Sunday, June 20, 2010

MOUSE Squad: Kids Fixing Computers!

MOUSE Squad of California (MSCA) is a student tech leadership program that provides youth access to technology-based opportunities that motivate students to succeed in today's information society while providing a service to their schools. MSCA enables upper elementary, middle, and high school students to provide a service to their schools, while they learn Information Technology (IT), customer service, communication, and leadership skills. The program provides MOUSE Squad certification so that students can provide tech support for both Mac and PC! It can be an after-school program or an in-school elective.
MOUSE stands for "Making Opportunities for Upgrading Schools and Education." In the 2006-2007 school year, MOUSE Squad Student Tech was launched in 20 schools in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Oakland and the Central Valley. Doubling in the 2007-2008 school year, 40 schools offered MOUSE Squad Student Tech to their schools. It's now statewide and is being offered in 70+ schools. I'm looking forward to hearing the status of my school's application, as just moments ago, I clicked "submit" to our application.
The core elements of the program include:
  • Online curriculum with computer, software, troubleshooting and problem solving modules
  • Hands-on activities, quizzes, and performance-based assessments
  • Student-run help desk with paper and/or online ticket management systems
  • Volunteers to assist with curriculum, help desk and mentoring
  • Internships for high school youth
There is a $1,500 fee (+ $500 start-up fee) per site (mini-grants are available for qualified California schools). You get online curriculum correlated with state curriculum and national technology standards, hands-on activities, computer tool kit, USB flash drives, recruitment and tech help posters, ID cards, holders, lanyards, and more. MOUSE Squad certification serves as a foundation for A+, Microsoft, and other professional certifications.
Based on the "pay if forward" model, students are trained to troubleshoot common computer problems at their local site. Imagine the time and money that could be saved if students could provide basic computer tech support for their schools. If our application is approved, we will implement the program beginning in the 2010-2011 school year and I'll be sure to post program updates from time to time.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

E-Reader Poll Results Are In: iWonder Who Won?

Last month, I polled my readers to find out what e-reader they prefer. After all, if you're in the market for an e-reader, it's a big decision. Below are the results, and some commentary on matter:
Sony e-reader: 0%
I prefer paper: 10%
Other: 10%
Barnes & Noble Nook: 20%
Amazon Kindle: 30%
Apple iPad: 30%
In dead last, with 0%, was the Sony e-reader. (Coincidentally, I just sold my Sony PRS-500 on e-Bay last month). When it first came out, I was impressed, mainly because it was the first device of its kind. But in this competitive market, e-readers that require PC connectivity to receive content are not what people want- especially with the availability of WiFi and 3G wireless connectivity. The Sony line has yet to deliver in this category. Equally disappointing to me has been Sony's lack of Mac support. 10% of my readers actually prefer paper; it's not like paper will ever go away any time soon. The Barnes and Noble Nook received 20%. Tied for first place was the Apple iPad and the Amazon Kindle, splitting 60% between them. My two cents? If you are a serious bookworm and you don't care about apps, video, or other computer-like features, (for twice the price) then the Kindle 2 is for you; however, pay double, and you get an e-book reader, and then some-- like apps, multimedia-- you know the rest.
One final note: there is a lot of talk about readability (e-ink on the Kindle vs. the iPad's LED back-lit display). I have experience with both, and to me, it's a matter of personal preference. The Kindle has a sort of "screen flash" when you turn the page due to the e-ink reordering itself and can be annoying at times. Of course, since that's the only energy drain, battery life is significantly higher than the iPad, so it's a trade off. Readability on the iPad can also be a concern to some people for other reasons. If you don't like reading on a computer screen, you won't like reading on the iPad either. Though, keep in mind, the brightness can be adjusted, which may help if you are sensitive to bright whites on a computer screen. My advice: try before you buy. What do you prefer? Feel free to leave your comments on how you prefer to read content.