Video Central now takes .m4v

LGfL offer a great video hosting service for schools called Video Central, which allows schools and children to upload video work for private or public sharing. All was well until I discovered that the latest iMovie now exports its videos by default in the .mp4 format. Which Video Central didn’t accept.

Now, you can pretty easily convert these video files into a .mov file (which they do accept) using QuickTime, but this is one extra layer of complexity that we could all do without. So I thought I would send some feedback about this via LGfL’s webmaster, only to then be told that they’ve now included the .m4v format. Joy!

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Simple

“It used to be ‘simple when you know how’ but now it’s just ‘simple.'” That’s how Abdul Chohan from Essa Academy summed up making use of the Apple ecosystem in his school (AppleTV, iPod Touch, iPad and Mac). However, watching one Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) try and demonstrate an iPad workflow to a room of beginners made me think that using iPads in schools is not always as easy as one might think.

The South London Apple Education Leadership Summit was pretty good fun though. It was held at the Kia Oval, with fantastic views of the cricket ground (and cricketers) as we drank coffee beforehand on a sunny balcony. Great hospitality and very friendly delegates.

The events started with an Apple spiel, explaining Apple’s commitment to education right from the beginning and how the iPad is part of the disruptive post-PC world. I’m not sure quite how true the historical sketch was, but I liked the comparison to the introduction of the printing press (One book per student? Are people crazy?). There was also the emphasis of the 4 sources of content for the iPad – web, iTunes U, iBooks and App Store. I am eager to get my hands on iTunes U a bit more once we get some iPads in!

Then came a case study from the principal of Fitch Green Primary in Essex. She showed loads of clips and videos of the impressive work children had been doing with Apple devices. It was very inspiring (sickeningly even!). She talked about the importance of getting children to think and mentioned how the National Curriculum has, in a sense, deskilled teachers as they don’t have to think as much. Perhaps.

Joe Moretti, an ADE, then talked us through lots of different apps we had on our (Apple-supplied) iPads. The wireless USB microscope was pretty cool.

A brief introduction to a new purchase programme then followed, which allows parents to contribute to a school hire-purchasing iPads. This includes a very comprehensive insurance package as well. Might be something to look into…

Before and after lunch was a hands-on workshop about the iPad from another ADE. I went to the ‘introduction to the iPad’, which was I think aimed at those who had never really touched an iPad before. It was quite helpful for seeing how to introduce the iPad to members of staff. There were quite a few questions about the practicalities of deploying iPads and quite a lot of confusion about getting files on and off iPads. DropBox was promoted highly as a solution to this, but it still seems pretty fangled to me. Maybe I need to look into it more.

One thing that particularly interested me was a mac app called Reflection. This allows an iPad to be mirrored to the screen of a Mac, wirelessly. It’s only $15 and could well be a cheaper solution to an AppleTV. My concern with the AppleTV is that it’s adding one more layer of complexity with the projectors – switching sound sources on amps, changing the projector channel etc. If it works, that would be awesome!

The event closed with a talk from Abdul. He covered much ground to what he said in January, but put in a bit more detail about how they use the iPod touches that they have deployed to every child. What struck me was how they always ask ‘why’ when evaluating traditional education technology (such as the über-expensive IWB) and spend the savings they make on Apple kit instead. Nice.

I came away feeling that it was a useful time, but now I think I want to go to a more super-technical Apple event. They did say they would be trying to organise one, so we shall see.

Learning with Apple

I’m currently on the bus, on my way to the South London Apple Education Leadership Summit… should be fun! There’s very much going to be an iPad focus, which is good as I want to really get my head around the best way to deploy, use and manage iPads in a school. I’m not sure how technical it will be, but hopefully there will be some techy people there for me to interrogate.

10.7.4 URL Spring Fix

Annoyed about the spring loose in 10.7.4?  Want to see that lovely spring icon in your dock when you drag a URL there?  Here’s how to copy to all your machines using Apple Remote Desktop:

1. On a Mac not running 10.7.4, the missing icon lives in /System/Library/CoreServices/Dock.app/Contents/url.png. Use Finder to navigate to it (se Go > Go to Folder…).

2. On Apple Remote Desktop, select the Macs you want to fix the problem on, click the ‘Copy’ icon and then drag that file into the ‘Items to Copy’ box.

3. Choose ‘Same relative location’ in the ‘Place items in:’ box.

4. Set ownership to ‘Inherit from destination folder’.

5. Copy!

Marvellous.

Ricoh Printer Driver Fix

Workgroup Manager is wonderful, but it doesn’t tell computers which printer drivers to use.  Which is annoying when a certain Ricoh printer/copier doesn’t work with the default OSX supplied driver (unless you have postscript fonts installed on the printer) and instead just spews out pages of garbled nonsense.

Thankfully, there is a reasonably easy fix!

1. Follow this page to create a custom PPD file, with exactly the driver you do want to use.  Gutenprint ones work fine!

2. Follow this page to point your Macs to that custom PPD file using Workgroup Manager.

Tada!

Gigabit Ethernet

Today our trusty and heroic ICT technician installed gigabit Ethernet switches across the school, whilst our patient and long-suffering teachers put up with occasional blips in network connectivity. And the result? Faster than fast: remote desktop becomes a dream, gigabytes of files copy in minutes, generally the network plays nicely. The only issue is that our ageing .local server doesn’t have a gigabit Ethernet card. Ho hum!

SMART Notebook 11

Well, SMART Notebook 11 is here. And it’s not bad. It feels a lot more up-to-date, particularly on the Mac version, and includes interesting features like the ability to embed a live web page onto a page. Stability is also good, as is compatibility with Lion. It seems like a good, solid update and we’ll be rolling it out across the school when we reimage during the holidays.

However, not the same thing can be said for ‘Smart Ink’, a bit of software that installs with the Board Tools, which are the drivers needed for running any attached Smartboards. Smart Ink puts a little horrible green button onto every and any window, allowing you to write all over the window and then move the window around, keeping all the writing attached. Not a bad idea I suppose, but it does add a whole level of ugliness to the OSX interface, which isn’t good. The fact that the green button wobbles around the screen in a very Windowsy way whenever a window is moved doesn’t help either. Hmmm.

But in SMART’s defence, I was impressed that every ageing Smartboard we attached to our new Mac minis did seem to work fine. That sort of backwards-compatibilty is very un-Apple, but saves us a load of money!

10.7.4 has a spring loose

Whilst imaging the Mac minis, I’ve discovered a rather annoying bug in Lion’s 10.7.4 update that makes the URL icons in the dock disappear.  Instead of being a natty ‘@’ spring, they now just appear as a blank space.  We make use of the fact you can put URLs into the dock via Workgroup Manager to allow children to automatically log into Purple Mash, and so this is rather annoying.  It’s also annoying because I’ve imaged several Macs already and don’t want to have to go and fix them.  Some people have suggested a fix for the problem, but I’ll probably just wait until an official fix comes through Software Update.

Imaging Mac minis

Today I had the fun job of unpacking a key stage of Mac minis. They’re to replace ageing PCs running smartboards and will, once installed, pretty much complete the replacement of PCs with Macs in the school. Hurrah!

In preparation for reimaging the rest of the machines to Lion in the summer, I built a fresh image from scratch. As nearly all settings are managed by the Mac Server and so it’s just involved lots of installing of software. I’m trying out the new Notebook 11 as well, though haven’t had much chance to play with it.

I won’t try using the Mac server to image machines until we get gigabit switches installed though…