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Tuesday
Aug022016

How do you do tech support for 2850 Chromebooks?

This is the first meeting on our HS "Geek Squad" - student tech support for the 1:1 Chromebook project we are beginning next year. These students, as part of "career path" class, are some of those who will be assisting their fellow 2800+ students - and probably more than a few staff - in basic operations, log ins, troubleshooting, and eventually doing minor repairs in the Geek Squad station in the high school media center. We are working with Best Buy to make this work.

If you are a reader of this blog, you know a great deal of spade work has already happened in this project. Wireless infrastructure has been upgraded, a new learning management system has been implemented, piloted, and taught, staff development activities for the coming school year will focus on differentiation, student-centered learning, gradual release of responsibility, and project-based learning. Staff received the same model Chromebook student are getting last spring. And our office has been focusing on the background management of the devices and providing a proxy to our district network to provide filtered access from home. Metrics for plan efficacy have been developed.

The big handout will becoming the end of the month. We anticipate needing to checkout about 200 student devices PER HOUR during orientation and other distribution times. We want students logged in to our network before the take the devices with them. We will be doing common orientation to Chromebook use and classroom expectations in every class in the high school during the first few days.

Thanks to an amazing staff, I anticipate a good start to the year. Will there be bumps and surprises? Of course. But thanks to the Geek Squad and our wonderful student body, we will move forward.

Should be fun!

Saturday
Jul302016

BFTP: What really matters

I don't do this often, but I am going to publish something here without permission. It comes, via my daughter, from my grandson's preschool teacher down in the Kansas City area. As my daughter wrote, it's a "good reflection about who and what really matters."

The media can beat up on teachers all they want, but real teachers will always know deep within themselves how truly important they are - and why.

I was going to write something to post here today about how much your children have grown and changed this year, and about all we’ve learned. After all, we’ve had chicks, caterpillars, built birdhouses, read stories…but then I spent over an hour yesterday waiting out the tornado sirens with your kids.  I realized in that experience that your kids have learned so much more this year.  Part of the way through, I was holding a crying child on my lap and she kept saying, “I’m scared!” and another little girl came up to her and said, “it’s going to be okay. we’re all scared!”  In that moment it became clear that your children have learned to be patient, to have compassion, to comfort their friends in time of stress.  In short, this year, your children have learned to be a bit more human.  

The following is what I wrote about that experience on my blog.  Thank you, once again, for sharing your sweet children with me this year. 

Today I’ve been very thoughtful. Sitting in a makeshift tornado shelter with more than fifteen children under the age of six will do that to you.  I won’t pretend that I have a different or worse story than anyone – Lord knows the weather in the Midwest has done enough without my making light of it.  I was fine.  The children were fine.  But, for a while there, we didn’t really know what was going on today, other than there were tornado sirens and talk of several touch downs in our area.  We do tornado drills several times a year, but nothing quite prepares you for the real deal.

Aside from having no cell service or internet access, and therefore no way of knowing what was going on outside those walls, I think the most scary thing was that I tell my students daily that it’s my job to keep them safe.  What if, on the second to last day of school, I could not come through on a promise that I’d been making all year long?  I mean, really? I ask my little ones all the time, “What’s Miss Kate’s job?” and inevitably, they will say, “to keep me safe.” Not, “to read to me,” or “to wipe my nose,” or even, “to build giant Lego towers with me.”  All of which I do on a daily basis.  These kids know that above all, it’s my job to keep them safe.

At noon today, I wondered several things.  Fresh off the media frenzy surrounding the Joplin, Missouri tornadoes, I wondered if we’d all be blown away.  I wondered if my husband would actually heed warning and go to the underground parking garage like his employer insisted or keep sitting at his desk avoiding the “Stromboli” that was headed his way (his damn autocorrect made for the funniest part of the day).  I wondered why little Zoe thought what we were doing was hilarious, and I wondered if my Lucy was safe (though, that was a thought I kept pushing back. I honestly couldn’t even bear to think about it while we sat there).

I wondered mostly, though, if I was going to be able to keep my word to eight children who have trusted me all year long. I got to Lucy’s school today for her Grand Spectacle (her fabulous kindergarten show!) and when I saw her teacher I thanked her repeatedly.  She gave me a weird look, but after what I’d been through, I just wanted her to know that I appreciated her help in keeping Lucy safe, even if it was just second nature to her.  

We place our kids in someone else’s care every single day without ever thinking that something catastrophic could really happen.  I’m so glad it didn’t happen today, and I hope to never have that experience again. I’m way better at keeping snails from crawling out of their jars, or getting playdough out of the couch, or just wiping noses.

Teachers keep our children safe everyday. Not just from storms or from strangers or from traffic, but from ignorance, from helplessness, from feelings of inadequacy. I am blessed that my grandson has a teacher like Miss Kate. Even if the newspaper, the legislature, or your paycheck may not say it, Miss Kate, you are among the most valuable people in the world. Thank you. - Miles's grandpa

Original post May 27, 2011

Friday
Jul292016

Supporting your students by supporting your staff

Compared to workers in offices without windows, those with windows in the workplace received 173 percent more white light exposure during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night. Workers without windows reported lower scores than their counterparts on quality of life measures related to physical problems and vitality. They also had poorer outcomes in measures of overall sleep quality, sleep efficiency, sleep disturbances and daytime dysfunction. "Exposure to Natural Light Improves Workplace Performance" Psychology Today, June 05, 2013

Artificial light, it seems, is a poor biological replacement for natural light. Light your office using natural sunlight and your team won’t just be faster and more productive – they will also be happier and more emotionally stable. 5 Health and Wellness Benefits of Daylighting for Employees. Bristolite, December 19, 2103.

It doesn't look like much, but this will be the technology department's new home beginning this fall. The one big difference between the new space and our old offices is that it will have lovely natural light pouring in through actual windows. Although our views are of a loading dock, dumpsters, and a parking lot, we will be above ground for the first time in at least 20 years. (And yes, I've heard all the jokes about a tech department finally getting "Windows 97".)

This was the one demand I made on our new space during the planning process - less important than size, location, or other amenities. Despite the inevitable budget overruns, I advocated for our new space having windows. And now I am glad I did.

While I certainly like natural light myself, I also like a happy staff*. Beyond not having to dread going into a hostile work environment or having my house TP'd, I believe happy support staff make for happier kids. A happy technician is more likely to engage with teachers in a more positive manner. A happier teacher is more likely to run a happier classroom. A happier classroom is a more productive classroom. I don't know if there is research to support this, but it seems pretty self-evident.

In my tenure as tech director in my current district, I hope I will be remembered for some positive changes: helping pass a tech referendum, switching to GoogleApps and implementing Schoology, building model classrooms, creating and staffing the position of digital learning specialists in our elementary buildings, overseeing the development of a K-5 information literacy curriculum, planing and deploying the district's first 1:1 program, etc. (with most of the hard work done by others, for sure.)

But when I retire, I may well best be known for moving the tech department out of the basement and into the light.

*See:

The DJ Factor: Why Technical Support is Critical, February 1996

 Keep Your Building Technicians by Keeping Them Happy, School Library Journal, May 2000