Wednesday, September 15, 2010

White Space

A few years ago I really started focusing on the concept of "White Space" and the future of wifi-mesh. It seemed so distant to figure out how the world would be able to access the Internet. Having moved to a rural district, I have been waiting to hear how our telecommunications companies will be able to provide high speed Internet to homes out here.

The concept of White Space involves using the broadcast signal left behind in the old analog cable television system. You know what this is also called? The American Broadcast System - meaning it is owned and regulated by the American public. White space is the spectrum that resides in the old analog systems of cable that have been "off" since we all moved to digital cable last year. These companies have been working on building systems to work in the white space spectrum

Short and sweet idea: Motorola, HP, Microsoft, Google and other manufacturers will have a product that will attach to your cable port in any room in your house that has a cable port. This product will create a wireless access point that can share the wireless spectrum through your home. Your neighbors will get these as well. Your neighborhood is now a wireless mesh. Your city is a mesh through your county. The more buildings with cable ports, the more opportunity to strengthen the mesh.

EVERY home in the United States with a cable drop is a potential customer for a white space access point. EVERY home!

The spectrum is the key and the FCC is starting to open up some more of this spectrum for development of applications.

Keep your eyes and ears open on "white space" tech. It is really interesting.

For those in rural areas, keep a watch on the FCC limiting the pipeline to certain areas. The web should be equal access for everyone no matter where they live. Internet neutrality is BIG in this discussion. Keep watch!

Thursday, September 2, 2010


I met with my "mentee" today who left teaching elementary students to teach Computer Applications to middle school kids. This is a passionate teacher. A teacher who had energy with her kids and kept the room active when she taught elementary. She got involved in committees about technology and innovation. She was our district SMART trainer and she really knows her stuff about teaching with technology.

She had asked me to come observe and make suggestions. Within 15 minutes, I had filled up a page.

The concept of "this is the way we've always done it" was made clear viewing students learn about Output Devices using a workbook and a highlighter. She showed me the stack of resources left to her with notes about how the previous teacher had taught.

They managed to get through the highlighting portion of class when she took them on a journey to Glogster. This is one of those tools she excels at and it really was great for the kids to get their hands on something productive. But she spent the rest of the time answering raised hands about "how do I....".

I left my notes so I am drawing from memory, but this is what I would say to ANY Computer Lab teachers:

1. Your room is not designed like other classrooms. You are competing with computers for the kids attention. Each day, you will lose if you keep competing with the computer. Because your room is not like other classrooms, you need to let go of teaching as they do in other classrooms.

2. Throw away books and workbooks. Keep the teacher edition for yourself as a guide ONLY.

3. Instead of reading vocabulary words, use Google News to look up those words and their relevance TODAY. Let the kids learn about the products involving those words and then define them as they learn about the relevance of that product or discovery. Today's lesson was on resolution. Yesterday Apple introduced new devices that have a revolutionary type of resolution. Take the lesson further to let them predict future resolution type devices.

4. Create projects based on the discoveries of the group. Based on what concepts they learn, create projects where they apply the technology tools. Print these or post online. These will be the reference points for reviewing for tests and future projects.

5. Create a safe place. You have to tell them that your room is safe to ask questions of their neighbors, to collaborate and to click around and explore. You have to tell them this. You have to educate them that they don't have to ask YOU for help.

When introducing a new concept or lesson, setup a timer if you need to and give them 10 minutes to click around and discover without asking for help. Let them fail and start over. Then discuss as a group what they discovered, what they liked, what they didn't like and HOW THEY WOULD MAKE A PROGRAM or TOOL BETTER.

6. Not all lessons need to be done in a computer lab. Reserve classrooms during conference times, use a conference room or multi-purpose lab to go over expectations on projects where you can sit at eye-level with the students. Collaborate with them about projects and your expectations on time and production.

I left her my notes and planned a visit in the future where I can help her with a lesson. I will be in there all day with her watching, tweaking and then helping her reflect on ways to improve.

I love this. This is the job I would love to do each day. This isn't about a specific software or device. This is about the technology of innovative education. This is about pushing the boundaries and creating an environment of collaborative work between teacher and student. I have been vocal to this teacher about my jealousy that she is getting to teach this class.

I can tell she is worried, scared, even frightened about teaching something so different. But it is that energetic fear that makes it the most fun. Wouldn't you agree? She is excited about the possibilities and I can't wait to see the change!

I sure hope the principal doesn't freak out. ;p