Tuesday, October 23, 2007


We have been testing the new content filter (ie the everything is blocked problem). Everytime we hit a blocked site we wanted to use we sent an email to the computer techs. Turns out now they did not get ANY of them!!! None of the emails we have sent in the last month and a half. None. Nada. Rien. Niets. Keine.

More posts coming when I calm down. Why? Because there is more.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Twisting in the Internet Swings


I am sorry to have to do it but this post is not a informative, instructional post. It is a rant. If you are here to learn how to use the internet and technology, good. But ignore this post. If you are interested in reading the opinion of somebody who is completely and utterly right then read on.

Let me start with an analogy. I have a small child at home (11 months old tomorrow). Since he is crawling and almost walking he tends to move around a lot and get into EVERYTHING. He is also a very active boy. I have two options with him. I can either tether him to a chain in the center of the living room or I can let him move around and get into things. So my wife and I give him freedom. Yes he falls. Yes he bumps his head. Yes he gets scrapes and bruises. Yes he gets underfoot. Yes there are tears. And yes he sometimes gets into dangerous things he shouldn't. But we are right there with him. Every time he either gets hurt or gets a stern NO from us he learns about his limits. He finds out what is safe and what is not. This knowlege will be useful when he is older.

If we raise him in the padded room (and in a straight jacket like the cartoon) he will never get hurt. In that room. The minute he hits 8 years old and we finally let him out of his safe bubble he is going to go and get himself seriously hurt on the playground. He won't have learned that maybe jumping 2 meters to the ground is going to hurt. He has been so tightly protected and babied that he has no clue what his limits are! He will fail Darwin's natural selection because when it comes to real life common sense, my son would be STUPID! He would never have been given a chance to test his limits, to see what he can and can't do. And whose fault would it be? Mine.

We are doing exactly that with our internet content filtering. Ok so our students should never be allowed to view pornography at school. Fair. My son doesn't get to play in the knife drawer either. But we do let him play in many of the kitchen cupboards. We are not letting our students learn internet resposibility in a supervised environment. My school has almost everything blocked (including this blog) but they have none of these restrictions at home. We need to teach them how to identify and avoid risks, but we have to do that by exposing them to risk along the way. And we need to be there right beside them.

We are an older generation. We don't know, understand, and use the internet at anywhere near the same level as some of our students. Many of us are functionally illiterate on the web. That scares us. We may not even realize it, but we are. We are scared. So we try and shut down and block out what scares us. We even lie to ourselves that we are doing it for someone else's own good.

A collegue and I were talking about it (so I need to give him credit for this part). What are we trying to hide with our network security? Are we a bank with sensitive banking information? Are we some sort of national security agency with international secrets? All of our marks are stored at SaskLearning so getting into our local system won't really hurt that. Most teachers use paper and pencil books for marks anyways. Besides 15 to 20 minutes of searching on Google will often let you know how to crack many systems anyways.

So what do we do? Do we actually teach them be responsible (and let them practice and show proficiency at it) or do we force them to remain ignorant because they are overprotected. A tough decision but I think I know where I am leaning.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

From a Distance.........

So I just found out that you can post to Blogger remotely. You can email pictures along with a caption from a cellphone. Unfortunately I bought my cellphone over three years ago and picked the cheapest one available. That means no camera phone for me. That also means that you will have to figure out posting pictures from a camera yourself.

However I can still post to blogger remotely through email. In settings there is an email tab. In there you can set up an email address to send your posts to. This way you can post to your blog any time that you can access email. Just as a test I am sending this post through email. It looks as if the subject of the email becomes the title of your post.
Be careful about that email address. Anybody who knows it can post to your blog.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Skype - Essentially an Internet Telephone

A friend and I were talking about using voice chat over the internet. He was looking at something that his dad could use to talk overseas for free. I have a fair bit of experience with voice chat servers. I have used them a fair bit when playing computer games with my brother and my friends. I have used Teamspeak and Ventrilo a fair bit. They are great for running in the background while playing a game but they don't have the best sound quality. The other problem is that one of you has to run a server or else you have to pay money to get somebody else to host a server.

I have heard many good things about Skype. It is a free program that lets you talk over the internet just like you would on a telephone. You need to download a 22mb aplication (and so does everyone you wish to talk to.) A microphone and an internet connection and away you go. It also looks like you can call real phone numbers using Skype as well (but not for free).

On any of these programs always take a minute or two to set up the microphone. It seems that every microphone seems to record at different levels. Expect to take a few minutes online during your first phone conversation to get the levels set up right. I find that the quality of the microphone makes a real difference. Chances are you won't be all that happy with the bargain bin microphone. I am not saying to go out and spend a fortune on a microphone. I use a Logitech headset that I bought for about $40. I prefer to use a headset. If you use a desktop microphone and your computer speakers sometimes the microphone will pick up the sound from the speakers. The other party in your conversation will hear themselves talking back to themselves through your microphone.

Check Skype out. Be cheap and talk over the internet for free.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Creating a Google Account

Google has come out with a pile of new tools. They have a document writer, spreadsheet, a presentation creator (like powerpoint), and a web page creator. Your files are saved online and accessable from any computer (unless the tech department decides to block these useful tools). Check out these tools.

In order to use these tools you will need to sign up for a Google account. Rob Wall, one of the other fellows that attended the In School Technical Support PD made a really good screencast of how to sign up for a Google account. (A screencast is a video captured from your computer screen.)

Creating a Google Account

Here is a link to Rob Wall's blog.