Wednesday, November 26, 2008

One Laptop per Child: Give One Get One

Just a little bit of a commercial this week, but since it's for a non-profit I hope you won't mind.

I've mentioned the OLPC XO before, I got one as part of the 2007 Give One Get One program. They are offering this program again this year through, but for some reason this time Canada is considered "international" and must be ordered through starting December 16th. It is also possible to just Give One or Give Many.

In the words of the OLPC Foundation, however, "it's an education project, not a laptop project". They are not just dropping a box of laptops in a classroom and hoping that will somehow change things. Among other things, they are helping with support resources, Internet access, and teacher training in the developing nations where these laptops are being deployed. The vision of the foundation, from their website, is:

Education is Our Motivation

Founded in 2005 by MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte, the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) has a simple mission: to create educational opportunities for the world's poorest children by providing each and every one with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning.

By giving a laptop, you are helping bring education to children in some of the world's most remote areas. You are connecting them to each other. To us. To hope. And to a better future.

For more details please visit

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

geeks, nerds, et al

Perhaps I should clarify a couple of the terms I use, or at least share my definitions of them. It's probably fairly well established that the term geek is no longer derogatory, that it means a person with particular skills and knowledge in technology (or Science, Math, or some related discipline). Some of us, however, feel that there needs to be a broader term for someone skilled and knowledgeable in a number of disciplines, not limited to the aforementioned. For this purpose we have adopted the term nerd, and since many of us were nerds (in the classical sense) in high school, it's not too much of a stretch.

There are other terms that are being applied, such as dork (socially awkward), or invented, such as griefer (intentionally aggravates others). As well, you can take online quizzes to see which category you might fit into. In case you're not self-aware enough to have diagnosed this already.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

a gadgeteer

I'm somewhat biased, of course, but I think it's important to have someone in your school who is somewhat of a gadgeteer. Not that they need to always have the latest stuff, but it is good to have someone in the building that people can chat with in the staff room about technology in education, the gadgets that the students are using, or just about recommendations for a laptop for them to buy for at home.

Usually this sort of thing happens naturally, that there is some geek (or nerd) who fills this role, but sometimes this needs to be encouraged.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

classroom projector and speaker connections

Since most of us aren't using TVs in the classroom anymore, the question seems to be coming up often about how to connect speakers to play videos. Usually the teacher wants to be able to play videos from a DVD/VCR as well as from the computer, and perhaps from an iPod.

You could, of course, have a separate set of speakers for each of these purposes, but it's easier and cheaper to have one set. To do this, you can connect the DVD/VCR audio output to the speakers and the computer audio output to the audio input of the DVD/VCR.

To connect the computer audio output to the DVD/VCR, use a 3.5mm Stereo Plug to 2 RCA Plug cable connected to the speaker (or headphone) output of the computer.

To connect the DVD/VCR to computer speakers, you need another 3.5mm Stereo Plug to 2 RCA Plug cable connected to the audio output and a headphone "gender changer" for connecting the male end of that cable to the male end of the speaker cable. Instead of a "gender changer", however, you can use a headphone splitter which also allows you to plug in your iPod without unplugging anything.

Of course if you use speakers with RCA inputs, such as the Behringer MS16s, you can just connect the DVD/VCR audio output with the RCA cable that came with the DVD/VCR.

If you want to show videos from your iPod and your DVD/VCR has a second "line in" connection (other than the one you are using for your computer), you can use an iPod video cable that connects to the headphone jack or to the dock connector. Of course if you have a newer iPod these cables won't work, you'll need to buy an expensive one from Apple. Or plug your iPod into your computer with a USB cable and show the videos using iTunes.

As to video to the projector, computer video goes over a VGA cable and the DVD/VCR video goes over an S-Video cable, composite cable, or component cable.

That ended up being a longer post that intended, and a bit of a commercial for (one of my favourite online retailers), but hopefully there was enough information there to get you set up.