Monday, 19 March 2012

enabling public_html user accounts in ubuntu

Running a ubuntu server distro for the students, we have encounted a number of issues which we have had to work through. One of these is to enable public_html in the users directory

In order to enable the user-specific public_html directory open up a terminal and switch to the apache module config directory:

cd /etc/apache2/mods-enabled

If you list all the files inside this directory you’ll notice that all of them are actually symbolic links. To enable mod_userdir, which is the module you’re interested in, you’ll have to create two symlinks to the relevant files:

sudo ln -s ../mods-available/userdir.load
sudo ln -s ../mods-available/userdir.conf

All done! Now restart Apache via:

sudo apache2ctl restart

We can now access the web applications stored in our /home/username/public_html directory via http://localhost/~username/

userdirectoryPHP enabled

Webadmin Panel
Wondering if I should incorportae a web panel for this server?

Monday, 12 March 2012

Hack to the Future

This came in today on one of my feeds,

What is Hack To The Future?

It is an un-conference that aims to provide young digital creators aged 11 - 18 with positive experiences of computing science and other closely related fields, ensuring that the digital creators of today engage with the digital creators of tomorrow.
We plan to offer a day that will inspire, engage and encourage young digital creators in computing/programming so that they may:
  • consider developing a related interest/hobby
  • discover resources to support their continued interest
  • take part in other associated initiatives
  • be encouraged to study further
  • explore future careers in this field
  • benefit from meeting existing practitioners
  • see beyond gender stereotypes in technology 
Is this something that we should be looking at in our regions

For more information 

also see
promotional video 

Friday, 2 March 2012

Is the government failing ICT Teachers?

Govt failing ICT teachers says tech educator

Head of ICT at Hukarere Girls' College says barriers in the curriculum makes it difficult to teach employable skills.
The Ministry of Education is failing ICT teachers, and by doing so the New Zealand technology industry, says one Hawkes Bay educator.

Michael Peterson is head of department for ICT and technologies at Hukarere Girls’ College near Napier. He says barriers in the ministry’s curriculum make it difficult to teach employable IT skills, and discourage students from taking it up as a career.

“They’re failing ICT teachers, the students, and they’re failing the industry,” says Peterson.

But associate professor of computer science and software engineering at the University of Canterbury Tim Bell, who advises the ministry on its IT programme, disagrees, although he does admit that the professional development required to teach new standards has been “haphazard.” This is because the roll out was affected by the earthquakes in Christchurch last year.

“There were a lot of professional development courses, but the roll out was bumpy. It was made worse when the quakes struck,” says Bell.

“Many of the members of the New Zealand Association of Science Educators (NZASE) who we partnered with for the courses were in Christchurch, and understandably they went off the radar for while after February.”

Bell says the ministry has not done enough to support teachers in adopting the new standards. He recommends it does more to cover the associated costs involved, such as travel and accommodation, which are currently not paid for by schools.

“The standards themselves are excellent, and if the ministry could help the teachers out it would be by getting more of them onboard with it and giving them the professional development they require.”

NZQA focuses on “static” IT skills

Peterson says the current ministry-provided ICT curriculum for senior students (Years 11, 12, and 13) focuses on outdated and “static” IT skills, instead of general “IT thinking” like programming theory, strategy, and logic; which would prepare students for higher education in ICT and careers in the sector.

Because of NZQA guidelines regarding how credits can be earned, Peterson says there is very little room to change the teaching plan for seniors.

But Bell says the introduction of new standards for ICT will help alleviate some of the pain felt by ICT teachers like Peterson.

The new standards introduce a range of topics to the ICT subject at a secondary level, including addressing some of the complaints made by Peterson. There is a new focus on the technical side of computing; including programming, computer science, electronics, digital media and infrastructure.

Bell says the first of these standards were published last year for Level 1 NCEA, and include achievement standards instead of the lesser unit standards. Level 2 has been rolled out this year, and Level 3 will be available in 2013.

Focus on Year 9 and 10

In the meantime, Peterson says ICT teachers like him are having to take matters into their own hands and are teaching those skills to secondary school juniors.

“They [the ministry] have little control over us in Years 9 and 10. It’s at Year 11 that we need to conform to NZQA standards,” says Peterson.

“Some of my colleagues in teaching ICT aren’t too sure about what they should be doing. Quite a few people like me have a damn good idea what we should be doing, and we’re doing it – regardless of what the ministry thinks.”

In Peterson’s class, he teaches his Year 9 students about robotics, general programming theory, and the Alice and Scratch graphical programming languages.

Five students from Hukarere Girls’ College came third in the 2008 Robocup Junior robotics competition with their haka-performing entry.

Peterson says what little ministry guidance ICT teachers are given for Years 9 and 10, is better suited “for children of two decades ago”.

“The year nines are coming into school much more advanced than they were a few years ago, so much so that a lot of my juniors are capable of doing year 12 work, which has become very static... The ministry underestimates these kids. We’re teaching them how to do Powerpoint documents, which is good but doesn’t really impress an employer when it’s put on a CV,” says Peterson.

“In my class of 25 students, I’m running eight to ten different programmes at different levels, and it changes depending on the student,” says Peterson.

“That would be very hard in any other subject, but IT is perfect for it. It lends itself to this kind of teaching and the children are generally thrilled about what we do.”

Peterson says what frustrates him the most is what he perceives as a lack of interest from the ministry in ICT as a subject.

“We secondary school teachers can be enthusiastic about IT, and show our students what’s possible in an IT career, but it’s hard when it seems the ministry doesn’t give a damn,” says Peterson.

Peterson agrees with recent comments made by Orion Health CEO Ian McCrae in Computerworld, that ICT should be taught as the fourth science. He says most senior students take ICT as an easy way to earn unit standards to pass other subjects. It is not until ICT is given the same weighting as the other sciences that we will see more students take IT as a career option, says Peterson.

When asked if he or his school could face repercussions for his comments, Peterson replied simply, “It’s something that’s got to be said.”

Computerworld has approached Education Minister, Hekia Parata, and the Ministry of Education for comment. The minister has declined to comment, referring our questions to the ministry. The ministry has failed to respond so far.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

things are broken

Creating a strategic plan
The school I am at last year went through a Core Ed IT Review, this was to help the school plan for the next five years, while for some of us that turn up at the Professional development, are following twitter and Virtual learning Network are up with the play, there is a large amount of people that are just doing the bare minimum. Yes it is nice to have Ultra Fast Broadbast, the School Network Upgrade Project happening, it is how you use it, do we look at a BYOD programme, what do we need to run a BYOD programme in the school. A lot of people look at the infrastructure needed, but I think its more than that. I think its the community, staff and students needing to have a conversation about learning. I am sorry to say that teaching and learning has changed from when the parents of these students went to school, that the Grandparents on the Board of Trustees that come in and sit in the same seats in the same room that they were taught in the 1960’s that Teaching and Learning has changed, and we as a school need to keep up with the changes. Ok, Tradition does have an impact on our school, and I am not wanting to remove that, however, the traditions that we have can be built on and improved. We talk about excellence and high standards with our students, then why does the introduction of technology in ones teaching and learning seem to make people think that the grades will not come out of it. I love listening to Derek Wenmoth talk about the work that he has been doing. If a teacher is only looking at technology as the answer to everything they are looking at it wrong, they need to include the pedagogically driven decisions to make it work.

Three days later.
The strategic plan has just been thrown out the window and all roads lead to a fun and exciting time, even though some people at school don’t think so and are upset at the decisions that have been made. We have been under a bit of stress at present around school as the closure of classrooms due to buildings not meeting code. Getting the school started was the priority of the board and marquees and changes to other spaces to replace 6 classrooms were needed. However these were a short term measure, the time has come for changes to happen, as the days get colder and the wind picks up these marquees are becoming unsuitable for human cohabitation. So the senior leadership made the decision to look at how we are using the spaces in the school. The original idea was to remove all the computers out of the library computer space, though this leads to some interesting things happening, we lose one of the most valuable spaces in the school. I believe that libraries are almost like our chapel at school. they are a place of learning and research, and should be a place where students come together to gather information, analyze it and communicate there findings. It is an English teachers second home. The space currently has 28 computers in it and has been upgraded in its cabling. The space right beside it will be for the Video Conferencing equipment. The space also has glass around three walls, this would seem like you are teaching in a goldfish bowl.

We have another space at school, The 3rd Computer Suite, this is a space that is a converted classroom only 3 years ago. This classroom was designed and built by one of the current staff at the school. The computers in it are a good quality and the room is heavily booked. However, the core ed document and current discussions are that computer labs will be a thing of the past in a few years time. As BYOD comes in and netbook classes are developed these rooms will no longer exist. The suggestion was to look at netbooks now, this is 12 months ahead of where we were looking at. The installation of wireless also needs to happen to take advantage of the opportunity as well. This is huge financial hit for the college, however it is also a saving as well. With the cost of the marquees taking a good hit of the college funds and no idea if the costs will be meet by insurance companies as the buildings have been taken out as they don’t meet code, not earthquake damage, although there is damage been done, it may not mean that the building is unsafe. It is a catch 22 situation. With the marquees gone and the changes of space until other decisions have been made we get to advance on the path towards BYOD. The netbooks will be setup the same as our computer labs, same software and access to resources, though they will need there SSID as they will require access to the entire network. The same setup as the teachers will require. It also means that we can get teachers trying out different things, they can experience and develop their teaching to make use of the BYOD devices when they come into school. They can try out layouts in the class, work through blended learning. This all requires some form of PD, though we are currently writing a document for some assistance towards this as the ICT group see this as of greatest need. We are reviewing our core ed document and items that we were developing for terms 3 and 4 and now going to have to be pushed up to terms one and two.