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EdTech Update





It's about keeping users, not IT, happy

Last week, my friend Tim Stahmer, reacted to Microsoft's announced Windows 10S in a post called Keeping IT Happy. Windows 10S is supposed to help simplify the management of Windows devices in an educational setting, offering an experience similar to ChromeOS. Tim's take: primary reason why technology in the classroom is so screwed up: many, if not most, schools and districts make purchasing decisions based on what will make IT happy.

IT wants devices that make their jobs easier, something that is easy to clone, lock down, and control. From a central, remote location, please. The needs and wants of teachers are secondary. And students? Well, we rarely ask them about anything to do with what goes into their education anyway, so their opinion doesn’t count.

First Tim, you should know by now that it is impossible to make IT happy. Get over it.

But I would look at the value such a system has from another teacher/student-centric perspective.

First, tech that is simple and fast to manage works more reliably, and reliability might be of more value than customizability for the bulk of our staff and students. Where do we really want our users to spend their time - in the OS or a command line futzing around or using productivity and communication tools to get things accomplished?

Second, the fewer dollars we need to spend on tech staff to manage devices, the more dollars from our zero-sum tech budgets we can spend on user hardware, software, subscriptions, PD, etc. Any economies I realize through efficient management of technology with only minor compromises in end-user "freedoms" of unproved value, I will take.

As IT director I do my best to find solutions that make as many people happy as possible, including my overworked IT staff, my hardworking teachers, and my curious, demanding students (and parents and the business office and the school board and...) It is tough pleasing everyone.

So yeah, we in IT do like solutions that make our job easier. But not necessarily because we are lazy  control freaks. Some of are educators as well.


BFTP: Getting websites unblocked

Getting websites unblocked - from Chapter 10 of The Indispensable Librarian, 2nd ed.

There are few situations more frustrating for a librarian than learning of an Internet resource or tool that would be of value to students but finding it blocked by the district. Here are some strategies for dealing with this problem:

  1. Know and be able to articulate the educational value of the blocked site.
  2. Be able to share examples of how librarians and teachers in other districts are using the resource.
  3. Ask to have the resource provided on a limited basis – for a certain period of time or on specific computers. Report at the end of the test period if any problems were encountered and what uses students made of the resource.
  4. Speak as a member of a group that wants the resource unblocked.
  5. Know exactly who makes the filtering decisions in your district and if there is a formal process for getting a site unblocked.
  6. Understand the abilities of your webfilter, knowing what categories, whitelists, blacklists, and groups are and how they impact the precision with which filtering can be done.
  7. Know local, state, and federal laws pertaining to filtering and student Internet access to avoid “hyper-compliance” by your district.
  8. Communicate in writing your requests and responses when seeking to get a site unblocked. Always copy the supervisor of the decision-maker on all communications.
  9. Seek to establish a formal review process for unblocking Internet resources or seek to have the reconsider policy in your district revised to cover online resources.
  10. File a challenge on the resource to start the due-diligence process on school materials. (Yes, you can do this as a staff member.)
  11. Don’t give up after the first denied request. Come back with other uses, examples, and partners. Sometime the squeaky wheel gets some grease.

Original post April 2, 2012


Who schedules your day - you or your phone?

E-mail: a to-do list to which anyone may add. (Author unknown)

Your dinging, buzzing, vibrating phone is stressing you out

By Sammy Caiola, The Sacramento Bee

Doug Ross, 31, wakes every morning to a screen full of notifications.

He receives updates from news apps, chats from coworkers and emails from East Coast clients, all beckoning to be answered before the workday even starts. Working during the day as a consultant for the software company Adobe, the alerts pour in on a near-constant basis. He usually answers within seconds.

"I never have it away from my person," said Ross, a Sacramento, Calif., resident, about his phone. "That gives me anxiety. It bothers me, because I know what is going to be on the phone when I get back to it, or what I’m going to miss."

Just how time-sensitive are most messages you receive? Who controls what you do in your day and when? Do notifications on your phone make you more or less productive with your time?

I think I have finally mastered the notification feature on my iPhone. It's quite simple - just shut them all off. No beeps, no vibrations, no messages on the lock screen. This includes voice call ringing. Now and then I check for voice mails and texts - but unless I know there is an emergency happening, it is on my schedule.

The secret to successful cell phone use is that one should use it only to harass others, never allow it to harass you.

Most time-management gurus recommend only checking one's e-mail once or twice a day. I would extend that advice to texts, news feeds, Twitter, Facebook and other social media. The SQUIRREL! distraction factor is far too high when push media send out alerts.

I often wonder just how we functioned before we became permanently attached to our phones. How did we let someone know when we would be late? How did we find each other in the shopping center? How did we let others know those items we'd forgotten from the grocery list?

At the risk of sounding like a geezer, I believe this instant communication ability has eroded our planning skills. Why carefully figure out what time you need to leave to get to the restaurant by 6 if you can always text those you are meeting if you are running late? Why prepare a plan for implementing a project when you can manage-as-you-go via phone?

Most of us need large, uninterrupted blocks of time to do thoughtful, meaningful work. Many of us have lost perspective about what constitutes a timely response (within 12 hours seems timely to me). Too many of us have created workplaces in which the boss's permission rather than the worker's judgement is paramount.

If you call, be sure to leave a message. I'll get back to you - eventually.