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Distributed School

A project that brings back the love of learning to rural communities

Navcon 2K4: Learning with ICT - the Distributed School

On Friday morning, (the morning after the conference dinner!) I presented a session with Richard Millwood on 'Learning with ICT: the Distributed School'

We used SubEthaEdit to share the names and backgrounds of the people who came to listen. Having outlined our proposal for the Distributed School, participants then simulated the live video connection between the three sites. This activity stimulated people to discuss and think about what the learning might look like in the Distributed School.

Here is the document that participants collaboratively wrote using SubEthaEdit. Each group took on a location around the world. Text has been copied and pasted as written by participants.


  1. The need for a global curriculum
    structure.. so groups of schools agree of what is taught, to whom and when
  2. Teacher competency... being able
    to handle this sort of teaching and learning... also the relief teacher situation
    - how comfortable are the back up staff going to be to build this expertise?
  3. Preparation time.. collaborative
    teaching takes planning time.
    International education - new mode of teaching where teachers take on shift
    work if operating across countries.. Parents doing work for their children..
    need for some sort of ID device to prove that Mary is actually operating the
  4. New assessment methods ie: assessing
    work that is produced electronically
    Discipline issues - Would students really be responsible for their own b/h?
    Need to be on same platform technologically... otherwise huge delay in possible
    in communications.. Collaborative peer assessment (ie:email document outlining
    standards, group negotiate and assess). Virtual surveillance of schooling..
    Parents log into monitor what students are doing.
  5. Capturing learning - issues around
    building a structure to capture students' learning... think of the parent
    who demands to see Johnny's exercise book... ie: need for huge amounts of
    data capturing capacity
  6. Social interactions... eg: Physical
    education ... how will this be addressed? Building in social interaction time
    in a face to face mode.
  7. Hardware/software/power - Need
    for a local power generator to back up the power
    New ways of learning -
  8. [Traditional model of schooling]
    Possibility to use tech to offer expertise in a particular subject area not
    already offered by the school

important stuff

  1. getting sense of community [using
    technology socially before using it formall]y
  2. how to get past the 'legal duty
    of care' that means schools block things like chat components - how to manage
    this? [urban schools key issue]

working doc:
serious planning issues [coordination so all on same lane]?
how teacher participation happens?
fluency of conversation?
incorporating chat effectively? [merging different technologies for a better
fit for flow of conversation
getting sense of community [effective connection across sites - or even within
schools - f2f communication is essential how to facilitate that effectively
- establishing protocol
how to manage cummunity across time zones? for 'lesons'
how to get past the 'legal duty of care that means schools block things like
chat compnonents - how to manage this? - how do we manage where kids go?
how to break the content is fitted to the class model?

Technoogy issues -l
philosophy - curriculum issues
pedagogy different teaching practices
length of school day - routines/structure. Time zones
how would you choose partners
What is the key point of chosen schools

- different teaching practices
cultural aspect
Cultural activities/kapahaka

compatibility of software/hardware
common platform for sharing
security /safe learning environment
quality of assurance of programmes being delivered - accountablity
teacher driven/child driven
face to face capabiity- real life experience
technological support
adult supervision
Facilitator to oversee cluster
Board of trustees?

Using the Finder: to talk

Pete Bradshaw and I travelled to Chester to the ITTE (Information Technology in Teacher Education) conference and managed to convince the conference organisers (it wasn't that hard!) that we could present in the free-slot.

Pete and I decided to do a session on the Distributed School concept....and we had little time to put something together.

Having spent two days listening to people present and be driven by PowerPoint presentations..... some of the less effective presentations were as a result of presenters lacking time, either because they talked too much on one slide (cos it was interesting and gained peoples interest) or people interjected (again useful) and this resulted in people either:

  1. rushing throught the remainder of the presentation (missing some key bits)

  2. visibly skipping through what looked like more interesting slides than those that had been shown and discussed earlier, and again, missing important stuff.

.... remembering that presentations can be a bit like teaching a lesson....they have to fit any given time, points could be discussed at any moment and you have to sustain the interest from the participants partly based on their own questions and thoughts.

Pete and I decided to do things a little differently....

think different

I'd been playing around with the concept of presenting a talk using Apple's OS called the Finder and this, it seemed, was the perfect opportunity explore the possibilities. Essentially, the Finder would allow you to present in a fairly non-linear can still have slides in some order, but you aren't constrained by that order. The Finder allows you to jump from one slide to another in any order (drag your folders into the navigation bar on the left hand side of Finder windows.) However, rather more significant is the inclusion of supporting media into your presentation.

the finder

The Finder allows you to select images as the background for any folder (View menu --> Show View Options). Therefore, one folder essentially becomes one slide....but, and this is the smart can add your supporting files within it. is a diagram of Distributed School....let me show you a movie in QuickTime, some photos in Preview.... a PDF file.... etc etc.

  • Background images can be made in any application you like, I used AppleWorks.... ideally you want to save the image file in a way that allows you to modify it quickly and easily later. Then, just attach it to a given folder.
  • Media can be dragged and placed within the Finder window, locating relevant resources next to items in the background image. This looks very cool.
  • New Folders can be created as bullet points. You can change their icons to any image you like, make icon sizes BIG (cos they look really sexy) increase the font size of the icon labels (so they are readable)

I created, but didn't use a slide (exactly! - but i could have) which invited people to contribute challenges. easy would that be?
A. Easy. You just create folders and change their names to become their suggestion. Yes, you are limited by the length of a Folder name, but you can move the folders around the Finder window..... so, for example, you could position items in 'agreement' on one side, and 'disagreement' on another.

Another rather neat idea is that you could have sub-issues within issues (folders within folders)

Pete and I are exploring freeware, shareware apps which might add extra functionality to the Finder, there are loads out there. The Finder is very scriptable....AppleScript, Folder Action Scripts..... worth exploring these too.

Together with Expos?? you can navigate between slides and applications pretty smartly.


  • Finder presentations aren't that portable (Mac to Mac is ok)
  • Icons can move around the Finder window, e.g. sort by name, date etc. This isn't helpful.
  • folder names are limited in length so people's contributes are potentially limited...but you probably only want bullet points anyway?


PowerPoint is pants, Apple's Keynote looks beautiful but doesn't go anywhere near being interactive or non-linear. So, what are the options? HyperCard ..... how many people wish for an OS X version? (it's not gonna happen though is it?)

Web pages - used those a few times, but i've always felt it is hard work to put those together and face issues with changing projector/screen resolutions, with modifying content (particularly adding/removing pages - navigation nightmare.) AND.....what's more.....with any of the above, how do you add comments, thoughts, suggestions during the presentation? If there is one feature I'd really's being able to contribute to the presentation right then and there.

Of course, I'm new to presenting at conferences and there is lots to learn.... but there is always lots to tell people and I couldn't imagine not having the flexibilty to make a presentation quickly but effectively, nevermind having the flexibility to present and talk without constraints.

Telecommunications in Tasmania

Stumbled across a rather useful document relating to the development of Telecommunications in Tasmania.

Tasmania are just a bit keen to create the third 'cluster' for the Distributed School so thought I'd read up a little about their current capacity to supply broadband to rural areas.

...handy, Telstra are onto it already!

Video conference with Tasmania

Not sure when my feet last touched the ground...

Last week I held a video conference with ministers, policy makers, principals stationed in Hobart and also simultaneously with West Coast Principals in Queenstown. Slightly bizarre video conferencing with two locations. You only ever see one site at any one throughout most of the conference I observed people in Hobart. It isn't until someone speaks (or coughs even!) at the other site that the video swaps to the other site...rather neat.

I talked a little about the outline proposal for the Distributed School - Tasmania are a really great bunch of people, very keen and interested in the prospect of building a school joined up by lots of cool technology. They asked lots of questions and gave some critical feedback which is very welcome, especially if this proposal goes ahead with a cluster in Tasmania and the other two here in the UK.

...very exciting!

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