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Joost September 24, 2007

Posted by davidit in Education, Education 2.0, ICT Integration, joost, Web 2.0.
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In my last post I mentioned Joost.  Joost is a service that was set up by the guys at Skype.  I first heard about Joost earlier this year through one of my AvantGo subscriptions.  As soon as I heard about Joost I applied to be an evaluer of their Beta product.  Coincidently the invite to join arrived this week, so I have now downloaded Joost and have it running on my machine at home.

In a nutshell Joost is a TV station rather like Sky but without the constant ad breaks you can watch whatever is on offer whenever suits you.  It is an amazing bit of code, there is no latency or lag in the download as there is when you watch You Tube or Teacher Tube videos.  When you click on the programme of your choice from the many and growing list of channels, you wait a few seconds and then your chosen programme runs, full screen with great image quality. It is fantastic.

I wanted to jump onto this bandwaggon as soon as it came out as I beleive that this programme, like e-cast shows the future of the broadcasting and the internet.  Genuine programme choice at a time that suits you and no adverts.  Joost does have sponsors, these either appear at the start of the programme or as a little icon on the screen for a few seconds.  A small price to pay I feel.

I am completely sold on this idea.  Unfortunately, unlike e-cast you can not record these programmes, although I have worked out a way.  Joost at the moment is only available through invitation from existing members, so if you want to have a go at this, I am happy to invite you to join the Joost community.  Just let me know though the your comments.

E-Cast September 21, 2007

Posted by davidit in collaborative, Education, Education 2.0, ICT Integration, Inquiry Model, thinking skills, Web 2.0.
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I attended one of those promo events last night that masquerades as a training seminar.  Fortunately it was an event that was well worth attending and that was not just because the flat whites were free and there was brie and biscuits on hand too!  The seminar was held at RED (Renaissance Education) in Onehunga, Auckland. This post is really a heads up for New Zealand schools.  A product is about to hit the market that has huge potential for those of us dabbling with the inquiry process, fully immersed in it or even for those of us constantly on the search for fantastic resources.   Well this is one of them.  A company called e-cast has spent the last couple of years putting a service together and a considerable amount of time in dark rooms negotiating with lawyers to get this product to market.

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What they offer is this, 37 channels of TV from all over the world for you to download any of their broadcasted programmes to your school and then you can do with the content as you wish, so long as you do not then republish it beyond your school.  Not only that, you can create your own videos and submit them to their servers.  This means that if your students wanted to research the impact of bottom trawling on  Pacific fish stocks, they could search the library of recorded documentaries from all around the world, download the relevant programmes, edit the differing content and publish on your own networks.  If they then create their own original content they can then upload their videos, for the rest of us to access.  Not only that you can select and book upcoming transmissions that you might want to use, these will be recorded and you can then download them to your school after transmission.

For schools such as mine, where bandwidth is a major issue and a service like this would knock it over in about 2 seconds flat, they also have a service, yet to be tested, but coming, that utilises the spare bandwidth on a geo-stationary satellite  for schools to download their content. How cool is that?

I have been so impressed with the content and the service that I have signed our school up today for a free trial and have also put my hand up for consideration for the  satellite trial.  I know that when the demo is set up in school it will really impress the staff as it impressed me.  One of the channels is NASAtv.  As we were waiting last night we were watching the live stream from NASA.  They have over 40 years of archived footage for us to use, we may yet be able to put the did they go therory to bed!

I was very apprehensive that such a cool system would cost the earth.  They have two cost structures a pay as you go download system and a fee based on your EFTS.  The second option was so reasonable it really is the only option! The good news for Australian schools is that they are currently looking to move their service their too.  However, even though they claim that this is a first, services like Joost from Skype will also soon be on the horizon for all of us and as these services proliferate we will be spoilt for choice from the differing video archives from around the planet.

Paper Cut – update September 21, 2007

Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
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I have been talking to the guys at Paper Cut, they are very friendly and the responses to my questions come back very quickly.  Great service guys, thanks.  I wanted to find out if there was a total environmental impact report, sadly this is only available as a function for individual users.  However, I asked them if they could supply me with the formula for calculating the environmental impact and they sent me the following link:

 http://www.papercut.com/products/ng/manual/ch-sys-mgmt-environmental-impact.html

The basic facts are:

One tree equates to 80 500 A4 sheets of paper.  This equates to 161 reams of paper

To produce one sheet of A4 paper 8.6g of carbon dioxide is produced.  This equates to 4.3kg of carbon dioxide per ream of paper.

The amount of electricity consumed per A4 sheet of paper is 17wh.

Of course the paper has already consumed all of this by the time we put it in the printers.  In addition we should really consider all the other costs on top, toner, power for the printer, the impact of construction of the printer/photocopiers, light and heat etc but as an indicator to raise awareness, it is already causing ripples here in school.  Now that I have shared the formula, even if you do not have Paper Cut in school, you can still assess what the impact of your paper consumption is.  I am hoping to ultimately have an 85% reduction in paper consumption.

Paper Cut September 20, 2007

Posted by davidit in Education, Enviro.
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I have just installed on the supertanker a fantastic utility called Paper Cut.  This utility can track individual user printing totals.  It is integrated with Active Directory and is installed on our print server. 

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The program is now busily tracking and reporting print totals.  One of my aims in schools has been to reduce the amount of paper that we consume.  I recently learnt how much money we spend on paper alone each year, the amount is impressive and I would want to try to reduce that amount and spend the savings on ICT!   In addition to that, we purchase our paper from South Africa, our choice is made purely on cost, what carbon footprint does our choice of paper supplier come with?

My aim is to get a user pays or decides solution in place to reduce the amount of paper that we consume, Paper Cut will illustrate just where the paper is being used and will enable me to encourage staff and students to think of viable alternatives to printing. It still amazes me at the amount of unnecessary printing that we all do, especially when there is usually a smart ICT alternative.  I aim to encourage the greater use of the Internet or our Intranet and pdfs to reduce our print totals. If I can get this to happen, we will have an environment where the reader will decide whether a paper version of what is on offer is necessary, rather than being presented with a paper copy that in most cases, once read ends up in the recycle bin.  Experience shows that this will be a long battle but one, as a Green Gold Enviro School, we should wage!

I initially set the crew on the supertanker a print budget of 4oo sheets of paper, but the outcry was instant and vociferous.  I am still removing the knives from my back!  I have set their accounts to unlimited, for the time being, and will start to peg them back when the dust settles.  I have used this application before in other schools, but this latest iteration has what I consider to be the killer app, especially as we are a Green Gold School and should really care about reducing the amount of paper that we use.  The program has a utility that indicates the environmental impact of our printing!  Quite how they arrive at the figures they do is immaterial even if they are inaccurate, what will count is the visual impact.  If this alone gets us to start to think about the relevance of what we are about to print and perhaps consider the alternatives, then the hue and cry from the staff will be worth suffering!

papercutenviro.jpg

Fantastic News September 17, 2007

Posted by davidit in Education, Education 2.0, ICT PD cluster, thinking skills.
3 comments

I have just opened and read an e-mail from the boss.  The ICT PD cluster proposal that was submitted to the Ministry earlier this year has been approved.  This is great news for the supertanker.  Starting from 2008  our cluster will receive funding from the Ministry for three years to enhance ICT integration within our cluster of 5  schools.  This news alone equates to another 5 degree turn. Our new heading is 200 degrees.

As I replied to the boss.  Brilliant news.  Now the work begins…

A Positive Negative September 14, 2007

Posted by davidit in School Zone, Telecom, Uncategorized.
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I am suffering from a positive negative here on the supertanker.  I like the fact that that such a situation has arisen and have celebrated the fact with the crew.  The ‘but’ is that I am now left with an enormous headache!  The graph below is our Internet usage, per week from 14 June to 7 September 2007 and the volume is in MB.  As you can see it is climbing somewhat!  The dip is the school holidays.

internetgraph.gif

The issue is that since the start of our digital classroom project we have had a massive upsurge in Internet traffic.  This is fantastic and is a pointer to the future where, I believe, we will do everything online, reducing our computers to mere terminals by using online programmes and storage.

My problems on the supertanker are more pressing and I do not have to gaze into my crystal ball to realise what is coming.  We have a further 18 members of the crew who have expressed and interest in working in a digitally enhanced room in 2008.  We already have four and from these classrooms it is fair to say that the vast majority of the Internet traffic is emanating.  There has inevitably been a spill out effect into other classes, but the upswing in traffic has to be directly attributable to the change in emphasis in the new classes.  If this is the case and we have seen our weekly Internet traffic increase from 1.25GB to last weeks whopping 8.6GB then I have a headache of 3 nurofen proportions!

If for argument’s sake we are currently using 4GB per week on average with four classrooms, then it is reasonable to assume that each class is using approximately 1GB of data per week, extrapolate that out to the entire school and I have the potential Internet traffic total of 26GB of data per week.  I can only see this total going up as we get used to and become more inovative with using the Internet as part of our classroom practice.  So what is the issue?

The headache comes from our access to the Internet.  I am busily ensuring that our network infrastructure is as fast as I can make it, Gig switches at the core, fibre links between the two sites, Cat 6 cabling for all new cabling and in 2008 all edge switches will be upgraded to have fibre modules in them so that fibre runs to all switches.  All new machines on the network will have 10/100/1000 LAN cards in them, so our network will be reasonably fast, then we hit the Telecom part of the equation.

We are on School Zone lite and can not upgrade to anything else.  The maximum speed on our current line is 512kbps and is more like 325kbps, now put 8.6GB of data through at that speed and you get an idea of what I am up against!  School Zone informed us last year that we could not go any faster until the Remuera exchange was upgraded. Last year this was not an issue for us, now it is and it seems that no date has been set for the promised exchange upgrade. Google takes an age to load.  Bubbleshare crashes, You Tube times out, blogging is a joke and  Wikis freeze.  I am busily encouraging others to adopt a new technology and turn their individual pedagogical supertankers and I have failure staring me in the face.  I have to solve this problem.

14 days ago I rang Telecom to seek some advice on what my options were, the School Zone help desk instantly escalated the problem to my account manager, to date I am still waiting to hear from them… Connecting New Zealanders. Yeah Right!  Bored of waiting for the personal touch from my customer friendly monopoly, I called Telecom business to explore the option of having an Xtra Broadband connection installed.  The woman who I spoke to offered me a very sensible deal and to be frank of all the computer operated options and the ill informed and bored telephonists that I had previously spent hours being bounced around,  she was the most sensible, helpful and honest person that I spoke to in the behemoth that is Telecom. Unfortunately, I forgot to write down her name, but whoever you were thanks anyway.  Her solution was to have two 50Gb broadband connections and to swap between the two as I reached my data limit on one line each month.  This was a sensible solution to avoid runaway bills, until that is I asked her to test the potential speed on the line.  After testing the line she informed me that down our road the cables are very old and can not handle speeds that Telecom would be prepared to guarantee of greater than 512kbps, even on Broadband.  The reason, she stated, was our distance from the exchange and the age of the cables in the street, we are 4.5km from the exchange.  So Telecom’s solutions, that  took hours of listening to un-helpful automated options and at least two visits to the shortly to be discontinued school points free phone number (what was that all about?),  ended up being more money for status quo.  Our Internet requirement has already exceeded line capacity and we know the situation is going to get worse.  The result is that Telecom have demonstrated a monumental corporate indifference to our situation, so much so that they are about to lose our business, I am now actively seeking technological alternatives.

I have contacted Wired Country who through Watchdog offer a Microwave link connectoin of 2mbps up and 512 down.  For this to work we have to have a direct line of sight to the Sky Tower.  Earlier this week I clambered up on top of our school hall to see if I could see the Sky Tower, unfortunately I could only see the mast and not the observation deck, it looks likely that our microwave option is already dead in the water, but an engineer is coming out soon to evaluate our site for such technology.  Keep your fingers crossed.

I have even looked at satellite connections! But they only offer 5 email accounts and their service is for networks of no more than 10 machines. It transpires that this particular service only offers 512kbps connections too. It seems crazy to me that a large school situated in the centre of our largest city in one of its most exclusive suburbs has to consider satellite technology to solve our Internet connection issues!  So what other options are there?  What is my solution?  To be frank I have no idea!  I am hoping that line of site microwave is the way to go, for if I need more I can always add another transmitter and split the traffic via the two transmitters and still keep volume and speed up at reasonable levels.  I have to say that the whole exercise has left a bitter taste.  No one seems interested at Telecom in helping us to resolve our issues, no one it seems is prepared to think outside the box to solve our peculiar situation, we are in a dip so line of site microwave connections will be troublesome.  What we really need is good cabling to our front door and Telecom have ably demonstrated that they are far from nimble when asked a simple question, even if the solution is technically challenging.  What frustrates me is that we are dealing with our children’s futures here and if the likes of Telecom think that there is no money in the education sector, then they are taking a very short term view.  Pretty soon these children will be tax payers and if the infrastructure they demand is not here they will migrate to where they can get it and if they do there will be no money in Telecom.

I am even considering funding our own fibre optic cable solution, but that has to be a long term project and does not resolve my looming Internet headache.  Any suggestions?

DNA Tube September 13, 2007

Posted by davidit in Education, Education 2.0, ICT Integration, Web 2.0.
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In my wanderings around the net the other day, I discovered this site.  It is a variant on Teacher Tube called dnatube.  Basically it is a science video site.  I think that it has huge possibilities… If the truth be known I actually found dnatube from the following site, which if anything is potentially more powerful!  Killer Start Ups is a web 2.0 portal, they aggregate and organise all manner of cool stuff from around the Internet.  Some of it is not worth having, but a lot of the stuff has huge education potential, if bent to comply!  Enjoy and let me know how you have used these tools.