China shoots off own foot

Not really a newsflash but something has got me thinking: China is sabotaging the education of it's children.

I sit typing this in Urumqi (Wikipedia link), I am lucky enough to be on a school trip here. I won't be able to view this post when I am finished because the Chinese government blocks access to Blogger and Wordpress blogs amongst others. isn't blocked, just everything with blogspot in the URL.

Last year during the Summer holidays I went to Beijing to do a Mandarin short course, I had set a wiki based assignment for my science students to work on. However, the Chinese government was also blocking PBwiki so for two weeks I could not give my students any feedback on their work.

The Chinese government blocks blogs and wikis because it fears them as tools of freedom of expression. There have been a number of high-profile cases where Chinese citizens have been persecuted for what they have written. I don't wan't to get into the politics of right and wrong. That is the Chinese government's decision to make.

However, while the growth of use of Web 2.0 tools in schools in other countries is proceeding apace, China, with its reluctance to give people access to these tools is potentially cramping the educational opportunities for its students.

Of course, students could access these tools through a proxy so why does the Chinese government bother?

This post might be flagged by some bot and read by a member of the communist party because of key words in the text. So if you are Chinese, and reading this in China as part of your job as an internet sensor. Think about how this restrictive policy may affect the future of your country and have a word to your bosses about it. Maybe it is time to change.

Tools in my pocket: 7 Things I take into the classroom

There is a lot said about all of the web 2.0 tools that we can now use in our teaching (well... I can't stop talking about them). But what about the physical knick-knacks that make life easier? Well, here is what I have taken to carrying around in my pocket at school and what I consider a minimum for any self-respecting connected teacher.

  1. Sony Ericsson K810i: My phone.Where would I be without it? Alarm, timer, stopwatch, calculator, calendar, camera, voice recorder... I've used all of these functions and more. There is a whole other post there waiting for me to write it.

  2. Jawbone Bluetooth Headset: Yes, I look like a dork. But I am just starting to explore using it with my interactive whiteboard to screencast parts of my lessons. I can also use it to amplify my voice through the computer and class speakers if I have a hearing-impaired student.

  3. Omiz Bluetooth Dongle: So that the headset can connect with the computer and so I can zap photos straight to the screen from my phone.
  4. Interactive Whiteboard Pen: My interactive whiteboard isn't much use without it.

  5. 8GB Imation USB Flash Drive: When there is a software failure on my classroom computer; browser trouble; Adobe reader isn't working; Office won't start up; Media Player on the fritz. I plug in my trusty stick loaded with PortableApps and fire up Firefox or Sumatra PDF portable or Open Office or VLC media player. I also carry the installation files for various pieces of licensed school software so that I can easily repair or reinstall components.
  6. Multiformat Card Reader: For getting student's photos off of their cameras and phones and onto the server for their PowerPoints and reports. Okay, maybe this isn't always in my pocket, but when I know that we are doing something with photos, I chuck it in.
  7. Regular, Garden Variety, Whiteboard marker: For when all else fails... always have a plan B