Thursday, March 22, 2007

This is mine!

Perhaps one of the attractions of tools such as Bebo and MySpace is that the spaces can be customised. Every teenager using the systems seems to have a different colour scheme and sound and graphics are used with with a staggering disregard for conventional design rules. (Sorry... sounding like an old fogey!) But the point is, the teenagers using these systems value the opportunity to personalise - to stamp their mark on the system - albeit within the structure imposed by the system.

As part of my job I visit a large number of schools and have observed computers systems being used in many of the Scottish authorities. There is a reasonable variation of look to the desktops from authority to authority. (Grief, there can be variation from class to class in the same school!) However, many authorities now have managed systems and the desktops and disks are fairly tightly locked down to minimise the possibility of damage to the system either by accident or design.

Dzid behind the screen
Dzid behind the screen,
originally uploaded by dwuziu
In one authority, that will remain nameless to protect the guilty, the control of the systems is such that every pupil's screen has a solid black background with the word "pupil" written in an attractive yellow! Talk about dull! Very corporate. If left to their own devices, I suspect some pupils would have chosen a black dektop background but many more would be likely to choose a picture, but no, everyone has a stunningly boring black background with the word "pupil" in yellow! Oh dear! I wonder if the head of education in that authority has a computer with a black background and "Director of Education" written in yellow text? I suspect not.

Anyway... I noticed that one of the pupils had a number of icons arranged in a pattern on the desktop. Then I noticed the person next door was the same. And then I realised that the icons were arranged into the shapes of letters. They had made their initials out of shortcut icons! Brilliant! They weren't allowed to personalise the desktop... so they did it anyway. :-)

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Robert Jones said...

I totally agree David. In a strange way, I think that the grimly impersonal desktops are a great driver for the move out onto the Web in schools. Once pupils get into Web2.0 they enter a much freer world beyond the tight controls of corporate IT. I don't blame corporate IT, by the way - they have to manage huge networks with woefully low funding.

Stuart Meldrum said...

"I wonder if the head of education in that authority has a computer with a black background and "Director of Education" written in yellow text? I suspect not."

He's quite likely to have 'Staff' in the corner though - that's what all the teachers get, the lucky scamps.

In my last school there was nothing quite as good as initials with the icons but a surprisingly large number had pictures of pretty ladies flash up as they logged off - the Pupil image must be separate from the user settings and disappears a little before everything else.

theok said...

I agree completely. Another observation; whenever
there is a TV news report from schools on education, 9 times out of 10, in the background there will be banks of, switched on, computers, displaying either a Windows log-on screen or a screensaver, rarely do will you see them being used.

Jane Nicholls said...

In my primary school in New Zealand we have recently put in a mac server. Now every student can log in to their own space on the server. The first thing they did was customise EVERYTHING. I think the kids learnt more about how to use the technology through this than through anything we had done in the class before hand. They know their way around system preferences more than many teachers I know :).

They collaborated, shared ideas, made value judgments on each others' work and engaged in feedback. Wish every activity in the classroom could have such a high level of engagement.