needed, we need to focus on those who are at present disinterested and do some evangelism. Other groups talked about having specific roles in the community and whether the site should operate largely as a repository or a community.

After lunch, we had more of a freeform discussion about the website and how we could go about building the community. Many agreed that whilst Drupal is a good example of Open Source Software, it perhaps isn’t best for the purpose in mind. One of the AlphaPlus team mentioned that they’d planned to have ‘roadshows’ in order to do some form of evangelism. I suggested that they may want to run some ‘unconference’ sessions in a spirit similar to that of TeachMeet. The short presentations could be filmed and form a set of rich-media case studies to go on the site. More importantly, however, people would be able to meet face-to-face and share advice and ideas.

The best bit of the day, for me, was meeting in person people I had only previously met online. It’s great to spend time with like-minded, positive people who care deeply about education. 😀

Check out opensourceschools.org.uk. What would YOU suggest? Are you interested in using OSS in education?

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