Friday, 22 July 2011

My app works!

Mission complete.  I've successfully created a QR code and installed the app on my android phone.  I've used a photo of my own cat so it's clearly my own app.  I even tried to record her purring, but sadly it wasn't loud enough.

Anyway, I'm rather pleased with my efforts so far, but will need to dig into further tutorials to take it any further.

App Inventor Phase 2 / 3

Ok, so the next phase is to install app inventor software on my machine.  90Mb of download (my ISP won't like that), but it's a necessary evil.

Being a bit wary of working directly onto my phone, I've decided to start by using the emulator.

Phase 2 complete.

Phase 3 - so I worked through the Kitty tutorial and it worked :D  The tutorial was excellent, but I did use the emulator and I think I ought to be brave enough to create it on my own phone.

My next plan is to use a photo of my own cat instead, so that it's personal, and then I'll do the last bit and actually add it to my phone, so that I can show it off to everyone.  App designing here I come!!!

App Inventor

A colleague of mine is creating a Moodle site for a course on developing mobile apps, and is looking for interested people to get involved.  Not being adverse to a bit of programming, I thought I might have a look.  Initially, I think the idea is to get started with app development, and to record progress as it happens.

Today, I have gone to App Inventor for Android and made a start on the set up process ready to begin playing.

Step 1 Remove old versions of Java...
After an online test, it appears I've got rather a lot of old versions of Java and Runtime, so I'm firstly removing all the old versions (a little bit tedious but should free up a lot of space and make things a bit more stable). 

Step 2 Installing up to date version...
This caused me a bit of grief - no idea why really, but that darned little Java applet wouldn't show, so did a second install of the latest version, and now it's working fine.

Step 3 Testing Java for App Inventor
Carried out the simple (well, it was for me!!) notepad.jnlp test as talked through by the App Inventor set up pages, and it worked perfectly.

That's all I've got time for now, seems I'm good to go....

Friday, 15 July 2011

Late night networking

Last night I had a somewhat heated discussion with my 13 year old daughter.  When I popped upstairs at 10pm she was still up, chatting to Facebook friends on her laptop.  I asked her to switch off and get to bed, it being a school night.

A few minutes later I went back to check on her.  She was in bed, but still chatting away, this time on her ipod.  When I told her that it was time to shut everything down and go to sleep, a somewhat heated debate took place about what time it is reasonable to expect a 13 year old to switch off.  She told me that a lot of her friends are only just coming online at 10pm, and that it's the best time to talk to everyone.

I threatened to remove all her internet enabled gadgets if she didn't go to sleep, but I did leave her wondering if perhaps I was guilty of being a little over the top.  I had to ask myself what my reasons were for insisting she went to sleep, and whether I was perhaps guilty of relying my own childhood memories to make such a decision.

I suppose the questions are:  is she grumpy in the morning because she's stayed up chatting, is her school work suffering as a result of tiredness, does she have trouble getting out in time for school?  The answer to all those questions is 'no'.  In fact, she's done very well in her recent school exams, and I'm proud of her progress.  She has lots of friends and seems to be well liked.  By denying her the opportunity to maintain those friendships via her online networking am I putting these social networks in jeopardy?  Times are different now, and just because I would have put my book down and blown out my candle before 10pm doesn't mean that she should.

I've not come to a conclusion about this, but I do remember getting really annoyed with my parents when I was a teenager for making arbitrary decisions about things, and feeling even more aggrieved that when asked for a reason, they would answer 'because I said so'.  I fear I may now be guilty of treading the same path.... 

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


I enjoyed reading this blog on Twitter from @torresk.  It talks about the five stages of Twitter - from denial through to acceptance.

I first created a Twitter account several years ago, followed two people, and never posted a word, but things have changed now.

A few days ago I blogged about mobile phones in schools.  I felt quite strongly about a ban that is being enforced in my daughter's secondary school, and wanted to write about it.  I emailed Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth - thanks Steve) a link to my blog.  I follow him on Twitter, and find his ideas and comments on educational technology insightful and interesting, and I wondered what he thought about the subject.

I didn't really expect a reply - in fact, I felt a bit guilty emailing him because I don't know him, but he responded very quickly, and posted a link to my blog on Twitter.  He didn't commit to whether he agreed with my views or not, but as a result I did get several comments on my post, and just under 200 visits.  I found the comments made me think more deeply about my views on mobile phones, and there is no doubt that they helped clarify my thinking further.

Yesterday I followed an #edchat conversation - I even added a few tweets.  It's a fast and furious affair, but full of nuggets of information, and perhaps most importantly of all it encouraged me to think, absorb ideas, and it networked me with many people that I would never otherwise have had contact with.

Twitter has brought a wealth of information to my fingertips.  As my PLN grows I am learning more and more about the things I am interested in.  It's stopped me being complacent about what I know as I see how much everyone else knows, and it provides me with endless resources (if only I could find more time to look at them!). I still fall under the 200 Tweet mark, but I'm getting there.

Twitter is a powerful tool which will grow as more people become brave enough to break through the denial and depression stages into the acceptance stage - it's informative, far reaching, thought provoking, and above all, it's great fun.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Mobile phones in secondary schools

Yesterday I went to a new intake meeting for my daughter's soon to be secondary school.

During the presentation, the Head of Year said that the school had made a decision to ban the use of mobile phones during school hours from September.  This would be actioned by automatic confiscation of any phone seen out of a school bag / pocket once inside the school gates.

The reasons given included that students were increasingly using phones to video school activities and then post them on social networking sites, which I agree is inappropriate. Another reason is that students text each other from one end of the dinner queue to the other, which the head felt was completely pointless.  I can see his point, but I am learning that just because I wouldn't do it, doesn't mean I should expect my children not to.  They live in a different technological bubble to us oldies (well, almost oldies!).

The final reason, which gave me the greatest cause for concern, is that the school have had instances where students have been 'bullied' via social networking sites or through a series of text messages, and that the school are then having to deal with the repercussions of this in school hours.  This is where our views clearly differ:

A school wouldn't dream of trying to brush playground bullying under the carpet.  Most schools in the UK have very clear and firm policies for dealing with bullying, and certainly in both the schools my children have attended, bullying is not tolerated in any circumstances.  Yet banning mobile phones seems very much to me as though the school are trying to turn a blind eye to an increasingly common problem.  By telling the kids to put their phones away, we are not helping them to deal with difficult and inappropriate activities, we are instead giving them the message that we are not interested.

I really believe that we need to equip our children to deal with all aspects of social networking and technology - whether good or bad.  I have taught my children not to reveal their identities online just as I have told them never to get in a car with a stranger.  I've also explained to them that 'cyber bullying' is just as unacceptable, and I have supported them on the odd occasion when they have felt undermined by an unkind text or post from a 'friend'.  I want the school to be teaching them safe networking habits, praising good use of technology and explaining the consequences of bad.  Those 'anti-social networks' that the Head talked about are a fully integrated part of our children's lives, and we, as parents and teachers, have a responsibility to help our children learn how to manage them. To imagine that we can prevent them from using such tools by simply confiscating their phones would be madness.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Quote for the day

Liking this quote:

'Don't limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in a different time.' - Rabindranath Tagore

So true.

Why teachers should blog

I really enjoyed reading this blog post linked from Twitter (Steve Wheeler) on why teachers should blog.  I also liked many of the comments that were posted as a result, including that Blogging is fun...  I used to keep a diary as a teenager, and this is a sort of professional version of that I suppose.

Importantly for me, it's a place where I can reflect on good and bad teaching experiences, write down nuggets of information that I think I may want to review at some point in the future, and it is also somewhere I can look back over in the future to see how far I've travelled as a teacher.

I related to Audrey's comments about lack of blog comments and feedback - something I also need to work on, but at the moment I'm happy just keeping a blog for my own purposes... if at some point someone wants to read it, then that would be great :)