Friday, 27 July 2012

BYOD: 1950, 1960, 1970 & 2012

I've been involved in a number of discussions lately around BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). In 2012 there is a movement for education establishments to provide the WiFi infrastructure for students to bring and use their own laptops, tablets, phones etc.

There are the short discussions; 'students are keen to bring their own devices' (usually University colleagues) and weighty discussions concerning issues of Health & Safety and socio-economic inequality.

Taking the principle that there are few truly original ideas, I've been thinking about my own time as a student. There have been a number of 'BYOD Moments' that passed by with little fuss (for us as students at least).

I am too young to have been a student during the 1950's when schools issued steel nib 'dip pens' and ink monitors filled the desk ink wells every morning. Imagine the outrage in the staff room when it was suggested that providing nibs and ink for student use would be stopped, students would have to 'Bring Their Own Device'. Students happily brought their own fountain pen and later their own biro/ballpoint. Although, 60 odd years later, some people still think the decline of 'penmanship' is a backward step in education.

Although schools provided geometry equipment in the 1960's, I remember at age 11 being given a rather fine box of drawing tools for my first day at secondary school. None of the school's blunt pointed dividers or compasses for me! I remember enjoying geometry (where those two things connected?) and I still have that set today (40 plus years later).

BYOD hit me at a conscious level when I was at University studying biochemistry. I seem to remember calculations required a book of log tables or later, log slide rules. When the Sinclair pocket calculator became available in 1973 it was a 'must have device' for me. I spent £25 of my hard earned student grant :-) on a 'Sinclair Cambridge'. A lot of money for a student (about £400 in todays money - see ) and for not much functionality. However, bringing my own device made calculations a breeze from that moment on.

 Looking back at the title of this post, there seems to be an obvious 'BYOD moment' in each decade that I was a student. I bet there were more from the 1980's onwards but I was a working man by then.....


Friday, 20 July 2012

Startpages Revisited - 2012

A few years ago I tried out a number of Startpages and Netvibes fitted with what I wanted to have easily at my fingertips.
Things change so I've revisited what is available to see if there is a better solution.

To save you scrolling to the bottom, my findings are in the next paragraph.
If you are new to the idea of Startpages, come back to the findings after reading the rest of the post.

Findings 2012
There doesn't seem to have been a huge increase in the number of Startpage sites over the last few years.
Netvibes still rides tall although Google have announced that iGoogle will be 'retired' on 1 Nov 2013 because they feel there is less of a need for Startpages now that web and mobile apps have put personalized, real-time information at people's fingertips (iGoogle diehards can use Apps in their Chrome browser however).

Startpage Further Details
A Startpage is a place where you can gather together all the web based sites and tools that you use regularly. Although browser bookmarks can do a similar job there are functions offered by Startpages that make them a better 'one stop shop'. Startpages offer a type of 'virtual desktop'. They have also been called Aggregators (although these are often more focused on News Aggregation), Personal Portals (often more concerned with promoting yourself to the wider world) or Dashboards (usually more to do with visual display of data).

A review in 2007 by James Mowery covered the most popular 14 sites:
  • Netvibes - the one to beat - customisation is a major strength.
  • Pageflakes - the main competitor.
  • iGoogle - not as polished as the others although gadgets are being given a big push.
  • MyYahoo - playing catch-up.
  • yourminis* - very cool virtual desktop type but flash based.
  • WebWag - clean interface but lacking customisation.
  • Schmedley - has potential but some quirks and bugs.
  • Eskobo - very fast but few features.
  • Windows Live - not as good as its main competitors (Google, Yahoo).
  • Favoor - disappointing - bugs.
  • Gritwire - more of an RSS reader.
  • Inbox - an extremely simplified iGoogle.
  • Protopage - virtual desktop - good but yourminis is much better.
  • It'sAStart - not a serious competitor yet.
A comparison of the major functional features you would expect from a Startpage is shown below:

A comparison site ( provides further information about Startpages and the following rankings (date unknown):

"Ultimately, there’s no “best” Startpage. Netvibes and Pageflakes are not short on content, and offer amazing customization. iGoogle and My Yahoo are great options if you already use those services. Schmedley and yourminis* approach the market uniquely, and some people swear by them."

In the last couple of years some new sites have emerged but with a brief look they don't seem to be breaking new ground.
The nice people at Google think that Startpages have had their day and will be 'retiring' iGoogle (shades of Blade Runner in this terminology!) towards the end of 2013. I agree that Apps running on smartphones and pads make it really easy to get to the same sort of information, links, subscriptions etc as my Startpage. However, I spend a lot of my working day on a PC and having a PC based Startpage still makes my life easier. The Google people must think so too otherwise why would they provide Apps for the Chrome Browser (

*Note - Startpages that have bitten the dust:
  • yourminis
  • schmedley?
  • Eskobo
  • Goowy
  • Live (
  • Pageflakes
  • Zoozio

**Note - If you have scrolled to the bottom of the page to see the conclusion / recommendations - you missed it - it's at the top of the page (wakey, wakey).

I've closed my Startpage, turned off my smartphone and pad - time for a break.....


Friday, 13 July 2012

Lonesome George

As if his name wasn't sad enough, Lonesome George,
the last of the Galápagos giant tortoise from the Pinta Island
died on 24 June 2012.


Friday, 6 July 2012

Learning in Digital Wales

In April I posted an overview and my thoughts on a Task and Finish Group report looking into digital classroom teaching (Find it, make it, use it, share it).

On 21 June, a written statement was made by Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills, AM setting out the vision for digital developments for the teaching and learning across the whole of Wales.
"I have now considered the wide ranging recommendations in this report and have agreed an action plan for the use of digital technology to improve performance in schools."

The statement covers:
  • National Digital Learning Council
  • Hwb
  • National Digital Collection
  • iTunes U
  • Microsoft Partners in Learning
  • Professional Development: Digital Technology and Computing
  • A Culture of Digital Citizenship

It seems that there has been a determined push from the Minister for action.
Digital Advisor and Digital Leader secondment posts have been funded and advertised (damn it - I missed the deadline!!).
December 2012 is the first key deadline for the launch of an all Wales digital learning platform (I wait with baited breath to find out which of the many stories of what this actually means turns out to be true).

Before then however, the National Digital Learning Council will meet in September - more news to follow.