January 2013 New Ulm Tech: Our TAR Score

Doug Johnson, Mankato Public School's Technology Director, recently wrote a post on teacher's access to both use and fit technology to their needs.
Checkout Doug's post here.
In his post, he spells out an assessment to grade what he calls a TAR Score is, or, your district's Technologically Anal Retentive score.

While I can fully agree with every demerit a school technology department can receive, I wanted to see where New Ulm's TAR score was at, at the present moment. While I am constantly trying to support classroom teachers willing to take steps toward the future and utilize

My district does not allow staff to use their own devices on the network.
  1. My district does not allow students to use their own devices on the network.
My district only supports one operating system.

  1. My district does not give teachers the choice of a laptop computer they can use outside of school.
    • In planning stages for 2013-14
  2. My district does not give teachers administrative rights to their computers (the ability to add software, access control panels. etc.)
    • In motion to redo computer setup, Summer 2013
My district assigns passwords.

My district blocks (1 point each):

  1. Facebook/LinkedIn/Google+
  2. Youtube
    • We still get a point for this because it is being opened only for High School students this spring



Non-school email sites
Blogs and wikis (including Wikipedia)
Anything Google (apps, sites, search, images)
  • My district must approve all software I use.
    • Can't completely stop this thought until teachers have administrative rights on computer
My district does not allow student work to be published to a public website.
My district does not allow access to the student information system outside the district.
My district does not allow students and parents access their grades and other information online.
My district only offers technology training by technology department members, not staff.
  1. I need more than one password to get into my gradebook. You only need one, but it's 16+ characters long and set by IT.
  2. I feel my district actively monitors my e-mail and computer use without cause.
    • Apple Remote Desktop is used to install software, so I imagine teachers feel this way
Bonus 5 points: If your technology director cites CIPA, FERPA, or another mysterious acronym as a reason for blocking anything.

Total Score: 8 Result (Based off Doug Johnson’s writing) for a score of 5-15: “Your school needs to figure out a better collaborative process for determining what should and should not be blocked.”

I feel that we need to take a few more drastic actions, both in the realm of staff development and IT infrastructure, to qualify for this nicely-worded description of what we as a district need to move toward. I am impressed with the willingness of many staff members to step out from the dark and ask for help and support to try using new tools for projects in their classrooms, which for me says something about where we can go into the future... which includes lowering our TAR Score.


TIES 2012

Cross posted on 12/21/2012 New Ulm Technology

Minnesota's annual Technology in Education Conference took place December 10-11th, who had . New Ulm had six staff members participate in two days of fast-pasted technology focused conversations in Minneapolis.

Part of the beauty in educational conferences is the obvious willingness (well, need) to share and learn from those around you. A framework of collaboration at the TIES Conference is built on their CONFERENCE WIKI , which is a website build by the teachers presenting at the TIES Conference. 

Check out the conference wiki here for the schedule, breakout session descriptions, websites, presentations, videos and handouts from almost every session at the conference. If you see something on the schedule and want to know more, click on the links or search the web and you should find the presentation. I "virtually attend" many conferences for the free learning you can get just by lurking on a conference schedule and watching the links people post to twitter during sessions. 

The opening Keynote speaker Simon Sinek, talk about how to help those around you inspire one another to take positive action. Author of the book, "Start with Why," Simon's message was very well received and challenges everyone to ask themselves, "Why do you do what you do?" on a daily basis.  

Here is Simon Sinek's 18 minute TED Talk called, How great leaders inspire action, and is definitely worth a watch. 

When I attend a conference I use an approach taken from the Google Teacher Academies and the Superhero Tech Conference here in Minnesota, spelled out is this post by Sean Beaverson, Secondary Technology Coordinator in Bloomington, MN, I look at finding the Big Three take-aways from any education workshop:

#1 - AHA! What is one idea that you can implement in the next week. This is your aha moment. An idea that you’d been thinking about or working on suddenly became clear to you and you’re ready to implement it.

#2 - BIG IDEA - this is something you’re thinking about, but it will take some more planning and even learning to plan it. This is likely a collection of new ideas that you are working to synthesize into implementation.

#3 - Your Dream Project - You don't know how to do it, but you're pretty sure it can be done. You have new information and new ideas that get you closer to implementation, but it's a long term project and there is still more to learn. You let this one simmer.
Above Big Three Quoted from seanbeaverson.com/2012/10/superhero12_23.html

Here are my "Big Three's" from TIES 2012

1. Simon Sinek’s speech really connected with me when he was talking about how we need to purposely be using technology to solve a problem in our classrooms. I think his definitions and explanations for why it is so important for educators look at exactly how we are teaching in our classrooms and schools and what technology can be used to more or less speed-up or enhance daily tasks. To me, this pressured me to revisit the learning initiatives we are focusing on in the technology department in New Ulm, and look at how we need to do more with staff to support how first and foremost Google Apps can be more efficient and effective in how we communicate and collaborate with staff, but also share with and support teachers more to show how student learning can be enhanced by engaging and manipulating content in ways never before possible. While our district is working more with the SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) Model below, his speech reminds me that it is always important how we implement, train, model and support technology throughout the district.

2. Tips for Staff: Technology is constantly changing and I often find or hear simple tech tips and tricks that might help someone. Right now I am only sharing these on a blog and emailing them out to staff in a list. I know that there is a limit to the amount of emails someone will read from you before they just create a filter for the emails and forget about them and I want to hit the happy medium for how to do share this with all staff. I want to follow the lead of a few teachers I met at TIES and create short videos that are 45 seconds or less that show 1) How to do something 2) Put it on YouTube where it can be accessed from anywhere.

3. Kite Aerial Photography: I realize I’m not in the classroom anymore, but I really want to do an Aerial Photography project (or find a classroom teacher interested) and stitch that photography to an interactive map. I listened to two teachers from Brainerd present about the photography balloons they have been launching with different classes around twice a year and think it would be a great way to explore the area immediately around you. The equipment includes a large weather balloon, a camera set to take pictures every 5-10 seconds (or flip camera), and some cheap prepaid cell phone that can text it’s GPS coordinates on a regular basis. The actual “thing” you launch in the air ends up created and being flown by your students. There are many sites with how-to’s and programs to make cameras take the pictures every 10 seconds, as well as stitching the aerial photos to an interactive map. General website info here: http://www.arch.ced.berkeley.edu/kap/kaptoc.html

What if the 2012 class picture was an Aerial Photo of every student standing outside the high school from a floating balloon-camera-gps they designed?

Jefferson's 3rd Grade Teacher, Travis Raske pumped out this long list of websites, Apps, and other links for his staff right after the conference. Link to Travis' Resources

We are collecting more "ready made" TIES resources to share our learning with you soon.

Have a great break!

Revisiting Keyboard Shortcuts

After a brief holiday break and observing how people from age 3 to 84 interact with technology, I think it it worthwhile to revisit keyboard shortcuts and look at the daily tasks these can simplify. Here is a list of shortcuts everyone should have exposure to by 2013. I've included shortcuts up to Junior Varsity because I wanted to leave room for the future. Keyboard shortcuts are guaranteed to help you live a happier life (citation needed).  
Copy/Paste, Select All, Save
Command-C        Copy 
Command-V   Paste 
Command-A   Select All 
Command-S   Save 
Undo/Redo, Find
Command-Z                      Undo - Undo typing or accidental deletes in almost ANY program.
Command-Y                Redo 
Command-F                   Find - Finds a match for words, numbers, or letters on the current document - A great way to jump to a student's name in a list OR find a topic or word on a website. 
Zoom In/Out, Internet Browser Shortcuts (Firefox, Safari, Chrome)
Command- + (Plus)Zoom In - Zoom in most programs, very helpful when projecting websites
Command- - (Minus)Zoom Out 
Command-T                Opens a new Tab
Command-N            Opens a new Window
Command-L                 Highlights the URL bar to type in a new address or search
Command-Click (Link)Opens the link in a new tab in the background

I consider the FIND function (Command-F) to be one of the most versatile basic keyboard shortcuts around. From searching for a student name in a 24 page spreadsheet, to looking for one specific word on a webpage, use FIND by pressing Command-F to jump to what you want to find and save precious minutes scrolling around looking for keywords. 

Note: These are MAC shortcuts that use the Command key, formerly known as the Apple Key, and looks like this. All of these shortcuts are PC Shortcuts as well, simple replace "Command" with PC's "Control" key!

Click on this link for a more extensive Mac OS X Keyboard Shortcut list