Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Life-Changing Apps - Office Lens and @Centrallo

If I learned anything at the TCEA 2016 State Conference, it was overshadowed by a powerful app shared off-hand in a T-TESS presentation by Dr. Bruce Ellis. I had so much fun with the app I didn't pay as much attention as I needed to the presentation! As such, I must share it with you, as well as add one of my own.

Life-Changing App #1 - Office Lens (No Cost)
In spite of the fact that it was a Microsoft created app--it was difficult to overcome my reluctance but I succeeded, thank goodness--I quickly pulled it down to my iPhone, which was my default note-taking app at the Conference (you know, taking pictures).

Amazingly, the Office Lens app works on both Android and iOS, making it a great choice. I shared this app with an iPad Pro user, who was hastily scribbling notes onto a full-size iPad Pro...and he immediately started using it, exclaiming at how wonderful it was. In fact, everyone I've shared it with has loved it! Why aren't you using it yet?


Life-Changing App #2 - Centrallo.com 
($4.99 monthly/$44.99 annually)

Although I've already written about it, this Evernote replacement is worth mentioning again! Be sure to check out the Centrallo app for both Android and iOS, but also accessible via the Web. It's easy to use and reminds me of a "fast and light" Evernote without the kitchen sink!


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

3 Steps To Cloud Safe Computing

"91% of adults in the survey “agree” or “strongly agree” that consumers," shares a 2014 Pew Research study, "have lost control over how personal information is collected and used by companies." Unfortunately, that perception may be tied directly to how many of us are storing confidential data--whether we want to or not--in cloud-based storage systems.

Image Source
If you're like me, you're storing important data online because of the following reasons:
  1. Easy backup - You're worried that storing it on USB external flash drives or "sticks" is too dangerous since they are easy to lose, may suffer data corruption. With Dropbox and GoogleDrive, the "backup" of your data happens auto-magically when you save stuff in the appropriate folder on your computer.
  2. Portability - You love to be able to work from anywhere, even when you're out for coffee at Starbucks. You also don't want to leave confidential data on your laptop since you carry that everywhere and while it's password protected, you're positive you don't have fancy disk encryption turned on. You DO make sure to logout of your cloud storage, though.
  3. Collaboration - Everything you do involves partnering with someone else, and that's why GoogleDocs is so good for team projects. When you save stuff on Dropbox or GoogleDrive, other people can get to it and work with it...and that's great all-around!
Unfortunately, you can't just assume that confidential data will be safeguarded appropriately when it's stored in the Cloud. To safeguard that sensitive data, you need to take a few steps. Here are 3 steps you can take that will immediately protect you when placing your precious data online. Are they the only steps you can take? Absolutely not! The question is, How much security are you willing to trade for ease of use? It's a tough scale and over time, trust me, you will find the right balance. For now, though, it won't hurt to be overly protective...well, it won't hurt TOO much.

Step #1 - Protect your Device and Connections
We often carry our devices--laptops, phones, tablets--everywhere we go but fail to protect them adequately. What's worse, we also forget that when our devices connect over public WiFi, we are in danger of being "packet-sniffed." This is a fancy way of saying, people can eavesdrop our WiFi and snatch critical information, like our login credentials (more about that in a moment, Step #2).

Make an effort to protect your device, though, including logging out or "locking" it so someone can't just pick it up and start using it. Establish a secure "cloud computing base" that protects against malware/viruses that may load keylogging software onto your machine. You can do that by keeping your anti-malware/anti-virus software up to date. Some suggested tools include MalwareBytes, Spyware Blaster, Spybot Search & Destroy for spyware/malware, while using AVG Anti-Virus for antivirus (Windows 10 has solid tools, BTW), and, finally, removing and cleaning up your Windows computer using Revo Uninstaller and CCleaner.

Step #2 - Safeguard Your Cloud Computing Login Credentials
As mentioned in Step #1, safeguarding your Cloud Computing Login credentials is critical. You need to invest in a Virtual Private Network (VPN)--especially if your work place isn't providing one, although most school districts and employers do--like Private Internet Access (my favorite VPN provider, BTW, because it works on ALL my devices). Without a VPN, you are open to packet analyzers and sniffers because your data is being transmitted in clear text....that is, NOT encrypted. While Google and other providers have made every effort to encourage folks, many services still rely on unencrypted connections (without the gold Secure Socket Layer (SSL) padlock).

Not only do you need to avoid phishing and spear phishing (targeted at specific individuals) schemes--which attempt to steal your credentials so they can expand their circle of confusion and infection to others--you also need to take advantage of tools like Keepass, Dashlane, and LastPass. There are others but you can google "online password manager" and find many solutions. Another important point is to ensure you have a secure password generator, which many of the tools listed above provide. School districts may also consider drafting a policy, a sample of which is available online.

You can protect yourself by also taking advantage of 2-factor authentication, illustrated below:

2-factor authentication is available for a variety of services. I use it with GoogleApps, Dropbox, and many others.

Step #3 - Practice Safe Data Practices
Since we must all work with confidential at some point, even if it is personally identifiable information (PII), or medical/health information, we must practice safe data practices. One of those practices--aside from shredding paper copies of sensitive data--including encrypting that data when it is NOT in use and/or in transit. If in a work environment, make sure that you ONLY access sensitive data on work devices, avoid clicking on email links and attachments from people you don't know, and, for goodness sake, DO NOT do that while checking your personal email at work, especially if it is a Yahoo email account given the types of malware spreading ads that find themselves displayed.

If you aren't encrypting your data before putting it in the cloud, you are sending a clear message that you just lack concern for confidential data. While some data is intended to be portable, easy to backup, and collaborate with, confidential data is NOT. Some ways to encrypt your data include using tools like Secret Space Encryptor (SSE)--which works on Windows, Mac, GNU/Linux and Android--and/or Chromebook friendly MiniLock. Tutorials are available as videos and/or print. All of these encryption tools ARE EASY to use and encrypted files/folders can be saved directly to cloud storage (e.g. Dropbox, GoogleDrive). Android users typically have more encryption options--given that iOS sandboxes its apps, it's a little more difficult--available to them, like Secret Space Encryptor (SSE).

However, if you want an even more dynamic solution, considering using encrypted file storage like SpiderOak storage (Dropbox like storage but encrypted) or even overlaying encryption with BoxCryptor, which includes a portable solution.

Conclusion
You can regain control of how data is shared provided you follow the 3 simple steps outlined in this article. Unfortunately, as data goes mobile, you'll have to find the solution that works best on your device.


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

Note-Taking App - @Centrallo

Find out more at http://centrallo.com


Earlier this week, I stumbled on Centrallo.com, a web site that suggests it can be an Evernote replacement. If you've forgotten why anyone and everyone is looking for an alternative to Evernote, then you may want to read this article. I've tried several, including MammothHQ, SimpleNote, GoogleKeep, and Apple Notes. None matched Evernote for its features, although they easily beat it on its negatives (e.g. bloated interface, lousy note search, etc.). Centrallo offers a fresh take and I'm extremely hopeful. In fact, I am reaching for my wallet.

ABOUT CENTRALLO
A little about it from the emailed press release (oh no, I hope I don't get a deluge of those now) from Michael J. Sher, co-founder:
Centrallo, a global productivity app maker today announced the release of Centrallo version 2.0, a major upgrade allowing Evernote users the ability to easily import their notes into Centrallo. The new Import Wizard is a free feature letting Evernote users import their notes to better organize, search and share them using Centrallo's robust list making, sharing and publishing capabilities.

“Releasing our Evernote Import Wizard is the biggest milestone in our three-year history,” said Michael J. Sher, co-founder of Centrallo. “The most requested feature has been the ability to import notes into Centrallo from Evernote so users can create structure by turning standalone notes into structured lists. This takes Centrallo to the next level, enabling better organization and full control of information that flows in and out of users daily lives”, says Sher.

“The most requested feature during my six-years at Evernote was lists-within-lists,” says Heather Wilde, Centrallo's newest advisor and former Director of Global Technical Support at Evernote. “The Evernote Centrallo Import Wizard now provides users with the one missing crucial piece in the productivity puzzle in a highly complementary, user-friendly way.”
In the meantime, for those of you that need something boasts the same features as Evernote without the bloat and SLOW note searching, Centrallo may be your new best friend. In trying it out, though, I immediately ran into some challenges...not with the app itself, but rather, with importing my notes from Evernote. My request was brief, typed from the comfort of bed at some dark hour:
Tried Evernote import but nothing happened. :-( Any ideas?
Fortunately, approx 24 hours later (if not sooner) of submitting my help request, the CEO of Centrallo responded:
On Sat, Feb 6, 2016 at 8:32 AM, MIchael J. Sher wrote:
How large is your enex file?
Right now, we accept 500MB file sizes.
Where did you get stuck?
This began a trail of conversation, exchanged video tutorials and walkthroughs. The problem wasn't that I didn't know how--Centrallo makes it painfully easy--but rather that a bug existed:
Miguel.  I can confirm that something is not right with the importer.  Our team will fix this first thing tomorrow – provided it is easy.   I was able to import your enex file, but am still waiting that it is in my account.  It’s been 10 minutes.  We will get back to you.
And, they have fixed it as of publication of this blog post and you also get an update via email. The Centrallo folks were kind enough to load 3-4 Evernote ENEX files--those are backups of Evernote Notebooks--and those appear in my Centrallo account. What's more, the file attachments embedded in those notes appear as well.

Ok, I'm declaring success with Centrallo as an Evernote replacement just on the basis of lists within lists and embedded files!

What the wizard looks like is shown above.



Sending Centrallo one of my precious ENEX files, a Notebook export from Evernote.

A list of all the notes in my Business Cards Notebook scheduled for import.
Centrallo really has many MORE features to commend it, although it has a free version, the Premium  ($4.99 a month or $44.99 a year) model allows for more storage...and works on Android, iOS, Web:
  •  15 Gb Storage
  •  Unlimited Notes
  •  Unlimited Lists
  •  Unlimited Attachments
  •  Passcode Lock

Great interface!
Compare that Premium usage to the Free version of Centrallo :
Free accounts have no expiration limit. You can use it as long as you would like - or until you run out of free notes. When / if you run out, you can refer people to Centrallo  to earn free notes or upgrade to our Premium subscription.

 1 Gb Storage
 100 Notes
 Unlimited Lists
 ≤25 MB Attachments
 No Passcode Lock
Some other great features that appear:

  1. Email your notes in from trusted email addresses--I have 5 listed already--that you can set in your Centrallo settings to your accountname@m.centrallo.com.
  2. Color code public links
  3. Share Lists (in Evernote parlance, Notebooks) with others
  4. A simple interface
What I'm hoping for in the future:

  • RSS Feeds for Lists
  • Cloudmagic integration
  • GetLiner.com support (although that's more on GetLiner than it is on Centrallo)


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

Monday, February 8, 2016

#TCEA16 - Exploring Robotics with RoboSIG and Jim Jewell

Jim Jewell without his 'Borg implant ;-)





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

#TCEA16 - Inexpensive #GoogleCardboard! with @RustyMeyners








Corrected link via +Rusty Meyners :  Actually, $4.74 w/free shipping - Good Quality!http://gearbest.com/home-gadgets/pp_202879.html

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

#TCEA16 - Podcast: Exploring An Agile Methodology #scrum @k12dynamics

Source and Find Out More

"We've abandoned the waterfall approach," shared Traci Clarke recently at the TCEA 2016 State Conference. She introduced me to a really neat idea--SCRUM.
Scrum is an iterative and incremental agile software development methodology for managing product development. It defines "a flexible, holistic product development strategy where a development team works as a unit to reach a common goal",[1] challenges assumptions of the "traditional, sequential approach"[1] to product development, and enables teams to self-organize by encouraging physical co-location or close online collaboration of all team members, as well as daily face-to-face communication among all team members and disciplines in the project. 
A key principle of scrum is its recognition that during production processes, the customers can change their minds about what they want and need (often called requirements volatility[2]), and that unpredicted challenges cannot be easily addressed in a traditional predictive or planned manner. As such, scrum adopts an empirical approach—accepting that the problem cannot be fully understood or defined, focusing instead on maximizing the team's ability to deliver quickly, to respond to emerging requirements and to adapt to evolving technologies and changes in market conditions. (Source: Wikipedia)
This idea of an iterative and incremental methodology reminds me a bit of instructional design process that Cathy Moore describes in her article, How Action Mapping Can Change Your Design Process. She describes it in this way:
Action mapping makes stakeholders work together to analyze the performance problem, commit to the same measurable goal, and agree to focus on activities rather than information.
What might the process be when working with others? With Scrum, it means dividing work into manageable components then completing them in two week increments, for example.

Image Source: https://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com/uploads/articles/MockedTaskBoard.jpg


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

#TCEA16 Take-Away - District Account Management and Single Sign-on (SSO)

Over the past few months, I've been sharing how one district solved the account management problem through the adoption of an identity management/automation solution. Unfortunately, in every meeting, I encounter a question that is central to the needs of Texas (and other) school districts--Does this solution resolve the overwhelming amount of data file creation requests for digital textbook publishers? And, each time, my answer has to be, "No."  In this blog entry, I share what may very well be THE solution.





Automated Provisioning (includes federation)

Updates:
Link updated since it wasn't working earlier. Also inserted additional information and links to files
.



The worst part of the deal is that I wish districts like Denton ISD had spoken up and shared this sooner...the same goes for ESC-11. As the saying goes, "You don't hide your light under a basket!" That would have saved a lot of effort before for many.

BACKSTORY
For now, here's the backstory to this search for the Holy Grail--an identity management/automation solution that not only interacts with Active Directory, Office365/GoogleApps, but also all the OTHER stuff that comes up without any additional costs. The backstory is outlined here and is worth reading so you can understand the scope of the issues and the various solutions:
  1. The Texas Digital Textbook Data Nightmare - In this engaging comprehensive primer, featuring quotes from Texas school districts, Miguel explores the problem and solutions available. This is a great intro for those struggling with vague notions of what is happening (or not) in regards to data integration.
  2. Data-Driven School Districts Experience Growing Pains - In this "pictures of the problem"-rich article, Miguel shares his journey to find a solution, including job descriptions and expectations.
  3. To the Rescue - @Clever in Texas Schools? - Want to use Clever to in place of or to complement your existing user provisioning solution? Read this article to get answers to key questions!
  4. MyNotes: ClassLink for Rostering - My notes on ClassLink's connection to OneRoster.org, a presentation shared at the TCEASysAdmin.
You can also find ALL my materials--sans The Solution mentioned below--online at http://tinyurl.com/tceaidentitycrisis. There's a LOT of information there and I recommend you review it all before jumping into any one solution.

THE SOLUTION
At the TCEA 2016 State Conference, I was scheduled to present on Wednesday about Identity Crisis. On Tuesday, though, I met one on one with the Education Service Center, Region 11's solution provider partner, Enboard's Encore. I listened to them (audio recording) for about an hour and a half.

I was blown away.

In one fell swoop, the solutions I had touted so highly, as well as others like Clever, would prove unnecessary.



This is THE solution school districts need. Some of the salient points:
  • Encore is a cooperative member, which means if you had to, you could skip the bid process. Coops include Buyboard and Region 11 TETCP.
  • Encore is in Texas school districts and has been for years. Customers include the following: 
    Denton ISD, Lewisville ISD, Mesquite ISD, and Crowley ISD. Denton ISD's Ernie Stripling also recorded a video about the relationship between Denton ISD and Encore.
  • Encore is a subscription model, based on total user cost. Total users include staff and students because, to be blunt, you need all of them. For example, a district with 15K of staff and students would pay $30K annually. This is actually quite a savings to other solutions that charge up front and then annually for NEW products.
    • Enboard can also provision Parent/Guardian and Community Accounts and enable Parent/Guardians to log in with their own accounts and access their associated Student’s Account Information without having to log-in as the student (commonly called Impersonation). 
  • Encore deploys 10 Applications/Resources for the District per year (2 Years = 20 Applications, 3 Years = 30 Apps). So, if you have some new digital content provider or assessment vendor say, "Hey, we need these 5 data files for our system to work in these formats!" then Encore will generate those data files for you.  The District is fully trained on the Enboard Platform and can add as many SSO Applications as they need without any additional charge.
  • Districts pass on the the data file schemas--how data files should be created--from the vendor to Encore and Encore will generate those files, then place them on your secure FTP (SFTP) server for pickup by the vendor, or provide even more support. All Data is kept within the Districts environment as all data should remain private and confidential.
  • Encore provides Single Sign-On (SSO) to everything you can imagine, including the Big 3 Textbook Publishers...let me say that again. They handle the textbook vendors. For example, when looking at Pearson, I realized it would cost about $900 to auto-generate that file from our regional service center. Instead, Encore could do this at no additional cost.
    • Encore can support any Web-based Application that is Forms-Based, supports LDAP/Active Directory Integration, has an Authentication API or Supports Federation (SAML, WS-Federation, oAuth, etc.).
    • Encore also supports creating Accounts on Third Party Platforms of varied Username and Password variations.
  • Encore stores all District Account Authentication Information Encrypted in the District’s Active Directory Environment.  Encore does not store the credentials in a third-party platform.
    • In fact, Encore won an award from Microsoft for encryption and security for SSO Credential Data.
There's a lot more that can be said but it's pretty simple recommendation--go with Region 11 and Encore.
Note: You can access these resources online:
    • Enboard Value Statement: Reviews overall Value Statement of Enboard
    • Enboard Comparison to SSO Platforms – Review Enboard Comparison with other SSO Platforms
    • Enboard SSO Application Library List – Details Encore’s Current SSO Application Library List
    • Enboard Overview – General Overview Presentation of Enboard
    • Instruction Benefits – One Page Overview for Instruction Enablement
Other Resources: 
 If you think SSO isn't that big of a deal, imagine your K-12 students and staff trying to juggle 40+ different logins and passwords...imagine logging into ONE place, then tapping on an icon. For example, in the screenshot below, users click on Moodle icon, and that logs them straight into the popular course management system...the same is true for Istation, Think Through Math (TTM), and many other solutions...you can get an insight into the breadth of these by looking at the pictures below:


This includes SSO into GoogleApps as well as Office 365:



A few more pictures:




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

Friday, February 5, 2016

#TCEA16 - Get @Liner App for Quick Highlighting on Your iPhone or via #Chrome browser

Listen to Miguel



Welcome! Bienvenidos! This is the page of TCEA Radio Contributor, Miguel Guhlin. Connect via Twitter @mguhlin or Voxer @mguhlinBelow, please find my latest contribution to TCEA2016 Radio! Find out more about TCEA Radio! (Hint: Get the app for iOS or Android first!)
FUN FIND - GetLiner.com | Listen
“Standing in line at the grocery store, reading an article link from Facebook on my smartphone, and I realize, 'Man, I need to highlight this article!' And, I need to do it right now! because I'm going to forget by the time I get home. But how?"

This is Miguel Guhlin on TCEA Radio. When I need to highlight an article quickly, I use the free Liner app, available for iOS and Mac (sorry, not available for Android!) at getliner.com. Most of the time, I'm on my iPhone, and Liner lets me quickly highlight an article, then save those highlights to Evernote. I can also read the highlights via the Chrome browser on my Chromebook, Windows or Mac computer. What I do, though, is save my Liner highlights to Evernote, then copy-n-paste them right into Blogger for quick sharing.  

Find links to the Liner app at http://tinyurl.com/tcea16radio and remember,  #TCEA16 is the hashtag to follow if you want to listen to for more tips!"


See more online at : http://tinyurl.com/tcea16radio 

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

Thursday, February 4, 2016

#TCEA16 - Hour of Code #hourofcode #code #coding

LISTEN to Miguel


Welcome! Bienvenidos! This is the page of TCEA Radio Contributor, Miguel Guhlin. Connect via Twitter @mguhlin or Voxer @mguhlinBelow, please find my latest contribution to TCEA2016 Radio! Find out more about TCEA Radio! (Hint: Get the app for iOS or Android first!)
Hour of Code | LISTEN
“Thanks for listening to TCEA Radio! This is Miguel Guhlin (you can find me @mguhlin here via Twitter and Voxer). Are you a coding fanatic or just interested in getting started? Listen into the Voxer Chat Susan Reeves and I had about Hour of Code earlier this year! Susan shares how to get started tips, hour of code resource links, promotional materials, how to print student certificates and beyond hour of code goodies! 

You can find more exciting Voxer Chats and connect to other Texas educators via #tecsigchat#tecsigchat is an ongoing conversation about teaching, learning, and leading with technology available at no cost via the mobile app, Voxer. Find out more at http://tinyurl.com/tcea16radio and be sure to follow the hashtag #TCEA16 for great sharing before, during and after the Convention!”


See more online at : http://tinyurl.com/tcea16radio 

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

#TCEA16 - Top #Chromebook Apps @cloudmagic @minilock @micnote @explaineverything

LISTEN to Miguel

Welcome! Bienvenidos! This is the page of TCEA Radio Contributor, Miguel Guhlin. Connect via Twitter @mguhlin or Voxer @mguhlinBelow, please find my latest contribution to TCEA2016 Radio! Find out more about TCEA Radio! (Hint: Get the app for iOS or Android first!)
Top Chromebook Apps | LISTEN
"Are you a Chromebook user like I am? This is Miguel Guhlin with a few of my favorite Chrome must-have apps! This will be a quick run-down, so grab your digital note-taking app and let's get started! It's pretty amazing when you consider what can be done on a Chromebook and how easy and flexible it is. What fun to revisit my favorite apps, as well as discover some on Chromebook or for Chrome browser, that can be used. 

For email, use the CloudMagic chrome app. I use it on all my mobile devices and love the simple interface! Want to protect those confidential files on your Chromebook? Use MiniLock for file encryption and safeguard your logins and passwords using Keepass.info and BrowsePass Chrome add-on

Want your students to create audio notes or podcasts? Use MicNote; the Free version records 2 mins but Pro version for $4.99 records for 2 hours with unlimited notes/recordings. 

Want to create slideshows and videos? Try Google Slides, Haiku Deck web, the incomparable Explain Everything and/or WeVideoScreencastify (makes HTML5/webm files), or the TechSmith SnagIt (need extension and app; makes MP4s) .

There may be a charge for some of these apps but all are fairly inexpensive. If you missed the roundup of Chromebook apps, you can always find the complete list online at tinyurl.com/tcea16radio. Be sure to find out more exciting ideas online via Twitter with the hashtag #TCEA16


See more online at : http://tinyurl.com/tcea16radio 

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

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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