Friday, September 30, 2011

The Newest Thing!

I found this commercial embedded in a blog post by SAISD Instructional Technology Director Miguel Guhlin on BYOD in schools.



As the new Kindle Fire is released and Apple about to announce the "next big thing" next week in terms of iPhone and probably some other iDevice, it is difficult for so many of us to feel like we can keep up with technology as these roll out.

And as these roll out, the conversation among many of my peers and colleagues is an attempt to figure out which one device is the best device to use with students.

Because technology is about change and in the education circuit, educational technology is about changing education, I fall out of the conversation about which one device is the saving grace for revolutionizing learning.

I don't believe a device, a gadget or one resource will revolutionize education. Real change does not come in the form of piece of hardware. And we are inundated with products all the time that promise to change how we live, work, entertain ourselves and accomplish a multitude of tasks. But we have to force these "revolutionary" products into a system that is not revolutionary.

The state recently changed funding rules in Texas to allow districts to eliminate the word "textbook" from the state funding source and use money to purchase "instructional materials" including technology.

I have to say I am somewhat tempted to tell the state to keep their money and use it to enact real change in education because the devices aren't helping us. The instructional materials aren't changing a flawed system. Sure they make learning more fun and interactive when used with engaging teachers and engaging curriculum. But are computers and devices really changing education?

In 1981, the IBM computer began making its way into Texas schools as the drill and kill system for labs. It's been 30-years of technology in education. 30 years of technology available for students to use in schools. How has the foundation of education changed in 30-years for the better?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Stateless with Chrome

Today an event is taking place in Austin to introduce educators to using Google Chromebooks. The Chromebook is an interesting idea and the video below explains what one is as well as the concept of "stateless".

What do you think of this type of technology? Do you foresee this type of technology in our schools?


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gamestorm Activity: Project Premortem

Those of you who attended Techpalooza, or any summer staff development course this summer, may have heard me mention the book Gamestorming by Dave Gray, James Manifuco, and Sunni Brown. This book contains a variety of activities to add creativity to our meetings. They not only make meetings fun but they serve to spark creative collaboration in the collaborative spaces where we work. I highly recommend it!

A blogger for Harvard Business Review named Gary Klein wrote about an activity he performed as a type of Gamestorm called the Project Premortem.

The concept is to increase the probability of the project's success by assuming that the project has failed and then listing the reasons why it failed. You then spend the time eliminating as many of those reasons as possible for the rest of the gamestorm.

So here is the activity for our group and anyone who reads is welcome to add their thoughts and comments below.

Scenario:

We rolled out Google Apps for Education to all staff across the district. We migrated mail services to Google Mail and uploaded Z:drives to Google Docs. All staff were given access to the system but it failed. Miserably. Explosively.

People aren't using the system and they are harboring resentment toward all technology, especially the technology staff. They are distrustful of our department and there is even resentment within the department among our team.

Now, you now tell me why this failed. List reasons or narrate why it failed. Don't tell how to fix. Just list the reasons why this project imploded.

What Inspires You?



I had seen this video before and even used it in a presentation once. But it is a good reminder of the power of creativity and change in action.

The bicycle rider Danny MacAskill takes bicycling in a totally different direction that I would ever imagine for myself. And that is what makes this so amazing! I would never have thought to try to ride my bike up a tree trunk or in a circular tunnel.

I grasp the concept of the bike because I have ridden on a bike in my life. I can see how this is completely possible and it astounds me because I have also fallen off bikes. It is very creative!


On the concept of creativity, Thomas Edison once said, "There is a way to do it better. Find it.".

I think Danny found a better way to use his bike. I don't think I would do it that way. I would fall onto a fence or a concrete slab.

Then I would have a really funny video for YouTube.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Microsoft Unveils Windows 8

Today, Microsoft revealed more details about its new PC and tablet operating system code-named "Windows 8". The OS is actually running on a system that the developers are also calling "Metro" so these two names Win8 and Metro are synonymous. The video gives a good look at some of the aesthetic features of using touch in a Microsoft environment.





Other features to consider are the ability of the OS to load in 10-seconds. This means you power up your PC, laptop, netbook or tablet and the OS is running in under 10-seconds. For those of us using Windows XP or 7, this is a time saver!

What does this mean for KISD?
Well, we never left the Windows XP environment for several reasons and I can list those here:

1. Cost - an upgrade to a new OS has a financial cost. Licenses for education markets are tremendously cheaper than other markets. But there is still a cost and we could actually afford to move to a new OS when we are ready for it.

2. Time - upgrading a PC to a new version of Microsoft isn't something that can be done quickly. EVERY computer would have to be hand-installed. This means every bookmark, file save, and setting would be wiped out on each computer. So time is a consideration. Training staff to save their files and backups to an alternate location would take time. Then the install and then the restoration of the settings would take more time. Time is a huge reason we aren't ready for an upgrade.

3. Stability - before we upgrade, we have to make sure every piece of software in the district will work on a new OS. In some of our labs, there is software being used that was purchased in the 1990s that is STILL used today. We know for a fact that some of these programs would not have worked if we had gone to Windows 7 so we couldn't make the jump then. But as more applications move to "the cloud" and the web, then the less we are reliant on the operating system to be able to run them. At that point, we enter the "browser war" to find out if Internet Explorer is the best option or if we use multiple browsers for different tasks.

4. Upgrade - Operating Systems used to come out less frequently. Windows 98 was out for a full 5-years until Windows XP came around. Now, operating systems turn out less than every 2 years. This goes back to each of the other reasons why we don't upgrade on each release: cost, time and stability. We don't want to buy a brand new OS until we know it is the solution we need and are willing to invest in the time and cost to complete it.

All this being said, we are keeping our eyes open to learn about the new Operating System because we want to provide a secure infrastructure for our district. The more reliant we are on older systems, the more at-risk we put our entire network system.

We have an AEC Committee this year that will be looking into the idea of upgrading the OS on computers and helping us figure out how stable this type of move could be.

Google Apps for KISD?

We are getting geared up to roll out Google Apps for Education. Currently we are looking into rolling out Google Calendar and Google Docs for staff to access. At some point, we may incorporate Google Mail (25 GB inbox PER user).

Check out our training site available at: https://sites.google.com/a/kerrvilleisd.net/googleapps/

What do you think about using Google Apps?

Our Blog

This is the blog of the Kerrville ISD Instructional Technology department. We plan to post articles and links to resources of value to us that we feel are important enough to share with our district teaching staff.

This blog will be maintained by all staff in our department and we each will have the ability to post something of interest to everyone who visits or subscribes to the posts. Linda my post about something she learns this week. George may share some helpful tips. Mario could share about Internet speeds. And on it goes as we learn and share what we learn with everyone who checks this blog.

Have a topic you want to hear our opinion on? Let us know in the comments below!