Saturday, May 14, 2011

DfE funds schools sector Internet access via JANET

News that the Department for Education has agreed to continue to fund schools sector access to the JANET network for 2011/12 somehow passed me by when it was announced a couple of weeks ago.  This is a great example of how procuring something at scale offers fantastic value and quality.  Schools who use an Internet Service Provider that makes use of JANET for the Internet "transit" (route to the Internet) benefit through reduced Internet costs as a result of JANET's buying power and technical expertise.  This means most schools that use their local authority or Regional Broadband Consortium for their Internet connection.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

James Review on schools broadband and ICT procurement

It was good to see the James Review, published this week, referring to the need for more effective policy on ICT in schools. As The Guardian reported on Tuesday:
"The report ...says the education department needs to ensure a "clear menu" of core and additional regional broadband services for schools, so that schools select and pay only for the services they need. It calls for a strategy to get best value from existing public sector broadband networks, which would include establishing a minimum bandwidth standard of 10Mbps for primary schools and 100Mbps for secondary schools.

"On procurement, the education department should set up a central framework for schools management information systems and the exisiting ICT services framework, or similar approaches, should be used for all large scale ICT purchasing.

"It also says that a web based price comparison catalogue should be developed to help schools to get the best price for equipment."
The report recommends the creation of what it calls a "Central Body" to have responsibility for these areas.  Something which will include some of the functions previously undertaken by Becta, presumably. However, looking forward rather than backwards this does raise some serious challenges for the Department for Education, schools, and those providing services for schools. Sebastian James himself, in his letter to the Secretary of State, says "Putting my recommendations into practice will be a major challenge".



Monday, April 04, 2011

Mobile phones and portable devices in schools

It has been reported over the last two days that mobile phones are to be banned in classrooms in England from September 2011, by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary.  Yesterday's News of the World and today's Telegraph both contain references to this ban, linking it to new documents on behaviour and discipline that have been published today by the Department of Education.  The DfE website quotes Mr Gove as saying to the News of the World:
"I'll also give teachers the right to remove disruptive children from the classroom without fear of legal action. They will be able to search pupils for weapons, and items like iPods and mobile phones, and confiscate them".
Firstly let me say that I am against the idea of a complete ban on mobile phones in schools.  Used appropriately, smartphones and other student owned devices such as iPod Touches and Playstation portables can be used as very powerful aids to learning, and there are many schools who are making good use of these.  Here's just one example from Notre Dame High School in Sheffield, who say
"The use of Mobile Devices has led to students being able to be more independent learners. Organisation has improved and homework quality has been of a good to high standard."


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Google Apps for Education User Group

Yesterday I attended the 2011 Google Apps for Education User Group at Loughborough University. It was an excellent event, attended by over 100 people from higher education through to the schools sector, and well organised by Martin Hamilton.

This is a run through of some of the highlights for me. I stayed with the strategy strand of the event, though I was disappointed that it meant missing the very interesting looking technical strand. And the amplified nature of the event via Twitter and elsewhere added to the value of the event for me and others.



Tuesday, January 11, 2011

BETT 2011

So, a new year is upon us, and BETT 2011 begins tomorrow. Watching the Twitter stream from the LWF2011 conference held just before BETT it looks to have been an interesting and thought provoking event. I am looking forward to BETT, but am also interested to see whether there is much at the show which is new and innovative, and whether teachers and school leaders from the UK make the effort to attend in the financially challenging times that our schools face.

For our company it is an opportunity to meet up with old colleagues and potential new partners. We are running a seminar on day one and look forward to meeting many people there.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Google encrypted search - implications for schools and ISPs

Google's recent decision to launch a secure search facility caused major problems for educational internet service providers such as Regional Broadband Consortia and local authorities, and in the US introduced problems for school districts and states that could even affect their e-Rate funding, as reported on eSchoolNews.  So they are to be commended for responding relatively quickly to the problems they had introduced.  But have they gone far enough?

Delivering a safe Internet experience to schools has always been challenging.  I spent 5 years doing it, and it was the hardest part of educational internet service provision to get right.  Offering users the facility to hide what they are searching for from their service provider has a number of implications for educational ISPs:
  • They will be unable to filter based on search terms
  • It removes the ability for them to analyse or report on search behaviour across their networks
When Google first introduced their secure search it also made it impossible to block access to the secure search page without also affecting access to Google Mail and Google Apps for Education.  UK educational internet service providers reluctantly blocked access to these services for safeguarding reasons - presumably this is partly what prompted Google to move so quickly, as this move was likely to drive schools sector customers to alternative services such as Microsoft's Live@Edu offering.  It should be noted that Microsoft were also responsible for introducing similar challenges for educational ISPs in 2009 when Bing introduced an explicit image filtering service which was not easily compatible with most filtering products.

So, well done Google for responding.  A shame that the response was announced not with a new blog posting but just an update to the original post that announced what they were planning to do.  Full marks to those educational internet service providers who spotted the announcement and have already tested and implemented solutions.  In future the challenge should be for all those involved in the delivery of such solutions to ensure before introducing them that they will work effectively in school situations.  So come on Google, Microsoft, and filtering software providers.  Let's see you working together to help schools offer a safe online environment for all.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

One week with iOS4

I've been living with Apple's new operating system for the iPhone, iOS4, for a week now.  I rarely jump so quickly to a new major version of software on a device I use every day, but I seem to have a little more time on my hands than usual at the moment, so decided to take the plunge on launch day.  Was this a good idea?  Possibly.

I decided to risk the upgrade on Monday 21st June because the new features it offered were extremely attractive.  In particular being able to store apps in folders, and the support for multiple Exchange profiles for e-mail and calendar, along with a unified inbox.  The multi-tasking was less attractive to me, offering something more akin to a task switcher than true multi-tasking.

So, how has it been?