Social Media Redemption

Categories: News, Social Networking
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Published on: March 9, 2015

For another example of taking back social media or using it for good, check out this story about Dancing Man Found. You may also have seen it making the rounds on Internet news sites, and it has apparently been picked up by mainstream media as well.

The nutshell:

Some jerks spotted an overweight man dancing at a party, laughed at him, and he stopped dancing. Said jerks took pictures and posted them to the Internet to share the laughs.

Someone on Twitter saw it, and decided it was not okay for someone to feel like they shouldn’t be allowed to dance. Now there’s going to be a huge dance party for this guy, with proceeds going to charity.

The jerks may be the most visible or most obvious, but there’s still a lot of good people out there in the world, and they use social media, too.

Great story.

Illinois Pension Problems

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Published on: December 6, 2012

You know it’s bad when Sal Khan uses your state as an example of how not to handle pensions:

Insult to injury, the state also has had no problem dipping into TRS to pay for other projects.

Who suffers in the end? Our students.

Well done, Illinois.

Hacked! A Lesson for Students

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Published on: August 11, 2012

IT journalist Mat Honan lost a year’s worth of digital work and memories to a couple of hackers, and he got off easy. Depending upon what else he tied to his email accounts, the damage could have been a whole lot worse.

This is something we should be exposing our students—and probably staff—to, because there are a number of lessons here:

1) It doesn’t matter how secure your computer and smartphone are when the real weak link is the company employee on the other side of a phone call.

2) Back up your data, back up your data, back up your data. Time Machine on the Mac is perfect for the average home user, and it couldn’t hurt to invest a few bucks in a service like Crashplan for off-site protection in case of a fire, tornado, or similar disaster.

3) A complex password is good. Multiple complex passwords are even better. Using the same password for multiple services invites disaster, because when you give up one, you give up everything.

4) A little inconvenience in the beginning is worth it in the long term. Two-factor authentication, which is a combination of both something you know (a password) and something you have (an electronic token, or your smartphone), is a great option. Many banks already use this: when a customer logs in, a second passcode is sent to their phone via voice or text.

Honan should have known better. As an IT journalist, he’s familiar with all of these concepts. But it’s easy for any of us to get complacent. We’re all human, and despite the horror stories, the odds of actually becoming a victim to a hack like this are fairly slim.

Google Apps accounts (at least, Google Apps for Ed) don’t have two-factor authentication, but after reading this article, I set it up for my personal Gmail account. The setup is easy, and this video walks folks through it:

It took maybe ten minutes in total, including all the separate times setting up the nine different one-off passwords for things like Gmail on my phone, Chrome on two different computers, the newsreader on my iPad, and so on. About once a month I’ll have to enter a code from my phone to stay logged in to my Google account on the two computers I use daily.

I can live with that for safety’s sake.

Technology Requires Adaptability… and Anticipation

Categories: News, Philosophy
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Published on: March 13, 2012

Adaptation is tough for users. When I migrated teachers from aging Windows XP machines to Apple MacBooks, some of them had a tough time. Now we’re discussing tablets, BYOT options, iPad 1:1s, and similar emerging technologies, and it’s often met with moans and groans.

One person often asks “Why can’t we just stick with Windows?”

Well, that’s changing, too:

Whether we like it or not, we’re seeing desktop and mobile convergence coming from both Microsoft and Apple, and now we have the Android mobile OS in the mix, too. The industry is moving toward a more touchscreen-like, interactive model all around.

And that’s just on the surface! Data is moving from the file servers we’re familiar with to the Cloud and various services. The way these devices interact with our networks and the Internet is changing. Device and profile management is changing.

These things will all be second nature to our students over the next few years, because it will be all they know. If we don’t keep up, we’re going to look like dinosaurs.

The same goes for techs as well as staff. Wired reports a CompTIA survey says most IT guys are ignorant of current technologies. This is unsurprising to me, given I’m constantly having to learn while on the job. I had no formal IT education, but at the time I got rolling on networking we were still wrestling with Windows 98 SE clients and connecting to Windows NT 4.0 Server, both of which are thankfully a distant memory these days.

But adaptation is not enough.

We need to anticipate what’s next. Few believed the tablet market would return, but when the first iPad came out and Android tablets started to appear, savvy districts watched them closely. Now the market has taken off, and some are finding themselves already far behind as administrators start deploying iPad programs.

If our students see value in something, then we’d better be able to accommodate.

What’s Next, Apple?

Categories: Gadgetry, News
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Published on: March 6, 2012

It’s official: Apple’s white MacBook is no longer available for education. While many of my colleagues are upset because it was the last product with a real education discount behind it, I’m more curious about what’s coming next.

Remember the eMac? It’s about the time it died that we started seeing a 17″ iMac for education only, and not long after it died we had education pricing for MacBooks.

Translate that to a different pattern: desktops in static computer labs, then mobile lab carts and 1:1 initiatives. Sure, we had lab sets of iPod touches, but what’s Apple really pushing now? Tablets, baby. The iPad.

Apple has never made arbitrary decisions. There’s a long-term plan here, and we’re starting to see hints of what’s to come.

Consider the death of the Xserve. With the cloud—whether we’re talking Apple’s iCloud, Google Apps, MS Office Live, or services like Dropbox and Evernote—being touted as the place to store user data and consolidate it across devices, we may not need beefy servers much longer. It doesn’t take a lot of juice to run basic services like DHCP, DNS, and profile management. Apple appears to be telling us a Mac Mini running OS X Server will have all the juice most of us will need in the near future, and for everyone else there are the Mac Pro systems.

Consider the consolidation of tablet and desktop features: scrolling has been changed in Lion to mirror swiping on tablets, there are a whole slew of new touch manipulation features, and we have an App Store for laptops/desktops now. Tablets are taking off faster than most other technologies, whether we’re talking iPad, Kindle, Nook, or the various Android tablets. Tech-savvy users are supplementing their main machines with tablets, and non-techies are using them as simple email, web and entertainment devices. Even Microsoft has taken note of this, or they wouldn’t be redesigning Windows 8 on the desktop in a similar manner.

Consider the education event in January, including the announcements of textbooks in the iTunes Store (at $15 no less), iBooks 2 and iBook Author, and the new features of iTunes U and its expansion into the K-12 market. All new and exciting reasons for schools to take another look at the iPad.

This suggests to me there’s something big coming, and Apple is going to start pushing 1:1 programs from MacBooks to iPads.

To date, it’s actually the education market that’s been clamoring for iPads, not Apple “shoving them down our throats” as some claim. I think Apple is going to start making iPads a lot more attractive to schools who have been dismissing them due to the cost. It may be a smaller and/or cheaper iPad, it may be iPad 2s blown out at education pricing like the white MacBook. It might be expanded management tools, or some hot feature like a Siri tailored to education (including for enhanced text input).

Will we see this next big thing at tomorrow’s big Apple event? Hard to say, but I think there’s going to be something to make them more attractive in terms of pricing or value (or both) in the near future.

Mourn the white MacBook if you will, but keep looking forward.

Forrestville Valley’s Got Tech

Categories: News
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Published on: October 18, 2011

A colleague, Jim O’Hagan, recently took on a job at the Forrestville Valley School District with the task of launching the school’s 1:1 iPad initiative, as well as bringing up their general level of technology. They put together this promotional video ahead of their actual rollout:

The student engagement apparent in this video is clear. Getting students excited about education is a big hurdle, and if technology is what it takes, we need to find a way to get that tech into their hands.

iPads Gone Public

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Published on: October 7, 2011

The word is out!

WoodCoJo Headline
Top news story this week

The iPads for testing and student evaluation have arrived, and the local paper has spread the word to the community. I also delivered the news to the full district staff this morning and shared some updates and developments in our iPad program over the summer and from Apple’s iCloud and iPhone 4S announcements.

I felt, then, this would be a good time—at last—to outline how the iPad evaluation will work in our district.

We are a rural Illinois K-12 school district with about 600 students. While we are not in as bad shape as some Illinois schools following the collapse of the state budget, we can’t afford to jump in whole hog and go 1:1 with tablets or laptops, especially if we are not yet sure how teachers and students will make use of them. Our district has made tremendous strides in technology in the six years I’ve been here, but we have a broad range of technology skill levels in our staff and there are several opportunities for professional development.

Last school year, the staff agreed looking at the iPad would be the way to go to evaluate a 1:1 program. We selected 10 volunteers from a pool spanning all grade levels, then purchased each of them an iPad and a $50 iTunes gift card to start their own evaluation. The team met as a group during institute school improvement days, and we set up a few professional development days for them over the summer.

These teachers then agreed to bring iPads into their classrooms through the current school year for students to evaluate. With board approval, we purchased 25 iPads which will rotate through the iPad evaluation team’s students. Elementary (K-4) students will use them in classroom activities and the junior high and high school students will be able to take them home and use them as if they were their own.

Getting them into students’ hands is the key. We want to find out how the students will use the iPads in class. We want to find out where they enhance student learning and where they may fall short. We want to know if students have any surprises for us in how they use the iPads whether benefits we weren’t aware of or abuses we may not have predicted.

We also want to determine if we will be married to the iPad. While I believe Apple and the iPad offer advantages over the Kindle Fire and Honeycomb tablets at this time, we need to know whether the apps are key for learning or if students still see all the benefits from just having a tablet available.

Once those questions are answered we can start discussing funding. While the $199 price point of the Kindle Fire has us very interested, we need to look at usage first. If the combination of apps and Apple offerings is what really makes this program work, then that extra $300 per student is money well spent. However, I don’t plan to give it too much more thought until May when we can make some informed decisions.

It’s going to be an exciting year for our district. Several students have already asked me when they’ll be receiving their iPad, and I’m looking forward to working with them and seeing how their learning is affected.

This is what technology is about: results and progress are more important than general support.

Mac Defender

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Published on: May 25, 2011

The big IT news these days is the Mac Defender phishing scam infecting Apple computers. Apple at first refused to acknowledge the problem, but is now putting together a software update to combat the installed program.

And PC uses everywhere are rejoicing.

I totally understand the smugness. For years, PC users (including myself for a time) endured the “Ha ha Macs don’t have viruses” taunts from Mac users, and now’s their chance to throw it back in their faces. However, I have a few problems with this, and it has nothing to do with track records, product histories or semantic debates on whether or not this is truly a virus or social engineering.

First, it’s like saying “Yay, the hackers have won!” Yes, we knew this day would come as the userbase grew. Is that something we really want to celebrate? Maybe we should be turning this energy toward educating users and getting software engineers to be more pro-active in securing their products.

Second, it’s like saying “Yay, now your computer sucks as bad as mine!” Does anyone really win that debate? If your house gets robbed, and then your neighbor gets robbed two days later, would you go next door and laugh in their face?

Finally, justifying it by saying “Well, they were smug jerks first!” doesn’t hold water. PC users have been just as bad over the years, flaunting their access to video games and the affordability of their machines over Mac users. There are zealots on both sides. Pick your side and move on.

Personally, if I were really turned off by the Apple news, I’d just go back to Ubuntu. The benefit of being educated in all three OSes — Windows, OS X, and Linux — is I have real choice. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, and I’d rank them in different orders for different needs.

But I can’t bring myself to be happy that the hackers are getting ahead.

Chromebook: Final Nails?

Categories: Gadgetry, News
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Published on: May 12, 2011

Jim O’Hagan weighed in on the Chromebook in an article at EdReach, “Chromebook is Cool, But…”, and he brought up two great points.

First, the Chromebook is effectively useless in special education. There are a plethora of tablet apps for special education, and the touch-screen nature of a tablet allows some special needs students to manipulate content effectively. A laptop restricted to web apps isn’t going to cut it.

Second, there are a number of privacy concerns about putting student data on the Cloud. Some schools won’t even touch Google Apps for this reason, and using a Chromebook where everything is on the Cloud is not going to sit well with them.

Give the article a read. Jim expands on these thoughts and it’s worth a few minutes of your time.

Tameshigiri

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Published on: May 6, 2011

Welcome!

Tameshigiri is the Japanese word for “test cut” — as in to test a sword’s blade — and that’s exactly what this post is: the first cut to get things started.

My school district has been making huge strides in technology over the past few years, and I’m seeing a number of districts going through the same process, particularly in regard to new technologies like the second revolution of tablet computing (I was just beginning my ed-tech career the first time around). My goal is to share my experiences as my district grows with technology, and to discuss some of the obstacles we’ve encountered and what we’ve done to overcome them.

The launch of this site is timely, as my school’s new iPad Professional Learning Community met for the first time today. Comprised of 12 teachers, two administrators, and myself, the PLC was formed to develop strategies for students and teachers to integrate tablets into classroom learning and discuss how and when to roll tablets out to students. Each member of the group has been equipped with an iPad 2, and we plan to share resources and findings over the summer both face-to-face and through social networking tools like Twitter, Diigo, and a group wiki/blog. Our progress will be a big part of what I share on this site.

While most of the articles will feature my own opinions and experiences, I hope this will be a two-way communication. I encourage readers to leave comments, share links, and ask questions. I also intend to include articles from other contributors in the future.

My dojo is always open.

Sincerely,
Mike

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