Note taking… hand write/print use an Elfinbook?

This year I have insisted on all students taking notes using a pen and paper! Ironic given I teach Digital Technologies. I have found handwritten notes and diagrams more conducive to student focus, understanding, recall, drawing linkages etc… Having said that I am also interested in note-taking technologies that are relatively low cost and can if required be stored in the cloud. My latest experiment is the Elfinbook Version 2. This notebook features:

  • Erasable pages (using a Microwave and/or wet cloth)
  • App to facilitate scanning contents (and basic OCR)
  • Storage, classifying and searching methods
  • Save the notes in the cloud

And it is less than $40.

So far, so good. OCR is not that great but the erasable paper and ability to store via your phone are pretty useful.

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Pupils admit to lying to get teacher fired… may be some policy issues here…

I wonder if schools have documented policies regarding teachers being alone with 1,2 or even 3 students. Or is it just left to common sense? Potential policies:

  1. If a teacher had a class that (temporarily) dropped to 3 or less students then the class is cancelled.
  2. If a teacher has to have a 1-1 discussion then it must be done in public (albeit as quietly as possible) OR with another teacher or parent present.


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Delete facebook in schools?

Many schools have Facebook integrated either formally (official facebook page) or informally (Facebook sports teams or cultural groups). Of course there are usually alternative communications methods, after all, many students (Year 9) are under the age of 13 – the theoretical minimum age of Facebook users.

In a recent set of presentations from Year 9 students, many identified Snapchat and Instagram (age 13?) as being important in their digital lives  – no mention of Facebook other than it is useful as members of school sports teams and other groups. While the use of Facebook is not compulsory there will inevitably be an element of “exclusion” at play if you cannot easily receive communications and engage in the online discussion with your sports/cultural groups.

By passively encouraging students to use Facebook are schools complicit in undermining student privacy? Is this something schools need to be thinking about in the context of teachers code of professional responsibility?

Sure, students can and are switching to alternatives such as Instagram, however, these will likely present exactly the same issues…

Footnote: Anecdotal evidence suggests that after Youtube and Google, Instagram is now the third highest consumer of broadband in several colleges in New Zealand.


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Say goodbye to the information age: it’s all about reputation now

“There is an underappreciated paradox of knowledge that plays a pivotal role in our advanced hyper-connected liberal democracies: the greater the amount of information that circulates, the more we rely on so-called reputational devices to evaluate it. What makes this paradoxical is that the vastly increased access to information and knowledge we have today does not empower us or make us more cognitively autonomous. Rather, it renders us more dependent on other people’s judgments and evaluations of the information with which we are faced…” continued

Articulates well what we may already know intuitively. An interesting discussion brought to my attention by a parent and former work colleague (Thanks Jane).

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Wellington East Girls College three word address is lonely.haven.leaps using what3words.

what3words divides the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares and assigned each one a unique 3-word address. It means anyone can accurately find any location and share it more quickly, easily and with less ambiguity than any other system.  Check it out at  The TED talk (5mins) can be found here.

This is quite interesting (initially from a post by Kay @ NZACDITT). I may ask students what applications they can see for this technology in New Zealand.

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A Chief Information Officer (CIO) perspective of a secondary school

I have recently taken on a substantive component of the Digital Information Officer role at Wellington Esat Girls College. (Think CIO without the paper.) This is essentially 10 hours each week which means I keep my day job as a teacher albeit with reduced teaching load. When describing WEGC from a CIO perspective key points are:

  • The school exists to support student learning in a safe environment.
  • The number of people (staff and students) is 1,200 with multiple devices and operating systems. Around 1,050 of these people (students) will have their attendance validated each day and if they are not where they should be in the morning their parents will be texted.
  • The school community is highly diverse in terms of culture. Not so much on gender…
  • We also have a Special Needs Unit (name changing soon) and He Huarahi Tamariki (Teenage Pregnancy Unit ).
  • The school is highly dependent on systems and the network to carry out teaching and learning. Critical times are school hours and just prior to non-negotiable assessment hand in dates and times. Just like businesses, if the systems go down or the network does away then not a lot can be done in some classes.)
  • IT operations are outsourced to a national IT support organisation. Like many outsourcing arrangements, however, contracts still need to be managed, decisions made, policy set and ICT strategy determined. You need to have the capability to manage the contract.
  • The Payroll operation is also outsourced to Novapay although knowledgeable people are required to administer the system at the school.
  • Currently, WEGC uses well over 30 systems with a range of data flows between several of them. These systems range from student administration to learning management to careers advice through to security cameras and Internet monitoring. And of course, we have a website, mobile apps, portals and a social media presence.
  • The school has significant obligations with regard to privacy, security and records management. Maintaining privacy and trust is critical.
  • There is around 20% turnover of people per year, albeit at a predictable time ie end of the year… the start of the year.
  • Stakeholders include staff, students, whanau, former students, MoE, ERO, NZQA, local schools, Community of Learning, and local iwi. No doubt there are others including Child Welfare agencies, Health etc…
  • Every few years the school is appraised by the Education Review Office.
  • And did I mention that there is a $40m rebuild going on, and has been for a couple of years now? (= construction site within the campus). Once finished there will be lots of new technology embedded in the new building.

Fairly interesting and arguably challenging role. I wonder how many schools have or are going to need a similar role going forward?


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Nooooo Windows 10 upgrade saga continued..

After too many hours and lots of effort my guinea pig HP Stream 32GB device finally got the big tick from the W10 pre install. After 45 minutes and 99% completed the update failed with error code oxc19002oe. Great – in short my device cannot handle the upgrade.

I give up. And indeed have reinstalled MS Office for now and other software that had to be deleted to make room. Back to the usual message of:

I will live with this although I note that I cannot stop updates… and the waste of time/broadband, nor is there an option to use an external drive (It did give this option for an earlier upgrade why not now!).

So when I have time I will draft a letter to The Stationary Warehouse and return the device as not fit for purpose. More students now reporting their issues with this upgrade. Office is actually very good BUT come on Microsoft if you want to be in schools as a BYOD you have to do a better job.


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