My Thoughts on Project Share

October 24, 2011 § 2 Comments

Since I had to get some sleep last night, I just dropped my 2 cents on twitter and got some rest. I came in to work this morning to discovery a litany of responses to the Project Share discussion.

To be fair, I did kind of thrust myself (and my opinion) into this debate without being asked, and I pulled a classic troll move of just dropping a response and leaving, so I deserve what I got. And I do see Tim’s point that at least the state is trying to provide something. I get that, and I understand how Project Share could be a potential gold mine for people who don’t have any form of collaborative space in their district. I get that.

What I don’t get is why the state felt the need to pour money into something that wasn’t being used by (it seems) ANYONE in K-12, something that was proprietary, something that wasn’t free or open source.

I don’t work at the state level, and I wasn’t in on those meetings, so I can’t begin to understand the hows or whys of decisions made at TEA. I have no idea if they consulted anyone at TCEA, or at any districts about what might work best for districts around the state. To me, a logical decision would have been to invest the money in a statewide Moodle system since, from my limited interaction with tech folks throughout the state, it seems like that is what people who are using online courses are using to deliver them. It’s free, it’s got a huge support community, and a lot of the tech folks in the state are already familiar with it.

From my perspective, on the ground, at the campus level, I can tell you this: we already have too many things for teachers to log in to and remember a password for. We have our network (which, fortunately is tied to our web page system and Eduphoria), our email system (which in my district is not tied to the network login, but that’s a whole ‘nuther post), CSCOPE for curriculum, Gradespeed. Now, add yet another system in Project Share on top of that.

Tim said:

Have we gotten so spoiled that we must insist that if a service provided by the state doesn’t meet our EXACT needs (it isn’t Moodle!), we, like a bunch of little teenage girls will badmouth it, not play with it, and ignore it?

And I think the answer to that is, shouldn’t we expect that if something is coming from the state that it DOES meet our needs? Shouldn’t we expect that the state would try to gather some input from people around the state about what those needs are before they try to meet them? Were any of you contacted by TEA asking what you needed in an online courseware system? Were any of you invited into that conversation? If the answer is yes, then I apologize…I obviously pegged the state wrong. However, I haven’t heard anyone, in any of these conversations saying that the state asked what they needed, and they evaluated several different systems to make sure the needs of the teachers and students were met.

I’ve mentioned before about the training session I sat in on where I heard the trainer say, “It’s like a combination of Facebook, Twitter, and Moodle but not quite as good as all of those,” and me sitting there wondering, well then, why would we use it over those things? The other thing that was overheard in that session was from someone from Epsilen saying (out loud to the room), “The state wants to see teachers in the system so it will continue to be funded.”

Call me cynical, but to me, that just sounds shady. I have a problem using something just so it can continue to be funded.

I’m not against trying to use it, and I’ll gladly support our teachers if they want to use it. In fact, I was one of the first ones in our district to suggest Project Share for student use, because I want to see if it meets the needs of our teachers and students.

But as they say, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” and my first impression of Project Share wasn’t great. It’s going to take some work to win me over.


Backing up to the Cloud

October 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Well, it took me about 36 hours, but now every photo I have on my computer is backed up to the cloud.

I’ve been looking, thinking, for a while about what to do for backup options, since the Windows-based backup system stopped working on my computer.

I have a Flickr Pro account, which is great because I don’t have to pay a lot of money to upload a ton of pictures, but I wanted something that was a bit more automatic, and I don’t really want my Flickr stream to get cluttered with pictures that I don’t think are great. I’ve gotten used to putting only my best pictures up there, and I’d like it to stay that way.

I looked into purchasing an upgraded Sugar Sync or Dropbox account (Sugar Sync is the better value, IMHO), but if I was going to do that, I was going to back up a lot of things, not just photos, so I was looking at the 100 gig account, which runs about $150 per year. That’s a lot of money for a finite amount of space which would mainly be used as storage.

I wanted the convenience of automatically syncing things without having to pay an arm and a leg to do it.

Enter Picasa, which I’d played with a bit in the past, but the idea of trying to upload all of those photos (I have over 17,000) was just too daunting.

I decided to see what would happen if I just told it to do a bulk upload and keep everything intact. I chose just a month’s worth of pictures from back in the early 2000s, and started the upload.

It worked just fine, but because iPhoto (when I had a powerbook) organized everything into a day folder within a month folder within a year folder, I ended up with Picasa web albums with names like “4” and “8” that had one or two pictures in them. I could see where this was heading, and it wasn’t pretty.

I stopped the upload and deleted the album from the web and started the task of reorganizing.

I began simply renaming folders with the year, month, day and moving them up to my pictures folder, then deleted the “originals” and “data” folders. I figured that I wasn’t going to throw these into iPhoto again (because I’m not buying another Mac) and if I hadn’t messed with the originals in years, so I didn’t need them.

After I had renamed and moved each day folder up to the top level of my pictures folder, I started thinking that I was still going to have a ton of albums with just one or two pictures in them. My naming problem was solved, but my number of albums was going to be just obscene. So then I started in on the task of moving all of the pictures in each day folder to a folder for each month. So where I previously had 2005-07-01 and 2005-07-03 and so on, without many photos in each, now I had a folder (which would turn into an album online) with lots of pictures, sometimes several hundred, which in my mind is better than several hundred albums with very few pictures in them.

Next came the upload. I finished the organizing around 11:30 Sunday night, then started the upload. The desktop Picasa application gives you the option to upload full size (which eats up your 1 gig of space) or at 1600 pixels (which doesn’t count against your space). I could have uploaded the pictures through Google Plus which would have resized them to 2048 pixels, but 1600 is really not a bad size. I have a bunch of photos from my old Canon Powershot that are 1600 x 1200 and I have printed 8 x 10s from them, and they look great.

I started the upload and waited, not knowing how long it would take to finish. During the day Monday, I checked in on my home computer to monitor the progress, and about midway through the day, I ran into a glitch. I was getting an upload error, but I couldn’t read the whole error message. I expanded the window and realized that I’d hit the photo limit for one of my albums. I had a “Mobile Photos” folder that had about 1500 pictures in it. Google limits each album to holding 1000 images, so I had to go in and create another folder and split the mobile photos between the two folders. Luckily, there is this great feature in Picasa where you can split a folder at a specific picture.

You then get the option to name the new folder (I named it Mobile Photos 2) and it automatically moves all the pictures after and including the one you’ve selected into the new folder.

After I figured this out, I went into the folder for July 2005 (the month we got married) and split out the photos into a few different folders – two for pictures from the wedding (about 900 photos in each folder) and another for photos from our honeymoon road trip (another 900).

I let the upload continue to run, and as of 10:30 Monday night, there were only a few folders left that hadn’t been synced. I went to bed and when I get up Tuesday, everything was finished.

So now, I have all of my tunes in Google Music and Amazon Cloud, I’m creating all of my documents in Google Docs now, and I have all of my pictures backed up as well.

The best part of all of this is that I can access all of my music, photos, and documents on the go, from my phone.

The cloud, and more specifically, Google, is taking over my life. But I’m all for it!

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