Thursday, August 30, 2012

BYOT DayByDay: Wrap-up: Understanding Digital Natives and Making Inconvenient Choices

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.

[Continued from yesterday, so some of the intro is the same...the article was originally 2300 words. See, I do recognize when i go REALLY LONG]

This will probably be the last regular posting in the DaybyDay series. It has been a good day to end as I have heard from students and teachers about some wonderful things going on in the classroom. We also had a couple of the "bad decision maker" discussions that were referenced yesterday, but even those serve a purpose in the grand scheme of things.

I mentioned yesterday that @40ishoracle and I were reflecting on the reason behind BYOT. In the same way that a general Pro/Con article tends to give legitimacy to arguments by nature of the article's structure rather than its validity, I think it is difficult to measure the success of an endeavor without recalling why it was attempted in the first place.

  • BYOT implementation solves the major issues identified by teachers and students: more access, availability of the tools the student's want to use, faster and more stable connection, off campus access. Hard to believe after talking about this for so long, that it started 3 and a half years ago with teacher and student round-tables about what was working and what wasn't.
  • Preparation for the digital world: Technology has been consumerized. IT is no longer the sole decision of the techno-trolls in the caves (and we trolls actually kind of like it that way -- project!). Students have to be able to ASSESS their needs and EVALUATE the options they have in order to effectively USE them and solve the problem of the day.
  • As we entered our pilot year and began working with teachers and students in a live environment, we realized that the BYOT world allowed teachers to focus more on their areas of subject expertise while students were empowered, and in some cases challenged, to meet expectations with their own technology.
  • Through tech petting zoos, introductions at open houses, and lots and lots of conversations with students we identified a ton of issues to work on as we moved out of the pilot year, including re-writes to the Acceptable Use Policy, upgrades to the network, and new ways of thinking about education in general.
  • The Board of Trustees allowed us to shift our budget to provide significant financial aid in order to make sure that all students got the benefit of choice, not just those blessed with the means. Focusing resources where they are most needed to improve the environment for everyone became our watchwords in the budgeting process.

Changing the Culture, Changing the Classrooms

"It really depends on the class, but there are some classes where two or three students are helping another two or three students. And it grows. Then the entire classroom becomes a group effort. It's wonderful. How do we make this happen all the time?" - Science Teacher

In Social Studies students are using Google Maps to create a my places map of significant points in history. Each student uses each device to make the maps. Some of them love the touch screen. Others are using the mouse and keyboard. Great activity, but not necessarily one that would have warranted bringing out a cart or checking out a lab. But when the devices are at their fingertips...

"I have never allowed students to use computer, dictionaries, etc. I have always wanted them to know the vocabulary by heart. This time, I told them they could use all the sources they had (notes, online, translators). I am curious to see how well-written and thoughtful the responses are...They are still required to "use their own words' so no copying from articles. So far, those who haven't studies are spending more time looking up the words than writing. This should be interesting." - World Language Teacher

The assignment was to create visual representations of a historical concept. One of the students created an animation. It was perfect with stamps and taxes flying around and then a fist crushing out the machine. I have to rethink my frame-of-reference. I thought of visual as static, but with these tools and these students, that is no longer a limitation. So creative. - Social Studies Teacher

Students were working in groups while contributing to a class set of notes that was displayed on the board. Small groups were looking up definitions while in the middle of a discussion that was graded by the teacher walking around the room. One group of students was brainstorming the process of putting media from cameras into a report. -- Administrator Walkthrough

Reading check quizzes through the LMS; Vocabulary words identified in news papers and news casts from around the world, Teach and Learn sessions as students make sure each person in the group can effectively complete the task at hand.

"There is more active learning going on today than one year ago. I don't think it is all BYOT, but it is something. Less lecture, more activity." - Administrator (ok, fine, that was @40ishoracle)

Choosing Culture over Convenience

BYOT Brown Bag lunches have helped identify issues
and share successes. We have snacks!
"Kids have too many things to remember. They complain a lot."

"Can we just make every teacher use EdLine? There are too many options."

We have been talking about this one a lot! Students have a password for EdLine, a password for the wireless, a password for gDocs, Biology textbooks, the iPad app for Biology textbooks, the Naviance account for the college application...You get the picture. If a student's teacher uses Edmodo, or a club uses Skydrive or Dropbox, then there are more accounts and more username/password combinations.

Is this a problem? It certainly can be. But it is also a lot like life.

The digital age encourages us to have usernames and password in order to conveniently function. We have accounts for email (home and work), facebook, twitter, dropbox, our bank accounts, taxes, the DMV, our student's lunch account, etc. The digital world is about identity management and that includes password control.  After lots of thought and lots of discussion with students and teachers and administrators, we decided that the advantages of the tools outweighed the potential confusion, with these caveats: 
  • Teachers should post all external site links used to classroom EdLine (our primary LMS which includes parent accounts)
  • Teachers should have clear instructions on what types of systems will be used in the syllabus
  • Teachers should communicate with parents regularly, but especially if classroom assignments will use social media systems (and, in those cases, alternative assignments should be available).
This will be one of the specific questions we ask at the student round-tables (or at least create listen-fors that will capture it). Much like the technical issues discussed yesterday, we are trying to figure out if this is a widespread annoyance that should be addressed, even if it is talking through the expectation in #digcit, or if it is a problem only to a few students that we should work with on a case-by-case basis (or...possibly...if it is an excuse being used to derail some teachers -- oh teenagers. we were your age once).

Civilizing the Natives

What a Digital Native Looks Like
"I had the instructions clearly on the board: Login. Go to this website. Use this account information. Take notes in Google Docs. All of the kids were working, but one kid in the  back was clearly frustrated. I went to ask him if I could help. He had a blank screen. I asked him if his battery had died.
"No, I just don't understand your instructions. How do I log-in when the computer is turned off?" - Guidance Counselor

"Despite the hype that these students are supposed to be brilliant on technology, they really aren't." - Math Teacher

"Technology Generation? Not buying it." - Facebook Friend Teaching Computers to 5th Graders

"When will my student actually use the device? It has been two weeks." - Parent

That last one really stumped us. How could a student not have used his or her device two weeks into school? But, we realized, there is a difference between the command to "pull out your device and complete the following assignment" (which there is actually plenty of) and the opportunity to make it a part of your educational life by taking notes, completing writing prompts, communicating with teachers, or checking assignments -- none of these necessarily requires a computer but kids are using devices to do this every day in and out of classrooms.

The term "Digital Natives" is used to invoke images of toddlers at touchscreens wielding sorcerous-like powers. However, in our experience, it just means that students are not afraid to press buttons -- That's really about it. They will experiment if they have a motivation to do so and are given that freedom. Forming "Digital Citizens", people with knowledge and skills to use information effectively, responsible consumers of data with social media savvy, users of technology to solve problems beyond tilt-jump-slide gestures -- that takes more than a birthdate in the 20-aughts. It takes guides who understand the digital context of our students, exposure to new experiences that utilize information and tools in complex ways, and the time to reflect with others on those experiences.

The problem is two-fold. These experiences, normally problems to be solved or answers to be sought, must take place in real situations. There has to be some level of actual content -- Students can see through a faux assignment in a heartbeat. We used to teach "website analysis" by showing fake websites that had been constructed Onion-style. Too many years went by before we realized that the rolling eyes and disinterested doodling was a message, loud and clear. Additionally, consequences for not accomplishing the tasks have to have some reality as well. If a student does not get the scientific method or cannot control the supporting facts within a tightly structured informative paragraph, we grade accordingly. Students who refuse to make assignments legible i.e., in a readable file format, may have to suffer the bad grade or the call home to discuss with parents. 

Second, and much more a problem of our own making, we have to overcome years of training that has told kids there is only one right answer, one right way of doing a problem, and one right sequence of buttons to push to get the result. Some students have developed a strong aversion to thinking or innovating. "Flowers are red. Green leaves are green." And there is no need to make a PowerPoint any other way than the way they always have been seen (Thanks, Chapin. We miss you).

We have many recent anecdotes of teachers telling kids to put media into a presentation or lab report where the reaction is a blank stare of "How?" We have to train them out of being automatons and into critical consumers and even creators. It is possible, but it takes time, patience, and a little tough love.

But its worth it:

Students, Teachers, Devices, and Education. Oh my, indeed
"They reached into their bags and pulled out all kinds of devices and just started using them. Like they had been doing this for years." - Administrator during Teacher Walk-Through

"I love that they get to do this. This is what the world is like." - Parent

"I love that they can get their books onine when they forget them. I love that they can write papers together. I love that the class is not delayed by 'Oh, I wish I had the lab, today." - World Language teacher

"It's going good. It's just normal now." - Student

{for more start of the year review: We have more or less covered the opening chronologically over the last three weeks (starting way back with "Before the Storm", then continuing in Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4&5); we put the blog in the hands of one of our math teacher for the ironically named "nouns and verbs" post and last week's space was devoted to the largest problem of implementation thus far (the eText Conundrum part I and II).}

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

BYOT DayByDay 15: Anecdotes & an Analysis of Tech Issues

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.

This is the penultimate post in the DaybyDay series. We will of course keep talking about BYOT, but this seems like a good place to close a "start of the year" series as we end the month of August. Also, I am really kind of excited to share some of the things going on in the Digital Citizenship class as well as some cool #flipclass examples going on throughout the school. Finally, with the election heating up, I am sure that some politician will do something that gets me a-ranting, so i need a clean plate.

I thought about doing a Pro-Con article this time, outlining the good and bad of the BYOT experience after three full weeks. But the problem with a pro-con is that it has a strange distortion effect. Each point appears to have equal weight on either side of the ledger -- a minor implementation detail has the same visual impact as a huge philosophical benefit. Thus, the attempt at balance ends up skewing the perception of the reader (I feel like I blogged about this before, but maybe i was just dreamtweeting. The NEA has a good example of what I mean -- Pro = real life examples; Con = hypotheticals that stir up the fear of the masses).

We have more or less covered chronology over the last three weeks (starting way back with "Before the Storm", then continuing in Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4&5); we put the blog in the hands of one of our math teachers for the ironically named "nouns and verbs" post; and last week's space was devoted to the largest problem of implementation thus far (the eText Conundrum part I and II).


I started a list of things that I was pretty sure I had not mentioned in other places or that had been reinforced in the last few days. As the ever-amazing @40ishoracle and I began discussing it, we reflected back to our original goals and the origins of the program. We'll recap that tomorrow in our last post.

Changing Culture, Changing Classrooms

"Our students will be so much better prepared when they go to college. They see on a daily basis that problem solving is not the same thing as button pushing." - English Teacher

"I used to give a sample interest problem. Then we would solve it together. Then I would put another one on the board. Now we still solve one in class. Then I send them out to find a car website...And a bank site's interest calculator. They get to find the car of their dreams and figure out why mom and dad don't buy it for them." - Math Teacher

My Kingdom for a Printer

The dean of students came to the Teacher Resource Room for a visit. "I had an English teacher ask me if we could set up the printer in our office to be a printing station for students." This has been a growing concern, particularly upstairs. The labs upstairs are generally locked when not in use by teachers. Students who used to do work on paper, now have it digitally, so if a teacher wants to collect it the old-fashioned way, it must be printed. All student printers are centralized in the library and connected "Class Lab".

If we find a space (limited) where we could put a printer, then we open up a different set of issues. Technology that is not "owned" by someone quickly deteriorates. When a department is responsible for a lab, it is usually in pretty good condition. When copiers are put in "general use" areas (even for teachers only), they tend to have higher breakdown rates, run out of supplies more often, and need to be replaced more quickly. Haven't got the solution to this one yet, but it is going to have to be discussed.

Personalizing Education and Technical Issues

"Next year can we just require them to have Microsoft Word?"
"That would mean no tablets, no iPads. It's really restrictive"
"I am ok with that."

Macs have trouble with equation editor.
Macs have trouble with PowerPoint.
Macs have trouble with documents

"My son says he is getting a C in his class because he has an iPad"

Network admin is working on three problems at once (we counted)
While on the phone with his might-be-in-labor wife
In a large homogenous system, when something breaks, it tends to break across the board. I still cringe over days when the entire internet is inaccessible or all phones go down. In the 1:1 BYOT world, problems are more often individual ones. True, some of the individual problems repeat a lot: resetting passwords, typing in the right address to get to wireless authentication, saving a Keynote document as a PPT so that it can be opened and graded by the teacher. Occasionally the problem is unique: a bad model of wireless card that has to be replaced or a specialized program file that cannot be uploaded to a homework hand-in.

Our systems and guidelines work 95% of the time and most problems are single-fix and satisfied customers walking out the door. Occasionally, we have students who become "frequent flyers". These students have the same problems again and again (our record is a single student who created 4 accounts to access his biology textbook, had 2 different Turn-it-In accounts, and needed his gDocs account reset 4 times and counting) or find a problem with each new thing they try (these are the ones who walk in either apologetically sorry-to-bother-you-again or arrogantly your-network-is-responsible-for-my-forgotten-password-and-the-national-debt).

Teachers become frustrated when these issues interrupt their classes or derail their plans but have learned to adapt for the most part (it helps that we have chromebooks ready for grab-and-go productivity). Parents have been listening to us and are very responsive to the school's efforts to make students responsible. Most students are also very good at working around issues. Frequent flyers are rare, but in some ways, they are what we have left.

Interlude: Resetting Perspective
I was helping a student with a document upload issue (outdated java controller). When she authenticated to the server, I commented, "I am so happy when it says 'Authentication Succeeded'". She looked at me and said "hundreds of students do that every period. You only hear about the few who have issues." -- Good point. love insightful students.
End Interlude

Thus, three weeks in, we have entered an interesting phase. Most students have made accommodations necessary for their devices (I use an iPad, therefore there are extra steps when uploading documents to webpages; I use a PC, so I need to borrow or bring a different device to take decent photos; etc.). Then there are a few students:
  • The student who leaves the same class four times in a week to "get computer help" but never shows up in the IT department
  • The student who doesn't turn in four assignments because he has an iPad and feels it is mean of the teacher to not allow him to just email the document to her
  • The student who receives a low B on his first exam after being observed gaming in class, during study periods, in the lunchroom, etc.
Each of these issues could easily be mislabeled as "tech" issues but they are actually behavioral issues. Examples of students making less-than-optimal choices. In a traditional school with a traditional technology program, many of these students would be able to slide by finding teachers willing to give them a break because computers are scary...or hard...or unreliable. Some of these students would have bad habits that would manifest in other ways (obsessive doodling/daydreaming) or not manifest at all until they get to college (insert anecdote about tweeting with students for an hour during their econ lectures).

Students, Teachers, Devices, and Education. Oh my, indeed
Because we operate in an environment where technology is not allowed to be the default bad guy, we are able to make these incidents opportunities for discussion: making better classroom choices, accepting the consequences for decisions (including the choice of tool), working with parents to find ways to encourage responsible time-use behaviors. Teachers feel supported by tech, by administration, and by parents to take a "you are responsible for getting the file to me...on a readable format" stance. Parents take comfort in knowing that others are willing to fight the big scary tech battle along side them and that we are individualized enough that truly extreme circumstances can be accommodated. Tech has the trust and support of faculty and students as we make things work. Next week, we add more layers to this communication process as we begin to schedule BYOT Round Tables with students to find out what they need and how we can continue to provide it.

Thus, education is becoming more personalized and the technical problems are beginning to match. But with each problem we face, we are able to identify it as behavioral or technical or (as is often the case) messy. We work with teachers and students to take responsibility where necessary, be flexible when it promotes a greater good, and occasionally hold someone accountable for a bad decision.

Responsibility, Flexibility, Accountability -- Good for Tech and Great for College Prep.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The eText Conundrum, Part II: iPads, Databases, and Widening Gyres

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhereThe ceremony of innocence is drowned;The best lack all conviction while the worstAre full of passionate intensity. - "The Second Coming" William Butler Yeats

Dramatic Enough?

@40ishoracle Commentary: Release the CODES!
In Part I, we left off with students able to open their electronic textbooks, having finally reached the right tech support person within the Pearson hierarchy who was able to release the correct code. Another notch in our BYOT belt was checked. That was Friday.

Over the weekend, I received an email from a distraught parent. Her son was unable to open the BIology textbook despite the codes given, the user created, etc. The parent needed to find out the refund procedure in order to trade in their electronic license for a paper copy (although later we found out the student might actually have been pushing for the iBooks copy, although that is still a little hazy on this end).

Since I have people at MBS monitoring this blog ("hi, @mbstextbook), I decided to email a few of them to get the ball rolling.  Early Monday, I met with the teacher, got the student access code, and began working on the problem in her classroom. In front of me, a laptop logged into the teacher's account on Pearson Database ALPHA, an iPad from the teacher resource center, a chromebook, and an ASUS Transformer Prime.

Biology book on laptop - Check
Chromebook - Check

These versions were in FLASH, so that was clearly not going to be the solution (and thus far, that was the only instruction they had been given).

To the interwebs!

Need to read a Pearson textbook? There's an app for fact there are like 5 of them. A quick help search showed that the high-school version was "Pearson for Schools". Downloaded the app. Installed. Used the login that I had created with the student code and smiled that knowing-smile that says "no problem"

The login/password that you have typed is incorrect or you do not have any books available for this format.
 So, the Pearson App is unable to tell which of those two VERY different issues is the problem? Seriously?

Confirmed that Pearson login was correct (as far as I knew). So now I am faced with the very real possibility that this book does not have an iPad equivalent. My @mbstextbook reps tell me that they are in conversation with Pearson.

The web gives me one help page that says Pearson is "compiling a list of books that are compatible with their online app". Ouch. A second page gives me a list of books, but our book is not one of the four Biology textbooks listed. Double Ouch.

More emails. I send out a tweet of desperation and get another @mbstextbook rep. working on my problem. I also receive this from the regional sales manager @Pearson:
Outstanding. More sales reps appearing bitter and unwilling to help a customer. Way to control the social media image of your organization. My first response was the snark version of my thoughts from the last post: if you don't want to support 3rd party distributors, quit using them. But when I attempted to engage with a legitimate plea: If i could get any rep to tell me there is an iPad/Android version of this book, that would be something... I was ignored.

My day ended with my @mbstextbook rep on a plane, no contact from @pearson support, frustrated teachers and students and parents. I sent out my last slightly-annoyed "where are we?" emails.

The next day, bright and early, I got an email from my in-flight @mbstextbook rep: "We have other schools opening that book on the iPad. There is a technical issue. I talked to a guy who is going to call you. Let me know!"

I had missed a call! and an email! (grr AT&T). A little phonetag later and I was introduced to a tech. A hardcore, knows his stuff, tested the solution before he called me, genuine support tech from @pearson. Without a doubt, Chris Holder is awesome!

The Solution:

  • Pearson Database ALPHA gives access to the web versions of the text and the tablet version of SOME texts. But NOT the Biology book. 
  • iPad Access is granted through Pearson Database GAMMA.
    ...but first
  • He gives me access to Pearson Database BETA (remember? from Chemistry). I have to do a bulk upload of students in biology (who purchased the book).
  • To get the bulk upload into the template I take students in biology out of Brebeuf Database Alpha and match them to student emails out of Brebeuf Database Beta (Why, hello, MSExcel, long time no use!).
  • After uploading the template, I create a fake teacher account and log into Pearson Database GAMMA
  • I have to hand type each student name until the GAMMA database pulls the student name from the BETA database. --> One hundred and eighty three students later.
  • Test on the tablet. Successful.
  • Grab a Freshman out of #digcit. Test on iPad successful
  • Email new usernames and passwords to Biology teachers.
  • DONE!
From Science Department Chair:


We are in the infancy of eTextbooks. We as educators and techs must understand this. While technology may be moving faster, bugs must still be worked out of systems.

But publishers and distributors have a responsibility as well. They cannot sell systems as simple and easy if it requires access to 3 different publisher accounts under two different usernames (in addition to two potential school databases).

In the effort to leverage textbooks into online learning management empires, publishers are forgetting a few essential things:
  1. Simplicity. Teachers want students to have a textbook. That process should be simple. Teachers are not accountants, book managers, or your employees.
  2. Educational technology, including eTextbooks should be used if it makes a teacher's job easier or has a direct and measurable impact on the learning of the student. This process did neither of those things and kept the text out of the hands of students until the 3rd week of school.
  3. Teachers have neither the time nor the desire to learn a complex system laden with features that are of no interest to them. Your leverage only work until it breaks and when it does, you will have a lot of time and effort wasted for want of more power.

Publishers and Distributors need to stop throwing each other under the bus. If they are partners, they need to consistently act like it. They should do what they do best: Get excellent content into the hand of teachers and student quickly and at an affordable rate.

I agree with @explanarob that eTexts are the future and that beyond their benefits of searching, notetaking, and sharing, we must find ways to embrace their analytic and content-update aspects. But at the end of the day, we're creating incredibly complex systems that cannot be used, nor understood, by the users who need the benefits the most.

That is the centre that cannot hold...

Less empire building.
Less blame throwing
Less complexity

Good content. Affordable. Easy.

Students are waiting.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The eText Conundrum - A BYOT Fiasco Resolved Over 6 Days, Part I

Let me preface this rant (and oh, there will be ranting) with the following disclaimer: I don't really believe any of the actors in this situation are evil. Self-interested? Sure. Willing to dodge issues and give problems to others? Absolutely. But there is no need to assign maliciousness when incompetence will suffice. And the more complex a system, the more room incompetence has to stretch its legs. and with that...

BYOT Day 6:

I receive an email with the subject line "may be time for you to get involved". Attached is a string of increasingly frustrating correspondences between my science teachers, the 3rd party book distributor that the school uses, and @Pearson publishers.

The tale of woe features the Freshman Biology textbook. In the spirit of BYOT and after surveying students, the science department decided last spring to require the eText version of the Biology textbook. This was news to the IT department. We thought we had a handle on all of the classes doing this (we have about 4 classes with mandatory eTexts, ranging from PDFs to Kindle books to Publisher/Distributor branded formats). In fact, we had specifically avoided making some classes mandatory since the e-text came from Pearson Publishing.

Interlude: What's So Wrong with Pearson?
Pearson publishing is one of the big names in textbooks and there are not all that many names. For those of you not in education or only in the technical side of education, textbooks are a BIG DEAL. Publishers send local sales reps to show off the newest in textbooks and supplemental materials. For years, these supplemental materials have taken the form of technology and in very recent years, eText access has been huge. Any one of the many issues with this nexus of for-profit business and the generally not-for-profit vocation of education could be the focus of one of my really long blogs.

Pearson, as all good businesses do, wants teachers to use as many of its products as possible. A step in this direction has been the creation of a virtual empire of educational online services that leverage their high-quality textbooks to hook teachers (and subsequently students) into its other offerings. If every student in a school has been entered into the Pearson LMS with its myriad of assignments, notes, reading checks, etc., because of one textbook purchase, then why would any teacher want to choose another publisher's text? Thus the quality of one book, tied to a learning management platform, makes it that much easier for a department/teacher/school to make Pearson the publisher of choice for other books. Got it? When you choose Pearson, you buy into the entire Pearson mega-system.

One problem with this system is that the books in question are not always available cross platform. When we were testing books last year, it became impossible to get a guarantee from the publisher that the books would work on all of the devices we expected to see in our BYOT environment. That is one problem.
End Interlude

Back to the story.

This parrot and I are now besties
Turns out that the Biology textbook, Miller and Levine's BIOLOGY, came with a code. This is not the typical "student gets a code in an envelope with their book" type system. This is a code for the teacher. The teacher logs into what we'll call Pearson Database ALPHA with this code. They create classes and from the classes, a student code is generated. The teacher then (comes directly from the instructions that were emailed with the code) distributes the classroom code to those students who can prove that they have purchased the code. One method to check this consumer eligibility was to match the student with a list of "people who have purchased the book" -- which may or may not be a name similar to the student! If the name cannot be matched, they are not to give the code.

Just to clarify, the way that this is SUPPOSED to work is:
  1. teacher receives access code
  2. teacher creates account with code and sets up at least one course
  3. teachers generates a single student code for all students
  4. teachers USES CLASS TIME to play bookstore manager/accountant/distribution clerk rather than focusing on the task at hand, which, we hope, is TEACHING!
This is a waste of teacher time, class time, and student time. It makes the final steps of this profit-making venture part a teacher's classroom responsibility for no discernible student or classroom benefit. In fact, if a student is rejected by the teacher for not making the list (or not realizing Aunt Sally purchased the textbook), it could alter the teacher-student relationship from day one. If a student has to explain that she is on the list as a student who receives books as part of financial aid, the subsequent embarrassment could change the teacher-student relationship.

The way it is SUPPOSED to work is insane.

The code did not work.

After contacting the @mbsbooks, our 3rd party distributor, the teacher received another code. 

The code did not work.

When the @pearson support number was called by our teachers, they were told that the problem was that we purchased through a 3rd party and not directly from @pearson.

Interlude: What So Wrong with Pearson?
This is a default justification that we have heard for 4 years. We first heard it when we were told that the only way to receive "supplemental" language materials was by direct purchase. We were told this despite having e-mails from Pearson stating otherwise (pre-sale). We were told this when local sales reps could not comp. teacher's editions (a common practice in education).

Here is the thing. Local sales reps make commission (or magic-fairy-dust-points or whatever) based on sales. I completely understand the frustration in having to spend time and effort selling to schools that don't improve their balance sheet in the end. We do not expect the same level of go-to support unless we are told that it will be offered (and we have been told that) But...

Pearson makes the choice to sell through 3rd parties. It is in their interest to do so. If my teachers have a clear understanding of will and will not be forthcoming as a result of using MBS, they can decide accordingly. What happens, in writing, is a promise of one thing pre-sale and a lack of follow-through post. We chose the Pearson sold eText through our distributor because it was available and we expected it to work. 
End Interlude

We slowly and calmly explained that the code we received, even the first one, did not come from MBS, but was a code given to us from Pearson (as if the codes could be generated by MBS for use on a Pearson system?), We were moved, just as slowly, up the support chain.

Finally, after frustrated teachers: "I had no idea that it was going to be this complicated", frustrated department chairs, "We have to use this book. They have us over a barrel.", frustrated 3rd party sales reps. "They must have a code that will actually work!", one of our teachers received a code that let her access Pearson Database ALPHA (Turns out the first code was for Pearson Database BETA which is used for the Chemistry book, no clue what was wrong with the second code).

The teacher created her account. The teacher generated the student code.

The student code did not work.

More phone calls. More teeth gnashing. More MBS vs. Pearson rhetoric.

On Day 6 of school, with yet another code, students were able to successfully open their laptops, surf to a website, enter a new teacher-generated code, create a user account, and, if the pop-up blocker was off and they were not using Internet Explorer (script error) their Biology Textbook.


...but it didn't open on Tablets

End Part I

Sunday, August 19, 2012

On Nouns & Verbs in a BYOT World - A Math Teacher's Reflection

Math Department Chair, Layton Elliot, is a near-constant fixture in the Teacher Resource Center. When he is not mooching off our coffee (our Keurig manna is strong), he is constantly pushing and challenging the IT department to be more open and more flexible. He has grown from the "guy who stuck his laptop into the freezer" (it was overheating) to a power user who is always looking for the next thing to improve math education...or intra-team communication...or faculty collaboration. When I received this reflection, it seemed the perfect time to hand the reigns over for a guest blog.  In keeping with my format, he approaches TL;DR as he addresses "Verbs, Not Nouns", the BYOT culture wars, and the need for critical analysis at CHOICE OF TECH level. I resisted the urge to comment, but you are free to do so below

Technology is so infused in what I do each day, from creating math worksheets to consuming Olympics live streams. And yet, I find myself wanting more. Lots more. Much as our director of faculty development states that we are “never fully developed” as professionals, a theme of the 2012 JSEA Symposium, our technology is just never quite good enough. On one end, we want (or are told we want by Apple press events) higher resolutions, faster bandwidths, and more storage. But on another end, we want a satisfactory marriage of the various computing services out there. I am quite now convinced through personal experiences and dozens of conversations with our CIO that I cannot subscribe wholly to a single ecosystem. I use Apple for some aspects (phone, music, tablet), Microsoft for others (primary computer, home theater, Office documents, Exchange, Skydrive), Google (forms, collaborative documents, class webpages, shared calendars), Amazon (books), and Dropbox (collaborative folders). Though I am hopeful that one day I’ll see Microsoft Office on an iPad or a better iTunes on Windows, I have accepted the limitations of the odd interplay between these services.

But there is also another element at work. Maybe it is marketing. Maybe it is brand loyalty. I’m often asked if I’m a PC or a Mac (didn’t know the kids remembered those commercials). My students ask why I use an iPhone and not an Android device, while other students laud me for being part of their cult. And admittedly, when it came time to get a tablet device, I already had so much invested in the Apple ecosystem of media and apps that the iPad was a more compelling choice for software alone. But, I maintain that if I had started with an Android phone, I’d probably have an Android tablet now with very little change in functionality or satisfaction.

A few months ago, I had a former student arguing that Pages on iPad shouldn’t really be used to write school papers. I challenged that notion as an exercise. I had not really used Pages much, and wanted to see what he was getting at.

  • He stated first that it did not have the features of Microsoft Word. I was hanging out with a few friends, and we were arguing the merits of both sides. We opened the program using Airplay to display. Passing the iPad around, we were all able to quickly create a new document and begin using features such as inserting pictures or diagrams. The experience was even superior to MS Word in the manipulation of aspects of the document, such as margins and picture sizing/placement. True, it did not have near the scope of features of its more mature brethren, but it did have most of what a typical student writing a paper would want. We decided that it was missing an equation editor (not used by most students in most situations) and a reference manager (only introduced in Word 2007 and on).
  • His second point was that it was not easy to print. One of my friends, an Apple fanboy, pointed out that his printer was Airplay compatible. Another challenged if we even needed a paper intermediary, since all his college teachers graded digitally. And sure enough, Pages can export to a Word doc for E-mailing. At this point, we all agreed that it could not be used for collaborative document-writing, but we were comparing with Word 2010 (not the web app), so that wasn’t fair.
  • Third, “who wants to type a paper on a tablet screen?” That’s a limitation of the device, not the software. The same argument can be made of Word 2013 on Windows RT without a keyboard.
  • What about MLA? I found that one interesting. I argued against the utility of MLA/APA. They made sense when formatting and text were intrinsically linked. But these days, formatting is a function of the venue on which information is viewed. MLA was a standard for a heading, a title, margins, spacing, and references. It was important when documents were printed (although I am amazed at how long it took those standards to catch up to variable-width fonts). It doesn’t make sense for a purely digital document. Citations can be hyperlinks with much greater reference ability.
One-by-one the arguments crumbled. But these aren’t new. The same thing has happened for Google Docs. But what was at work was this notion of seeing a college paper as a pure Microsoft Word experience. Where does that come from? Sure, I was taught that the only way you could turn in a paper was if it was Times New Roman, 1-inch margins, double-spaced. But even I had the stubborn WordPerfect friends. In grad school, some of my peer were scared when Microsoft Word introduced Calibri as the default font. It ended up being OK. and Google Docs challenged if a computer even needed an expensive “office suite” of apps.

Is brand loyalty with software keeping us from seeing the strengths of interoperability and choice? What other artificial limitations do we place on ourselves? (Is it preferable to own music/movies or have access to them?)

This past year, I’ve had similar challenges with technology in math education, some of which have challenged my own preconceived notions.

  1. The de facto standard of math equations is Design Science’s MathType. Now, I am admittedly not crazy about plugins, especially ones that will require lifetime subscriptions to retain full functionality with future versions of Office. Since Office 2007, the built-in equation editor has been significantly enhanced with smoother fonts, in-line editing, and implementation across the suite of apps. And yet, people still want MathType.
  2. The graphing calculator is still seen as a “which buttons do you press to make this happen” device by many who teach with the older models. The TI-Nspire CX that we are using now in freshman and sophomore classes is built with a context-based menu-system. Graphing calculator apps on Chrome, Android, and iOS have limited menus and more intuitive interfaces. Students all have BYOT devices that show graphs at much higher resolution with greater manipulative capacity than even their calculators. And yet making that connection to the learning potential is an uphill battle.
  3. Student STILL see math as coming only from their teacher or their book. I received an E-mail from a student today saying she was struggling with Interest and Investment word problems. I asked if she had looked up examples online. Her response: “you’re allowed to do that?”

We tend to want to limit ourselves to comfort zone. “I don’t know how” becomes an excuse for “I don’t want to spend the time to learn.” I see it in students, educators, and myself. But whenever I have forced myself to use something or try something, I have been amazed and pleased with the results. And I want more.

Maybe we’ll always want more from our tech, and that’s how it should be. For every feature that becomes a way of tech-life (saving attachments to cloud storage on a mobile device to, viewing class inking via web apps on any device), my imagination sees even more possibilities with what is on the horizon. What will this year bring? iOS 6, Windows 8, Surface, another dessert from Google, smaller, faster… Those are predictable. But what is going to be the small feature that will change everything? That’s the exciting unknown that keeps me tuned…

Thursday, August 16, 2012

BYOT DayByDay 4&5: Vignettes over Two Days

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.

Form Follows Function: Node chairs allow student to quickly move from class
to partner-work for listening, writing, or BYOT activities.

Day 4, Student with an iPad

"Can you help me? I don't really know what I am doing with this thing"

There were connection issues and the student had forgotten her password. More revealing was the conversation. Her parents had gotten her the device for communications with them while she was travelling and for consumption of TV and Movies. She loved it for that. She REALLY did not like it for school.

"Have you talked to your parents about your concerns?"

"Well we are not rich."

"You could sell the iPad. Get a laptop"

"I couldn't get a new Mac though"

True. It is impressive that even through branding obsession and some rose-colored teenage goggles, there was serious consideration about the limitations on finances and identifying needs vs. wants. We continued the conversation about options and possibilities with her concluding that she wanted to talk to her parents.

We have begun to see a little buyer's remorse, almost always with iPads (The most popular of tablets). Most of the frustration is with the form-factor althought the file upload issue has been mentioned once.

Day 4, A Math Problem

Hardware tech: Three students in a row cannot see the math worksheet. One Mac, two iPads.

This is becoming the standard for us. Identify problem. Figure out the parameters. Research.

The problem: Equations made in MS Word w/ the equation editor (so much improved!) are not viewable in Pages (Mac or iPad). The obvious work-around is the use of PDFs. With that in mind, we contact the math teachers.

They have really embraced cloud computing, with some of the worksheets in Dropbox and some of them hosted in Microsoft's Skydrive (we support lots of things, even though we are a Google school). The students have, for the most part, adapted well despite the variety thanks to instructions in the syllabus and clear expectations and demonstrations from the teachers.

As I sit down with the teacher, he explains that, while they use PDFs for some of the documents, they want the flexibility to quickly change on the fly (even mobile) if there are problems identified (these are all new worksheets as they begin to move to teacher-generated problems and away from textbook reliance).

He also has workarounds for all of the devices that cannot view the equations:
Mac -- Open up the documents (Dropbox or Skydrive) in Office 365 (Microsoft's cloud-based apps answer to Google Docs). Since all of the students already have skydrive/live/ (whew) accounts, this is an easy solve.

iPad is a little more complicated, but only a little. Dropbox: use Cloud-On (free app for now) to open a full version of Office and view the answers. Skydrive: Use the chrome browser (released for iPad this summer) and select the "Request desktop version" to show the full version of the Office Web-app instead of the mobile version.

Think about that: a Google browser on an Apple device to make a web-based Microsoft application fully functional. Can you imagine what could happen if these guys liked each other? 

The teacher agreed to show these walkthroughs in class and add the step-by-steps to his class webpage. We shared the solution with the techs. Problem solved.

This is becoming part of the ongoing conversation. No device has all of the solutions for all situations. Laptops lack the back camera, but generally have faster processors. Tablets have multi-touch, which can be really handy when dealing with graphs and equations Try it: type in a graphing equation in google. The graph that appears can be multi-touch manipulated. Oh by the way -- If you type a graphing equation in Google, it solves the graph for you!! -- FYI

Day 4, Office-al Discernment

A story from the Teacher Resource Room and @40ishoracle. The girl with the Mac/Math issue from earlier is discussing with JenL the 4 reasons why she wants to get Microsoft Office for the Mac. She is leading off with compatibility, but also makes references to being able to take notes and edit the way with which she is familiar, using review features, and not having to worry about converting files for teachers.

Students are identifying their learning style and identifying the tools they need to accomplish their goals.

Day 5 , #Flipclass collaboration

Look! I type, you see!
As students begin their first research activity in #digcit, they were introduced to the sharing and collaboration features of Google Docs, many of them for the first time. It is always fun to watch their eyes light as they realize how cool simultaneous typing is. The sophomore in the class is non-plussed, "that is how we sent notes in English class all last year" - Ah, the power of BYOT.

Day 5, A Meeting of the Moms

My second parent meeting in a week. Talking about BYOT and how it works. Parents ask about ebooks and how things are going. They are impressed with how well the "Bring Your Own" policy meshes with the school's philosophy of individualizing student are we.

Day 5, In the Tech Office

Change wireless channels? Whatever, just give me a card

  • The network administrator and I have a discussion to discuss the policy about helping students beyond connecting to the network. A student brought in her Dell with the complaint that "Word keeps freezing". He was able to talk to her through software vs. hardware diagnosing and even showed her how to look up warranty information on her unit. Balancing between helpfulness and personal device tech support is a little murky.
  • Our hardware tech took a phone call from a parent in a Costco debating the merits of the i5 vs the i7 processor for her son's computer.
  • Dell came out and replaced the Atheros wireless card on that student computer for Day 2 (or 3?). They replaced with a Broadcom card that had no issues. Note to all: Avoid Atheros. Check.

Day 5, End of the Listening Lab?

A World Language teacher, Michelle Martin, stopped by to tell us that she was able to completely bypass the traditional language lab (listening to native speakers is a key part of language lab activities) by having students use their own devices to access the sites and listen. She was impressed by students who were multitasking but focused on her class, either accessing homework, doing the listening assignments, read the e-book, etc.

This dovetails with students in the digital music class that are uploading and downloading recorded audio files and other teachers who are going to try to use soundcloud, garageband, audacity and others (student determines the tool that best fits their needs) to share singing, language practice, conversations, and more. Cool potential to empower students instead of large scale lab manufacturers. -- Will have to keep and eye on this one.


As we approach the close of the first full week. Password resets are fewer. Teachers are beginning to raise the game on expectations (you must convert the file to a format I can read -- that is your job). Students are finding that IT can be very helpful but that some of the responsibility for the device is their own. Students are finding solutions to problems by working with each other (can I borrow your laptop? I need to upload this file to EdLine).  There has been more growth toward an understanding of what it means to operate in a technology-laden society in the last five days than I have seen in some classes for an entire year.

And this is what is going on between passing periods and during student time.
Next week, we will try to share some more of what is happening in the classrooms....

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 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.

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.