Wednesday, April 29, 2009

mesh wifi

A school network technician mentioned open-mesh routers a while ago, and I was impressed with the claims (and the price) of the technology.  I recently bought three of these mini-routers, and I'm very impressed.  They're small, pretty cheap, and do very cool things.

Like any other wireless router, they connect via ethernet to your modem and act as a wifi access point for wireless network access, but they have some extra cool features.  As the website name implies, they can operate in a mesh configuration, which is something I first heard about with the OLCP XO laptop.  So you can plug one router into your modem, and as long as the others are close enough they connect to it wirelessly and repeat the signal both wirelessly and over their ethernet port.  Very cool.

Other features that I appreciate in these routers are that they support two SSIDs (so that you can have one public and one private if you'd like), the antenna is replacable (e.g. with a higher gain antenna), and I like they way that they've implemented the online dashboard for changing settings across all routers in the mesh.

All in all, I like these gadgets.  Great wireless routers, especially for getting wireless Internet access across a fairly large area.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

asynchronous interactions and personal Internet use

One of my favourite things about using "user generated content" or "web 2.0" tools for education is that it allows for asynchronous interactions with (and between) students. They can ask questions or even just interact with the course content any time they have an Internet connection. Not that these sorts of tasks can't be accomplished using email and basic web pages, but allowing the students more power and responsibility for things like editing a wiki can perhaps encourage motivation.

A related issue, though, is how many of these tools are blocked by school networks. My district has been very good about allowing YouTube, Wikipedia, Twitter, and others, but I imagine that is not the case everywhere. It would be interesting to have a study done on the educational impact of allowing different types of sites in a school situation, similar to a study that found employess who use the Internet for personal reasons are 9% more productive.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

audiobooks and podcasts

Our school library is starting an audiobook collection, as the start of a digital collection, and we were thinking to start with some creative commons and public domain titles.

I've mentioned before about some sources we use for free content, but I wanted to be a little more specific about some of the resources we're looking at for starting the digital collection.

Librivox - volunteer-read public domain works
Spoken Alexandria Project - creating audio books of creative commons works
Podiobooks - free serialized audio books
Lit2Go - a free online collection of audio stories and poems
Project Gutenberg - human read public domain audio books
X Minus One - a series of science fiction radio plays, not technically audio books
Cory Doctorow - an author who creative commons licenses his works, a number of them have been recorded as audio books by him or by fans

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

everyone's a geek

I've been thinking again lately that the bar for being a geek is continually being raised. It used to be that having an email address was enough to qualify you as a geek, back when we spelled it e-mail. But now everyone has an email address (although it seems that some are using IM, txt, Facebook, Twitter, et al more than email). We've seen a transition from encyclopedias on paper to CDs, then to the Internet. Almost everybody gets information, news, and videos from the Internet. Libraries have audio books, ebooks, and such in their digital collections. Regular people carry around digital music players, digital cameras, smart phones, and laptops.

So what does it take to be a geek these days?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

SMART table

I recently heard about a new SMART product called the SMART Table. It's basically a multi-touch screen mounted horizontally at a height suitable for Division 1 (up to grade 3) students. It is, of course, similar to the Microsoft Surface or a DIY Interactive Multitouch Display.

Being a High School teacher, I see it more as an opportunity to use as a video game device; it reminds me somewhat of those old arcade Pacman tables. If I had one of these SMART Tables, I'd probably use it for playing chess or perhaps board games like Settlers of Catan. I'd be interested to see, however, how it would be used in an Elementary classroom.