iPod touch iOS 4.1 v jailbreaking

image958174360.jpgI recently upgraded my ipod touch from iOS 3.1.3 to 4.1. I’d waited as I was experimenting with the additional facilities available through jailbreaking but as my iPod was low on space and beginning to run very slowly I decided to upgrade and see what Apple had improved.

the first thing I noticed when upgrading to iOS 4.1 is that my 8gb iPod now only has 6.83gb of free space. Whether this is due to files installed during the 3.1.3 jailbreak I’m not sure but would appreciate any helpful comments on the matter!

I also noted the battery drain. I had hoped Apple would have resolved this issue by now as it now means my device barely lasts a full working day. I don’t want to start carrying a charge cable!

Some improvements were the speed increase in using the iPod apps – they definitely load faster – and the introduction of folders to store similar apps in. This makes my home screen less cluttered and allows me to have a handy folder of quick links to my most used websites.

But as the days went by I missed the ability to multi task, to adjust the brightness with a swipe of the title bar, to sync via wifi. Having a jail broken ipod brings me more benefit than hassle it seems, so back I went.

Except that with an iOS upgrade the options for jailbreaking are reduced. I opted for greenpois0n which took a few attempts but eventually worked once I’d shut down iTunes. Setting up Cydia was easy and within a few hours I was back to having a very useful device. OK the battery still drains quickly but the combination of iOS 4 and a great user community has once again made my purchase a joy to use.

Better go and charge it now…

Programming Pedagogy

I was at the local authority meeting of Computing teachers last week. One of the topics discussed was how we taught computer programming to our pupils. It was such a great discussion I thought I’d share some of the ideas and my own interpretations or opinions on the subject.

With six years of software engineer experience prior to becoming a teacher I feel I am an adequate code monkey. However although I might be able to see patterns, pseudocode and data flow tables from a cursory glance at a problem specification I know that my pupils can struggle to attain the problem solving skills required. Common problems are the mispelling of variable or procedure names, not ending loops or conditional statements, and typing code into Visual Basic 5 (our language of limited choice) without setting up the event definitions first. In short, there is a issue with my pupils’ programming literacy.

Please Keep Off The The Grass

In my five years of teaching Higher Computing I have been the second pair of eyes in the classroom, helping pupils debug their programs by pointing out their spelling mistakes and decrying their inability to read a meaningful error message.

Meaningful error message, no really it is!

At the meeting one possible solution was suggested. One so simple it made my jaw drop. Pupils program in pairs, being the lead programmer and second pair of eyes alternatively. I’ll admit I was a little embarrassed that I’d never tried this strategy before but feel that this might improve error detection if not programming procedure if the pairs are selected carefully.

Other strategies suggested included, in my opinion, the outdated practice of desk checking their program before typing it into Visual Basic. Every. Single. Time. I feel that this method goes against the grain of event-driven programming languages like Visual Basic which are meant to be used for rapid application development. Objects are dragged in from the toolbox, code is quickly constructed and linked, module libraries are knitted into the main program and quickly great things can be happening. In the past few years I’ve taught my Higher Computing pupils how to make MP3 player software, cave-flying games and a homage to Horrace Goes Ski-ing in double-period lessons. These lessons were fun and boosted the pupils’ confidence – where is the fun in desk checking your code for these applications?

Desk Checking... Yup this one's fine...
A few years ¬†ago a pupil joined my S4 class in the final two terms. He had completed almost all of his practical evidence for Standard Grade Computing Studies… except for programming. As our S3/4 course had changed to Int 2 Info Systems there was no programming in the plan and little time to set aside to teach this one pupil how to navigate their way through Visual Basic. I found some videos on the Internet which introduced the concepts and then adapted program task sheets to allow the pupil to gradually code with less and less support. He taught himself enough to gain a credit grade, but although video lessons are great in a crisis there was little chance for him to gain one-to-one feedback on the issues he was having with his own programs.
So I’m going to try paired programming with a small group of Higher and Intermediate 2 Computing pupils next term and see if their problem solving skills (and reliance on the eyesight of their teacher) make a change for the better. Anyone else in?

What I’ve learned this week #5

Another quick week – today I’m out of school meeting with other Computing teachers or faculty managers in the authority. I enjoy these meetings as there are usually one or two new ideas or resources shared.

1. Found out about Quia – an eAssessment web application which can deliver resources, tasks and surveys to entire classes or individual pupils. One of my colleagues at Inverurie Academy uses this with her classes and found that it allowed for quick target setting as well as effective delivery of differentiated lessons or homework. I noted that if classes were shared between teachers with different accounts the pupils would need to remember different logins and passwords. After discussion we agreed that a school licence would solve this issue.

2. Delivered lessons to S3 pupils on new developments in data visualisation. I used sections from David McCandless’ TED talk “The Beauty of Data Visualisation” as well as a short practical task exemplifying sparklines. I made it relevant by showing a spreadsheet of glucose levels and discussing safe levels for those with diabetes. Pupils realised that by having visual indicators of the progression of glucose levels plotted against a safety range was very useful for doctors and diabetic patients who wanted to avoid slipping into a hypoglycemic coma. A bit scary perhaps but boy did it get their attention.

3. The assessment of S4 pupils at the mid point of the new Databases & The Internet unit shows a marked improvement in attainment. In previous years some S4 pupils wasted a term working through Intermediate 2 Database Systems and failing before rushing through Int 1 Information & The Internet during the final term. The overlap between the two units allowed a longer period to master the basics so I combined the two units as a bi-level, multi term unit. Next term the classes split with the Int 1 pupils tackling web design and the Internet theory sections and Int 2 pupils going on to Normalisation to 1NF.