Thursday, October 23, 2008

Using Google Docs

Tuesday, October 21, 2008 visits AABC

As anybody would say... it a dream for every person to have his own computer. However not everybody can purchase one.

Yesterday, October 21, visited Asian Academy of Business and computers and delivered a walk in lecture/seminar on Virtual computing by using as your own virtual desktop.

browser based and basing on the concept, "No virus, Flash drive free ready to use desktops anywhere, anytime"; caught the attention and interest of our students. both from the second year and first year technical students.

The mere idea that you have a ready desktop anywhere itrigues and challenged the students, who ended up eventually asking in the open forum what apps they could use and how to sign up.

Although the seminar room was jampacked and filled to the max; students really appreciated the lecture given by Gener Luis Morada, country representative of and actually requested that in time, perhaps Gene can demonstrate the other utility tools of

After the walk in seminar, I had a discussion with Gene and Bryan, our linux teacher about the possibility if can have web-based programming apps that we can use for instruction purposes as well as the possibility of collaboration in educational projects. Also commenting on the need for hardware, I asked if would eventually have lighter versions that would enable p2 and p3 desktops to run and help a lot of public and private schools in the country.

You can see the pictures below:

Monday, October 13, 2008 personal impressions

I've recently tried, a new virtual PC/Operating system thats web based. You can open it from a browser and youll have lots of features that you will definitely like.

Imagine having your own virtual PC online that you can use and utilize, whose hard disk space increases as you invite others to join you in using

I recently was visited by Gene Morada, the Philippine representative of and he introduced me to its features, I like the idea of Cloud computing specially when majority of my students com from class CD and E families, imagine what huge amount of storage space my students can have as well as a virtual desktop PC. Im a google fan, dedicated somewhat, but seiing its features, I feel like combining the usage of Google and and see how big my online virtual desktop space can get.

Ive arranged with our IT guy Sir Bryan to have Gene have a seminar on here in school for our students, and i feel like we have a lot of projects and collaboration to do eventually later.

Eventually i hope that would sponsor educational collaborational tools on their desktop so that we can use them to teach programming to our students.

to know more about please click here

For a view of the screen shots of the OS plse click here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Is OpenOffice good enough?


OK, obviously there’s more to this story than my tongue-in-cheek answer. This came up after one of our supercool, power user secretaries (who is an Office 2003/2007 wiz) ran a training session for the other secretaries in the district. The other secretaries are largely using OpenOffice (NeoOffice, actually, since for OS X still isn’t where it needs to be). It’s also worth noting that these secretaries have quite a spectrum of abilities from quite proficient to looking for the “any key.”

The training session actually centered on our student information system, but touched on OpenOffice as a tool for manipulating data extracted from the SIS. Whether it was for a mail merge or simply easy sorting and reporting of various fields, Excel (and OpenOffice Calc) is a necessary tool in most secretaries’ bag of tricks.

My uber-secretary leading the training had only recently begun using OpenOffice and really prefers the slick, polished interface of Office 2007 (and the utter simplicity of mail merges and labels that OpenOffice just can’t match). She raised the question of whether OpenOffice could fully meet the needs of a secretary or if it lacked the automation tools that they need to maximize productivity.

The other secretaries largely consider OO “fine.” They don’t love it, they don’t hate it, but they appreciate that I was able to buy an extra computer for what I saved in licensing costs among the secretarial and nursing staff. Of course, they simply aren’t as proficient as the secretary I had doing the training.

So there it is: Is OpenOffice good enough?

I still stick with my original answer: yes, it is. For the vast majority of users (students, teachers, and administrators, especially), OpenOffice is more than good enough. The price is certainly right, too.

Even for the most savvy power users, OpenOffice will suffice. However, secretaries, as we all know, run our schools. Anything we can do to keep them happy and make them as productive as possible should probably be a high priority for us. For some of them, Microsoft Office (especially its latest iteration which actually is a very nice piece of software) just might be worth the licensing if it meets their needs better.

“People with strong numerical and problem-solving skills seem to be appreciated by employers”

Do ya think? That was a key point in a BBC News article on the overall high ranking of US and UK universities worldwide. While the usual suspects (Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, and Oxford, in that order) scored at the top of the “Times Higher Education QS list,” an increasing number of technically-oriented universities are climbing the rankings quickly.

The explanation according to the researchers?

Ben Sowter, from QS, says there is a “reasonably strong trend” of technology-based institutions moving up the world rankings.

Thirteen of those in the top 100 were strong on technology, he said…”People with strong numerical and problem-solving skills seem to be appreciated by employers.”

Such institutions seemed to be becoming more important in many regions of the world, he said.

Now see, I wouldn’t have expected that with the explosion of technology in China and India and a global market dominated by the likes of Intel, Microsoft, and Google. Good thing we have people looking into this.

One interesting point the article made, however, was the relatively minimal funding for UK universities versus their American and, more recently, Chinese counterparts:

“Harvard alone has an endowment that is about the same size as the total annual income for the whole of the UK university sector.”…”As a result of huge investment in higher education and science in recent years, China already looks set to overtake the UK very soon in terms of total research publications, and its universities have been steadily climbing up international league tables.”

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Google is your friend

I know there are those among us who lack my love for all things Google. Sure, it shows our kids ads, keeps track of the searches coming out of our buildings, displays naughty thumbnails that only the best of content filters can block, most kids don’t look beyond the first three hits (two of which are usually sponsored), etc., etc.

Sure, that’s all true, but Google is a lot more than search. I don’t think I’m off base in saying that Google provides the largest, free set of Web 2.0 tools available to the general public, meaning that our users can access them at home or school and generally across platforms (including Linux in most cases). One of our after-school programs is taking digital pictures of various flora and fauna out in the woods, uploading the pictures into Picasa, capturing the location at which the pictures were taken using a GPS, and then “geotagging” that location in Google Earth.

This says nothing of Google Docs, Blogger, Knol, Sites, calendaring, SketchUp, and more. As much as kids like Facebook, it’s important to understand the real value of Web 2.0 technologies for social, academic, and professional collaboration. I maintain that kids will get more out of blogging about a field trip and being able to add thoughts and comments to their peers’ blogs than they would by writing an essay about the field trip.

Want to create an online photo album or website about the field trip? How about take a survey that dumps data in a Google spreadsheet about kids’ favorite parts of the field trip? Create an online presentation and then interact live with digital pen pals while they watch the presentation? All possible for free with Google.

Don’t kill Google because of some naughty 1″x1″ pictures. Let the teachers be responsible for enforcing school policy and turn on Safe Search. Instead, use Google for everything it offers beyond a pretty fine search engine.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Putting Blender on the drawing table

Recently... we had started joint project with GMA kapuso Foundation to train 50 out of school youths in Visual Graphics and 3d animation .

Of course one of the aims of that project was to make available open source tools and show that indeed they are ready for the market.

Another very important reason we felt was that we wanted to prove that we can turn a person with zero knowledge in computer and graphics into a functional person ready for employment. And what more better opportunity it was to offer people a fighting chance to get employment as a graphics artist.

And offerring a scholarship for 50 people who needed it most was what our partner GMA kapuso foundation felt could better serve a higher purpose and empower a lot of our constituents.

One significant thing was.. we were already previously offering blender both as part of our regular Graphics and design as well as Multimedia Application curricular instruction. Thus, our lead animation instructor, Sir Dennis Jorolan...was already experienced with dealing with the proprietary and open source tools in 3d animation. being an open source advocate himself... he welcomed the idea.

We wanted very much to put GIMP, as well as KINO, Jahshaka, DIA as well as other opne source tools on the drawing board as well; as our graphics people were very much into the idea... we are hoping that after our first batch of KASI (Kapuso-AABC Scholarship Initiative) scholars; we could prove that indeed open source tools are as good as proprietary tools.

Of course, one cannot but acknowledge the foresight of the foundations executive director, Sir Nonie dela Fuente who also encouraged and welcomed the idea.

So, to the soon to be scholars, to the men and women behind the project.... good luck.....

The cloud finally comes to education

Cloud computing is one of those great buzzwords in IT that, so far, has meant very little to the average Ed Tech customer. We all have a pretty good idea what it means: lots of computers somewhere (we don’t actually care where) doing lots of processing to deliver services to our desktops via the Internet. On the other hand, with the maturation of virtualization technology, the idea of virtual desktops and virtual servers is certainly rearing its head in education as we try to cut energy costs, ease management, and consolidate resources.

SIMtone Corporation has now brought these two ideas together and, although business applications abound, is piloting educational applications of virtual desktop PCs delivered to students via the cloud. Partnering with Frank Porter Graham Elementary School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, SIMtone is using its cloud computing technologies to go beyond thin client computing and deliver state-of-the-art educational content designed by the US Fund for Unicef to pilot the idea of virtual computers in the cloud for students and staff.

According to their press release,

[the school] will use SIMtone’s Universal Cloud Computing products to provide approximately 600 students and faculty with “PCs in the Cloud” usable everywhere without a computer…The pilot is being launched during the current fall 2008 semester. SIMtone has also identified other schools and institutions to expand the Education Thunder Program on a national and global scale.

The so-called Education Thunder Program “aims to help close the digital divide and provide access to full PCs in the cloud to the estimated five billion people who cannot afford it, without requiring them to own a computer.” While this is certainly ambitious, to say the least, it is also conceivable that cloud computing just might provide some highly affordable ways to deliver educational content and easily (and remotely) managed PC functionality to emerging markets.

While students/schools won’t necessarily need to purchase new dedicated computers for use with this technology, some sort of presentation hardware will be necessary for the virtual PC to be displayed to the student. However, any computer, netbook, nettop, thin client, MID, or, potentially, even a smartphone with a high-speed connection can provide a student with access to their PC in the cloud. Thus, no matter how old the computer (or how “thin” the device), as long as it can run graphical Linux with Firefox, can access a virtual PC via SIMtone’s “WebSNAP” portal. Similarly, slightly newer machines running Windows XP (or even Vista) can use terminal emulator software (called SoftSNAP) to access the Virtual PC.

Although costs are still up in the air at this time, SIMtone also provides a desktop thin client and an Asus Eee-based notebook (called a SNAPbook) for easy access to the cloud. These devices do not have an operating system or any internal processing; prices can be expected to be quite low. SIMtone will be shipping me a SNAPbook shortly for review (including a test account on one of their virtual PCs), but a first look at their products can be had here.

Here is where netbooks and MIDs are really headed, folks: anytime, anywhere access to your PC. The exciting piece of this for ed tech, though, is the ability to deliver huge amounts of educational content on extremely cheap hardware, limited only by the penetration of broadband. Stay tuned for a review of the device and service. Click here for the full press release.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The rise and rise of the YouTube generation, and how adults can help

Blogs and online diaries should be part of school curriculum, says thinktank

When Alex Day started keeping a video diary on YouTube, he wasn't sure how it would turn out. The teenager, from Hornchurch in Essex, admits that he was just looking for some frank feedback on his funny stories and songs.

"I was making a video podcast to entertain family and friends - just a little comedy series," he said. Eighteen months on, 19-year-old Day, known by his nickname Nerimon, boasts more than 30,000 subscribers and is one of Britain's most popular YouTubers.

Armed with cheap video cameras and the internet, a generation of youngsters are growing up very publicly with online videos - and being failed by adults who are not paying proper attention to this new medium.

That claim is made in a research paper published today by the thinktank Demos. The study, Video Republic, examines the rise of the YouTube generation and considers how their enthusiasm and skills can be encouraged.

"It's now as normal for teenagers to write a blog as it is to write a diary - that's a massive shift," said Celia Hannon, a researcher with Demos and the lead author of the report.

"Youngsters are working out their relationship to the outside world and forging an identity."

The report makes recommendations to help adults cope with the changing online environment, and calls particularly on schools to help youngsters understand the long-term implications of living their lives in a semi-public way.

"Schools, universities and businesses should prepare young people for an era where CVs may well be obsolete, enabling them to manage their online reputation," says the report. "This generation of young people are guineapigs ... we need an educational response that extends beyond the focus of safety, towards broader questions of privacy and intellectual property."

It also suggests that creating video blogs and online diaries should be part of the school curriculum, used by schools in the same way that they organise museum trips or extra art classes.

Statistics show that the influence of online video is growing. Ten hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute of the day, and not all of it is karate-kicking chimps and dogs on skateboards. Figures from earlier this year suggest Britons are watching more than 3.6bn videos online each month - a rise of 56% from last year. YouTube, which is owned by internet giant Google, dominates the market with 20 million viewers in Britain, while the BBC trails a distant second with fewer than 6.5 million online viewers.

Mainstream broadcasters are recognising the shift in consumption: the American cable broadcaster HBO recently launched a new show, Hooking Up, featuring a swath of popular YouTube stars. Although many web surfers have scoffed at what they see as a cynical attempt to cash in, the move exemplifies how the adult world is trying to reach out to video-friendly youth.

The report also says that politicians can use online video as a way to engage with youngsters, who can sometimes be seen as apathetic and unreachable. But Hannon said such a strategy would only succeed if they were prepared to approach the internet on its own terms.

"The government is pouring vast amounts of money into this, because they feel young people should be making themselves heard," she said. "But people can see through it - bloggers say it feels contrived."

Instead, she offered the example of the US presidential candidate Barack Obama, who has seen intense interest from young voters after he encouraged them to exercise their creative urges online, instead of simply dictating his ideas to them. "Obama is the first 'YouTube politician' because he gets that you can't control it. His campaign team get that it's about the enthusiasm."

For Alex Day, there are no plans to give up any time soon. "Thirty thousand, one hundred people watch me now and it'd be very unfair of me to suddenly stop and say 'just go watch someone else'," he said. "It's a lot of people so I'll always feel a commitment to putting out things they'll enjoy, in some form or another."

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