Tuesday, August 14, 2012

BYOT DayByDay 3: Getting Lost in the Details and an iOS rant

he 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.

The good news: we may have peaked on password resets. Fewer resets today than on Friday. The end of the reset train might be in sight. This barrage has been interesting as we have been listening to students' comments. Some blame the complexity rules (which I sort of agree with, although in terms of life preparation, they will be dealing with far worse than ours). Others honestly did not think they would use it, so didn't bother to memorize (odd, but pragmatic). My most annoying are those who blame the network. "Your network won't let me on, because I can't remember my password." -- Yes, my network is glitchy that way. *sigh*

With all of this newfound time, the IT Crew had a tough choice: sit back and read comic books or try to tackle some of the nagging issues. We flipped a coin and went with the latter (plus, GenCon starts on Thursday, so we are planning a work stoppage of some form).

Putting the iPad Under the Spotlight: Document Uploading to the Web (or just about anything)

I spend a lot of my time biting my tongue about iOS. I am not a huge fan of the operating system, the company behind it, or its outlook on technology or consumers. But I truly believe in choice and the power behind empowerment, so chalk my opinions up as those and try to stay out of the fan-boy wars.

Email request in the morning: "how do students working on iPads get their reflections uploaded to edline?"

the @40ishoracle and I had worked on this before, but decided it was time to go after it again. After all, there had to be an app for that. For those of you coming to this blog from the teaching side of the world, a little background: 

The operating system behind the iPad, iOS, does not have a way for the consumer to access the files (a file manager or other file handling systems). Files are accessed through the apps themselves. As such, the user can only export those files with the options given from within the app, most commonly and universally "email" (for those of you in the android world, the options are MUCH more limited).

So when you see that oh-so-common "Browse" Button on a webpage to upload a file, there is no file to choose (although recent updates to iOS have given the option to upload a photo, so there is that). There is no way to drill-down into the folders and files. (OK, that should be enough flame-baiting so i won't get into the message board that explained this as a feature and the need to contact websites to have them accommodate this new benefit from our Cupertino soothsayers).

We started the research and reached out to our PLNs, particularly those in iPad only schools. My favorite line came from James Schurrer at St. Xavier (not an iPad only school) - "The easy way. Don't do it". Our friend and all-school-iPad implementer @eecastro, from St. Ignatius, San Franciso: "Does not exist". 

App-wise, there are two convoluted options. 

iUploader (not the photo one) gives you a way to take an attachment from email (remember, app-docs can be sent by email) into a holding bin. When you open the iUploader, it has a mini-browser that can be pointed to the website in question (you do not use Safari). and uploaded from the App. - 8 steps, a separate browser, no guarantee that mini browser is compatible with our LMS. No go. -- This app is primarily for people with a standard document to upload, like a resume.

goaruna gives you a specific "send to" email address that uploads your file to a linked dropbox-like environment. This is useful since some websites, such as moodle, can be programmed to upload by a web-url instead of a file. Does not actually solve the "Browse to file" issue, but sidesteps it if your webpage is agreeable. 7 steps, our LMS is not currently agreeable, and the document in this case is seems somewhat public at least for the time period that the link is live. 

the option that cannot be recommended by the school: jailbreak the device, void the warranty, and install a file manager app (the most common "duh" response when i was complaining on twitter). My favorite tweet in this vein -- "You don't even really have an iPad until its jailbroke"

So we grudgingly sent the test-balloon email to the original person who asked. "They can email it to you. They can email it to themselves, open it on another device (pc, Mac, Android, Chromium) and upload it from there. -- her response "the student handled it on his own. e-mailed it to himself or something. I don't know, but I got it."

...and there you go.

BYOT is about choice. When I choose android, I am choosing to have lots of confusing, competing markets for music, movies, and even apps. It can be a plus and a minus. When someone chooses an iPad, they are choosing a simple sharing mechanism. The key is to understand the benefits and limitations of the technology and choose the device that works best for you.

I think that eventually iOS will support some version of this. They've proven it is not a structural limitation with photo uploads. They could leverage their own PAGES app by allowing it and no other app to do it. and the Browse-File is much more locked into HTML than even Flash is/was. But, people have been saying that since April of 2010. Apple will let it happen when it thinks we are ready for it. (Boom - I'm out).

Printing Continued:

Having abandoned the HP ePrint solution for its unreliability, we played around with iPrint and the HP Home&Biz Printing app (on android). Printers are showing up by name and printing automatically. We have found our mobile print solution! The next task will be figuring out how to get the drivers for the printer to our Mac users who can see the printer on the network but cannot access it for lack of an instruction set.

The One Device and a Hilarious Dell Tech:

We have ONE device that absolutely will not connect to our network. On Friday it would only connect to our two secure (read WPA) SSIDs. On Monday, it wouldn't even do that. Our hardware technician worked with the student, even contacting Dell and having the technician remote into the computer. We all new it was hardware. Students got a kick out of us predicting what the technician would try to do next. But the best part was when the Dell tech explained that he had seen this before and that we just needed to change the channel of our access point.

Non-techie note: Wireless networks use "channels". If more than one AP in an area use the same channel, neither AP necessarily works as well. Our channels are phenomenally well balanced...and we have over 50 of them. Our Network technician actually laughed outloud at this hail-mary attempt to not send out a piece of hardware.

Eventually, the tech acquiesed and a new network card is on its way to the student. Not sure how I feel about this level of tech.support on personal devices in the long run, but I do love that we have the time and ability to help our students this way.

The Unhelpful Textbook Company (redundant?)

A student came in with a CD-Rom of his textbook that would not read on his Mac computer purchased over the summer. After quite a bit of research, we found two paragraphs on the McDougal Littell website that explained that 1) their CDs did not support the last two years worth of MAC upgrades. 2) They even went so far as to say that some CDs released in 2012 could not be assured compatibility and the buyer/schools should beware. Their solution? Downgrade your Mac to a two year old operating system or dual boot the system into Windows. Brilliant - The student was going to use an access code to look at the web-copy but may end up buying the paper book.

Thank you publishers for staying at the cutting edge of technology. We salute you.

But it is working...

Lest you think I have lost all faith.

This was a grinding and day as we began picking apart some of the fringe frustrations of BYOT implementation. But it is worth it when we hear about classes where students are helping each other solve issues, even cross-platform. Our counseling department continues to hit this new environment out of the park. They are now doing mobile schedules changes: 
I continue to make mobile schedule changes, which helps me if I can't make a schedule change happen before 8:15, but it needs to happen before the next class begins.  I can catch a student, find out what they want to do with the choices I have for them, and then bam! the change is made, the student has their schedule via email (so they can't lose it when the paper walks away) and I have gotten a little walk around the school. - @moneybrady

We have classes that have written papers, researched, filled out forms, and done so paperlessly. Students have opened templates and color coded them. #flipclass teachers are uploading lessons to YouYube and students are watching the next day's lesson on their phones while relaxing in the student commons. It has a feel of an tech-integrated world. 

Tough work behind the scenes, but the classrooms are beginning to click.