Perhaps I shouldn’t have blogged about it – I may have jinxed it. Sadly, the miraculous parting of the firewall that has allowed me to use Skype and Google Talk for the last two or three weeks appears to have come to an untimely end. On my return to my office today, I found neither application able to connect to the outside world.
Evidently it was as I suspected: A fluke. An accident. It was a “hole” that has now been “patched.” Ugh!
I shouldn’t take it that badly, I suppose. I heard from my friend in another state that his district has blocked access to Flickr!
It’s been a great year. I’ve learned a lot, started a blog, moved it to a completely new platform (with permalinks and Feedburner feeds still intact, thank you very much!), been accepted to a Ph.D. program, welcomed a new baby girl into the world, and made some positive progress on our campus with respect to utilizing technology to increase student engagement. I’ve made some new acquaintances and friends, and along the way I also managed to get invited as a regular poster on the LeaderTalk blog which, of its own right, has made some major strides in its first few months of existence.
Our little Internet Study Group here at West wrapped up a few weeks ago, culminating in a Skype video conference with a friend and former colleague and his students from 2000 miles away. As I look back, the biggest lesson I’ve learned this year is the power of a small group of like-minded people when it comes to influencing school-wide change. I could never have stood up at a faculty meeting and mandated that every teacher have a blog or wiki or that they utilize technology to foster collaboration among their students. But starting small – with a core group of interested teachers – I think we’re off to a great start. Ironically, given our current infrastructure and the availability of technology on our campus, if every teacher wanted to do this stuff, we’d be in trouble! On the positive side, this gives us a great business case to approach the Powers That Be when it comes time for our technology refresh.
So what will next year bring? I’m hoping to keep that core group interested and involved in technology, and am considering starting a monthly(?) podcast that would be a sort of a 5 to 10 minute overview of current happenings at the school. Perhaps interviewing some kids and teachers about what’s coming up with their clubs or teams.
Additionally, I’ve been kicking around the idea of an independent podcast that I would co-host along with the aforementioned friend in Florida. I don’t want to say to much at this time, but we’ve got a good plan in place and have some ideas for about 6 or 8 episodes so I’m optimistic that it will come together for the fall.
Photo credit: “Retrospective” by freewill
Well, it looks like all has gone well with my transition to WordPress. I’d hoped to have everything up and running before switching over the DNS, but as an amateur (read: hack), I couldn’t figure out how to get the timing and linking right on that.Â Thanks for your patience as I move over my linkies and tweak the template a bit.
Thanks to this outstanding how-to on keeping TypePad permalinks intact, I think I’ve got everything where it should be and even managed to keep my FeedBurner feed intact. Of course, this post will be the real test.
Anybody out there?
Because I’m deep into master schedule creation and have promised our teachers their tentative room and schedule assignments before they leave on Friday, I have not had a lot of time to post. But when I came across this little gem, I just couldn’t resist. It’s topical, it’s about education, and the best part is it’s controversial. Hey – it’s the end of the school year and we could all use a good laugh…
School bus spotted at strip club stirs controversy (via KGW News in Portland)
A few choice quotes:
"We just want to
reassure people that is [sic] not your tax dollars at work," said district
spokeswoman Sarah Carlin Ames.
â€œIt didn’t feel right.â€
As a tax payer and mother of two girls, Miller is a little concerned
about seeing a Portland-marked bus in this context.…
Miller urges Laidlaw and the district to make sure the buses are clean after strip club use.
â€œI think it’s disgusting,â€ said Miller.
Understandably not everyone has the bizarre sense of humor that I have, but for some reason, stumbling onto this article just put a big smile on my face for the rest of the afternoon. I am intrigued by the concept of renting school buses out for private use. I don’t think any of us work in districts that couldn’t use some extra income.
I was saddened to read this quote from our district’s new provisioning plan:
"All computer systems deployed through the provisioning plans will be based on the Microsoft Windows platform. Documents created with certain Mac OS applications may require conversion to be readable and/or usable with the new platform. Users are encouraged to work with OIT if conversion of a large number of files is necessary."
While it’s thoughtful of them to help folks get converted, I’m just so disappointed at the lack of Mac love we’re showing. I love my Mac, but I also acknowledge that some people may prefer Windows. To me, it’s a matter of what people can use most effectively to get their jobs done.
Now I’m not knocking the hard-working people in OIT – I know the kinds of support questions they must get asked on a daily basis. And I also understand that part of the reason for de-Mac-ing the district is so that there is only one platform to support, but for some reason it still makes me think that we’re depriving folks of the opportunity to work on both platforms. Since the switch to Intel processors, Macs are gaining – not losing – traction among users, and while I know they’re not a common "business" platform, they certainly have much to offer in terms of offering our students opportunities to create content in a variety of media.
Image: "schlock" by *nathan
The year is winding down, but there’s never a dull moment in the life of an administrator…
So I pull up to the school today at about 7:10. I park behind our main building with a small group of teachers and office staff well out of the way of student drivers and buses. As I parked my truck, I noticed a small group of teachers standing together looking at something. I downed my last sip of coffee and hopped out of the truck to walk toward the building when I saw what they were looking at…
Evidently a pigeon had flown himself head-first into the side of the building and was flailing around on the ground, obviously incapacitated. No one seemed to know what to do, but it was like a traffic accident that no one could walk away from.
As I approached the group, one of the teachers called out, "Thank God you’re here! We’ve been watching this poor bird – he’s dying…"
I glanced over my shoulder with the fleeting hope that she was talking to someone from animal control who had managed to quietly sneak up behind me. No such luck. She was talking to me.
"Were you looking for me?"
"Of course!! You’re the administrator…"
So there you go.
Image: "lesser spotted pigeon" by samdiablo666
I’ve been tagged by Brett of The Cranking Widgets Blog to post my single, most effective tip for productivity. Brett stole the first thing that came to my mind, so I’m going to take the next logical step.
Regularly process what you’ve written to extract any actionable items.
It does very little good to write everything down if you never review it and take steps to process it. "Processing" may mean different things to you depending on your personal system, but to me it means to make the canonical GTD decision: If it’s actionable, should I do it now, delegate it someone more appropriate, or defer it until some time down the road?
The "if it’s actionable" part is a biggie. One of the biggest changes that I’ve adopted this school year is taking fewer meeting notes and instead focusing on capturing items that require action. I sort of intuitively knew that most of my meeting notes went unread and eventually wound up just taking up space in a notebook or filing cabinet somewhere, but it didn’t really hit me until I read "Step 3" of Behance’s Action Method framework: "File Reference Items, Sparingly. Keep only the notes, articles, and sketches that you need. Avoid clutter."
So if it’s not actionable, it’s either a resource you need to keep (file it!) or something you don’t (toss it!). Figuring out the difference is where I’m focusing my personal improvement efforts right now. If you can do it "on the fly," you’ll avoid taking pages of notes you never look at again, and be able to spend more time focusing on the items that need your attention.
After writing things down, the biggest single thing that you can do to get more done is to process, process, process what you’ve written in order to glean any actionable items from your notes. I’m interested in hearing what other busy school administrator types think of as their biggest productivity tip so I’ll pass along this meme to Rick, Greg, and Brian. Hopefully they’ll find the time to indulge me on this one.
Between graduation planning and dealing with master scheduling impossibilities (they can teach band in the library, right?), it’s been hard to post as much as I’d like. But allow me to present my third LeaderTalk post for your reading pleasure.
[Cross-posted at the West Tech Blog]
I have started listening to the net@nite podcast on TWiT and this morning I was listening to the Easter Sunday episode on the way to work. One of the callers mentioned a very cool tool called Timeline which is a part of MIT’s SIMILE Project. (Evidently, SIMILE is an acronym for Semantic Interoperability of Metadata and Information in unLike Environments.)
Of course, don’t let all that detract you from the coolness that is Timeline. When I heard the site mentioned on the show, I immediately Jotted myself a note to check it out when I got to work and I must say that I’m very impressed.
According to the site, Timeline is "like Google Maps for time-based information." If that doesn’t mean anything to you, check it out for yourself and peruse some of the sample time lines. One of the sample time lines depicts the events immediately following the assassination of JFK, another the life of impressionist painter Claude Monet. Yet another example (recommended for viewing on a large monitor!) depicts the different prehistoric eras and the dinosaurs that populated the earth during each. Imagine the possibilities!
What I especially like is the ability to click on any of the data points and add text or images. This isn’t a full review because I haven’t played with it that much, but I wanted to pass along something I think may be a valuable Web 2.0 tool for education.
As the school year is winding down, I thought Timeline
would be a great tool to capture students’ interest for the last few
weeks. There is plenty of documentation making it simple for both
teachers and students to create interactive time lines.