Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Teaching Hardware

I have found some rather useful resources to help students and teachers get a better understanding of hardware. It is not completely jargon free, but I love the idea of ripping apart a PC and always used to ask parents to bring in old PCs they wanted to get rid of. It was a real treat for the students to pull it apart. (Bear in mind large amounts of sharp objects inside.)

There is also a great website with animations too. It is called PCItYourself. Somebody did a great job on the Flash animation and its much clearer than most of the Spec guides. If you want an idea of how much you can store on a PC. See the Seagate Guide.

Glossary of Terms

Component Explanation
CPU (Processor) The part of the PC that does the thinking. The faster the better, but make sure you have enough memory for best performance.
Memory (RAM) Think of this like your working memory. The computer needs this for what it needs to hand. If you do not have enough then the PC will slow down a lot. (It can use the harddisk, but this is a lot slower. 100,000 times slower than a normal HDD in fact.)
Hard Disk (HDD) These come in two varieties, normal HDD and Solid State Drive (SSD). SSD is much more expensive, because it is a lot faster. They are measured in size by GB or TB (1TB equals 1024GB)
Operating System (OS) Most consumers use either Microsoft Windows or Mac OS (Used only on Apple machines) There are other operating systems and Chrome OS is becoming popular. This operating system is designed to just be a Web-browser. However it is very simple to use and popular with education, because the laptops are very easy to maintain. More sophisticaed users may decide to use Linux, which is very flexible and allows you to change nearly any aspect of the opertaing system.
Graphics Card If you want to play more graphically demanding games then you will need a seprate graphics card.

Monday, 28 July 2014

E-Safety at home, 1 simple rule!

A shocking 70% of children say that they hide their Internet activity from their parents. Large numbers are also being cyber-bullied and some even admit to cyber-bullying.  I am sure it happens, but the scale of it is shocking. Perhaps parents believe that to stop this, they need to be technologically minded and they give up simply because they do not understand.  Let me assure you, no technical expertise is required whatsoever to monitor children online. I will make it really simple:

If you would like more detailed information and advice, feel free to read my slideshow: http://www.slideshare.net/jamesabelaELT/e-safety-parental-presentation but please do not hide behind the tech This is a case of having simple boundaries and sticking to them.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The importance of backing up data

I read an interesting story in the Daily Mail recently that suggested a Science Tutor had managed to walk off with a year's coursework. If true, SLT have a lot to answer for. Every company, school's included should have a backup strategy in place.  In my old school, I was responsible for that strategy to ensure that coursework was not lost.  So here is a quick summary of how you can make sure important information and data does not go missing:

1. Subscribe to a cloud based backup service such as Google Drive. For educational users that 25GB of free space. Students can then keep a copy of their important documents in a safe place.  This is what I do to ensure that my current department's documents are all backed up.

2. Make your own off-site backup. This could be as simple as making a backup of the Server, once a week and taking it home. (In a smaller primary school, the technician could do it and pass it to the head teacher).

3. Make every student responsible for backing up their own work. I made every student taking the BTEC course sign a very clear contract where it said that they were responsible for keeping copies of all coursework and no additional time would be given for those that did not.  I was very clear where students were allowed to take coursework home that they were responsible for keeping a copy at home and on the school network.  A long time ago, when I was merely an ICT teacher we had a disaster that wiped the entire school network. The only people who lost nothing were my BTEC students and I.

Backing up work is a boring subject until you have a disaster and then everybody prays and hopes that somebody did it! Don't be a victim, backup as much as possible!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Fun MineCraft-Inspired Activities for the Real World

Minecraft is probably the electronic equivalent of Lego, available on tablets PCs and Macs and is a lot of fun to play, but there must be more to life than green blocks! Here are 20 ways that children can craft in the real world.  As the summer holidays come up, here are 20 activities you can do with MineCraft.

  1. Learn to code – Start with Scratch. You can code online at:http://scratch.mit.edu/  There is also a great series of videos at: http://learnscratch.org/ Then you will be able to make your own Minecraft.
  2. Do some kitchen-based experiments -http://chemistry.about.com/od/foodcookingchemistry/tp/kitchenscienceexperiments.htm  Just like they mix up in Minecraft.
  3. See a real sunset, not just the square blocks in Minecraft.
  4. Use real Lego and make a stop motion movie. There are plenty of apps for iPads and Android, we use: https://itunes.apple.com/th/app/stop-motion-studio-pro/id640564761?mt=8.
  5. Do some real swimming, like Steve in Minecraft. See how many laps you can swim in a row. Keep practising, then see how many you can do by the end of the summer. 
  6. Write a novel/short story, let Minecraft be your inspiration.
  7. Draw or paint something! Apps are available, but using real paints and pencils could be even more fun.
  8. Look at real stars one night! Even better, go camping!
  9. Prepare dinner for your parents, not just eat pretend food in Minecraft.
  10. Create a photo journal, ideally of the real world! Not just snapshots of your Minecraft world!
  11. Make High Tea. (A very English tradition with scones (http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/scones_1285) and cucumber sandwiches cut very precisely)  Just like in your Minecraft hotel!
  12. Learn ten new words every day, so that you can chat better in Minecraft.
  13. Try to live a whole day without any technology.
  14. Rank order the top ten movies of all time. (Watching them is optional) After all there’s more to videos than Minecraft tutorials.
  15. Do some real arts and crafts.
  16. Hunt down some real fossils, minerals and rocks at a local beach.
  17. Learn to fold real origami. http://www.origami-instructions.com/.
  18. See a real forest.
  19. Learn some real mixing with Education City, http://www.educationcity.com/ (free trial available).
  20. Plant something and watch it grow.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Code Kingdoms - Flashy salesroom for Javascript!

Code Kingdoms is a Website and App that enables you to learn the Syntax of Javascript. What I like about it, is it's focus on playing games and debugging.

It has the feel of an RPG and cute graphics that children enjoy. It also shows real Javascript in a gamified environment.

My concern is that children see this great environment, but I am not sure they will connect it to the real life purpose of Javascript, which is essentially to make Web-pages interactive.  It feels like a showroom for something that isn't that attractive. For example the more mundane W3Schools does what it says on the tin, but gives the children the real language.

Give Code Kingdoms a try and let me know what you think in the comments.