The Future is Already Here … it’s just not very evenly distributed.
— William Gibson
Listen to the NPR Interview Nov 30, 1999
Ontario educator Doug Peterson (@dougpete on Twitter) sent out a tweet yesterday morning which immediately caught my attention, “Just blogged: Great opportunity for Ontario Teachers. Yesterday, the Ministry of Education announced …”
A short link through to Doug’s Off the Record blog had me reading about the immediate availability of a new piece of OSAPAC-licensed software for use in Ontario publicly-funded schools, Bitstrips for Schools. The Ontario Ministry of Education, supported by the direction of OSAPAC, had finalized licensing arrangements to procure a modified-for-education version of the existing Bitstrips, and was announcing that the augmented site was ready-for-access by Ontario teachers and students. Not only would the modified version provide an “education-friendly” environment, but it would also include an easy-to-use management framework.
Here’s my first attempt with the software (with a small measure of editorializing thrown in for spice):
So, as referenced in piece above, shortly after reading Doug’s post, I was on the Bitstrips For Schools site. Within mere moments, I had activated my account, created a class grouping, and set up my student accounts. (The registration page included a drop down selector for school district, and then school — it then validated against my district email account. Easy Peasy.)
And it is in this ease-of-access that I find a profound potential.
The ease with which Ontario teachers can access this new software application, with all of its attendant student-collaboration potential, is unheard of in my experience for an OSAPAC release. (Certainly the local implementation of Gizmos, for example (another OSAPAC-licensed web-app) — and the attendant user codes — have yet to make their way out into our schools from the district office. Not sure what’s up with that.) Granted, some teachers may require some support and/or training to make use of this software. Finding an appropriate curriculum context will also be important for others. But there’s no doubt in my mind that students will take to this with ease. The fact that it requires NO installation or subsequent technical support on the part of district IT departments, however, really strikes my fancy. And the ability for students to access the web-app from home, bodes well for where we need to be going. As an initial case-study, I see this as a wonderful indication of what is potentially to come. If the easy registration of teacher accounts and subordinate student accounts (as established via OSAPAC/EDU) works in this application, then it paves the way for OSAPAC and the Ministry of Education to employ the same strategy in rolling out other web/cloud-based applications. The sooner, the better. A provincially-licensed blogging or writing process tool, anyone?
Granted, this may run the risk of being potentially perceived by some as a bit of a challenge to local district edicts/policies — if they’re not already onboard — but I hope not. After all, the times, they are a’ changing. With eLearning providing education directly to some students in their homes already, we all need to be looking forward and embracing the aspects of educational technology that can truly work to empower learners and educators alike.
As for the Gibson quote, there’s no doubt that the uneven distribution of the future remains a significant issue for us all to wrestle with.
But I, for one, applaud OSAPAC and the Ministry for their vision in taking this step forward. This act clearly demonstrates the potential for a more even distribution of the future moving forward … 🙂
What are your thoughts? Is this a good way for OSAPAC and the Ministry to keep moving?
Thanks for the comment, Andy. I’ve amazed at the power that has been built into Bitstrips and the ease of getting set up is second to none. I think many boards will be quick to embrace because of the obvious connections to literacy and writing. Glad to hear that you like it. Hope your kids do too.
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I enjoyed this post very much and your excellent cartoon creation. What a great motivational tool for student writing and creativity.
Nice comic! I agree that this is the simplest, easiest way to get cool tools in the hands of teachers. Waiting for the CD’s to arrive or get on the image was a frustrating exercise sometimes. Hopefully, this signals a realization that more tools like this will result in more use in the classroom.
This kind of open and immediate access to educational software and cognitive tools is exactly what will make the potential of technology available to all. Demonstrating how this would be used in a classroom is the best way to assist teachers in integrating technology. Thanks Doug for the example.
Oops, in re-readng the blog post, I see that I misinterpreted the author of the Bitstrip cartoon–Doug sent the Tweet not the cartoon. Thank you rather to Andrew Forgrave.
I am currently working on research looking at integration of technology in elementary schools and see that one of the biggest barriers to the integration of Web 2.0 tools and current collaborative sites like “wikis”, is that schools are not generally wireless and teachers are unable to access web-based software in their classrooms.
I would love to hear how OSAPAC might be addressing district concerns about wireless, security and access from anyone who has found a way to meet everyone’s needs and still make these tools available for student use.
Thanks for passing this along. It’ll be perfect for my Grade 1s who will spend days just tweaking their characters. Customization creates ownership for these little ones.
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