Monday, December 3, 2012

Deploy!

Wow!  What a crazy few days!  On Thursday of last week, the entire tech team descended upon Martin Middle School to roll out the new network.  In the short run, it will look like things got worse in our wake.  Many of the computers were not up to specs and had to be removed from the network.  They were not able to run the antivirus package and Windows 7 that we are rolling out.  So many of their machines are now stand-alone word processors.  I told one of the teachers, "It's going to get worse before it gets better, but then it's going to be a WHOLE LOT better!"  Growing pains are not often fun, but you have to go through them to move forward.

So now, here I sit at the end of my third day at Martin Middle and we have things well under control!  Tonight, the wireless installation fairies are coming so hopefully, as of tomorrow, their wireless will be working!  That will enable users to connect wirelessly to the network and the Internet using laptops or iPads.

We thank the students and staff of Martin Middle for their patience as we shook up their world over the past few days.  We have been able to work through several issues with the image for our computers and now, as we deploy in the other schools, things should run much smoother.  Somebody had to be first!  We appreciate your assistance as we move on out on our journey to the 21st Century!


If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy Russell Smith's Blog regarding this very same topic!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Why Reinvent the Wheel!?

You know, the last time I looked, all wheels had one thing in common:  they were ROUND!  There is no need for anyone to reinvent the wheel today when some nice caveman did a fine job thousands of years ago!  (OK, so I'm not a history teacher.  Don't check my facts, please!)  My point is:  Why do we all feel like we need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to our own areas of expertise?  As a technology facilitator, I pride myself in being able to create some really great tutorials and step-by-step how-tos for my teacher colleagues.  But why should I spend my valuable time redoing what has already been done?

I've finally gotten smart and decided to work SMARTer, not HARDer!  So here are a few links to some really great resources I've found recently:

Schoology Channel:
http://www.youtube.com/user/schoology?feature=results_main

SMART Survival Guide Video Channel:
http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSjRScSvLyaaOJ_RN3pAVu4kBcoFjBdsh

I feel better now.  Now let me roll on up out of here!  Have a great day finding experts at what you need to know how to do!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Inventory: Roadmap2.0

We have to know where we are to figure out where we're going!  This week, I'm involved in helping to collect up-to-date inventory data for our network here in the district.  Wow!  What an eye-opening experience!  I've come from a background in a 1:1 high school program, where every student and staff member has a laptop and the wireless connectivity is almost seamless.  (I won't deny that there are times we fall off the cliff and find ourselves disconnected, but those times are few and far between!)  I spent the day yesterday visiting 3 of the district's middle schools, none of which had a wireless network (yet).  We spent a lot of energy simply trying to find a data port that worked in many of the classrooms!  Then we had to wait for the wireless access point to boot up (supposedly a one minute-40 second task that routinely took anywhere from 5-10 minutes).

We have bright spots that are rays of sunshine:  classrooms fully implemented with interactive boards, projectors, document cameras, etc.!  But more often than not, there were classrooms with either no computers or with a few that were woefully outdated.  It's no wonder there were rooms where the equipment wasn't even plugged in.  If the wiring won't work, we won't get on the world-wide web!  (I'll admit it, I just wanted to see how many "w"s I could get into that sentence!)  Instead we have a classroom-narrow frustration!

It's no secret that in our district, there have been two worlds, the haves (the high schools with their 1:1 program) and the have-nots (everyone else).  We're in the process of trying to address that dichotomy.  This inventory is another step towards leveling the playing field.  We have a plan to dispose of any old equipment that won't meet minimum standards and to begin working towards a more equitable distribution of "stuff!"  There may be some discomfort as we get there, but at least we now have a roadmap and a vision of our destination.  Bear with us as we follow this path into the 21st Century.  We really will get there!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Modeling Life-Long Learning This Week

We all make the proper noises about life-long learning, but this week, I have really been walking the walk and not just talking the talk!  I spent practically all of yesterday plugged in to the FETC Virtual Conference.  I heard some really great sessions, including one by Sheryl Nussbaum Beach who pointed out, "We are stronger together than apart! None of us is as smart, creative, good or interesting as all of us" She also advocates for "free-range learning," an atmosphere where learners are allowed to "roam around" and decide what they want to learn, thereby being invested in the learning experience.
 
Now, granted, it would be rather difficult to let schools run that way, although the Montessori movement has had success with a similar approach.  However, when it comes to professional development, that's not such a bad idea!  I would be much more tuned in to what I'm learning if I chose to learn it in the first place!  Coincidentally, this is pretty close to the concept behind the development of our Course Catalog for technology PD this year.  The technology survey at the end of the year last year had indicated that the district's elementary and middle grades teachers did not feel that they were receiving the training support they needed to be successful using technology, while the high school teachers felt they were being force fed too much training!

So we started the year this year with a survey asking teachers what training they wanted!  I know.  Novel concept!  But then we took the skill set the technology facilitators had and developed the course catalog around what our teachers wanted!  Now it's just a matter of the district's teachers getting used to the idea that they can request a training session at their convenience and we're expecting those requests to start pouring in any day now.

Meanwhile, back at Bridgers, I'll spend what time I have taking advantage of learning opportunities like the FETC Virtual Conference so I can share my new TechKnowledge with you!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

In Other News...

... related to my previous post, I completed and submitted a proposal for our team to present at ISTE 2013 in San Antonio this week.  If accepted, we will be presenting our procedure for setting up the course catalog described in my previous post.  Keep your fingers crossed.  We may be taking our show "on the road!"

Never Stop Learning!

I have had the most exciting week!  We are feverishly putting together the new course catalog for staff at ECPS.  We started out compiling a list of courses we have taught in the past.  But our fearless leader decided we needed to take a different approach.  All teaching staff in all the schools were surveyed to find out how they currently use technology and what they would like to try to incorporate this year.  They were also asked what tools they already feel comfortable using and which tools they may need additional support with in order to successfully implement them in their classrooms.

Then we took a step back and decided to give folks what they want and need and not merely what we know and do well!  What an awesome idea!  We have tweaked the catalog, making it more user friendly to the novice technology user, as well as our pros!  But this task in itself offered me an exciting opportunity to learn a new technology skill.  I knew that you could program a Google form to perform certain actions automatically (things like sending emails), but I didn't know how to do it!

Enter YouTube and a wonderful little Google script called FormEmailer.  You see, Google scripts are programming code that makes all that computer magic happen, and most of them are open-source, meaning they are FREE!  Our fearless leader (I love calling him that!) pointed us in the direction of a YouTube video explaining how this particular script works.  (I also love YouTube!  You can learn how to do anything you can possibly think of on that place!)  Then he got out of the way and let us muddle through it.  There's nothing more empowering than figuring out how to do something pretty complicated!

Anyway, to make a long story short, we now have a Course Catalog that is about to "go live!"  Much collaborative work by Shanda Edwards, Russell Smith and myself have made this a reality.  And the best part of all is that feeling of excitement that I got from learning something new!  Not knowing how to do something should never be an excuse for not doing it!  Figure it out... and enjoy the same high I feel today!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Full Calendars

Thank GOODNESS for Google Calendar!  If it weren't for that tool, I wouldn't know where I was or where I was going next most days!  Edgecombe Early College High School continues to keep me busy as they get used to life without a resident MaryAnn.  We have developed some procedures that should be easy to follow and will help keep things in order over there when I am not in the house!

SouthWest Edgecombe High School has reached out for a little MsP love again.  I worked with them about a week ago getting their student laptops catalogued and today, I was able to help Mr. Baker get the student database updated and ready for checkout.  SWE students should begin checking out laptops starting tomorrow. Mr. Baker is always so appreciative of anything I can do to help.  It is a true joy to work with him for the students at SWE.

Tomorrow, all of the tech facilitators will be working with Mr. Gould to develop Moodle procedures for the rest of the year and into perpetuity!  If you have Moodle needs in the district, don't hesitate to contact Shanda Edwards, Russell Smith or myself and we will hook you up!  Keep in mind that there are several alternative Learning Management Systems available if Moodle isn't your cup of tea!  We are starting a Schoology initiative in the district this year.  Several of the teachers at North have jumped on that bandwagon with both feet and love it!  And in very short order (early October is what we hear), we will be rolling out Gaggle to the district, which will be an email solution for students, but oh so much more!  Keep it tuned in here for the latest updates to the Gaggle roll out!

Tomorrow afternoon and next week, I will begin my ClassScape trainings with several of the schools in the district.  Tomorrow, Stocks Elementary's 3rd Grade teachers will be training up on this assessment tool, provided by the district to help prepare students for the End-of-Grade/-Course tests.  The district is using this tool for benchmark testing this year, but teachers can also build their own custom assessments based on the new Common Core standards.  Next week, I will be spending the day with Pattillo School on Wednesday as I work with grade level teams there.

Like I said... without the assistance of Google Calendar, I wouldn't know where I was!  Aren't we glad there are so many cool techno-tools to keep us on track in this 21st Century world we live in?  I know I am!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Busy Week

Wow!  I keep thinking things will settle down, but this new role is proving to be one that promises to keep me busy!  I started the week with a trip to Phillips Middle School with my colleague, Russell Smith, to show Schoology.com to Ms. Cooper, the CTE teacher.  Ms. Cooper is an experienced Moodle user and has quite an impressive course set up in Moodle already.  We were able to help her by setting up her 6th grade students and making sure all her staff had access to her course, but we also showed her Schoology and I think we have a convert!  As soon as we get the Gaggle initiative rolled out, she will be ready to join the ranks of Schoology.

All three of the tech facilitators, Shanda Edwards, Russell Smith and myself, took a trip on Wednesday to Coker-Wimberly Elementary to demonstrate a new type of projector that makes any surface an interactive board!  This new projector by Epson is pretty amazing.  We also demo-ed mirroring what is displayed on an iPad to a projector using an AppleTV device.  There are so many exciting new hardware devices available for teachers these days.  I am so excited to be doing what I'm doing!

This morning, the staff of Edgecombe Early College participated in Zendesk and iPad training.  We are developing a process through which the teachers will check out class sets of 10 iPads to use with students during the day and provide feedback on how to best use these devices in an educational setting.  I know they are raring to go!  iPads are available starting on Monday!

This afternoon, Russell and I will be travelling to Tarboro High School to help with freshman laptop orientation.  Most students attended this during the Open House on September 26th, but a few missed it and need to participate in this necessary training before being allowed to check out a laptop.

Tomorrow brings some one-on-one Google training with a new employee at the request of Mrs. Sherita Cobb.  We are going to go over the ins and outs of Google Docs and Google Calendars, as well as anything else this new person needs.

Remember, we are here for YOU!  If you have a techno-need, don't hesitate to call on one of your tech facilitators.  We do large and small group, as well as individual training.  But we won't know what you need until you tell us!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

ClassScape Update

All new staff for Edgecombe Early College High, Stokes Elementary, Princeville Elementary, and Martin Middle have been added to ClassScape.  Training is scheduled for Stokes and an invitation has been issued to my other schools.  Let me know when I can come train you on ClassScape and Kamico!

I feel like a butterfly...

This new schedule of flitting about from location to location will eventually become second nature to me, but for now, I feel like I'm meeting myself driving down the road!  Flexibility is my greatest asset as I grow accustomed to this new role.  But isn't that a life lesson for all things?  I find that rolling with the punches is much preferred to being stuck in a rut!

The Early College is already halfway through the first grading period.  Progress Reports are going home this week!  Most students who are checking out a school laptop have made all the arrangements and have checked them out.  There are a significant number of students who will be Day Users this year.  We are still working on a good solution for how that will roll, but so far, I think the process in place is going pretty well.

I have been a cataloging fool at Southwest Edgecombe High!  I'm glad that I'm having this opportunity to work with Destiny at an established location before I have to set up the system for the Early College.  I think that by the end of this week, we'll have all their machines added to their Destiny database and be ready to move them to the media center for checkout.

Meanwhile, back at Bridgers I'm gathering all sorts of other roles, as well!  We had ClassScape and Kamico training on Wednesday this week.  I was already pretty comfortable with how to maneuver in ClassScape, but Kamico is a whole new beast for me.  It's pretty straight-forward and will provide some great data for teachers to use in non-tested subjects and grades, as well as the tested areas.  I will be working closely with 3 elementary schools and a middle school in providing their training for these 2 products.  I've already scheduled one of the schools and am excited about getting out there and getting to know some additional staffs around the district.

Looking ahead to next week, I have introductory iPad training scheduled with the Early College.  I'm getting excited about that new program and should have lots to share as we roll it out together.

That's about it for now.  If you see me rolling down the road, move over!  I'm on a mission!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Rock it like a Rock Star!

I have a new mantra for my new role as a Technology Facilitator in Edgecombe County.  We are blazing new trails and redefining how we do technology business here in the district.  My colleagues and myself are no longer stationed at the high schools.  We are now housed at the Bridgers Building in room 212.  Our job is now to provide technology training to all staff in the district.  Wow!  What a task!  But it's one I am so excited to take on!

Today, a survey was sent out to all school staff asking for what kind or training you want/need.  We are going to use this information to drive what we offer this school year.  Look for another survey around Christmas so we can update our offerings.

I am so excited to be a part of the tech team here at ECPS!  Please know that if I can help you in any way where technology is concerned, I am an email or a phone call away!  Don't hesitate to call me at (252) 883-2620 or email me at mpowell@ecps.us.  There are no "stupid" questions, so go ahead and ask!

Let's get this party started!