Thursday, June 30, 2011

Texas CTO Conference 2011

http://www.siliconchisel.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/cto.jpg

Steve Young (Judson ISD, San Antonio, Tx) was kind enough to share a link to the resources from the Texas CTO Conference which took place recently. Kudos to all presenters for sharing their focus on cloud computing in light of big cuts. I regret I was not able to attend (our offices are moving and personal commitments that kept me at home).

Below are some of the highlights worth taking a look at, stripping out the agenda and other stuff:


Anita Givens, Associate Commissioner of Standards and Programs, Texas Education Agency
Educators know that these times are fraught with across-the-board cuts that bring uncertainty to planning and implementing technology initiatives.  Ms. Givens will provide a state technology leader’s view of the legislative session and special session.

2) Going Google – Coppell ISD and Spring ISD


3) “To the Cloud”:  Moving an Organization to the Microsoft Cloud –Plano ISD and Judson ISD (PDFs)

4)  Bring Your Own Laptop (BYOL) Programs - Goose Creek ISD and Lewisville ISD (PDF)

5) Apps in a Vendor-Neutral Cloud: Smart Cloud Computing - Austin ISD (PDF)

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Encrypting for Dropbox


Update 01/3/2012: I now recommend the free, open source AESCrypt in lieu of AxCrypt as a simple, easy to use cross-platform encryption tool. Find out more here.


I wrote about Encrypting Your Dropbox files before, but found this LifeHacker article touting the greatness of BoxCrypt. Of course, I immediately looked for something like what is shown in the screenshot below:
I've highlighted the FREE option. If you click the Download Now button, you get the Windows version.

Installing the Mac or Ubuntulinux versions requires a bit of work. I'm sure it's not impossible, but at this point, TrueCrypt.org remains my favorite cross-platform, free open source solution and recommendation.

Update 01/3/2012: I now recommend the free, open source AESCrypt in lieu of AxCrypt as a simple, easy to use cross-platform encryption tool. Find out more here.



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Google+ for Your Mobile Device

I was just wondering how I was going to access Google+ on my Android (or you on your iPhone) and then saw the link....
http://www.google.com/mobile/+/

You can get it to send you the link to your phone and you are set. See you on the move!

Update: Darn, it's not working on my Motorola Cliq running Android 1.5. Sigh. No upgrades for me until next year (that's the sound of teardrops on my keyboard).


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Google+ Circles and More

Ok, it's early and I'm writing this in response to a detailed TechCrunch blog entry, Walking Around in Circles. Several points are made:
  • The old “I don’t want my boss or my mom seeing my drunken pictures” thing is the oft-cited rationale for why we need groups. But Twitter and now Facebook have slowly been changing that mentality in the public psyche. Increasingly, everything we do online is becoming public. You can say you hate it all you want, but it’s becoming more accepted each day. And this will only continue.
  • This is the company that wants to organize all of the world’s data. In order to do that, don’t they need all of that data to be public? Doesn’t it seem like they should be pushing the fully public Twitter mentality more than private group sharing? It sure does.
My initial response to the blog entry was posted on Google+ but I thought I'd throw it here as well. 
The author of that blog entry makes some good points but just because people haven't had easy access--which Circles provides--to a feature that protects their privacy, doesn't mean they won't embrace it when they see it. Also, one of the neat features is that Google+ enables you to email people NOT in your Circles...I spammed 111 people yesterday with a link to Chris Lehmann's ISTE Keynote in one Stream or Spark or whatever this is and it was WAY easier than doing so via Gmail. Could this mean vendors/spammers will find it a convenient tool to use?
As to the specific bullets I quote earlier in this blog entry, I like the idea of more finely grained controls to disseminate information and share stuff with others. It's all about "nuance" that Google+ is trying for rather than the blunt bludgeon that is Facebook and Twitter and other networks.

As to the second bullet, consider that Google is a part of EVERY conversation, whether it's public or not. Let's not be naive. Ah well, short reflections in the early morning hours. I like Google+ and only time will tell if the rest of the world will.


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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Embarking on the Journey - #Google+


Over the last 48 hours, there's been a lot of hype about Google Plus, what it can do, etc. But what grabs me about the advertising is "nuance." So, I found myself asking colleagues for a Google + invitation earlier tonight (30 minutes ago), and now, thanks to one person's generosity, I am about to accept that invitation (a portion is shown above in the screenshot). And, Google Certified Teachers are sharing changes they'd like to see....

Before I take a look, I thought I'd reflect on my hopes for Google Plus:

  1. Facebook changes its privacy settings when it serves them, not me. I hope Google+ will give me more control so I can funnel content to the right audiences.
  2. RSS feeds and integration of content so I don't have to mess with Ping.fm, Plurk, etc.
  3. It would be nice to more easily differentiate delivery of my posts so that not everyone is bugged by my posts (e.g. some family/friends say, "Miguel, why are you always on task?")
  4. Image gallery integration and control
  5. A replacement for Skype, and all that now that Microsoft took them over
  6. All things.
See? That wasn't so hard. Ok, here I go....
About to Join

After I click the JOIN button, this pops up:


And, that's it!


I really like the Circles idea...this is what drew me to Google+ and I hope will allow me to drop Facebook. I immediately started going through my addressbook (it pulls your contacts in for you) and sorting them...gee, what do you do with "cross-over" folks? Mix 'em up!

What's neat is that it pulled my Picasa images in without problem....


Here's what someone else's profile looks like....

First impression? Love it. I'll be opening this up instead of my gmail first thing from now on.

Oh, how to invite folks...going to try this next:



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Inspiring 5 Conversations Blog Posts


To be honest, I had no idea that 5 Conversations I don't want to have anymore would inspire such interest. I've been tracking visitors from all walks of life, educators from other countries than the United States, and I'm grateful for the feedback.

Even more exciting is that 5 Conversations has inspired another blog post (it's all about conversations, right?) by Lib-Girl. Check out the first paragraph and then read the rest on her blog:
The other day I ran across this post about educational conversations that have run their course. That is to say, ed-chat (not to be confused with #edchat) topics of discussion that have been discussed to death. We've all heard of educational "sacred cows," well... these are their "dead horse" companions. Naturally, this got me thinking about a similar list of library related conversations that I am tired of having. 


What 5 Conversations do you want to stop having?

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MyNotes - LMS Transformation


I love how this opinion, especially the title, was written!! Kudos to Gary Brown.


My Notes
LMS, Tear Down This Wall! -- Campus Technology
    • LMS, Tear Down This Wall! For the LMS to remain relevant in higher education, it must move beyond the classroom and integrate seamlessly with the learning opportunities presented by the web. By Gary Brown06/29/11
      • The LMS will change the nature of instruction and assessment in the same way a granite wall changes the flow of a river. Over the last 25 years or so, we have watched as the wall dammed the flow of learning and contained it.
        • As pointed out in Glenda Morgan’s watershed study, "Faculty Use of Course Management Systems,
          • the primary benefits of the LMS were in the area of classroom management.
            • The LMS brought the convenience of online grade books, resource distribution, and a drop box for student submissions--the utilities of academic hygiene.
              • Instead of the LMS, they used wikis, blogs, and emerging Web 2.0 resources.
                • The future of the LMS can be summarized in four points.
                  • relevance to the kinds of initiative-based and authentic learning that it will be used to support.
                    • seamlessly integrated into the World Wide Web
                      • learning is fundamentally and irrepressibly social in nature
                        • Educators must evolve
                          • agents responsible for educational strategy, activity, and assessment design.
                            • mediators for learners


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                              Bombs Away Technology - Training...Not Part of the Plan

                              Adapted from Source at:
                              http://www.impactlab.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/bombsaway.jpg


                              Have you found a decrease in training on technology the new status quo in your organization?
                              I was conversing with a colleague today and he shared that at a recent gathering of K-12 Chief Technology Officers, the topic of training educators on new technology came up. There seemed to a prevailing tendency reported among the CTOs to roll out new technologies without setting up formalized training for the end users. My take on this new trend was that it was not out of necessity that formalized training was not part of the equation, but rather part of a new "process" for introducing new technologies to educators. (Read More)
                              Earlier this evening, I found myself meditating on the recent wave of cuts to Educational Technology staff across the State of Texas. As "training" and professional learning facilitation opportunities switch from one size fits all workshops (e.g. Intro to the Internet) to meeting the niche needs of high-end users (e.g. Analyzing Social Media as a Tool for Mathematical Thinking), comments like the ones above become more critical to examine.
                              Workshop Description: Analyzing Social Media as a Tool for Mathematical Thinking - Wondering how social media can impact your life? This hands-on workshop will provide insights and guidance in engaging students in the use of social media connections employing WolframAlpha.com and bridging differential calculus and physics concepts. Participants will construct models of particle physics that represent their social media engagement, measuring the slope of the tangent for their reputation.  Earn CPE and graduate hours. Note: This is a fake class Miguel made up for fun.
                              In the excerpt below, Jose Vega remarks on the blog entry from EdTechSandyK:
                              In my opinion, trainers not only find the related value to the job, but also find ways to facilitate the use of the technologies. It's not simply learning the mechanics of using technologies.
                              How to training and mechanics of using technology may be considered as almost unnecessary at a time when you can hop online, access Youtube-hosted video tutorials...oh, wait. That's right. You work in a school district that blocks YouTube.com. 

                              Hmm...let's try that again.

                              Ok, using your free Clear, your tethered Android or iPhone, or PCcard from AT&T, Verizon or Sprint, hop online and access YouTube.com to learn how to do something. Or, read one of the popular blogs available that addresses the HOW TO of using a particular tool. Most cloud computing tools aren't difficult and you can pick them up with some dedication of time.

                              Having observed the same issue--just throw the technology out there and let's see if it works--in various places, I'm not surprised that it is a trend among CTOs. The problem is a growing one and coming to be reflected in budget considerations, such as that represented by this excerpt from a goodbye letter a technology director in Texas shared on a statewide email list:
                              Unfortunately the district leadership felt Educational Technology was not a priority and we fell to the budget axe. The attitude seems to be that technology integration will just happen without a dedicated team leading focused on the professional development side.  (Source: Email shared on 06/29/2011 with TCEA TEC-SIG List)
                              The problem in the excerpt above reflects the growing possibility that edtech is a wasted investment...after all, not all teachers are using technology effectively. If technology people can learn how to use a technology, why can't everyone else? Or, technology has gotten so easy, anyone can learn it.



                              Again, the value of what it means to be an educator is called into question. We all employ pencils but you might use it to work out differential calculus while I'm adding up my grocery bill.

                              Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/
                              thumb/0/0f/Tangent_to_a_curve.svg/200px-Tangent_to_a_curve.svg.png


                              But then, it seems obvious that the most techie folks, who long ago learned how to teach themselves new technologies, would advocate this perspective. Worse, learning in isolation, a dialogue between technology and the learner can be problematic.

                              You see, one of the keys to learning in these times IS taking advantage of connections to learn how to collaborate using the new technology tools available to us. While some CTOs may see learning how to use productivity tools like MS Office, navigate the Windows desktop, etc. as easy to achieve, in fact, a requirement of being an employee, much less a teacher, it's not so easy for educational uses.

                              I wouldn't be surprised if CTOs perceived technology as it is now--a box that runs certain programs that should be common knowledge--as an appliance we should all know how to use. The problem is, that's not what technology is now or what it is rapidly changing into.

                              That undoubtedly throws a wrench in the works for technology directors and those who support infrastructure. What technology is now is an ever-evolving dialogue, involving collaboration and multi-modal communications. Instead of simple boxes and wires that can be easily planned for like a train on railroad track map, each person becomes an uncontrollable, sometimes untraceable resource for someone else on the network...and my network may include people beyond the scope of a CTO's planning.

                              The trend towards dumping technologies on teachers and expecting them to learn to use it without formalized training isn't the real problem. The real problem is coming to grips with the simple fact that the technologies CTOs are dumping on people are no longer the right technologies to share. And, if leadership is supporting CTOs in this, that they have forgotten the processes teachers go through to blend technologies--no matter how simple or complex--into teaching and learning for their students.

                              Some tips (not in any particular order) to avoid the "bombs away" technology approach:
                              1. Meet with stakeholders--classroom teachers--before investing in interactive whiteboards or any other technology and get their support.
                              2. Revise curriculum and require professional learning for C&I staff.
                              3. Encourage district staff to model the use of new technologies and give them feedback on that modeling so they can grow.
                              4. Build online support communities--some may prefer professional learning communities--that facilitate dialogue about the messy mayhem, not just the shining successes. 
                              5. "Touch base" regularly to connect with users and address problems as early as possible during implementation.
                              6. Respond to problems quickly, less than 24 hours, so that people know what that you are as committed as they are (if not more so).
                              7. Take advantage of models such as the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (the Levels of Teaching Innovation (LOTI) is based on this) to have vocabulary that helps you discuss change.
                              What would you add or subtract (my level of math) to the list of tips above?

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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