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Tuesday
Mar212017

Directing our anger

I just followed a fellow through security at the Minneapolis airport. He looked to be in his mid-50s, but seems to have never flown before. Despite being in the TSA-Pre approved line, he struggled removing his wallet, phone, and keys from his pants pockets. He had trouble putting his bag on the belt. He was admonished for reaching into the scanner before his bag was completely through. The process that takes experienced air travelers about 30 seconds seemed to take him five minutes. And I was forced to wait.

I may have some virtues, but patience is not one of them. My thoughts toward the gentlemen ahead of me were not kind. But then my anger changed direction and I started asking myself why I could not be automatically compassionate instead of peeved and frustrated. There are plenty of things I would do in ways that would drive others insane. Yet I would expect understanding.

The philosophers tell us that about the only thing in the world we can control is our reaction to things we cannot control. Political news today is a great test of one's ability to do this. If nothing else, this election has given me a lot of practice working very diligently to see if I can understand the POV of those who wish to cut health care, funding for the arts, and the provision of food those who are homebound, yet spend millions to provide a billionaire and his family security for weekend trips and his family overseas business trips. It's tough.

Patience, empathy, the drive for self-improvement - are all critical for both educators and technicians. But perhaps if we are aware of the importance of those assets, there may be hope for us yet.

Monday
Mar202017

Does "tech skills for all" really mean all in your district?

Last month our district's Instructional Technology Coordinator planned a report that was given at a school board meeting on "coding." It went very well since students from multiple grade levels demonstrated both their skills and their enthusiasm for grade-appropriate coding activities and their teachers spoke to why the activities were both enjoyable and important for the students.

It was remarkable.

Wait, you say, I could (or have) prepared such reports myself. Our school teaches coding to students as well. I would bet nearly every school could find some students who code, so what makes this event remarkable?

What makes me proud is that every K-8 student in our district could have presented at that meeting. Thanks to the diligence and dedication of our Digital Learning Specialists at the elementary level and our exploratory classes at the middle school, all kids get to experience and practice coding in our school - not just those lucky enough to have a techno-savvy teacher.

All of our students also learn digital citizenship, experience makerspaces, access e-books through MyOnReader, and learn how to create Google Sheets, Docs, and Slides. And other techie stuff too.

Fifteen years ago I angered a lot of my fellow library professionals by writing a piece for School Library journal called Real Flexibility. The piece defended, gasp, fixed library programs - those in which all students went to the school library on a regular basis and were taught a library and technology skills curriculum by the library media specialist.

As technology skills grow in even greater importance to our students' academic, vocational, and social future, I will continue to stand by the need for every child to be taught such skills by a trained specialist - library media specialist or digital learning specialist or whatever you might call them. Too many classroom teacher can not or will not teach tech skills.

When your promotional material reads "technology skills for all students" does it really mean all - or just all those with teachers who enjoy technology?

Friday
Mar102017

The impending network apocalypse 

We need to shut down our data center for two weekdays this summer in order to do the wiring needed to put in a new generator.

Yes, it is the apocalypse.

Our computer network, of course, will not be available throughout the district. Nor will our VOIP phones. Or fire alarm and security systems. Or access to any system that requires verification such as our student information system or learning management system. All our Chromebooks which must be authenticated before use, regardless of network being used, will be bricks. Transportation and food service databases will not be accessible.

What has quickly become apparent is that school is in session ALL SUMMER LONG. PD and school-end record keeping start the week after school ends and kids start coming back the Wednesday of that  week for all sorts of summer programs. There is not a single two-day period in June, July, or August when someone in this district is not impacted by the loss of the network.

So in a short 20 years, our networks have moved from being curiosities that people had to be persuaded to use to mission-critical resources without which schools cannot function.

I have to say this sort of snuck up on me.

And I wonder what else is? (See Dilbert below.)