The evolution of Cloud Computing and the changing anatomy of a Microsoft data centre.

October 27, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Cloud Computing, Digital Era 

Now for something a little bit geekier! Last week I was at a meeting at Microsoft’s UK base in Reading to look at a wide range of different topics. One of the agenda items was covering the cloud and as expected topics including Live@Edu and Office 365 were covered. One aspect of the discussion I did not expect was a presentation which showed the changing anatomy of the data centre. I managed to get some shots of the 5 current stages of Microsoft’s data centre evolution which I thought you might like to see. Whilst not a fully fledged geek I was fascinated to see how things are evolving and later on I will show you the latest thinking on what data centres will look like in the next year and beyond.

1st Generation Data Centre

Servers on shelves Ikea style

2nd Generation Data Centre

The development of racked servers

3rd Generation Data Centre

The modern data centre with flashing blue lights!

4th Generation Data Centre

We were then shown what the modern day Microsoft data centre looks like. The focus is on size, reliability and scalable units with entire shipping containers ready to go. These units are dropped into place and instantly activated into the centre. They are also sealed and for efficiency they still run and will not be opened unless 35% of the environment has failed. The video also shows the cooling system which again is locked straight into the units.

Sitting there I thought this was very cool…. and then I was shown the real future of data centres in terms of mobility and the private cloud. More of that later.

Creating connected and collaborative learners. Where should their good ideas come from?

October 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Digital Era, e-learning 

Over the last few weeks everywhere I go I have been hearing a recurring theme about the nature of successful learning which resonates with my own long held view. The word which best sums this theme up is ‘collaboration’. It seems as a society we are at last increasingly realising that growing our young minds through interdependence is just as important if not more so as fostering independence. Whilst watching a video by Steve Johnson I was struck by how important it is that we have encourage our learners to be connected and collaborative for success. The video is called Where do good ideas come from? and it is well worth 5 minutes of your time to watch.

A number of things struck me within the piece including the premise that many great ideas are created from a number of different ‘hunches’ from a range of different people. Surely it is in this context that we should increasingly recognise the value of shared and creative learning which is not constrained by individual formal assessment? For me a quote at the end of the video sums this up.

‘That’s the real lesson of where good ideas come from, that chance favours the connected mind.’  Steve Johnson

Dell brings the Netbook and the Tablet together. Creating a perfect learning device with Dell Duo?

October 26, 2010 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Digital Era, e-learning, Netbooks 

As many of you will know I was (and still am) a big advocate of a the Netbook as an effective learning device for schools. Much of the fanfare around Netbooks has faded as the world has gone tablet crazy but Netbooks have not disappeared just yet.  Whilst I am also a big tablet fan and love the use of One Note in this format I still believe that the lack of a real keyboard will hold them back as devices in the educational market. There are of course flip tablets with a keyboard which can then lay fully flat in tablet mode. These hinges seem more susceptible to damage in a school environment as I found out on a recent visit to a school in the Midlands where 15% of all tablet pcs were being repaired at any one time.

Then I saw this very ingenious take on converting a Netbook into a tablet and it all started to make sense. Take a look at the video.

I love the simplicity and ease with which the tablet becomes a Netbook or ‘mobile computing device’ as Dell puts it. You will also notice that Netbook specs continue to rise and with a dual core atom processor on board and HD  this multi purpose device is more likely to be successful in meeting the needs of learners. Let me know your thoughts.

Cloud Computing with SharePoint 2010 and more. Office 365 brings a rich cloud experience.

October 26, 2010 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Cloud Computing, SharePoint, SharePoint 2010 

It has been an interesting month for talk of Cloud Computing and specifically the availability of Office in the cloud. Microsoft announced a much needed upgrade to its BPOS and Azure offerings by launching Office 365. Using Microsoft’s extensive data centres Office 365 will bring together 4 key pillars of Microsoft’s productivity and communication tools in Office, SharePoint, Exchange and Lync. Whereas the lack of maturity within current cloud offerings was a barrier to moving resources off site the ‘full fat’ nature of Office 365 is likely to represent a big change from the view that hardware must always be on premise.

Check out the video below which gives a 5 minute overview of Office 365

Are schools likely to be moving to the cloud with all services in the near future? At a meeting I attended last week opinion amongst Network Managers was divided with a number needing to see the level of functionality available off site before commiting. Of course the greatest concern remains the quality of broadband connection into the school. As this hopefully improves we are likely to see a big move to the cloud over the next 3-5 years.

More thoughts on engaging the digital learner. Thinking at every desk.

October 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Digital Era, e-learning 

Earlier in the week I wrote a post on Bloom’s Taxonomy and the digital learner. At the same time I put out a call for responses and have had so many thoughtful comments by email and on the blog. I wanted to share one in particular from Greg Wheeler which has been sent in today. He challenges the validity of Bloom’s and suggests a different way forward in engaging our digital learners.

His comment is below in full:

Thanks for the post on Bloom’s Taxonomy. It’s an incredibly popular paradigm for teaching thinking skills. However, it’s also outdated. Yes, it’s been updated by a few researchers over the years, but these updates have only tweaked the model and have not accounted for cutting-edge research about teaching and learning. I recently wrote a short article for ASCD Express on the need to “upgrade” from Bloom’s:
http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=144505165581527

As educators, we haven’t been clear in OUR thinking about what thinking is. I’ve had an opportunity to study under Dr. Derek Cabrera, an educational theorist who has studied thinking, knowledge, and how we build ideas for the past 20 years. His work has resulted in the DSRP Method, a way to teach thinking skills within the context of ANY lesson, with any student, in any grade. For teachers using the DSRP Method, it’s changing the way they teach and the way their students see the world.

I would encourage educators who are interested in thinking skills (hopefully all educators!) to check out the DSRP Method online at:
http://www.iDSRP.com

There’s also a free course about the research behind the theory available at:
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=137493146283876

Voisse brings podcasts and presentations alive? New tools for audio assessment of learners.

Over the summer I shared a series of reviews on tools I have been looking at to use with students for creating presentations. If you missed these you can look at them below.

  1. Prezi for engaging presentations which show overview and depth.
  2. PptPlex which allows you to produce linear presentations which have ‘prezi like’ functionality.
  3. Animoto for compelling videos on the fly.

Over the weekend I saw a new cloud based presentation site which flipped the primary focus from the visuals to the sound. The site is called Voisse and the best way to introduce it is the two minute presentation below.

For me what Voisse does that is different to the other presentation tools above is it allows students to create an audio feed which they can use to produce podcasts. The interface is really easy and there is very much an ‘on the fly’ feel which students can easily get used to without complicated podcast software.

 As well as this they can add key images to their audio to produce a presentation. Whilst there are many times you would want students to produce a visual presentation which they speak over as they present in lessons there are other time where you want to be able to review student work when not in the classroom. I have spent many hours drudging through homework PowerPoints which show little real insight into student understanding other than their capacity to find information on the Internet. If students submitted a Voisse presentation it would enable them to demonstrate their understanding of a topic through their presentation combined with audio. Teachers are always looking for ways to assess oral pieces from students and for me this tool fits the bill. I can think of dozens of times I could use this across the History curriculum and I suspect this is the case in most subjects.

BBC Click also reviewed Voisse this week and you can see their thoughts here

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