Lion installs

Today I had the fun job of updating 3 Macs to Lion. Fun!

It was actually pretty straightforward. The update installed in under an hour and seemed to work fine. But the more important part was that the drivers for our touchscreen LCD displays now work. Yay. It’s a shame it’s taken 5 months sort out. The only setting I had to fix was that Lion turns on fast user switching by default.

Hopefully the job of doing the rest of the school come April shouldn’t be too bad!

Munki Munki Munki

When wandering around school, my heart is warmed whenever I see a Mac quietly updating itself via the unassuming genius that is Munki. (Yes, I know that I am a geek!) Usually it’s only the latest iTunes release, but even that is helpful, if only to prevent a ‘download update?’ nag screen for the user.

The only main sticking point has been with the Mac Minis that teachers use. These tend to be on all day long with very little time sitting on the login screen, which is the only time I’ve set Munki to run. I’ve set the Macs, via managed preferences, to turn themselves on at the weekend, which does help with most. The problem comes when one of the updates fail, leaving that machine increasingly behind on its update schedule. The only solution for that is to manually sit there with the computer and run a few updates at a time until it gets past the dodgy package. Whilst being a minor pain, it’s much more preferable that sending a UNIX command with Apple Remote Desktop every half-term holiday and spending a morning making sure everything has updated properly.

Primary Computer Science

I’m not opposed to Gove’s position that students should be learning how to program in schools, but what does that look like in a Primary? The thought of designing an iOS app seems pretty appealing, but then you open up Xcode and realise that Objective C isn’t entirely drag’n’drop. Where do we begin? What does progression look like? Here are some thoughts:

  • The oft-ignored and maligned ‘control’ part of the curriculum is probably the best place to start. BeeBots then lead onto Logo and learning to program a moving robot. If teachers knew how this was actually useful in the future (well for the coders of tomorrow anyway) then perhaps it would have more of a place in the school year.
  • LEGO Mindstorms is the natural successor to this, offering more advanced control features and programming opportunities. Best put that is my April bid then!
  • Purple Mash from 2Simple has a really cool ‘3D Game Maker’, which lets you design simple DOOM-like levels (albeit without fireball-throwing imps to contend with). This would be a good place to start when thinking about programming and designing a game or app.
  • Maybe I should learn Obj-C and run an Xcode club after school? I’m not sure how easy that would be…any thoughts?

Thoughts on iBooks

Apple’s announcement this week about iBooks 2, iTunes U and iBooks Author was very interesting.  Fraser Speirs has written a good article about it over at Macworld discussing it all.

Here are my thoughts:

  • Having a school of Macs puts us in a very good position to take advantage of all this stuff if and when we get iPads.
  • iBooks Author is remarkably like Pages and Keynote.  Really must do some staff training on iWork to get people used to them…
  • I’m already intrigued about using Wiki Server to distribute ePub documents to students and so the ability to create interactive e-textbooks becomes a lot more interesting and useful.
  • iTunes U is definitely something to be looked into, especially if it can replace features of a VLE.  More investigation needed.
  • I wonder how we are meant to install iBooks Author across a network? I don’t fancy setting up a iTunes account for every machine in the school.

iMovie Club

I’ve just done an after school club today that I actually enjoyed! It was a ‘iMovie Club’, making use of a suite of iMacs and my misspent youth making short films.

The club is with a lovely bunch of motivated Year 5&6 kids and today we had a go at making spoof news programmes. We used Photo Booth to shoot the footage, dropping in location shots pulled from Google in the background, thus transporting kids from the news studio around the globe. They then imported these clips into iMovie and started editing from there.

It was only the first session, but I was really pleased with how confident many of the children were with the iMacs. Most KS2 kids will have done some sort of video project over the last year and it definitely showed. I’m looking forward to what gets produced over the term!

The great IWB swindle

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the Interactive Whiteboard (IWB – or Stupidboard as I affectionately call them). They are disproportionately expensive (£1000…for a giant trackpad?), faffy to install, fiddly to set up and unreliable to use. They offer the chance of ‘interactivity’ to children, but more often than not they’re just used by the teacher. Admittedly you can write on them (if they’re aligned) but you can write on a normal whiteboard too! The interface really isn’t design for touch either, with the normal-sized touch targets requiring pixel-perfect precision that only a mouse can offer.

I have to acknowledge that I do prefer having an IWB instead of just using an OHP and acetates, as I did last year with my music teaching. But the only handy part is being able to display lyrics on a big screen and play different tracks easily. The ‘interactive’ part is so unreliable that I often resort to using the mouse instead.

So what is the solution then? Some form of large display linked up to a computer is handy, but that could just be a flat-screen tv or just a data projector. I am also very interested in the possibilities of screen-mirroring from an iPad using an Apple TV box. Very much cheaper too…who’d have thought it?

Wiki Server = no Fronter?

Now here’s a thought. Has Wiki Server on OSX Server basically got all it takes to do away with Fronter (our wonderful pan-London VLE via LGfL)? I think it just might…

  • It can do pages that are easy to edit
  • You could put a message board on as a blog?
  • You can do calendaring
  • It has the huge advantage that you don’t need to log in when in school to use it

Certainly worth some consideration anyway.