Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lab of Netbooks

Source: http://goo.gl/jeQYIe
"How many of you have created a lab of netbooks?" When I first ran across a lab of netbooks, the network cables looked like blue concertina wire strung in between devices too small to handle the cabling. I promptly snapped a picture of it and sent it to my supervisor at the time. She was appalled as I was and a crew of technicians was sent to make the lab "more permanent." Still, no surprise when campus teachers led by a principal with a "Make It Happen!" attitude do just that.
In the meantime, we have lots of portable computers that are put into fixed labs and spend a frightening amount of time as a replacement for paper/pencil multiple choice tests.
There are stacks of clicker systems mostly in closets except when pulled out to use for a few minutes as a “fun” way to practice for standardized tests. (Source: Assorted Stuff)
As I read Tim's entry, that image of blue wire strung between netbooks keeps coming to mind. We're scrambling, as a Nation, to go digital, not so we can achieve the vision and promise that digital learning makes possible--creative, collaborate, critical thinking--but rather so we can do more efficiently that which dehumanizes us, that makes us into a series of numbers more easily fit into a legislator's sound byte.

Are network cables our new way of keeping people in digital concentration camps, people left yearning for something more?



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MyNotes - WiFi Advice

The following notes come from District Administration's April 2014 issue. The article is Where's My WiFi?
Image Source: http://goo.gl/z15e0a

My Notes:
  1. Bandwidth challenges can be broken down into 3 chunks:
    1. the bandwidth going from an individual device to an access point.
    2. the connectivity across the school's local area network (LAN)
    3. the school's connection to a wide area network (WAN) or internet service provider (ISP)
  2. WiFi access points connect to a school's LAN and some schools must upgrade their LANs to accommodate all additional WiFi traffic.
  3. It's the connection between the individual device and the access point that is "the bandwidth area that's most mysterious and where the bottleneck is for most schools."
  4. Schools used to deploy WiFi by signal coverage--they would put an access point in the hallway and see how far it would reach. But it doesn't really matter how far the signal covers. It depends on the level of service that a school wants to offer its student.
  5. An access point has a fixed amount of available "throughput," which is the amount of data that can move through a connection. Throughput usually measured in megabits per second, governs how fast a web page will load for the user or how often a video has to buffer.
  6. District leaders must realize that keeping up with bandwidth demand is likely to be an ongoing issue.
Great info to share with folks! I just had this conversation last week with others about planning for additional access points to ensure ample WiFi access in schools. In these days, the more WiFi access point determines the level of service--text data vs video--schools can provide.



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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Learning Evolves: From Cook to Chef in Today's Classroom @mcleod


In my previous blog entry, Low Hanging Fruit, I challenged Dr. Scott Mcleod's assertion in 60 Apps in 60 Seconds that app focused workshops at conferences are a waste of time. In a follow-up comment on his blog entry, Scott asks the question:
I wonder how many of these types of sessions we have to go to – with concurrent lack of implementation and impact in our classrooms – before we realize they’re not really worth attending because there’s no depth of substance in which to root our learning and teaching…
The point is that no one is required to go to these sessions. They serve as entry points, doorways to greater learning possibilities. That's not to say one can't jump to higher-level blending of technology in the classroom, but that some educators find the use of app-centric workshops an easy way. So often we imagine that we, as human beings, may upon birth, stand up and run a marathon. Or, having learned to mix ingredients, become chefs.

The fact is, our understanding of how we learn, how we interact with a technology evolves over time. Learning to learn, to teach, to lead with technology becomes a conversation between ourselves and the technology. App-centric workshops are opportunities for "play." Even the Apostle Paul didn't imagine that young followers would be able to eat the meat of faith; instead, he advocated starting them out with milk (1 Corinthians 3:2).
I’d much rather have the conversation of what those reframes mean with my colleagues and administrators than talk about cool tools. It’s actually the reason I stopped doing Tech Tuesday midway through last year. It’s the reason I’m not on our Technology Leadership Team anymore. It’s why my principal has sent teachers in my building to see how I’m using Evernote. Not because Evernote is cool. Because my principal was having conversations with other teachers who were lamenting the fact that they are having trouble documenting the learning process their students are going through in their classrooms. My principal said, “I think I know someone who can help.” Learning needs lead to technology use. Source: Russ Goerend's comment on Educators Need Learning Advocacy, Not Technology Advocacy 
In my early years as a teacher, I disagreed vigorously with the idea that students must first accomplish lower order thinking--knowledge, application--before moving onto synthesis, evaluation and creation. My bilingual/ESL students, while acquiring a second language, could still think, even if their cognitive academic language proficiency was still developing. Students might speak English on the playground quite well, but have trouble understanding a textbook.

What app-centric workshops allow is a playground of sorts, a way for folks to begin and allow their own learning to evolve. Some may immediately eschew the app-centric workshops as being light fare compared to a problem-based learning activity that embed technology when appropriate for learning, for tracking student work.
In the real world, conversations with sympathetic native speakers who are willing to help the acquirer understand are very helpful. Source:Stephen Krashen as cited online
In the real world, technology use with sympathetic learners who regularly use technology and are willing to help are more helpful than ivory tower academics proclaiming from their perches atop well-respected blogs. Source: Miguel Guhlin, Low Hanging Fruit
Finally, I recently experienced the same frustration Scott exhibits in his post. After a summer of app-centric workshops for an iPad initiative, I had to stop and ask, "Why are we introducing so many apps? Let's focus on 3-4 apps and really use those at the top level of SAMR." That realization pushed me towards App-Smashing as aligned to the Classroom Learning Activity Rubric.  That said, as I evolved from this approach to another, I realized that others might still be in "app-searching" mode. It is natural to find the best tools that fit your hand before you begin the real work.
Image Source: http://goo.gl/xBS2ep

I am reminded of Dr. Judi Harris' work, where she views teachers as instructional designers and artisans. As she points out, as teachers, we want to accomplish our own "reinvention" of an idea rather than just adapt someone else's. This means that we want start at the ground level--like an app-centric workshop--and then wend our way through to reinvention.
...most teachers don't really believe that learning to apply a new tool educationally is just a matter of "plug and play." Most of us know to "tweak" an idea to fit the unique nature of the context (learning styles and preferences, teaching styles and preferences, past experience, resource availability, etc.) in which they work. We expect to learn from mistakes and unexpected reactions when an idea is first implemented. 
Yet we know from both experience and research (e.g., Rogers, 1995) thattweaking someone elseís idea isn't nearly as satisfying, or as effective, as designing an activity that fits the unique combination of factors that present themselves in any particular classroom at any particular point in time.  
Reinvention; the process of taking something like a new tool or idea and making it our own in its application, is very important to both teachers and students. Feelings of ownership are crucial if new tools are to continue to be employed in ways that will benefit users. This is what is known as true adoption of the innovation (Rogers, 1995). Think about it: which is more satisfying - watching an original idea that you created succeed, or observing someone elseís idea that you borrowed and tweaked get a good reception? 
When we are asked to wade through large collections of lesson plans, replicate projects from other classrooms, or follow overly-prescriptive directions for educational activities written by folks who canít possibly know our students as we do, we are asked to ignore much of what experience and reflection have taught us. Using Internet tools and resources in our classrooms in ways that will benefit students and teachers - in ways that are truly worth the time, effort, energy, and expense - call upon us to function more as instructional designers than direction-followers. Creating and implementing learning activities as a designer is an artisan's endeavor. I speak to you as that artisan; analogously, as chef rather than cook; conductor rather than metronome; educator rather than automatron.
We complain that today's education system is a top-down effort to strip away the opportunities of teachers and learners to be autonomous. That is akin to being forced to serve as line cooks rather than chefs of our own classrooms and student learning.



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Monday, April 14, 2014

Low Hanging Fruit: 3 Simple Ideas @mcleod #edtech

Watching a presentation by two book authors at a conference earlier this year, a colleague sitting next to me remarked, "Wow, they included all the low-hanging fruit. I expected more." It was a valid criticism if you imagine that every book or publication should address technology integration strategies of some sort.
Image Source: http://goo.gl/o0l3lY

However, while I agree that this type of sharing is "low-level," it's important that we continue to share. The act of sharing can be fun and enjoyable for educators, as well as anyone. To insist that sharing always aim for the uppermost branches of learning can be a tough, stressful series of actions.

As I was working my way through various emails, I ran across the following from Stacy Behmer:
Hold on to your hats boys and girls because we will try to fly through 60 great Chrome web apps and extensions in 60 minutes! Chrome apps and extensions are what help you make the most of the web. Web apps are those shortcuts to websites you can use and I'll showcase some that tie in with Google Drive and then we will look at some of my favorite Chrome extensions to help make your browsing experience more efficient and these extensions can also be used to help support accommodations for students! READY... SET...GO! 




It immediately made me think of Dr. Scott Mcleod's blog entry, 60 apps in 60 seconds, where he points out:
How many sessions like these have we seen at educational technology conferences? (fess up: how many have we delivered?!) Teachers attend, they scribble notes madly, they ask for the slides afterward because “they missed some.” The long-term substantive impact of these spray-and-pray workshops on teachers’ day-to-day practice? Zero.
I must disagree with Dr. Mcleod. While not all teachers will embrace ALL of what has been shared, some teachers will reach for the one item that engaged them. The spray-and-pray approach reminds me of Stephen Krashen's second language acquisition theory of comprehensible input, or i+1.
According to this hypothesis, the learner improves and progresses along the 'natural order' when he/she receives second language 'input' that is one step beyond his/her current stage of linguistic competence. (Source)
In technology parlance, that would be, learning how to use technology that is one step beyond current usage. For example, MS Word to GoogleDocs.

Here's the text:
Language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules, and does not require tedious drill. Acquisition requires meaningful interaction in the target language - natural communication - in which speakers are concerned not with the form of their utterances but with the messages they are conveying and understanding.  
The best methods are therefore those that supply 'comprehensible input' in low anxiety situations, containing messages that students really want to hear. These methods do not force early production in the second language, but allow students to produce when they are 'ready', recognizing that improvement comes from supplying communicative and comprehensible input, and not from forcing and correcting production. 
In the real world, conversations with sympathetic native speakers who are willing to help the acquirer understand are very helpful. Source: Stephen Krashen as cited online
While we are talking about language acquisition here, I suppose that this theory might lend itself to using technology as well. Let's revise this perspective--totally unsubstantiated by research, of course--to reflect technology instruction:

  1. Technology integration does not require extensive use of conscious pedagogical rules, or tedious drill. Integration requires meaningful interaction in the use of technology-blended instruction in which learners are concerned, not with what technology, but the how the technology expands their learning.
    Example: Share popular apps with learners that help them achieve something relevant and meaningful to them. Although not all apps shared in 60 seconds will be useful to all, some will be.
  2. The best methods are therefore those that supply technology use scenarios in low anxiety situations, focused around uses that learners really want to adopt for their own. These methods do not force early production at a high level, but allow learners to produce when they are 'ready,' recognizing that integration comes from supplying comprehensible input.
    Example: Can you think of a more low anxiety situation as a conference where someone is promising to share apps with you? Not only can you practice lecture student role--which all of us are familiar with and agree is fairly non-threatening--you can revisit the presentation at your leisure.
  3. In the real world, technology use with sympathetic learners who regularly use technology and are willing to help are more helpful than ivory tower academics proclaiming from their perches atop well-respected blogs.
    Example: It's so easy to be critical of folks, but those who are sharing "where the rubber meets the road" technology uses provide an entry point to higher learning.
;-)

Seriously, wasn't that fun? Low-hanging fruit, indeed!






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Database Magic on the GNU/Linux Desktop

Is your preferred desktop GNU/Linux? If it is, then you may be as excited as I to discover Kexi, a database program that works on GNU/Linux distributions (e.g. Ubuntu, Debian, etc.). I was thrilled to discover a program that would not only interface with local copies of data, but also with MySQL databases.
sudo apt-get install kexi - this command works on Debian/Ubuntu systems to install Kexi
Get Kexi Now!

I needed to be able to run SQL queries on 22K row CSV file, and, since I was on CrunchbangLinux, I didn't see an easy way of accomplishing that. Kexi to the rescue! What I especially liked was the ability to run SQL queries:
SELECT submit_date, campus, technician, computer_type, request_type, requestor, room, request FROM report WHERE report.submit_date <= '2014-04-13' AND report.campus = 'ArmstrongCampus' AND report.submit_date >= '2013-08-01'
Watch these screencasts to get a feel for it, here are some screenshots,

It is not yet available for download on Mac and Windows...aww.

What features Kexi currently offers?
Read the Kexi Features page, look at the screenshots. Use the Kexi handbook.
Find an announcement for the newest release and look at the "Unsupported features" document added for this release.
How to use database servers with Kexi?
First, note that you do not need to use database servers at all - you can use file-based builtin database server built into Kexi (SQLite-based, very much like MS Access, but a bit more robust).

If you want database servers, PostgreSQL and MySQL are supported. Create a new blank database project on server using Kexi's startup dialogs. Kexi will ask you to define connection data with connection dialog and select database name, so you will be able to just pick this predefined connection later. You can also use command line options to create and drop database projects. Also read here (October 2004).

Notes:
- Kexi assumes the account of the database server you use has enough permissions for creating a new database and use it. You may want alter the permissions (at least temporarily) using administration tools dedicated for your database server (Kexi itself does not contain such tools). If you're unsure how to do this, ask your database administrator or support.
One thing I noticed I couldn't do was delete via SQL command. I will have to investigate this further.

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Conference - TechFiesta



"Review, share and learn about the latest technology trends including tools, integration and management that are resulting in success. Hardware, integration, software, services and techniques will be showcased on the exhibit floor. Workshop sessions will be available.  Six (6) hours of continuing professional education (CPE) credit applies for each day of attendance. "


REGISTER
Pre-register for Sessions
Why Attend?

Door Prizes
Exhibitors
Keynote Speakers
Letter to Administrator
Mini Keynotes
Schedule at a Glance
Sessions
Day 1
Day 2

Tech Fiesta App
http://fanapp.mobi/techfiesta 





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MyNotes - Quick Stats

Over the last few months, quite a few magazines have stacked up on my desk. I'm amazed at how little I read these free offerings from various organizations; most of my input comes from RSS feeds and web sites shared via Twitter, G+, etc.

Here are my take-aways from Scholastic Administrator's Spring 2014 issue:


  1. Law enforcement professionals make the case that an extra $75 billion spent over 10 years on early-childhood education could lead to 2 million additional high school graduates. The group notes that the country spends same amount each year to incarcerate 2 million prisoners. "Pay for quality early education and care now," former LA sheriff Lee Baca says in the report, "or pay far more for the costs of crime in the decades to come."
  2. As of January 2013, teachers had access to the following technologies:
    1. 90% personal computers or laptops
    2. 59% interactive whiteboards
    3. 36% handheld devices
    4. 35% tablets and e-readers
  3. Among teacher who use tablets, the following uss are cited as most beneficial:
    1. 71% educ.apps
    2. 64% educ web sites
    3. 60% e-books and e-textbooks
  4. Classroom cell phone use by students:
    1. 35% of teachers of lower-income students say their school's rules have major impact on their teacher compared with
    2. 15% of those who teach students from the highest-income households
  5. Flipped Learning white paper (June, 2013) shares the following:
    1. 66% of teachers using flipped learning reported that their students' standardized test scores increased after they flipped their classrooms.
    2. 8 in 10 teachers reported an improvement in their students' attitudes towards learning
    3. 45% reported significant improvement in their own job satisfaction.
  6. 88% of districts around the country offer some form of credit-recovery courses or programs, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
There's lots of goodness in this issue but these are the points that jumped out at me.





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Visit TexasISD.com #txedchat #txed

Thanks to TexasISD.com for the visitors...keep up to date with the latest news in Texas education! BTW, that's my article on 5 Tips to Help with #Heartbleed and Security featured in today's news on 04/14/2014.
;-)




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Sunday, April 13, 2014

5 Tips to Help with #Heartbleed and Security

If you've missed it, there's been a ton of information shared about the OpenSSL vulnerability affecting every web site (so it seems) except a few such as Microsoft, Apple/iOS. Fortunately, most of the web sites are patching their OpenSSL and being fixed. But that leaves you with work to do, work that may take an hour or more to do.

Here are 5 tips to help you get that work done and describe what I am doing.

Image Source: Cult of Mac
Some tips for you to follow on how to deal with Heartbleed include the following:

  1. Change passwords. Now that there's been time for the dust to settle (e.g. patches to be made, vulnerabilities to be closed), I'm changing my passwords on all web sites that were vulnerable (list appears in Tip #4, but there could be more so apply Tip #3).
  2. Managing passwords. I manage my passwords using the open source Keepass/Keepassx/ KeepassDroid/Minikeepass on my Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices, respectively, and that's made generating complex passwords and keeping track of them much easier. Others choose to use the web-based LastPass or 1Password.
  3. Check for Heartbleed vulnerability. Although LastPass has made this web site available to help you identify the status of the vulnerability patching at various sites, you can also load these two add-ons to your Chrome and Firefox browsers:
    1. Chrome Heartbleed Checker
    2. Firefox Heartbleed Checker
  4. Turn on 2-factor authentication. "two-factor authentication is a simple feature that asks for more than just your password. It requires both "something you know" (like a password) and "something you have" (like your phone)" (Source: LifeHacker). If you have a smartphone, take advantage of 2-factor authentication on web sites where your life would be seriously disrupted if you lost access to its contents. 2-factor works on sites like Google, LastPass, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Evernote, Paypal, Steam,Microsoft, Yahoo (avoid them), Amazon, LinkedIn, and Wordpress.
  5. Encrypt everything you share online. If you use cloud storage, encrypt with AES-256 the information before you put it out there if it has sensitive and/or confidential information. You can use SSE for Windows/Mac/Linux/Android (no iOS, sorry), AESCrypt.com for Win/Mac,Linux/Android (no iOS). If on an iOS device, explore BoxCryptor.
These steps aren't that hard to take. Of course, if you haven't spent time on this before, they require you to do something you may not be accustomed to doing with technology--taking the time to learn something new and apply it. Don't wait.


Present virtually or attend this conference:

On Saturday, September 27, 2014, the Science Teachers Association of Texas (Region 19) will host a one day science and technology conference called miniCAST 2014.

Here is more info about it: http://minicastelpaso.wikispaces.com/Event+Homepage


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miniCAST 2014 - An Invitation to Present from @timholt2007


Dear PLN member,

On Saturday, September 27, 2014, the Science Teachers Association of Texas (Region 19) will host a one day science and technology conference called miniCAST 2014.

( Here is more info about it: http://minicastelpaso.wikispaces.com/Event+Homepage )

We are expecting about 500 educators this year from all over west Texas and southern New Mexico.

One of the strands we are having this year is a “Virtual Strand” when presenters do not have to actually have to be in El Paso to present, but still can present. (We understand that not very one can run to El Paso on a moment’s notice, although we do have electricity and running water, contrary to popular opinion!)

I know that you all have something to share, and it would be a great treat for the educators in the El Paso area to be able to meet you, even if it is through Skype or a webinar setting.

Won't you please consider presenting virtually (or in person!) at miniCAST 2014, in El Paso? It should only take an hour or so (unless you want to present multiple times) and I know that teacher sour here will be very grateful.

The topics are wide open, even if it does have a “science theme.” Any kind of technology will work.

Here is the link to the Call for Presenters: http://minicastelpaso.wikispaces.com/Call+for+Presenters

(Also, if you could let your PLN know about this opportunity, that would be most appreciated. )

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at timholt@me.com

I really hope that you can participate in miniCAST even if you cannot be here physically.  I cannot offer anything more than thanks for helping out, but rest assured that your help will be multiplied many times. 

Thanks again for your help. 

Tim Holt (Twitter | Blog)


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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure