Sunday, August 12, 2012

BYOT DayByDay 2: High-Tech, High Teach

The BYOT Day by Day Series will capture the first few weeks of implementation of the full BYOT program at Brebeuf Jesuit. Brebeuf Jesuit is 1:1 BYOT w/ financial aid support for over 25% of its student population in the form of technology grants. It will try to capture some of the tips, tricks, and pitfalls. It will highlight the successes and a few of the frustrations.

Note: I notice that i keep writing this later and later into the morning. This is less to do with my thought process today than with my discovery of stumbleupon (currently my third biggest referrer) - that's all i needed to add to my life!

We went into Day 2 expecting as much frustration as the let down in a superhero franchise. The number two is associated with that over-the-top penguin, doctor octopus, and lycra disco costumes from the phantom zone -- but it also gave us the Joker and Luke's hand getting cut off, so it can't all be bad (did i mention stumbleupon?).

Seriously, we were going to be a man down today (network administrator getting ready to have a baby), we knew there would be a huge spike in user activity (the real network test), and yesterday had just gone a little too smoothly...

Passwords, passwords, and more passwords.

That is really the only description (appropriate to put on this family-suitable blog). At one point, a student came in with an actual connection issue and said that he would come back later because of the line of students needing passwords reset. Just insane.

So here is the thing. I can understand not using a password for months and forgetting what it was. That is going to happen. But we were resetting passwords that were created yesterday and that DID NOT have overly burdensome complexity requirements. (Although, we are reconsidering the complexity requirements of our primary logins).

This is a growing conundrum as we use more and more personalized websites with login requirements. It's also a balancing act between convenience and actual security and faux-security (if you have to write every overly-complex password down, then it is less secure). 

With the constant background of "I need my password reset" firmly established, the day divided itself into two distinct categories. While I love it when technology and learning integrate, today there was clearly a world of tech and a world of teaching. Feel free to skip around.

Tech-Geek: Websites and Resources

Early morning email came in explaining that a significant number of resources for the class were on and that students with iPads could not view them. A quick look at the website showed that the videos were clearly in flash players, so i could understand the issue. Interestingly, though, there was a press release about moving to an HTML5 mobile version (read iPad) back in April of 2010.

Empowering support of a wide array of technologies is going to become more and more of an issue with teachers and students. Opponents of BYOT call this the "lowest common denominator" problem and if it is handled wrong, it could become this. 

If the primary use of technology is to have the same lesson or task replicated over and over with each person holding each device, then the task becomes finding the content that is able to be read on the lowest powered/most restrictive device. -- If that is all we do with BYOT, then buy everyone netbooks and save some money. 

If content delivery becomes a minor part of the educational process, though, then we can find the standards that work cross-platform (i am not  a fan of having teachers double-post in multiple formats -- they have a job to do) -- YouTube for video, PDF for reading material, MP3 or Soundcloud for audio, etc. This is the VERBS not NOUNS discussion. Tell students what you want them to DO not HOW you want them to do it.

Corollary: The @40ishoracle is spending a lot of time this weekend playing around with .docx files and the iPad and Edmodo -- sometime pages opens it, sometimes not. Seems to work in oncloud, but not always. Could have something to do with iOS being updated. Part of me wants this problem solved so that we know limitations and parameters. Part of me wants to click file-saveas-PDF and be done with it (like we do with kids who try to turn in Pages files to Windows teachers).


Tech-Geek: Routing Electrons

Let's look at some numbers. 3rd period (almost every student has a 3rd period class) we have about 1/3 of the students actively using devices across the network on day to. capacity on the wireless controller looks to a potential bottleneck as we are 50% capacity. -- We start mapping out a solution to reroute traffic across a VLAN that will not go through the controller after authentication. It's more complicated than our current setup but will be much more efficient. Estimated time - 8 hours. Next week's project.

Teach-Geek: Making Choices

Sat down with a student and his iPad. we went through a list of digital tools that he might want for his iPad. His father had placed heavy lockdown software on the system so that he could not add any new apps without a password. -- tablets without apps are smoothly transitioning oversized cameras.

Tech-Geek: Need More Paper!

Printing. There is a lot of time and effort putting into getting paper with appropriate ink splattered or heat sealed in various patterns. Chrome's CloudPrint is a 90% solution and works great in a number of ways but really does require the chrome browser to be the most effective on Macs (and that chrome print app is awesome). We had a lot of hopes pinned on HP's ePrint solution, but in enterprise level practice, we kept noticing some serious delays. Our engineer went to the interwebs and found a study (yeah, I should link to it, but don't have the source) -- that indicated an 80% or so print within the first 2 minutes, 18% within a half hour, and 2% un-notified fail rate --unacceptable. Placed the printers in the same vLan as student wireless and that gives the HP ePrint app, iOS, and MACs the ability to print directly.

Teach-Geek: Simplifying the Process

Overall, the counseling department is doing some interesting things with AMDG and the cloud. They are using shared docs to keep track of changing numbers in classes during schedule change (replacing the scratch whiteboard that is typical in most schools) and sharing specialized learning profiles with teachers through secure shared docs making it hard to leave the paper laying around and easy to update and notify teachers of changes -- no more reinventing the paper wheel.

Tech-Geek: How much YouTube can a Network take if a Network could take YouTube

I could've used the stormtrooper pic.
At one point, we are seeing 80% of the bandwidth allotted to students being used for YouTube. While not surprising, we start to tweak the caps on that specific app in order to not block out students trying to get to other sites. We are also starting to see our upper limits being touched. Next week's data will give us some more information about whether we need to increase our total bandwidth anymore. But before that...Tech is taking its first day off in 25 days -- hellooo state fair!


In "What is Strategy?", Michael Porter notes that a competitive advantage is sustainable when one is "performing different activities from rivals' or performing similar activities in different ways." BYOT is starting to have that feel. We are not buying the bigger, better #shinypretty. We are not placing all of our hopes in one specific solution. We are not trying to increase productivity solely through efficiency. We are tweaking things in the background so that faculty and students can use their own technology to the best of their ability. We are working with teachers to identify the best skills to operate in a world of technology integration and choice. We are finding places in and out of the curriculum to give students experiences that develop these skills.