Monday, 30 April 2012

How to keep the Mac Doctors at Bay.

Mac's are pretty resilient computers.

But what do you do when you notice that your applications are behaving odd, or your laptop is taking forever to boot up?

Here's three things you need to do to keep your mac performing in peak condition.

Disk Utility & Repairing Disk Permissions

What is it?
Disk Utility is an application that is located in your Applications/Utilities folder. (Or you could just use spotlight to launch it).
When installing applications, Mac OS X will store a “Bill of Materials) file (.bom) in your Library. When you repair disk permissions Disk Utility reviews and compares its list to the actual permissions on each .bom file listed. If the permissions differ, Disk Utility reports the difference and corrects them.
When to do it?
  • your apple-originated software (iLife, iWorks, the OS itself) keeps crashing or does not allow you to save
How do you do it?
  1. Launch Disk Utility 
    (located in Macintosh HD/Applications/Utilities)
  1. Select Macintosh HD from the left hand column (if you’ve renamed your HD, that’s okay. Select the newly named one instead)
  2. Select Repair Disk Permissions and allow it to run to completion (this may take a few minutes)
  3. Restart your computer when done.
Note: This is usually done together with Resetting of PRAM / NVRAM. . . >

Resetting PRAM / NVRAM

What is it?
Your Mac stores certain settings in a special memory area even if it is turned off (unless there is a battery issue).  On Intel-based Macs, this is stored in memory known as NVRAM; on PowerPC-based Macs, this is stored in memory known as PRAM.
When to do it?
  • your boot up takes a long time.
  • your mac shows a folder with a “?” in it when starting up
  • your core services are affected
How do you do it?
  1. Shut down the computer.
  2. Locate the following keys on the keyboard: Command, Option, P, and R. You will need to hold these keys down simultaneously in step 4.
  3. Turn on the computer.
  4. Press and hold the Command-Option-P-R keys. You must press this key combination before the gray screen appears.
  5. Hold the keys down until the computer restarts and you hear the startup sound for the second time.
  6. Release the keys. Your computer's PRAM and the NVRAM are now reset to the default values. 
Note: You should only do this when there are problems and not as part of regular maintenance. Continuous resetting of PRAM / NVRAM can be harmful to your computer in the long run.

Installing / Re-installing the recommended Combo Update

What is it?
Major OS X updates that come in a neat little bundle. This is widely hailed as Mac’s ultimate Cure-All.
When to do it?
  • when your laptop keeps hanging and/or crashing
  • when your recent update makes your computer behave funny
  • when Finder is behaving odd
How do you do it?
  1. Backup your important data files (Time Machine is best).
  2. Go to
  3. Depending on your OS, download either
  1. Plug in to power
  2. Run the updater
  3. Restart when prompted.
  4. The restart may take awhile, allow it to run. DO NOT INTERRUPT or force shut down.
Note: Before upgrading to a new version of the OS,  check with your friendly neighborhood Apple Specialist about what’s new in the latest combo updates and whether it potentially causes applications to need patching or outright breaks it.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
~ popular engineer saying

Freeing up your Hard Disk

"You can never have enough hard disk space."

Truer words have never been blogged. I know this for a fact because I'm perpetually running out of space myself.

So I present to you, the Top Three ways of getting more hard disk space.

1) Empty your trash. 

Items in your trash still take up hard disk space until you empty it.

2) Delete downloaded installer files. 

Assuming you've installed your software properly, you have absolutely no need to retain the installer files as they can be re-downloaded from the website.

What's the best way to do this? 

Using Spotlight (the little magnifying glass icon in the top right corner of your screen), you can search for ".dmg" files (as shown in the screen shot below). Select "Show All in Finder" and you should have a full list of all files with .dmg in them.

You will probably get a massive list of files that appear.

You can sort them out according to Kind (see screenshot below) for convenience, and scroll down until you see "Disk Image".

You can work your way through the list and delete all of the dmgs you don't need. I've personally just deleted 170 installer files that I didn't need and freed up 130 Gigabytes of space.

Lastly, see point 1.

3) Store your personal pictures, movies and music on an external hard drive.

One of the great things about working on a mac is it's ability to work with multiple media libraries.

It's as simple as clicking and dragging your iPhoto library, movie files, or iTunes folder into your external hard drive, waiting for it to complete, and then deleting the copy that's sitting on your hard disk. (Again, see point 1 when you're done)

Make sure you do not interrupt the process by disconnecting the drive, running out of battery or allowing your machine to go to sleep.

The next step is as simple as
a) Finding the icon of iPhoto / iTunes in the dock.
b) Holding down the Option key on your keyboard (2 keys to the right / left of your spacebar key)
c) Click on the icon for iPhoto / iTunes
d) Select "Create New" / "Create Library"
e) Repopulating the new libraries with the pictures and music that you'll need for work. 

When you need some smooth tunes to relax or to look at smiley happy pictures, just:
a) reattach your external hard drive
b) Quit iPhoto / iTunes
c) Holding down the Option key on your keyboard (2 keys to the right / left of your spacebar key)
d) Click on the icon for iPhoto / iTunes
e) Select "Choose Library" or the name of the specific iphoto library.
f) Relax & Unwind.

If in doubt / unsure about whether you can delete / move something

Approach your friendly techs at the IT Support Helpdesk.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Myth of the Cyberkid

We all know that kids are 'digital natives' and the rest of us, well ... we're just... not.



Allow me to refocus your cultural lens with a few quotes from some eminent scholars in the know:

"The mother of ten-year-old Anna is surely observing a profound generational transformation when she says: I’ll have to come up to a level because otherwise I will, I’ll be a dinosaur, and the children, when children laugh at you and sort of say “Blimey, mum, don’t you even know that?” . . . Already now I might do something and I say “Anna, Anna, what is it I’ve got to do here?” and she’ll go “Oh mum, you’ve just got to click the—” and she’ll be whizzing, whizzing dreadfully.

For previously new media—books, comics, cinema, radio, and television—even if parent weren’t familiar with the particular contents their children engaged with, at least they could access and understand the medium so that, if they wished to understand what their children were doing or share the activity with them, they could. With the advent of digital media,things have changed. The demands of the computer interface are significant, rendering many parents “dinosaurs” in the information age inhabited by their children.

Young people themselves, conscious of being the first generation to grow up with the internet, concur with the public celebration of their status as “digital natives.” Amir (15, from London) says confidently, “I don’t find it hard to use a computer because I got into it quickly. You learn quick because it’s a very fun thing to do.” Nina (17, from Manchester) adds scathingly, “My Dad hasn’t even got a clue. Can’t even work the mouse. . . . So I have to go on the Internet for him.” But while these claims contain a sizeable grain of truth, we must also recognize their rhetorical value for the speakers.

Only in rare instances in history have children gained greater expertise than parents in skills highly valued by society (diasporic children’s learning of the host language before their parents is a good example). More usually, youthful expertise— in music, games, or imaginative play—is accorded little, serious value by adults, even if envied nostalgically. Thus, although young people’s newfound online skills are justifiably trumpeted by both generations, this does not put them beyond critical scrutiny, for the young entrepreneurs and hackers are the exceptions rather than the norm.


... one should note that while Ted, like the other two, would appear to a superficial observer to multitask effectively, “whizzing around” in the manner that impressed Anna’s mother, the benefits he gains from the internet are curtailed first by his lack of interest in information, education, or exploration and, second, by his poor skills in searching and evaluating Web sites, though one should not underestimate the importance of gaining communication-related literacy skills, especially for teenagers.

As more and more policy emphasis at national and international levels is placed on “media
literacy” or “information literacy” or “internet literacy,” critical scholars have all the more reason simultaneously to support internet literacy initiatives, ... (and) to challenge the inflated public claims regarding the “internet-savvy” teenager that accompany them.

(Livingstone, 2009)

“Our research shows that the argument that there is a generational break between today’s generation of young people who are immersed in new technologies and older generations who are less familiar with technology is flawed.

The diverse ways that young people use technology today shows the argument is too simplistic and that a new single generation, often called the ‘net generation’, with high skill levels in technology does not exist.”

Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)

Digital natives, redefined.

The problem now is that, try as we might, this boat has sailed, and to a rather disconcerting extent, this term seems to have been incorporated into global vernacular... So perhaps, rather than attempting to subvert it, its time to correct it. As danah boyd (sic) points out in her book, 'It's complicated':

Beyond Digital Natives

Most scholars have by now rejected the term digital natives, but the public continues to embrace it. This prompted John Palfrey and Urs Gasser, coauthors of Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives, to suggest that scholars and youth advocates should reclaim the concept and make it more precise. They argue that dismissing the awkward term fails to account for the shifts that are at play because of new technologies. To correct for misconceptions, they offer a description of digital natives that they feel highlight the inequalities discussed in this chapter:
“Digital natives share a common global culture that is defined not by age, strictly, but by certain attributes and experiences related to how they interact with information technologies, information itself, one another, and other people and institutions. Those who were not ‘born digital' can be just as connected, if not more so, than their younger counterparts. And not everyone born since, say, 1982, happens to be a digital native.” 


Boyd, Danah. It's complicated: The social lives of networked teens. Yale University Press, 2014.
Digital Youth, Innovation, and the Unexpected. Edited by Tara McPherson. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning.
Livingstone, Sonia. “Internet Literacy: Young People’s Negotiation of New Online Opportunities."


Sunday, 15 April 2012

Grade 4 Spreadsheets

Goods and Services and Spreadsheets

Students in Grade 4 experience a crash course in capitalism as they learn all about the ways successful businesses provide goods and services based on an understanding of their market. 
Lines of Inquiry: 
  • The nature of supply and demand 
  • Roles and processes necessary for providing goods and services
  • The elements of a successful business 
Over the course of the unit the students form small business to create products which they then market and sell on two consecutive market days at the end of the unit.

Students work in groups and are given an initial loan by their teacher as an investment in the business, which has to be repaid after market day. If students manage the process effectively they should have a significant profit to show for their labours, to be donated to the G4 GC - Bali Bridges.

In Grade 4 students are expected to further develop the spreadsheets skills they acquired in Grade 3 where they used them for capturing data on water usage in their classes, and graphing it. It is essential that these skills are applied in an authentic context, and this unit provides an ideal context for this, one that allows the students to progress their use of spreadsheets further, ie beyond data entry, and graph creation. In this unit the students model 'real world' practice to create and manage a spreadsheet to track their expenses, income and costs, and ultimately profit/loss by writing their own formulae and using functions to model ‘what if’ scenarios.

Students are able to develop their understanding of Key Concepts for this unit: 
  • Function - What is a spreadsheet?
  • Causation - 'What if' scenarios - how does a change in one amount effect other amounts? 
  • Responsibility - How do we now if we can afford this? How do we need to sell our products for to be able to recoup our costs?

View the labsite lesson here:

The entire lesson (40 minutes)

And here in sections:

Spreadsheet skill review:

Review cell address, and ranges of cells, eg: A1:B6

Functions and Formulae

Review adding the contents of cells, by by using the SUM function and by writing a formula, eg A2+B3.

Critical to the 21st Century classroom model, is ensuring that you as the teacher are NOT a prerequisite for success. Students need to be empowered to resolve their own challenges. The sooner you establish this as 'normal' practice, the easier it will be.

The students should not 'need' you to learn.

This section is purely concerned with the appearance of the spreadsheet. No Maths required, resizing columns and rows, adding text,. and outlines.

Students build a framework within with they can insert relevant data.

Now that the framework is ready, this section guides students through 'telling' the spreadsheet what kind of data will be entered into certain cells.

IMPORTANT: In a spreadsheet you cannot just add a $ sign to indicate currency, symbols like these actually contain 'functionality' in a spreadsheet, so in short, nothing will work.

Instead of you want dollar signs, let the spreadsheet do that FOR you, by telling it to format certain cells as currency.

This feature as other uses as well, for example making certain cells display percentages. You cannot do this by just adding a % sign.

Students enter specific data that need to be totalled using the SUM function.

As more information is entered, the total at the bottom of the sheet should automatically update, this allows students to begin 'modelling' 'What if?' scenarios:

What if we buy 15 of those?

Then students can write a subtraction formula to subtract the $20 that they were initially loaned from their overall total.

Student's that finish early, should be used as 'quality control' ie checking on their peers to make sure that they are finished properly, and that their sheets are working properly.

This section is an 'extension' section.

This means that the spreadsheet will do what they need, but these features will make it even better... IN particular enabling more effective 'modelling'.

  • Inserting additional columns to allow better management of multiple quantities.
  • Refining the use of formulae to add and subtract
  • Creating a 'ripple' effect whereby cells reference other cells
  • Using conditional formatting to change the colour of a cell when the value changes.

Students will need time to 'play' with these interrelated features, in order to get to a point where the logical sequencing of calculations makes sense.

They may also use ways to get it working which are not the same as yours... it may even be better...

Grade 3 Migration Presentations

As the title implies this unit centres around the idea of the students exploring the personal histories, and possible one of the most powerful situations for authentic integration of ICTs I have ever seen.

What is possibly most exciting is the way the use of technology has evolved so naturally - from a very simple premise to something which is now incredibly sophisticated, and yet the majority of Grade 3 students take it all in their stride.

In essence this unit is simply about using PowerPoint to create a slideshow that tells their family stories, with a particular emphasis on the key concepts of connection and change. This year the team decided to shift the tool away from PowerPoint to Google Presentations mainly because its web situated context opens up more options for home/school collaboration which is a powerful aspect of this unit, as the children's parent are, in effect, the primary source for most of the children's inquiries.

Very quickly other forms of ICT were utilised to contribute to this process, starting with the use of Picasa to facilitate the children's collection images of family and related images. Sure they could do this via email, or memory sticks, (and some did) but Picasa automatically takes care of resizing, they can be uploaded and accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. Then once a collection of images (and album) is formed, the children can easily insert those images into their Google Presentation by using the 'Copy Image Address' option, and pasting that in via the Insert > Image command.

Next it became apparent that the students would need to crop some of the images, eg, to isolate Grandad's portrait from within a family group photograph. So instead of fiddling about downloading and editing with Microsoft Picture Manager or Preview, all they had to do was edit and crop any image in IN Picasa, using Piknik, and then save it as a copy.

Next we utlised the Draw tool within Google Presentation within a Google Drawing (inserted into a Presentation slide). Students learned how to search Google images effectively in order to locate and insert a map of the region of the earth that is relevant to their family (his)story. then they were able to annotate and label the image to indicate the movement of their ancestors within the last few generations.

We were then able to capitalise on these skills by using a similar technique to build a family tree using another Google drawing, one that plots the family back to Grandparents, and in some cases great grandparents, using the same technique of image annotation within a Google drawing.

At this point the students were ready to use a time-line program, in this case Timeliner XL to take the results of their inquiry as evident in their family tree to plot a family tree that automatically organises events chronologically using years to mark important events. From that point they were able to develop the time-line in line with the ongoing enquiries, adding basic images from the program resource library, Google and of course their growing Picasa album of family images.

Next the students brought home iPod Touches to record an interview/s with their parents. This video was then transferred to a school drive, where the students could consult and review the footage to assist with the reminder of their presentations, where they independently created a series of slides to compete their individual family stories.

Once the time-line was complete students were guided through the process of exporting the time-line as an image and then inserting that image into their presentation.

Wow - this has come along way from being 'just' a PowerPoint Presentation.

Finally, as their presentations were already online, it was a relatively simple matter to share these with the peers, their teachers, their parents, and of course their grandparents!