Mind The Gap!

Interesting point made on BBC’s The Big Question about a fundamental flaw in our education system.  We generate competition between children in the classroom through the use of SATs.  The incumbent Government is now pushing schools away from collaboration and into competition with the Academy and Free School agenda.  Does this ingraining of competition at such a young age and the consequent social gap go some way to explain how our British society is so accepting of such a wide social and economic gap?  What do you think?

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The quiet Google Apps and Chromebooks revolution

Over the past few weeks I have been assessing how best we can deploy and manage a set of Google Chromebooks to be piloted across a group of schools.  We already have an enterprise deployment of Google Apps for Education with approximately 130,000 users grouped into around 450 Organisational Units.  The entire user and organisational management is efficiently streamlined using the Systems Interoperability Framework (SIF); new users, transient users and leavers are all near-time captured through SIF making account management a breeze!

How does this work?  (1) The school Management Information System (MIS) is updated – pupils and staff intake, leavers, or changes – and modifications are transported securely via SIF and the (2) Zone Integration Server (ZIS) to the Identity Management (IdM) server.  Here users identities are matched or created.  (3) Then the identities are passed via SIF to the ZIS and then (4) on to Google Apps.

SIF Identity Management

Now here’s the cloud clever bit… Before deployment to your users, each Google Chromebook is registered with your organisation’s Google Apps domain using the management console.  Here you can define a multitude of policy options including which applications, or extensions, a user should, or should not, have access to.  Policies can be defined for different organisational units – pupils and staff, sales and marketing, etc. – and updated at any time.  Any user who signs-in in to any registered Chromebook will automatically receive the profile relevant to them.  Organisational Unit policy changes are automatically applied the next time a user signs-in, or after a set time period.

Chromebook Management

This is a fantastic example of how simple, powerful, efficient and cost effective cloud computing really can be.  No expensive domain servers to maintain and house.  No network intensive traditional roaming profiles.  Easy management from any place in the world with an Internet connection.  Flexible and mobile workforce and learners.

Cloud Computing for Slimmers

The emergence of slimline Operating Systems (OS) such as Jolicloud and Google’s Chrome OS, which focus upon delivering applications, file storage and security from the web, changes things.


They herald the promise of much faster access to what we want and do the most – the web.

Think about it. No really, really think about it. When you boot your PC, laptop, tablet, or mobile device, what and where is it that you want to go fastest and first? Email? Information search? Apps that keep you productive or in the social mix? The probability is that all this stuff is now located on the web – in ‘The Cloud’. Even the files that you store, or media that you might want to share, are sitting out there in the ether…

So… Why on earth would you want to hang about waiting for your device to boot, figure out if it is up to date, virus scan gigs and gigs of inefficiently used, or unused, hard disc drive (HDD) space, nag you for reboots and oh, check if it is still up to date, etc., and so on?

What if your Operating System (OS) went on a diet? What if it was designed to get you onto the Internet and to all of the stuff that you want to do way faster? Maybe you could even stop worrying about losing your stuff, or protecting it from nasty intruders? How about you don’t need to think about changing your device, or upgrading your hardware, every couple of years?

These are just some of the things to start considering when looking at what the slimline and web focussed OS’ have to offer. Whether you are replacing your home setup, or if you are making decisions about a full-on enterprise alternative to traditional desktop solutions, you probably should consider the Cloud desktop.

Here are just a few reasons why…

1) An OS that is slimline, or small footprint, demands less of your device resources and thus – assuming the hardware keeps working – is faster for longer;

2) Less apps installed locally means fewer updates, reduced client management and backup and recovery headaches are pushed into the Cloud;

3) Why not combine a move to the Cloud with a reduction in Hard Disc Drive (HDD) space and device moving parts by phasing in Solid State Drives (SSD) – extended device life too?

4) Consider a support model that favours connectivity and capacity over the device and hardware – if most stuff is in the Cloud then issuing a replacement device is far cheaper – standard builds and courier swaps, as well as pushing identity management and authentication beyond the Local Area Network (LAN);

5) Do we need locally housed and managed servers anymore?

6) A slimmer OS is more likely to accommodate a lower powered device and hence, greener IT – oh and did I mention that you might be able to do away with local servers, related air conditioning and useful space?;

7) Web apps are increasingly device agnostic;

8) Flexible and mobile working combined with workforce reform can only thrive in this environment;

9) So… Sustainability, portability, cheaper and greener!

I’m leading a project to introduce and pilot a small number of Cloud focussed OS devices into schools and these are a few of the questions that I hope to answer. And that’s alongside assessing the real benefits that any of these sorts of ICT devices might bring to an education, or business, environment. So do follow me on Twitter, subscribe to my RSS feed, or keep coming back to see how these questions are answered in the real world.

I’ve focussed upon evidencing the delivery of cheaper desktop solutions here. But this is just one piece in the whole Cloud jigsaw. In my opinion, key to an overall successful Cloud strategy is data and / or information interoperability. You want all of these disparate Cloud apps to link together for the user’s sake! If you are reading this with interest and a watching brief, then whatever your current strategy is, start with open standards data interoperability! If you are in the education market then don’t miss SIF!

Gove Phone Home

The Department for Education (DfE) has launched a consultation document about ensuring good behaviour in schools. The closing date is the 30th May 2011. And the outcomes of the consultation could directly influence the approach to the use of technology in the classroom – specifically mobile devices. View the consultation at

Ewan McIntosh’s blog carries a great article about this with your comments encouraged at

Doug Belshaw and others have launched an open letter to Mr Gove to explain why mobile phone technology, far from being banned in schools, must be embraced – and you can add your weight to it at

I’ve written a little on the subject of mobile devices at and – but really could do with writing more 😉

Mobile technology – the Smart Phone – has truly arrived. It’s been flirting with us for a number of years now, promising sweet access to the regular tasks that we traditionally and reluctantly dragged a charged laptop, or netbook, around with us to do.

I was recently forced into testing the validity of this claim after moving house… No Internet access for about a month. Instead, my iPhone. I was easily able to manage Email, Facebook, this WordPress blog, Twitter, modest editing and uploading of graphics for my blog, Googling, YouTubing, etc., etc. Pretty much everything I do on a typical day with my netbook – and my full blown PC – was achievable in a friendly and properly mobile way.

The e-safe use in the classroom question is an interesting one… We clearly can’t go whacking web filtering or monitoring tools on what are most likely privately owned devices; and that’s if such software exists. David posts familiar comments on Ewan’s blog with stories of pupils “arranging toilet meetings, Facebook comments about other pupils, texting parents & older siblings to get them out of school, texting aggressive parents because they’ve been pulled up on behavior (who then show up at the front door), sharing video and pictures that are inappropriate for school etc.“. Is there a balance to be had where good mobile device behaviour equals access to the device in the classroom? Or maybe a lesson is so engaging together with the use of mobile devices that rubbish behaviour isn’t even considered? Interested to hear what ideas others have.




Barack Obama’s State of the Union Speech 2011 Wordled!

Barack Obama's State of the Union Speech 2011

Barack Obama's State of the Union Speech 2011

FAO suppliers at BETT 2011

I’m at BETT 2011 all of this week through ’til Saturday.  I’m particularly interested in hosted, or ‘cloud’, open standards solutions.

Are there any solutions providers out there who are interested in discussing access management using biometrics, RFID, etc., that can plug-in to a Shibboleth Single Sign-on (SSo) IdP and support the Systems Interoperability Framework (SIF)?  My thinking is that door entry, access management, cashless and so on, could share the same biometric, RFID, etc., ‘token’ which could also be used for multifactor authentication in a Shibboleth environment…

Twitter @f2mke, email, or reply to this post if you are interested.

I’m also on the SIF stand at BETT INNPOD19 between 1PM and 2.30PM on Friday if you are interested in how SIF can work for you!?

BETT 2011 and SIF

If you are attending the largest ICT Education show in the world this week – BETT 2011 – then come and find out more about SIF by visiting the SIF Association UK’s stand upstairs in the Main Hall Gallery, along the Innovation Avenue. Look for stand reference INNPOD19. See you there 🙂

Caught on camera!

We’re up and running now in Norfolk with our Virtual Data Centre which is hosting our Systems Interoperability Framework (SIF), Identity Management and Shibboleth Single Sign-on infrastructure… It’s all good 🙂 I’ve been in three or more minds as to whether I should share this link, but one of the minds clearly won

Naace is the new host for the Becta ICT Research Network

Naace will take on the Becta ICT Research Network following the planned closure of the existing Becta hosted network at the end of 2010.

For more information visit:

The joys of resilience – random post ;-)

The world of ICT increasingly incorporates the need for resilience, not least as we are now so reliant on it and determined to build confidence in teachers who can’t afford for it to go wrong in the classroom…  I have carried the resilience mantra into my personal life and with living in the sticks and needing a car for my work, decided that a spare car would be essential.  Well, that’s my excuse anyway 😉

So when I found myself with both cars off the road for the past 2 weeks, it focussed my mind upon disaster recovery.  We seem to reference DR a lot, but how many of us have real tried and tested DR plans in place?  On the transport front I had to just go with it… Rearrange my diary to work with public transport, do lots and lots of walking and put my persuasive social skills to work to get lifts and the occasional use of cars belonging to friends and family.

I managed.  I’m fitter for it.  I have a smaller carbon footprint.  And there were times when it felt quite liberating!

The real F2 MKE

The real F2 MKE is now back on the road and I have a tried and tested – albeit unanticipated and previously unplanned – disaster recovery plan in place.

Now it’s time to seriously consider DR in the workplace 🙂