Coding, iOS 10 Beta 2, & Faux Chromebook

I’ve been busy.

Coding: Many years ago I taught myself the BASIC programming language to the point that I successfully wrote a gymnastics scoring application. The application was used by only one person and for only one season. Well, I thought it was successful. Since then I’ve learned to create applications in dBase (xBase programming language) and macros (however roughly) in Quattro Pro and Excel. It’s time I learned to code in the modern high-level language. I chose Python and have been at it for about two weeks. The hardest part so far was learning how to set it up to write in interactive mode and scripts. Firstly, I tried installing and using the text editor Sublime Text, the choice of most professionals I’m told. I had already downloaded and installed Python 3.5.2. To get started with the Sublime Text installation process, I downloaded Cygwin, a tool to make Windows function like Linux. Then I installed curl, git, and opens within Cygwin (having no idea why). The installation of git automatically installed an older version of Python (2.7.12) but I didn’t notice it until after I downloaded and installed Sublime Text, the next step. I was then able to use Sublime as a text editor and write simple executable scripts for execution in Python. The problem was it was doing so in Python 2.7.12 and I wanted to learn to use the newer 3.5.2 version. For the life of me, I could not make Cygwin use 3.5.2. Frustration!!!! While messing around with Python I noticed that along with 3.5.2 an application titled IDLE (Python) which is an Integrated Development and Learning Environment for Python. And it’s been around sometime during version 1. Duh! So that’s where I’m at present and progressing slowly.

iOS 10 Beta 2: Downloaded and installed on iPhone 5. No problems and seems to work without glitches but I haven’t pushed it hard or played around with new features yet. The new Home tab doesn’t really interest me so I moved it into my Apple Apps (that I don’t need) folder. Then I tried to download and install it on my iPad 2 (I know, old). No trouble downloading it but every time I attempted to install (Settings>General>Software Update) the following appeared: “iOS 9.3.2 Your software is up to date”. After spending a couple of hours trying every trick I could find online to correct this apparently common issue, I gave up. My old iPad will just have to wait for the release version.

Faux Chromebook: Chromebooks have surpassed iPads as the go-to device for education 1:1 programs. Consequently, I thought I would try working with one. I fully understand the concept and the advantages and disadvantages of Chromebooks versus iPads but do you really know unless you try? I didn’t want to shell a couple hundred dollars for a “real” Chromebook. I have a couple of older laptops laying around so I went the CloudReady (from Neverware) route and installed the CloudReady Chromium OS in dual boot mode on a Windows 10 HP laptop. The installation was laborious and lengthy, requiring preparation of an 8+ Gb USB drive. I prepared the USB drive on a different laptop than the one on which I performed the install. Detailed instructions can be found here. The first time I booted into CloudReady, everything seemed to work well. I set a few things up then later tried viewing a Youtube video embedded in an article. Nothing. Spent another three hours researching and attempting resolution without any luck. Has something to do with Java and HTML5. Still, can’t play online videos. Not good. During my attempts to resolve the issue, it was necessary to reboot a number of times. Each occurrence of selecting the CloudReady option during reboot required shutting down and restarting at least twice before it booted up correctly. So I haven’t had much opportunity to mess around the Chromebook way but it seems pretty simple. All executables must be online and files can be saved on the local computer, space permitting, or online. Now I need to find a way to remove the partitions to return my computer to pure Windows.

18 U.S.C. 793(f)

(f) Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer— Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

Computer Literacy vs Computer Science

Since my initial encounter with technology in education in the late 1990’s I have noted that the two terms, computer literacy, and computer science, are frequently confused, used interchangeably and possibly incorrectly. And rightfully so in-as-much as the guru technologists aren’t in agreement regarding definitions or categorization. So I’ve developed a few thoughts of my own to assist me in practice to distinguish the two.

Thought 1: Computer literacy is all about the competent and safe use of computing hardware and software.

Thought 2: Computer science is all about computational thinking leading to critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation.

Thought 3: It doesn’t matter because one, computer literacy, is intrinsically embedded in the other and computer science is to a great extent dependent on computer literacy.

Prior to 2007, the ISTE standards for students emphasized student computer use and safety. From a “technology integration” and teaching perspective, activation of the standards in curricula amounted to achieving the lower three levels of Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s (http://www.hippasus.com/) SAMR model: substitution, augmentation, and modification. The 2007 standards move into the “redefinition” arena defined as, “Computer technology allows for new tasks that were previously inconceivable.” I am certain that the 2016 standards’ remake will go even further by emphasizing creating, making, inventing, developing–basically doing through technology.

The following is an excerpt from Jeff Weiner’s (LinkedIn CEO) email to his employees regarding the purchase of LinkedIn by Microsoft (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/linkedin-microsoft-changing-way-world-works-jeff-weiner):

Remember that dystopian view of the future in which technology displaces millions of people from their jobs? It’s happening. In the last three weeks alone, Foxconn announced it will replace 60,000 factory workers with robots, a former CEO of McDonald’s said given rising wages, the same would happen throughout their franchises, Walmart announced plans to start testing drones in its warehouses, and Elon Musk predicted fully autonomous car technology would arrive within two years.

Whether it’s worker displacement, the skills gap, youth unemployment, or socio-economic stratification, the impact on society will be staggering. I’ve said it on multiple occasions and believe it even more so every day: creating economic opportunity will be the defining issue of our time. That’s why I’m here and why I can’t imagine doing any other job. Simply put, what we do matters, and matters more than ever.

Those few examples are “new tasks that were previously inconceivable.” Technology infusion into the curriculum at the earliest ages possible at a level well beyond use and safety is essential. We are no longer becoming a technological society,.we are one. This necessitates innovating, refocusing and restructuring the learning process across genders, across age and grade groupings, across subject areas, across organizational types, and across geographical areas. Learning must become open and project-based and if not in our educational institutions, then elsewhere.

Leadership

During my stints as a senior manager or executive, I frequently used the tagline, “You should never resolve a leadership issue with an administrative action.” We’ve all see it happen numerous times. Example: one or two employees are late to work a few times. Talk ensues among the others. Instead of addressing the issue one-on-one early on, the manager publishes a policy applicable to all employees stating hard and fast, progressively onerous consequences for violations. That’s not leadership. That’s not even management. That’s administration. The manager has transferred the issue to HR where it becomes but a matter of counting times late, issuing stock warnings, and eventual termination. Not a morale booster.

Then, in the mid- to late 1980’s along came technology and computers on each desk. I had to expand my tagline: “You should never resolve a leadership issue with either an administrative or technological action.” Senior managers (school administrators also as pertains to students) desire that employees not be sending and receiving personal email or text messages, be on Facebook, or otherwise surf the web for other than organization purposes during business hours. This is akin to prohibiting personal phone calls and reading magazines at work in the pre-technology days. Common sense, given that the employer does not wish to compensate employees for time and activities not in her best interest. The non-leadership way to deal with this issue is to transfer the whole mess to the IT department. Block and filter. Ah, but employees and students are technically savvy and will find ways around the blocks and filters. So IT joins forces with HR by spying (reviewing logs) and reporting suspicious activity to HR. HR combines a restrictive administrative policy intended to curb the inappropriate usage of organizational property with the technological reports to again relieve the manager of leadership responsibility. Now we all have smartphones that are not tied to our organizational networks. At this writing, management has two options. The first is to illegally jam all cell phone signals emanating from within the confines of the organization. The second is to employ individual and group leadership.

Technology as Curriculum

During a recent conversation with a PK-8 principal, she asked a general question regarding which technology subjects were appropriate for which grade levels. It shortly became clear that she was referring to the teaching of technology classes separate from other subject area classes. In other words, technology as curriculum. She mentioned that when the computer teacher arrived with his laptop cart, the classroom teachers departed. I was taken back a bit. I thought we were beyond that in our journey toward achieving Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s ‘R’ for Redefinition-“Tech allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable.” A quick review of the technology position advertisements published online since the beginning of the year will show that at the K-8 level, we are not far along that path. About half ads are for a ‘Computer Teacher’ or some variant. In many schools, not only is technology being taught as a separate subject, technology is neither included in the subject areas’ curricula nor is it being integrated into the classrooms. Even job descriptions for Technology Coordinators include teaching computer classes.

I realize that, as Lynda Ginsburg writes, “from the perspective of maximizing the acquisition of information about and competence in using specific technology applications, a curriculum focused on the computer and its applications might be desirable. Components of such a curriculum include keyboarding skills, database manipulation, spreadsheet use, word processing, desktop and Internet publishing, and Internet search skills. Hands-on opportunities to develop a comfort level with the various applications and discussions about the kinds of tasks that might be best managed with each application would provide a basis for using the technology in the various situations in which it is appropriate.” (http://www.calpro-online.org/eric/docs/hopey/hopey_04.pdf) I guess I would even include digital citizenship and safety, for sure, and coding, for now.

But, back to the question, what subjects at what levels? That depends entirely on each school’s grade level learner objectives. Subject area teachers and the adopted subject areas curricula should be our guides. Once students have developed an application comfort level appropriate to the grade level, technology as curriculum should ease out and true classroom and curriculum integration should begin. The learning process should progress toward achieving the ‘M’ and ‘R’ of Dr. Puentedura’s SAMR model. Technology learning occurs best and is best retained when learners develop skills and experiences in contexts that are similar to those in which technology is used elsewhere within and without the classroom. For example, after a few orientation classes on the basics of word processing to the point that the student demonstrates comfort opening the application, performing a few basic editing functions, saving documents, printing, and closing the application, the responsibility for advancing word processing learning is exported to the language arts teacher/classroom. In most schools, this could occur as early as early as 1st grade.

Of course, there are curriculum development, resource, and profession development hurdles. How to work around these finance driven issues, is another matter.

iPads Out, Laptops In

Full disclosure: I own an iPad, albeit a very old one (2012, iPad 2). I tried using it to supplement my desktop (Windows) and laptop (MacBook) use at work and otherwise, going so far as to purchase a Bluetooth keyboard. I tired of trying within a few months and it is now used exclusively to play music to entertain our plants in a sunroom.

Headline: “Maine Decides to Ditch iPads for Macbooks,” from yesterday’s Education News (http://www.educationnews.org/technology/maine-decides-to-ditch-ipads-for-macbooks/). There is doubtlessly a K-12 movement away from tablets to laptops. Simply, iPads, even the iPad Pro, lacks features that facilitate production: mouse/trackpad, keyboard, and cursor. The Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard go a considerable way toward alleviating shortcomings when using some apps but fall short when used with the many touch-sensitive apps designed exclusively for touch screens. One frequently needed example are the copy, cut and paste commands which can be accurately and rapidly performed on a laptop using keyboard shortcuts. Smart Keyboards are expensive (about $169) and third party keyboards although less expensive at about $99, are not as feature rich as the apple Smart Keyboard. Word processing and spreadsheet number crunching on an iPad with a keyboard are slow and difficult processes. Slightly less so with one.

How does that affect classroom use? I’m not sure. There are other considerations, of course. Cost is a major one and the iPad is less expensive than the MacBook Air by a few hundred dollars, but far more expensive than a Chromebook. iPads while not indestructible, are less subject to damage in and out of a backpack resulting in fewer repairs and replacement. There are more education-oriented apps for iPads than for laptops of any manufacturer. One teacher in a survey in Maine commented that many of the students were using the iPads as “toys” and that the devices have “no educational function in the classroom.” I suspect that both the teachers and students that participated in the survey are integrating at Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s Substitution level of SAMR.

The question should be more about integration into the learning process than about production. I suspect that both the teachers and students that participated in the survey are integrating at Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s Substitution level of SAMR. When used as little more than a tool substitute for the typewriter, calculator, and print copy dictionary, thesaurus, and encyclopedia, very little integration into the curriculum and classroom is occurring.  In this case, yes, laptops at all levels would be ideal. Actually, my take is that once the learning apps database grows to accommodate educational laptop demand, laptops, would be ideal for all grades and ease the transition into higher education and the work world.