Friday 15 February 2008

E-mail is for Old People

That was a headline in the Higher Education Chronicle in October 2006. Heavens that was 18 months ago! And I'm still trying to get colleagues to post documents and material on-line instead of those flaming Word attachments and get their use of e-mail smartened up. Must admit that I missed that headline at the time but as an old person who does use e-mail it has got me thinking.

Like many organisations, my College has the All Staff e-mail and whilst that's a huge improvement on the massive list of people's names that occupies more screen space than the message itself that used (and, oh dear, still is, occasionally) to be the way people did it, it occurred to me that I had never, ever sent one myself. I have also noticed a big reduction in the number of e-mails that I send or originate. Part of the reason is that I have managed to get out of the habit of checking College e-mail before doing anything in the morning. Initially I did feel a bit guilty and even left it for a whole day and a half once or twice and felt quite naughty!

This has come about as I have been teaching at 9am on several mornings and the classroom is on the very top floor. Even though I get in to work pretty early it is so much simpler to go straight up to the room with all my papers and the heavy laptop. I dump them there and then go off in search of caffeine and nicotine. On my travels I meet people and actually talk to them. Amazing that, talking. Much quicker than e-mail and you get instant responses too. I was initially a bit embarrassed when they'd say I sent you an e-mail but now quite openly admit that I don't check College mail every morning. Slowly the word is getting round and it's great!

Now, if I could get the College mail on my Blackberry it might be a different tale. You'll notice that I said College e-mail above. All my other e-mail arrives on my phone. I just take the phone out of my pocket and there's a list of senders and headings. Simple. If something's urgent then I see it. I'm now starting to reply to College mail from my Gmail account and hope that, eventually, colleagues'll get the hint!

So I guess I'm still an old person using e-mail but no I don't do attachments and I am doing my best to figure out and keep up with what students are using these days. Marc Prensky has another of his excellent articles on this which you can see here (a pdf unfortunately but blame Becta not me for that!) and I'm pleased to see that an idea I had a while ago of getting a student team helping out tutors with technology isn't as silly as some people said!

Minis proving popuar again

No, not the car. Nor the skirt. Much loved as they may be by girls and boys respectively, it's the mini notebook that I mean. That's lost half my readers but those that remain may remember that I have been going on about how great the little ASUS notebook seems to be. I haven't tried one yet but the whole idea of something light and small that is ready to use like almost instantly is very appealing.

Now everyone is talking about them and RM have got in on the act, promoting them heavily in schools which is bound to reach parents before long. Current range and pricing details here. You need to wait until April for the Windows version with 8GB memory and 1GB RAM but the Linux options are the ones that spin along and are cheaper. Details here.

Almost everyone seems to be impressed, with only screen size (800x480) being criticised but for a unit of about A5 size that's part of the deal really. It's not a games machine or going to compete with some dual processor 17" wide screen laptop with a state of the art video card and the Linux version won't connect via Bluetooth. Some users appear to have arranged extra GBs of memory which helps Windows speed and this would allow you to download and install familiar applications if you can't live without them. However, it's intended to provide quick internet browsing, access to text processing, spreadsheets, presentations and with an inbuilt web cam and microphone is ready to communicate with.

I find it hard to believe that no-one else is in on this act. There simply have to be a whole load of development work going on in other brands' offices and hopefully factories too. All I need to decide is whether to get an ASUS now or wait and see what the competition comes up with. And if you need an excuse, just say you're getting one for the children! But I predict that get one you or they almost certainly will before long.

Monday 4 February 2008

School 1960 vs. School 2007

Scenario: Johnny and Mark get into a fistfight after school.

1960 - Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up mates.

2007 - Police are called, SWAT team arrives and arrests Johnny and Mark. Mobiles with video of fight confiscated as evidence. They are charged with assault, AVOs are taken out and both are suspended even though Johnny started it. Diversionary conferences and parent meetings conducted. Video shown on 6 internet sites.

Scenario: Jeffrey won't sit still in class, disrupts other students.

1960 - Jeffrey is sent to the principal's office and given a good paddling. Returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.

2007 - Jeffrey is given huge doses of Ritalin. Counselled to death. Becomes a zombie. Tested for ADD. School gets extra funding because Jeffrey has a disability. Drops out of school.

Scenario: Billy breaks a window in his neighbor's car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.

1960 - Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.

2007 - Billy's dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy is removed to foster care and joins a gang. Psychologist tells Billy's sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy's mum has an affair with the psychologist. Psychologist gets a promotion.

Scenario: Mark, a college student, brings cigarettes to school.

1960 - Mark shares a smoke with the school principal out on the smoking area.

2007 - Police are called and Mark is expelled from School for drug possession. His car is searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario: Vinh fails high school English.

1960 - Vinh goes to Remedial English, passes and goes to college.

2007 - Vinh's cause is taken up by local human rights group. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that making English a requirement for graduation is racist. Civil Liberties Association files class action lawsuit against state school system and his English teacher. English is banned from core curriculum. Vinh is given his Y10 anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.

Scenario: Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers, puts them in a model plane paint bottle and blows up an anthill.

1960 - Ants die.

2007 - Security and ASIO are called and Johnny is charged with domestic terrorism. Teams investigate parents, siblings are removed from the home, computers are confiscated, and Johnny's dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

Scenario: Johnny falls during recess and scrapes his knee. His teacher, Mary, finds him crying, and gives him a hug to comfort him.

1960 - Johnny soon feels better and goes back to playing.

2007 - Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces three years in prison. Johnny undergoes five years of therapy. Becomes gay.