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Thursday
Mar202008

Cite your sources, presenters!

79.48% of all statistics are made up on the spot. - John A. Paulos

Last week, a librarian came up to me during a break in a workshop I was giving for the Nassau (Long Island) BOCES and asked a disturbing question. I had been giving my "Technology? Skills Everyone Needs" talk, reeling off a number of statistics about the changing job market, economy, workforce skill set etc.. Sort of my version of "Did You Know"* that I've given for about 10 years. (Yes, it DOES get updated!)

Anyway, the librarian asked me why I did not cite the sources of my factoids on each of my slides. I quipped that I didn't because I made all the numbers up. But he certainly made me think. If we ask our students to cite and defend thestatistics.jpg reliability of their research sources, why should we ask any less of our workshop presenters, our "experts?"

I've resolved to so for any startling info-bits I use to persuade others that kids need to "know how to use information and technology in order to solve problems and answer question" from now on. But I need some help...

I can track down where I found most of my information, but here are a few "facts" I can't seem to find the source for:

  • 90% of what we know about the human brain has been discovered in the past 10 years.
  • Auto mechanics in 1960 needed to master the equivalent of 600 pages of technical information. Today they need to know the equivalent of 600,000 pages of information.
  • Only 2% of people are fired because of a lack of skills. The other 98% are fired for "personality conflicts."
  • Kids get a chance to answer a question in school only once every 6 hours.
  • Kids' TV watching is declining, but their "screen time" is going up.

OK, those are some of the major factoids I love, but just can't quite remember where I saw them documented. Any help out there? I am not using any numbers in my talks until I can cite the source - even if I have to make it up as well!

I'm giving the talk again on Wednesday. Hurry!

* One of the things I admire most about Fische and McLeod's "Did You Know" video is that they have a source for all their information. Way to go, guys!

Thursday
Mar202008

Policy on school equipment lost or stolen outside of school

compsec.jpgOne of my least favorite, but probably most important, parts of my job involves working on technology security policies and procedures.

I see the possibility of school equipment, especially laptops, being lost or stolen as increasingly probable and problematic for both our department and principals here in our district. About half our teachers are now choosing laptops  rather than desktops when getting new computers. We currently have one teacher whose computer was stolen from her home months ago and refuses to pay for it or make a claim on her home owners insurance. We've been lucky that this does not happen more often.

I am recommending a board policy that addresses the issue of responsibility for school equipment used outside of school, and that teachers who get laptop computers are informed in writing about the policy and alerted to the data security issues involved with lost or stolen computers as well. Beginning next year with our new student information system, all grades and gradebook data will be housed on the server, not on the computer itself - thank goodness.

Our current security guide (from 2004) for teachers is here: http://www.isd77.org/school305/FCK/File/Securityteachers.pdf

Below is the information I received from other districts in MN about how they handle equipment that may be lost, stolen or damaged when used outside of school from a query I sent to the MEMO TechSID listserv.

I am still interested in seeing other districts' policies on this if you have them. Thanks!

_____________________

...we have never had an incident and we have no board accepted policy. What we have told people is that if the equipment is damaged or stolen, they will need to turn in a home owners claim in order to reimburse the school. I am not sure if that will actually work, but that's what we do...

_____________________

[our school] has procedures in place covering laptop computers. It is not board approved policy but would be considered “administrative procedure” that has been adopted by the District Technology Committee, the District Leadership Team and the Cabinet. There are two forms. The first outlines specific procedures that are essentially extensions of the board approved “acceptable use policy” so that users know that those policies are still in effect on laptop computers away from the school network. The second is a sign-off that the user is responsible for damage and needs to return it at any time as it is asked for. The specific line that most applies to your question states: “I understand that if loss or damage occurs to this equipment while in my possession, I will be responsible for replacement\repair cost of the equipment.”

We’ve had some folks question it and even one who refused to sign it – and didn’t get a laptop to take home. However, it has never been challenged (to my knowledge) beyond that.

_____________________

  1. our board knows that teachers, in some cases, have a school district laptop to use at school and at home. They approved the budget request which explicitly stated, "laptop". NO board adopted policy.
  2. the teacher signs off that they have RECEIVED a school district laptop to use. We discuss that loss of the laptop on the way from school, at home, or on the way to school, as in stolen, means the teacher or their insurance company pays for the current replacement value. Purchase date and price are in school's database (PO#, etc.) Our district loss insurance has a deductible that is far too large to even qualify any computer for coverage (i.e., loss). If lost/stolen, the computer may or may not be replaced to the teacher without some quid-pro-quo considerations as noted. Teachers should notify their insurance company and have some coverage in that manner.
  3. all kinds of companies provide their employees with laptops and they too suffer the problem of possible loss--and it can be a new computer to one that is several years old. The lost computer situation varies by company (widely).
  4. more of the question is: what about the DATA on the laptop?? Our teachers use a gradebook that is resident on the school's server--they log into our server from school or home. So, no problem with that provided that the ID/PW is not automated on the laptop for the logged-in user. Our laptops have user ID/pw for use out of the school, but that does not mean they could not be hacked into by use of a CD with appropriate system software on it.
  5. Teachers keep volumes of data on the computer (tests, handouts, memos) which are a problem IF not backed up in our teacher server account and the computer is lost. Teachers have some personal obligations to back-up their personal data on their computer to another hard-drive or jump-drive(RAM disk) to forestall possible loss.
  6. Life is an inherent risk; having, using, and possibly losing a computer are additional risks that need to be taken. Managing the risk is a shared responsibility of teacher and provider (district).
Image accompanying this post from: www.arbiteronline.com/news/2006/11/06/BizTech/
Wednesday
Mar192008

Snow is in the forecast

We're sick of winter here. All of us...

hangingsnowman.jpg