Saturday, July 25, 2009

100th Post / iPhone Story

This is my 100th post with CIO Corner. Quite a journey over the past 15 months. Thanks to all the followers and those who continue to provide feedback and comments along the way. Keep them coming!

A quick story about my iPhone and how truly tough the device is. Yesterday I was leaving my barber and as I was heading to my vehicle, I noticed the rain had picked up and a torrential downpour better described the scene outside. My vehicle was a good 30 yards away and I decided to make a quick run for it. Along the way, I attempted to place my iPhone in my belt holster and it must have slipped out - hit the pavement and landed face down in a puddle of water. About 10 minutes later I found the device in a next door restaurant where my "Good Samaritan" for the day had recovered the device. She said "good luck with it - it was burried in water when I found it." I had lost all hope that it would function - much less turn on. However, to my suprise the device was on and had a signal. I was able to place a call, check my email, get on the web, facebook and text. At first the speaker was a bit muffled but after letting it sit over night - it is as good as new. These devices are truly tough to have absorbed the water it did along with the drop to the pavement. Thank God I didn't lose my iPhone...what would I have done?

Talk at ya soon.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Back to School

That time of year that all Ed Tech leaders and K-12 CIOs love...back to school. It is the time of year when your inventory of (in our case 2,500+) computers are turned on - most of which have been sitting idle for weeks and months. Users forget passwords and usernames, data and voice cables get plugged into the wrong ports and it never fails that no matter how much time you alot for certain projects, the time goes faster than the project itself.

Our summers seem to get shorter and shorter. The work we need to do each summer grows more and more. No matter how hard we try, it is inevitable that we start the year "behind".

But then the fun begins. Students and teachers start filling the buildings. Computers fire up. Projectors, boards, pads, document cameras are all calibrated and tested. New technology in a classroom is tested by the teacher (with a smile on his/her face). The students walk through the doors and see a 21st century classroom filled with gadgets, technologies and most importantly a means to accomplish tasks in a fun and enjoyable way.

The Technology Department scrambles those first few days and weeks, making sure every device is functioning as it should. There are some long hours, hard decisions, blood, sweat and tears. But in the end as my good friend ujdmc would say "it is all about the kids". Everything we do in this industry must be about the kids, every decision we make and every piece of technology we place in a building must have the students best interests in mind. When your school district and staff believe in that concept - it is ok to have a few forgotton passwords and fried machines along the way.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Motorokr T505

motorokr-t505Image by ernesto_vm via Flickr

This weekend I purchased one of the greatest tools I have found to work hand in hand with my iPhone.

The Motorola Motorokr T505 is a bluetooth hands-free device that allows a user to do a couple of things. First, it allows a user (specifically for me an iPhone user) to play the music on my iPhone via an FM Transmitter built into the device. Now you might say that isn't anything special - however once you connect to a local station that isn't broadcasting and that station begins to have static - by a simple press of the button, the Motorokr T505 will automatically seek out the next station that is available. This saves the user from having to manually seek out those stations on their own.

The second cool feature of this device is the ability to do hands-free phone calls with the Motorokr. Once it connects you have the ability to place a call with your phone and choose the audio source (phone, speaker phone or the Motorokr). Also, when you are listening to music via the Motorokr and you receive an incoming call, you have the ability to push a single button on the device and answer the call.

The price point on the device has dropped since the first of the year by 40%. If you are seeking a solution to play your iPhone/iTouch/iPod in your vehicle and don't have an auxiliary port built into your vehicle - this is the device for you.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Interactive Classroom

Flat Classroom SkypeImage by superkimbo in BKK via Flickr

I recently had a conversation with some colleagues about the bits and pieces of an Interactive Classroom. While every Ed Tech leader has their own view of what this classroom should look like - and what pieces are more important than others, I figured I would throw in my two cents.

The cornerstone of an interactive classroom is obviously some sort of projection / image device. Whether this device be a projector, large plasma TV, etc. - each district has their preferences, but the main point is all students are able to view the content displayed by the device.

I believe the next most important piece to be the interactive tool of the teacher's preference. While some districts outfit every classroom with a board or a pad - I believe it is important to survey and receive feedback from the teachers to find out their teaching methods and select the appropriate tool to fit that teacher. For example - most high school teachers (at least ones I have observed) prefer to move around the classroom - they would prefer a mobile pad. However, some teachers are strictly lecture and like standing at the front of the classroom - so a board would be their best solution. It is important that the solution chosen is used both by the teacher AND the student. If only the teacher is using the device - interaction is not achieved.

The next piece I would place in my interactive classroom of choice is the student response system. You simply can not beat immediate feedback. These devices allow teachers to teach content and then - very quickly - determine whether the students understood that content. Do they need to reteach it? Do they need to reteach part of it? Does a certain student need individual assistance? All of these questions can be quickly answered by the student response devices.

A piece of equipment quickly gaining momentum is the document camera. It is the "techie" version of overhead projectors that were popular - even when I was in high school. The document camera allows the teacher to project any image up on the screen - this can be anything from a book, bug or any other image to share.

Too often a piece that can be overlooked is the audio. It is extremely important to ensure the interactive classroom has adequate audio on all devices so students can hear - no matter where they are seated in the classroom.

I believe it is as important as the equipment that the teacher fully understand how to effectively implement these tools in the classroom - otherwise they are wasted dollars. Proper professional development is a necessity, not only to show the "push / click" features, but also the big picture concepts. Once a teacher grasps how these tools can enhance their classroom, they will begin to search out new methods and lessons on their own.


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Thursday, July 2, 2009

ARRA Dollars

Description unavailableImage by murplej@ne - brutally architortured via Flickr

For those who have been in a whole the last few months the ARRA, or American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, is President Obama's short term stimulus plan to pump the economy with billions/trillions of dollars in hopes of creating jobs, etc. While I will not use this blog for my personal or political views (whether I agree with this act or not), I will use it to emphasize some great things coming about in my district because of this act.

At some point (I hope), we will see some Title II-D dollars in the ballpark of three times our normal non-competitive allotment. A majority of these dollars will be earmarked for Technology PD. I hope to bring in some of our vendor partners and provide additional training on tools we are currently using.

The district is also receiving ARRA dollars in the areas of Title I and IDEA-B. I think it speaks volumes for the impact that technology is having on instruction/learning in our district when the people who are over both of these grants come to me with wish lists on how to spend their dollars. Once all is said and done, we will be looking at an overall investment approaching $200,000 from the ARRA funds towards increasing technology tools in the classrooms. These funds will purchase everything from interactive boards/pads, audio solutions, digital cameras, student response systems and student computers.

I hope all the training / tools we invest these dollars towards help meet our ultimate goal of enabling students / teachers to better communicate, collaborate and problem solve in our ever changing global economy.

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