TechLearning Blog December 2008

10/21/2011 1:18:16 PM

December 18, 2008

...it's a matter of WHEN

(this is part 2 of the post that Cheryl Oakes started on Tuesday... a "passing the baton" of ideas, if you will)

One reason we bought our house was because it had a sump pump. It has served us well over the past 5 years, only coming on when needed (rarely), dormant and waiting and ready to serve the rest of the time. It is there for the "worst of times and the best of times" and we never think about it. It's our insurance; our backup. Never did we think of backing up the backup.

Enter "Ice Storm '08" and 12 hours of no power and we have our first flooded basement. If we could have kept the sump pump going, we wouldn't have had a drop down there. Solution: backup the backup. Time to get a generator so this never happens again.

I feel a bit embarrassed that I never thought I needed a generator and yet knew the importance of the sump pump. My mind stopped at the first line of defense and didn't travel further into thinking about what would happen when that was in danger. Bringing this back to the world of computers and important data, what's your backup's backup?

As Cheryl stated in Tuesday's post it's not a matter of IF it will happen, but WHEN it will happen. Let me state this clearly: your computer will die someday. It will never die at a good time. It will always be a bad time when it decides to leave this world behind. I know, I know... you don't want to hear any of this. You paid so much money for the thing, and it's been so loyal, day in, day out. But it will betray you on a day when you most need it and leave you high and dry with a dark cloud of technology blues hanging over you. If you don't have a backup, you will learn first-hand that this was a foolish way to live and you will vow to change your ways because now you know the pain. Will you, however, be ready for the pain when your backup also dies?

This weekend with the ice storm, I spent most of my time sucking up water with a wet vac. The carpet guys came with their big fans and it looks like we're going to be ok... the rug may not need to be replaced. I could go back into denial and forgo the purchase of an expensive generator, thinking, "This was a fluke. Rain and power outage together... Chance of it ever happening again are pretty slim. Why bother backing up my backup? I just dodged a bullet. I'm safe."

Last weekend I spent my entire Sunday at the Apple Store in Portland, ME as the expert and aptly named "Geniuses" sucked all the data off my barely one year-old computer in order to put it on the new computer that I was forced to buy due to the inconceivable death of the old one. I stayed all day waiting for the data to be transferred because just the day before, my main backup drive that I use faithfully every day to backup my data suddenly became unreadable. It was a blank slate. I did have another backup because I've learned to backup twice every day with two entirely different hard drives, but this was done in a format that isn't as friendly to restore (OS X's Time Machine)... more of a temporary solution. With only one shaky backup at home, you bet I waited for them to transfer all my data to the new machine. That night, I immediately backed it up all over again. Twice.

There's a new service I ran across the other day, called BackBlaze that will automatically backup your data from your computer to their servers. The price is cheap: $5 a month per computer with no storage limit. Having your data offsite ensures an extra layer of safety in the event of a fire (or other castrophe) that would take out the two external backup drives that are sitting right next to each other. I'm considering it... that would give my backup's backup a backup. I know... this can get out of hand.

How about you? Do you backup your backup? Do you have an "off-site" backup system? Please answer the poll below:

Backup Method






December 16, 2008

It is not a matter of if……..

This is a two part blog post, I am beginning the post and on Thursday Bob will finish it....

It is not a matter of if your laptop or desktop or phone or camera will crash, but really a matter of…..
Take the poll and see how you compare to others of us.

Are you prepared for your laptop, desktop, camera or phone to CRASH?





If you answer is something like almost never or it is a fleeting thought, or when it happens you will scream, then you are among the majority of us.

If however, you work for the CIA or a financial institution or a government agency, then you never think of it because someone else has already made those plans and your computer is locked down and your use is very rigid and everything you do is backed up.

Let's consider that you are an educator who has received a laptop and some instruction about the basic use of your laptop. When it came time for the part about saving to the server you tuned out because well, after all, this was new technology and you probably were thinking that what could I possibly have to save? Let's flash forward 6 years and 2 laptops later!
You embraced technology use and you have created units of work, newsletters to parents, lessons, class lists, projects related to school goals, and oh yeah, you have collected hours of documentation about your professional plan and the reflections about your work.

You collected a few USB flash drives. You save some documents. You save some units. Now the task of organizing all those USB flash drive units.

While it is easy, so to speak, to use my flash drives when I have to save and transport some documents, now I have a collection of flash drives and it takes a long time to load them and sort through them and actually find the item I am looking for.
However, if I backed up to one server, one external hard drive, one place I would be able to search through the hard drive and find my item and my life would be easier. Yours would be too! Find your technology mentor, your technician, your IT person and find out how to backup to some kind of device. Find the process that will work for you, there is no one magic answer. Do it today, make it your New Year’s Resolution, but do it. Remember it is not a matter of if……….
Stay tuned for Thursday and Bob Sprankle’s answer to my prompt.

December 11, 2008

What is literacy, and what should the 21st century school be like?


 

rosereview21cschool

Two important new reports, and associated consultations, are now available. These are the eagerly-anticipated interim report from the Rose review of the primary curriculum in England and Wales, and the government's ideas on what a world-class education comprises and the associated school report card.


The good thing about the interim report is that it emphasises the importance of ICT in the primary curriculum. I'm not so sure about the 21st century school document.


The interim primary report


Here are some welcome suggestions from the Rose report:


It will also be increasingly important that children have the ICT skills which will enable them to
apply the technology of the future and meet the challenges of an uncertain world, with confidence and flexibility. A sound grasp of ICT is fundamental to engagement in society, and the foundations for this engagement must be laid in primary schools. Along with literacy and numeracy, the use of technology to develop skills for learning and life should be at the core of the primary curriculum. (My emphasis)


It's a real shame that the report didn't go that extra mile -- or extra inch, really -- and extend the definition of "literacy". It states that:


"the three curriculum aims (successful learners, responsible citizens and confident individuals], together with literacy, numeracy, ICT and personal development, will be at the heart of the new curriculum...".


Then, in the very same paragraph, the report defines literacy as:


"... speaking, listening, reading and writing."


However, the report does acknowledge that:

"The central importance of literacy, generally understood as the ability to read and write, is undeniable. However, the concept of literacy has broadened so that the values, for example, of scientific, technological, mathematical and economic ‘literacy’ are recognised by society and schools to a far greater extent than ever before. The effects of being ‘illiterate’ in this broader sense are all too obvious and likely to deepen as the world our children inherit depends increasingly upon understanding in these domains."

It also says that:

"The Review’s remit insists that literacy, numeracy and ICT must be prioritised."

The report also recommends that the QCA and Becta work together to consider whether some aspects of the Key Stage 3 (secondary) curriculum would be better taught in primary education. This, to me, is an acknowledgement of what is already well-known: that in many areas the pupils are doing brilliant stuff in primary education and then have a dumbed-down experience when they enter secondary school.

You can download the report, which is pdf format, from here.  You may comment on the report (by the end of February) by using the contact details shown here.


The 21st Century School


This sets out the government's vision of a 21st century school, and introduces the idea of a school report card. This would enable parents to see what a school is like at a glance.


It's good that technology and ICT is emphasised, as in this, for example:


"Better use of the opportunities provided by modern technology will enhance all of the
dimensions of a world-class education system."

But there's not much more detail than that, and there's nothing about ICT on the draft report card. No doubt the argument will be that if the school has got the ICT right the other stuff will follow, or that if the vision has been realised it would imply that the ICT implementation is sound. Even so, I think I would have liked to see a bit more meat on the bones, as it were.

To download the report, go here.

To download the draft report card, go here.

To take part in the consultation, go here -- although it doesn't seem to be there yet.

To comment on this post, please go here.

 

December 4, 2008

Dear President-Elect: PLEASE Keep the BlackBerry!

Dear President-Elect Obama,

First of all, congratulations and good luck. I've been following the entire election and your every move on my SmartPhone (when I'm not in school) and I realize that you've got a lot going on so I'll keep this brief.

It is definitely an exciting time to be alive (as my dad keeps saying) and we are witnessing many firsts with your victory. Not to diminish any of the other historical milestones (such as race), but I am focusing this letter on the fact that you've been called the first "Technology President" and you are expected to break a long standing tradition of neo-luddism by having the first laptop to grace the desk in the Oval Office. Big, big things are being asked of you to help bring the rest of the country into the 21st Century.

I'm joining in to ask you (beg you really) to at least do one other thing: don't let them take your BlackBerry away. If you let that happen, Mr. Obama, then it's curtains for me. If the most powerful leader in the world has his cell phone taken away, then what chance do I have to ever get to use my cell phone at one of the places that I need it most: school?

As a BlackBerry user, I know you understand that cell phones are not merely phones, but actual computers. The media is having a bunch of fun right now with "crackberry" jokes and some call for you to give it up in order to stay more in touch with people. They say that cell phones do "a good job of helping us lose touch with the people around us." I know... I know... it's exactly the opposite of why you want to hang onto your BB.

I've read about the security concerns and the "Presidential Records Act" argument, but I believe that the risks have been exaggerated. I mean, come on. You're the PRESIDENT (almost)! One of the most powerful people in the world. Surely, any risks can be controlled or taken care of by the team of very smart people who you are choosing to work with you.

If you give up your BlackBerry, then I'm sorry to say it, Mr. President-Elect, but you're suddenly as disempowered as me and my friends are at our high school.

Let me paint you a picture: When I come into school each morning, before I'm even allowed to sit down, I have to put my smart phone in a box with all the other students' phones. It stays in this box all day behind some teacher's desk. The phones must be shut off before being handed over and if your phone actually goes off and rings inside the box, you will be sent to the office and given detention after school. These rules have been in place for a while and we're reminded time and time again that the safest method is to just leave our cell phones at home. Of course, nobody does, because we need our phones. (My school is by no means unique, btw; if you do a simple search on the Internet about cell phone rules in high school, you'll find plenty of schools like mine). I get that teachers want to control the phones because they are worried about kids texting to their friends instead of paying attention, or worse, using the phones to cheat on tests but I have answers to both of those concerns: 1) if kids are texting instead of paying attention, then maybe the lesson needs to be more engaging or exciting for them to pay attention to, and 2) if they're using their phones to cheat on tests, then maybe the tests need to be more challenging, asking students to synthesize information, rather than just spit back facts. I guess we need new assessments for this 21st Century. There's so much information out there and it's said to be doubling every 24 months (by the time we have our next president ---if you serve 2 terms--- it will be doubling every 72 days!) that I guess it doesn't really make sense to try and memorize a tiny bit of that for tests. If we need to remember a fact, we have our cell phones and can quickly look it up on the Internet!

I'm not sure if you've heard this or not, Mr. Obama, but there are actually teachers out there who want to use cell phones in their lessons, rather than ban them. They see them as tools for learning much like the slate, or paper, or ink, or pens, or calculators. Of course those tools didn't always have acceptance in the beginning either. Cell phones are the new "scratch paper". You know, the paper we're given to work out our problems on during a math test? One of my teacher's said we have that so that we can use it to work out the "mundane tasks" of computation so our minds can be freed up to work on the harder, "higher level" stuff.

When I'm out shopping and need to find out the best deal or I get into an argument with my friend about what year the first Macintosh was created, I just use my phone to look that stuff up so that I get onto other, better things. Why can't I do that at school? My phone is like an extra brain. It does all the dumb, simple stuff so I can work on the harder problems in life. Don't give up that extra brain, Mr. President-Elect!

Another reason why it would be terrible for me if you don't keep your BlackBerry is that it will set a bad example. Put simply: if there's ever a problem with a piece of technology at school, most of my teachers simply quit. The first glitch they run into, they throw up their hands and say it's not worth it! Which is funny, because you're guaranteed to have problems with technology! It's part of the package. You just have to take a breath and try and problem solve your way out of it. If you and your team "quit" using the BlackBerry because of the perceived problems that it may involve, then you're encouraging what I've heard people call "The Digital Divide." I know that most people mean the gap between those that have and those that don't have the technology when they say that, but there's also the Digital Divide between those that have teachers who will take risks and bring technology into the classroom and those whose teachers refuse to because of the problems that can happen. No offense, but I think that's one of the differences between your generation and mine. You were all brought up on TV where your entertainment was all built for you. My generation would rather build our own entertainment, like making videos for YouTube, or putting together a LAN party, or mashup a bunch of stuff other people made to make something new. All of that takes some serious problem solving and decision making that I just don't think you get by sitting there watching a TV show someone else made.

If you ---the PRESIDENT of the United States and one of the most POWERFUL PEOPLE IN THE WORLD--- give up your technology that has served you well by helping you run a successful campaign and stay in touch with the regular people, then how will I ever convince my teacher to let us use technology in our learning?

If you give up your phone, then doesn't it say that technology is "optional" rather than necessary?

I hate to say it, but you're going to look a little silly trying to get schools to help kids get ready for the 21st Century with your BlackBerry noticeably missing from your own belt.

I trust you'll do the right thing, because after all, you've already got your Weekly Radio Addresses up on YouTube and clearly you've changed the campaign game with your use of the Internet.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog post. On your BlackBerry.

Sincerely,

Joe the Student
Class of 2009

December 2, 2008

Primary Documents and Where to Find Them

How many of you have used the Library of Congress Collections for your curriculum, content and most importantly your students?

If you have never used the online collections here is the perfect time to begin. No matter what your content area you will find something that you can use. Plus, by introducing your students to the wealth of materials they have available to them, you will be opening their eyes to a place where they can research their own primary sources when the time comes.
The Library of Congress opened their online Internet doors in 1991. I have visited the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, but I have not used the primary sources in any of my classes, nor have I had an opportunity to share this resource with my students. So, to make up for that I am sharing this important resource with teachers.
The LOC, as it is affectionately referred to, has designed a great jumping off spot for teachers. The spot is called the Learning Page and on that page there are menus to use a timeline, lesson plans , features and activities, collection connections, community center and my FAVORITE, professional development. Why is professional development my favorite? Because LOC provides the handouts for you to host your own through a video conference or with something as self serve where you choose a topic and go through the steps yourself or in a group at your school. I chose CREATIVE PORTRAITS:
Using Art and Artifacts to Deepen Historical Understanding
There is something called the facilitators framework,complete with handouts and the primary sources you are looking at and how much time you will need to deliver the workshop.

Thanks to the Library of Congress for all their good information, please share this with your students and staff. Take time right now and go on a Library of Congress tour!

Now to put this idea into practice! I am looking for a librarian to team up with on this venture and offer this workshop afterschool, any topic and any school day. Contact me on twitter cheryloakes50 .

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