Tech development in school

It is generally agreed that there is a real need to move forward with coding4kids agenda now. We’ve done the talking, now is time for action. So my action pledge is to develop an idea for structural change at the top of educational foodchain.

My idea is to require that in every English school (the devolved governments can make their own structural change), one of the performance management (PM) targets for the headteacher, will have a technological focus. Every year.

The governing body of each maintained school appoints 2 or 3 of it’s members as the PM committee whose role is

  • to set 3 PM targets for the Head for the current year
  • monitor and evaluate the Head’s progress towards those targets
  • make recommendations to the GB at the end of the year about salary uplift for the ead

If we can get government to recognise the tech deficit, then surely an overall programme of tech awareness, understanding and adeptness will begin to pay dividends. And our schools can be the cradle for this innovation, just like they were when that first BBC Micro arrived at the school reception 30 years ago. But we will need some subtle pressure and oversight to ensure it happens. So the Heads PM rules need to be tweaked to give our headteachers one of the lead roles in driving the country forward.

The tweaking needs to ensure that at least one of the PM targets for every Head will have a tech development focus. But that doesn’t require us to turn every Headteacher into a geek. On the contrary, many schools will probably need to look at their own tech infrastructure and resources – including human resources – rather than at the tech curriculum. At least in the first instance.

So let’s outline some examples of possible targets as a starting point:

  • To undertake a tech skills and resources baseline assessment of the entire school community (pupils, staff, parents, local community, at school, at home, in public buildings) and to publish the results back to the whole community in a 21st century format within the current academic year
  • To partner with local businesses and community to start a Computer or Coding Club and ensure it appeals to a wide cross section of pupils, parents and staff before the spring half-term
  • To take school website maintenance in-house and reduce the cost of maintaining a web presence by 70% in the next financial year

Each of these examples are SMART. I’m sure the dev and activist communities can produce another 10 example SMART targets within 24 hours.

If the government can commit to making this change to the PM rules, then the quid pro quo from us would be to create a free support and advisory infrastructure for Heads and Governing Bodies to enable them to make this work. A starting point would be some simple wiki pages, but that will need to expand into a database of local geeks able and willing to lend a hand in devising appropriate targets and in measuring success. But the will exists to do that now, so lets harness it now.

Expectations vs Offerings

Conversation overheard on NHS paediatric ward last evening:
15 year old boy: what’s the wifi password on this ward?
Nurse: what?
15yob: you know, the wifi? I can see it, but when i try to connect it’s asking me for a password. what’s the password?
Nurse: (slightly flustered) oh that! That’s not connected. You can’t use it. I’ll go and ask.
(and she scampers off – 15yob returns to phone game and then swaps over to his iPad)
(10 minutes later nursey returns looking triumphant )
Nurse: Well I have talked to the staff nurse, and she says that is only for the doctors, it’s not connected, and if it was you’d have to pay for it. So that’s that.
(and she turns and waltzes away)

15yob returns to his game.

A quick look around the ward shows that it is teaming with hitech kit. A PC, a PS2 and a PS3, a Wii, an Xbox (of incredible vintage), flat screen tv, old CRT for PS2, blue Ray, and an array of remote controls. I can understand why a 15yob might expect to be able to connect to the wifi that he can see.

Let’s look a little more closely at his expectations of the NHS and compare it to the actual offerings.

15 year old boy: what’s the wifi password on this ward?

Expectation 1: there is a wifi connection – I should be able to use it
Expectation 2: The nurse will know the password and will probably give it to me

Wow! I don’t know about you, but I find it extremely uplifting that our teenagers (and future electorate) feel that if there is a wifi signal in a public place they should be able to connect to it. That tells me where society is moving to and that we will eventually have a tech enabled society.

That 15yob would expect the nurse to know the password is a little strange to me. I wouldn’t expect that. But I think the implied expectation, that ‘those in the know’ would know the password, is one that again uplifts me and gives me a sense of hope.

Offering 1: There is a wifi connection available in the ward. It is password protected. Not sure if anyone/anything is actually using it. One thing is certain. Patients currently can’t use it.

Conclusion

So where does that leave us? The NHS is not living up to the expectations of our kids, because it doesn’t understand what our kids want or expect.

So politicians, please don’t make grandiose plans for the future of the NHS when the organisation doesn’t understand the basics.

Installing an Ubuntu virtual machine onto a HP Hyper-V server

We have a beast of a new Hyper-V server hosting our W-Server 2008 AD controller, mail and DNS, a W-Server 2003 file and SQL server, as well as a pair of XP and W7 testbeds. We also host a standalone Ubuntu intranet server running Joomla on LAMP andit seemed appropriate to think about replacing that ageing standalone, with a brand spanking new Ubuntu VM.

I went looking for some hints and tips, warnings and pratfalls. The general consensus seemed to be that Ubuntu was happy to run on Hyper-V. This seemed to be the best advice available, and highlighted the tricky points, although not the solution that worked for me. I made a number of false starts and deleted any number of poorly configured VMs before finally getting a setup I was happy with. This in itself is a sign that actually it is very easy to do.

So,  in order to install a Ubuntu virtual machine onto a Hyper-V server, follow this sequence:

  1. Download a Ubuntu distribution iso image for the OS you want, I used ubuntu-9.10-server-amd64.iso
  2. Place it in c:\iso on the Hyper-V server
  3. In Hyper-V Manager, click New|Virtual Machine
  4. In the wizard, give the new VM a unique identifiable name – i’m boring and chose UbuntuVM
  5. Set the memory allocation ( I used 1Gb for Ubuntu9.10Server)
  6. Very Important – Set the Configure Networking option to “Not Connected”
  7. Give the new machine an identifiable harddisk name (say UbuntuVM.vhd)
  8. Choose the “Install an Operating System from a Boot CD/DVD” option
  9. Click the “Image file (.iso)” option and browse to c:\iso to find the previously download iso image
  10. Make sure the “Start the Virtual Machine after it is created” checkbox is NOT ticked and click Finish.
  11. In the Virtual Machines list, right-click on the new VM and choose Settings
  12. Very Important – Click on “Add Hardware”, and then choose “Legacy Network Adaptor” from the list and click the Add button. If you don’t do this part then networking wont work properly.
  13. Its all plain sailing now. In the Network dropdown, choose HP Virtual Lan. Click Apply and OK
  14. Start the new VM
  15. Choose the “English” options in the install menus
  16. In the network config options, I choose to configure manually
  17. Complete the Ubuntu installation process – it is very straight-forward
  18. When asked for server options, I choose LAMP, OPenSSH and SAMBA
  19. Once installed, don’t forget to manually add to the Active Directory DNS

You are done. You should have a working Ubuntu VM now. The key difficulty with the install is the network configuration. For some reason, MS have decided not to offer the “Legacy Network Adaptor” option within the “New Virtual Machine” wizard. Get that part right and its a piece of ……

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