Monthly Archives: September 2010

Quotes du Jour

I’m loving these quotes and think they resonate well in the world of ICT 🙂

“A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.”

Frank Zappa

“The computer can’t tell you the emotional story. It can give you the exact mathematical design, but what’s missing is the eyebrows.”

— Frank Zappa

SIF Association’s official response to the Education, Skills and Children’s Services Interoperability Review is published

The SIF Association’s official response to the Education, Skills and Children’s Services Interoperability Review is published. Read it here!

Electricity Cost Calculator

I’ve put together a crude spreadsheet to work out how much money per annum devices cost to run based upon watts and hours used.

(Right-click and select Save (link) as… to download Electricity Costs Calculator in MS Excel format… Google Docs version coming soon with Carbon Footprint output field 😉

How much ICT infrastructure does a school really need to manage?

Let’s just start with servers…

A quick tally of the number and types of servers a typical secondary school might have sitting in a dedicated, no doubt air-conditioned, room resulted in this visual…

School Server Infrastructure Today

School Server Infrastructure Today

And a few of the disadvantages of this approach might be:

  • Some poor soul has to keep all of these running and somehow manage stay an up to date expert across a wide-ranging set of server services.
  • Each server is most likely running 24/7/365 at an average of around 200 watts – roughly £2.5k per annum in electricity bills alone and that’s quite a smelly carbon footprint to boot.

Provider: Scottish Power (Tariff: Premier Plus online, London)
Rate: 11.252 pence per kilowatt/hour
Rate last checked: 10th Sept 2009

And that’s without going down the whole maintenance and replacement, licensing and support costs. Nor factoring in stuff like resilience and security…

What if today looked something like this..?

School Infrastructure Today?

School Infrastructure Today?

A few of the advantages might be:

  • High availability resulting in high teacher confidence in the ‘invisible’ ICT.
  • Much lower total cost of ownership – subscription based access to services that you need and when you need them.
  • Flexible – add new and remove unwanted services with ease.
  • More space – no more dedicated server room.
  • Sweeter smelling carbon footprint.
  • Access from anywhere and at any time 🙂

Yeah right… But how do people login to the network?

They don’t. Ideally they single sign-on (online) into the services that they have privileges to access. Look at how you can link-up your accounts on many of the popular web based apps like Google, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook and so on and on and on… In education terms this would most likely look like using the UK Access Management Federation and Shibboleth for single sign-on.

But the web isn’t advanced enough yet to support all of the teaching, learning and management tools, apps and services that we need!

Sure it is! Just check out my Delicious bookmarks for a sample… Also check out Johannes Ahrenfelt’s blog for even more ideas!

Okay… But how on earth do I keep all of these disparate apps updated with the relevant info about students and staff?

How do you right now? A combination of many different and often bespoke or proprietary methods methinks? The Systems Interoperability Framework (SIF) is a promising option for education services. Get involved!

Yeah but what if our connection to the internet goes down?

Get some resilience. A fail-over connection maybe? Let’s face it, with all of those servers a potential weak point, the chances are that your internet connection is far more reliable than you might think!

What do you really think? Some good debate around this is very welcome 🙂

PS Would we still need a proxy server if, as is likely, most of the web traffic is encrypted across Secure Socket Layer (SSL) (port 443 / https)?

SIF in Norfolk

Here is a quick update on SIF in Norfolk… We are currently rolling out SIF Agents for all schools MIS’.  We are provisioning Google Apps accounts for about 130,000 users using a SIF Agent developed in-house using Edustructures ADK. The agent supports events.

We’re also keeping accounts synchronised throughout ‘the system’ via another in-house developed SIF Agent which supports the Identity Object.

The following diagram summarises:

SIF in Norfolk

Click the image to see SIF in Norfolk full size

What the Tweet?

Interesting graphical view of where the information circulating around the net supposedly originating from the likes of Twitter and blogs actually starts out…

Google Apps integrated learning platform!

Well I guess that it was only a matter of time… But fresh into the Google Marketplace is Grockit…

In brief Grockit is a social platform for learning that provides students with collaborative real-time study rooms. There is content but this is aligned to US K-12 curriculum and college entrance exams.

Students with Google Apps can sign on to Grockit through their Google account to instantly join live online study groups with Grockit’s global community of students and expert instructors. Students’ Google Calendars will be synced with their Grockit study session schedule. Additionally, important documents will be automatically downloaded into their Google Docs.

There is an offer of free access until the end of 2010 but after this expect to see prices per user ramp up to a most likely unaffordable $99 per account :-S

It will be very interesting to see how this platform develops and whether or not there is an effort to get into the UK market…

Social media in schools

The following video from Teachers.TV provides a well-rounded overview of the risks and benefits of using social media within schools.

“The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.” – Eric Schmidt

We’re getting so impatient

The term Rat Race was originally coined in the 1930s – a dance to jazz music. It probably had nothing to do with the metaphor we use today which a quick Google suggests originated around the 1950s… Any advance on this is welcome.

But never has our need to keep up in this fast paced world been so great as today. I mean, the first thing I want to do when I boot up my computer is get on the internet and check my email, social networking sites and so on. Spare me the wait while all the unnecessary stuff chugs away loading up. I like a cup of tea to kick start my day, but seriously, my computer doesn’t need to wait while I make one!

Cup of Tea

And so, Michael Hart has made unofficial instant versions of Google Maps and Google Images to help satisfy our desire for instant everything; once our devices have finally booted up and found their way onto the internet that is. They are quick and get quicker still as the graphics cache on your device.

Have a look at Instant Images @ and Instant Maps @

Does desire drive destiny?

It is interesting to read that smart phones now grab a 25% share of the US mobile market – up 2% in the last quarter. The Nielsen Company predicts that sales will overtake traditional mobile phones by the end of 2011. This is fast paced change no doubt encouraged over the past few years by the media hyped iPhone and swell that is social networking.

Smart Phone Growth Q2 2010

This trend goes hand in hand with recent figures that show Facebook to dominate the lives of mobile internet users in the UK. In December 2009 about 16 million UK citizens accessed the internet from their mobile phones and nearly half of the traffic was to Facebook!

But surprisingly it is not Apples iPhone and iOS that is dominating the pack. Google’s Android OS is fast gaining market share ahead of Google’s own predictions.

“Google’s Android OS has shown the most significant expansion in market share among current subscribers. Android’s rise is even more noticeable among new smartphone subscribers in the last six months where Android has nosed past Apple’s iOS in the last quarter to grab a 27% share of those recent smartphone subscribers.” The Nielsen Company

But does desire drive destiny?

Despite Android’s apparent boom time, 90% of existing iPhone users and a significant 21% of Android users most desire an iPhone as their next device. It is difficult to draw any conclusions other than on price points. Apple’s marketing machine is arguably the strongest and the brand simply oozes iconic cool, ease and IT just works ( dodgy reception aside ;)).

But quite clearly, if the trends are anything to go by, in these fraught global economic times desire alone isn’t enough to sustain market dominance. HTC may well have pulled a clever marketing coup in calling their Android powered popular iPhone alternative the Desire?

Next desired smart phone OS

I don’t see the battle between the giants that are Google and Apple spelling the demise of the Blackberry just yet… Businesses that are serious about security and device management have little choice but to continue with Blackberry.