#tcea14 notes – Google Academy, Going Google with Richardson ISD

February 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

Their presentation is here: http://goo.gl/c6evXR

My notes from the session

Survival Tips for Technologists – @egmathews @mradkins @slaleman #tcea14

February 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

We streamed our Q & A session as a Hangout on Air.

Connections…again, it’s all about the connections #tcea14

February 7, 2014 § 1 Comment

I just finished up a full week in Austin at #tcea14, and just like with ISTE, my conference was made all the more valuable by the connections I made with people.

A few years ago, I had really soured on the idea of going to conferences like ISTE and TCEA because I felt like most of the sessions were geared toward folks who didn’t know ed tech like I know ed tech, and that it had become less about discovery and teaching and learning, and more about how many amazing things you could show people in a short amount of time.

I also felt like the exhibit floor had gotten stale, and there wasn’t really anything new or innovative as far as technology from the vendors presenting there.

I still feel that way about the general conference, but there are always gems to be found, and I’ve learned what sessions to avoid. I also had to start telling myself that it’s OK to NOT go to session every hour of the day, and that it’s OK to sit around in the digital square to have conversations with like minded people.

My biggest takeaways were from the conversations I had with others. Today was a perfect example. As I walked in out of the cold, I heard my name called out as I was passing by the digital square. Miguel Guhlin (@mguhlin) said to me, “Tim (@timholt2007) is about to start a podcast. Sit down and join us.”

Sitting at the table with Miguel and Tim were Jake Duncan (@duncanbilingual) and Wendy Sanders* (@kenya75), both of whom I’d never met in person. Sort of. Wendy had been in a session with me earlier in the week, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Unfortunately, Jake had to leave shortly after we started our conversation, but we sat there and talked for at least an hour about all kinds of things that we’d seen at the conference. At one point, Wendy brought up a session about learning spaces that David Jakes (@djakes) had led earlier in the week. She started talking about the person who had asked about mounting projectors and the problem that poses with rearranging the learning space. That person was me, and she realized it halfway through her criticism of my point of trying to mount projectors for all teachers, then turned and apologized to me for arguing with me about it. I told her not to worry. That conversation had actually changed my mindset about how the classroom should be set up, and that I’ll bring it up the next time I meet with our district technology committee.

By the way, I also learned some really interesting things about Barney from Wendy. Yes, that Barney. Ask her about it next time you see her.

We also talked about what we felt the conference should be compared to what it actually is. That has inspired me to submit a proposal for next year’s conference that goes in depth with a small number of apps or web sites and show teachers how they can use them to address key curriculum pain points, which almost no one does at this conference.

I was finally able to meet Kristy Vincent (@bigpurplehat) in person this year. We’ve been tweeting at each other for years, and we got to chatting when both of our LearnEd sessions went bust. She and I both became Technology Directors this year, both in small districts, and we started trading war stories. I told her that TCEA really needed a “new tech director’s” session, which she tweeted out, and immediately got retweeted and favorited.

I met Jon Samuelson (@ipadsammy) this week. Again. Turns out we lived on the same floor in college at Illinois State University. We used to go to basketball games together, and I have a photo of him in a group with all of our dorm-mates from 25 years ago. Crazy. Small. World.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the connections I made with the people from my own district. I had great conversations with my Instructional Technology Coordinator, Cheryl Young (@clib78), our High School librarian, Nicole Ellis (@nellis221), and our Jr. High librarian, Roma Burrhis (@romaburrhis). The latter two had not been on twitter before this week, but I think this conference opened their eyes to the power of the tweet. Just being able to be in one session and get notes from virtually every other session at the same time gave them a great introduction to how twitter can be leveraged to learn.

Finally, the connections that Joel Adkins (@mradkins) and Eddie Mathews (@egmathews) made with each other and the people who attended our session were really valuable. I always feel awkward being in front of a group of people who I feel like might have more knowledge than I do, but the questions we got during our panel discussion “Survival tips for technologists) were amazing and led right into the things that we had talked about when we were planning the session. I’m really glad that Eddie talked Joel and I into doing the panel with him. I felt like those that attended got something out of it, and I know we all did as we sat and planned it out the day before (yes, we did it last minute, but it was mostly Q & A so what do you expect?).

I did get a lot out of the sessions I attended, but more than that, I got to connect with people. To me, that’s becoming the most valuable thing about conferences. Talking with others, having your positions on things confirmed or challenged. Being able to talk about big ideas that will hopefully turn into actions in the coming year.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to talk with me this week. I know I haven’t included everyone that I talked to here, but you all know who you are. The conversations are amazing. I’m fortunate to have all of your in my learning community.

*I had mistakenly put Wendy’s last name as “Davis” in a previous edit of this post. I have no idea why I thought that was her last name, and I apologize for the mistake.

Wireless projection for classroom – trial setup

January 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

This has been a pet project of mine for some time now. I’m always looking for a way to make a teacher more mobile, and I think we’ve finally come across the answer. Of course, there are other ways to do this, like with Samsung’s AllShare software, or Apple TV, but  I’ve really been interested in something that works cross-platform and doesn’t require anything really expensive to work.

The solution, for now, is this setup as noted in the video below: An Epson projector that supports Epson’s EasyMP software (we’re currently using a PowerLite 97), a PC or Mac to run that software, and AirServer to mirror an iPad to that Mac or PC.  Our next test will be to install the software on a Windows 8 tablet (when we get one) to make for a fully mobile projecting experience for the teacher. I think this offers us the most versatility at this time, and is what we’re going to test going forward.

For this to work well in a classroom, ideally the teacher machine would be a laptop so that it could broadcast the video signal over ethernet and airserver over wifi, or have the teacher’s ethernet drop on the same vlan as the wifi (if this doesn’t make any sense to you, don’t worry about it…let your IT guys figure it out, and don’t take no for an answer).

The only thing I wasn’t able to try today was full screen mirroring of an Android device, but you can use the EasyMP app for Android to display photos, documents, and web pages on the projector (not shown in the video). You could also add a Chromecast into the mix and be able to cast tabs from a Chromebook or videos from an android device.

I’m not sure how much backend bandwidth all of this takes up, but we’re going to test it with a few classrooms and see how the performance is.

Assuming the computer and iPad are already in place, total cost for this setup is about $550. It drops by about $70 if you run ethernet to the projector instead of buying the wireless LAN module. 

Word to the Nerd Episode 15 – Contacts

December 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

Word to the Nerd episode 14 – blogging

December 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

Hitting my stride

December 7, 2013 § 3 Comments

It’s been 4 months since I started my new job as the Technology Director for La Vernia ISD. There have been times over the last 4 months where I felt more than overwhelmed. There have been times that I felt downright under-qualified. The transition from one leader to another is always fraught with bumps in the road, but having almost 6 weeks between when the previous director retired and I was brought on board made for some rather large potholes.

My staff has done a great job of filling me in where they know the answers, and the previous director has been kind enough to answer my frantic emails wondering where things are located, but it has been a little more rocky than I would have preferred. Such is life in a small school district, though. So many times people take on multiple jobs and when they leave the district, their knowledge of how those jobs were done leaves with them.

I do feel, though, like I’m finally starting to hit a stride and be able to make a plan for moving forward. I’ve found that when you’re taking someone’s place, especially someone who was there for a very long time (in this case 15+ years), you have to deal with the “this is the way the previous guy did it” a lot.

But knowing what I need and being able to justify it for the good of the district, for the educational value to our students, is what I’m going to focus on for the next several months. I’m learning to let go of the need to be in classrooms on a weekly basis, because if I don’t let that go other things simply don’t get done.

I don’t want to lose my connection to the classroom, but I do know that I’m going to have to cut back on how often I wanted to visit classrooms, at least until I can get some key personnel in place.

I also have other plans. Big plans. Last month, we provisioned Google Apps accounts for every adult in the district. This week, we released directions for everyone to get in, and in January, we’ll start some training. I sat with one of our principals for 45 minutes yesterday going over some how-to’s and general use cases for Google Docs. He was very excited to get started with it. I also had a teacher this week ask me about using it with her 5th grade students. I told her that we’d be thrilled to have her as one of our beta testers for student use. I’m encouraged by this response and excited by the possibilities.

We’ll be evaluating other online tools throughout the year to see if we can make the jump to a more cloud based district. We just launched our online application portal last week, and we’re moving toward an online sub finder system this spring.

From a device standpoint we also have 5 Chromebooks on the way that we’re going to put in student hands to have them try out. I’m going to try to diversify our student devices a bit. I’m looking at Nexus tablets, Windows 8 tablets, iPad minis, even iPod touches. But before we put any of that in to play, we have to rethink how we manage these devices. Apple is driving me to drink with their device “management.” Trying to manage iPads for multiple users is a flat out nightmare. Apple has wholly failed in this respect. They like to tout that they’re all about education, but they refuse to come up with a decent fix for managing iPads. So we have to think out of the box on this, and try to come up with the best use case scenario that’s going to work for our campuses. From now on, when we buy devices, we’re looking at the management piece first, then beta testing with one campus or maybe even just one classroom, then we’ll decide if it’s worth it to move forward with those types of devices.

Our high school librarian is looking at purchasing furniture with built in charging stations so students can use their devices during class and come to recharge in the library. We have BYOD in place, but from discussions I’ve had with people, it seems as though it’s very limited in classroom use. I’d like our teachers to feel free to have their students use their devices, and having convenient charging areas is a step toward helping with that. We also need to have more staff development on the philosophy around student-centered learning, which I think would lead to more students using their devices in class.

Being able to make these plans is a big step for me as a director. Having solid research behind what we buy means that we’re not going to jump in with the newest and greatest until we can see that it will help improve education for our students.

There is still a lot of work to be done, but I’m looking forward to the journey and being able to learn from everyone along the way.