Sunday, November 29, 2009

My first take on Ubuntu - NOT ready for Grandma

This is a follow-up to an earlier posting of mine on the potential of using netbooks in K-12 education. I decided that I needed to see for myself what the potential is of using a netbook running the Ubuntu operating system, so I bought one this last summer. Here is my take on things:

In my past 6 months or so of experience as an Ubuntu "newbie" with a Dell Mini 9 netbook running Ubuntu 8.0.4, I find that it is an OS that I would definitely NOT recommend for use in any enterprise. Too many problems that I encounter with daily usage (like not being able to click the OK button on a print dialog window because it runs off the bottom of the screen, or not being able to configure a VPN because of inconsistencies in the operating system) are either unresolvable or require the entry of obscure commands in terminal mode. Most require me to delve through discussion board entries written by Linux aficionados in language that is incomprehensible to ordinary users.

If it ain't "ready for Grandma" (or very close to it), it isn't ready for the average enterprise.

On my next netbook, I will likely go with Windows 7. I have no ideological love nor hate of any particular vendor or approach (open-source vs. proprietary). I (and any enterprise the I work with in the future, particular educational enterprises) simply need something that works and that offers the potential for ordinary users to handle, on their own, most of the computer problems that arise in daily usage. While neither the Apple OS nor any version of Windows fully provides for this need (there are always daily usage issues that seem to require resolution by the 'geek squad'), they seem to come a lot closer than Ubuntu in its present state.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Launching a new "Professional Portfolio" site

Lora (my wife) and I are getting into full-fledged job-hunting mode for the 2010-2011 school year, for the first time marketing ourselves as a "teaching couple" on the international school scene. To help in the "sales effort", I recently created a no-frills "Professional Portfolio" website, posting not only the expected resume and references there, but also links to potentially more interesting things, such as Lora's class website (which she and I maintain) and a video of us co-teaching a guided reading lesson.

Like I said, the site is a no-frills endeavor, making use of the basic tools and hosting services afforded by Google Sites. I can't imagine anyone marketing themselves as an educator nowadays without at least a basic web presence such as this.

Update 2010-01-06: I went ahead a paid a dollar (actually $1.07) to in order to register our own domain,, for our Professional Portfolio site. So now, entry of into the navigation bar of your browser will take you to our site.

Gravity and Motion: a six-lesson science unit for Grade 2 students

The link below will take you to a fairly detailed set of lesson plans that I recently created as part of the field work for one of my FAST TRAIN courses at George Mason University.

EDIT 2016-02-24: Note that some of the web-pages for which links are provided in the lesson plans may no longer be active and available on the Internet. Any of these can likely be accessed in archived format via the Internet Archive's "Way Back Machine". Please go to the following page, and enter there any URL that you find to be inaccessible:

All together, the document spells out six lesson plans for an approximately two-week unit on "gravity and motion". This unit serves as a component of a larger PYP unit entitled “The Solar System” in which the central idea includes the concept of how gravity governs the movements of the components of the Solar System.

While the intended level is Grade 2, the lessons could certainly be used for older students, either as-is or with modifications to "beef up" the content.

I will be "field testing" some or all of these lesson plans in the spring of 2010, in coordination with the Grade 2 teachers at the International School of Tianjin. If anyone else has an opportunity to use one or more of these lesson plans in the classroom, I would appreciate feedback on how things went in the "comments" section of this blog posting. Thanks!