Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reflections of a new Campus Tech

As the semester winds down before the Christmas break, I find myself reflecting on the things I have observed in the last three months while serving as the new campus technology coordinator at Tivy High School.  Since I tend to be the philosophical type, allow me to share a few comments based on my brief experiences at Tivy.

First of all, I am proud to say that Tivy is a great campus -- full of great students, teachers, admin, and support staff.  I am thankful to be part of the staff.  I am humbled by the kindness and support shown to me by all the Tivy staff (and every KISD employee I have met, in fact).  I hope I reflect the same high level of professionalism in my work as I see in the work of so many who lead, teach, and serve here in some capacity.  I am impressed how well each staff person does their job and does so with a sense of mission.
 
Second, any campus with 1700 students, plus staff, will have natural challenges.  How those challenges are handled and addressed determines the outcome.  It's easy to become frustrated with "this" and "that" but in my experience there are always a "this" and "that" to contend with in any environment.  Remaining positive and solution-focused is the key to overcoming the many challenges any school campus faces in the course of a school year.  I am glad to work with many solution-focused people who is motivated by a larger picture.

Third, every staff position counts and makes a difference.  I'm sure it's not easy being a teacher who deals with a range of student needs and limited resources each school day.  I'm sure it's not easy being an administrator who deals with the big picture of how to keep things running smoothly and faces new and unique challenges on a near-daily basis.  I'm sure it's not easy being a support staff person who works behind the scenes and assists and serves at the drop of a hat so things get done.  I'm sure it's not easy being part of the maintenance or custodial crew and having to fix what is broken or clean the messes others make through the day.  But thanks to superior leadership, excellent teachers, and servant-hearted support staff and clearning crews, the ongoing challenges of educating students and keeping a large campus running smoothly happens -- and happens well!

Last, I challenge myself (and any reader who wishes to join me) to apply this statement to daily work: approach every problem with a committment towards solution -- not as an opportunity to complain.  I know some problems beg of complaint, and I have done my fair share out of frustration (I must confess), but what is most important to me is that I am a person who characteristically spends his energy making things better, not worst.  And the satisfaction that comes with digging deep and rising to the occassion is too good a thing not to try each and every time an opportunity taps me on the shoulder and says, "Ante up!"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

STaR Chart Results for 2010-11 Are In!

Joel Adkins, our Chief Technology Officer, has posted the results of the STaR Chart for the 2010-11 school year. Tivy High School does show an increase of technology understanding, usage by teachers, and more students using technology in their classes.  Great job Tivy!

Check out the results by clicking here: http://www.kerrvilleisd.net/files/TivySTaR2011.pdf

Monday, December 6, 2010

Breathing new life in my old laptop

My Dell e1505 laptop (five years old) is long over due for either replacement or a serious upgrade of some parts. After considering a new laptop, I am now thinking about replacing my 120GB hard drive with one of the new hybrid drives available on the market.

The Momentus XT is an excellent replacement for traditional laptop hard drives. It offers large capacities and SSD-like performance at a much smaller price. It's a hybrid in that the drive is a 500 GB HDD with built-in 4GB Flash Memory for often used files (this is a great idea). The cost is only $120 in some places online. Check out this review:

http://reviews.cnet.com/internal-hard-drives/seagate-momentus-xt-500gb/4505-9998_7-34109211.html?autoplay=true&tag=mncol;txt#reviewPage1

Saturday, December 4, 2010

SSD vs HDD: Is the price finally right?

This post is one for the techies reading...

One constant in technology is that hardware speeds and prices change constantly. If you wait long enough, that coveted piece of new technology will be half the price a year or two later and usually a better version than what you first wanted!

Here is an example: For about two years, I wanted to buy a solid state hard drive (which use flash technology) because of the speeds, much quieter, and promised performance gains over traditional hard drives (which use more moving parts like spinning platters). But who could afford it? Now, two years later, I can finally get a 64 GB SSD for under $150. Hmmm...tempting.  After all, this is a great option is you plan to use a SSD drive for your O/S and primary apps and install a fast HDD (say 500 GB 7200 RPM) in your PC for all your normal storage needs. After all, I am use to having 2-3 drives in my main PC so I find this scenario acceptable -- and far more affordable than entertaining the thought of buying a 256 GB SDD for $500!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Kerrville ISD approves new SANS servers!

Since the Kerrville ISD board approved the new SANS in Novemeber, the plan is for them to be installed the week before Christmas.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tivy Tech Wiki Created!

I have made a wiki called "Tivy Tech Wiki" designed to help teachers learn more about our computer labs, receive tips and training, and a place to share info with other teachers. I plan to debut it next week!

Check it out!  http://tivytech.pbworks.com/

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lost Lab Headsets Found!

A box of headsets for the language lab has been missing for several months. They were found today...still in taped box in a classroom! Yea!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Glencoe Training Workshop

I attended a Glencoe Training Workshop today. It proved helpful so I can help teachers with their installs and their use of it.

Mouse Club Installs RAM in Lab Computers

Today the Mouse Club installed RAM in the D-110 lab computers. It was fun explaining what RAM is then watching them install it for the first time. They did a great job!

Monday, November 29, 2010

SketchPad 5 installed on A-102 computers

SketchPad 5 (math program) has been installed on all the A-102 computers. Now, I will arrange time to install in on all the math teacher computers.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Monday, November 8, 2010

Finally, fixed problem so I can post again!

Nothing like starting a brand new blog and then be shut out of it for weeks!  But that is what happened!  When Blogger says, "Sure, you can merge all your blogs into one account!"  Yeah right...beginning of a nightmare that took me awhile to fix it.  I am a little disappointed with blogger support but I am back in motion!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tivy Tech Request

Two tech-related items:

1) Sometime last week I lost a pocket-size multi-function tool (has screwdriver, light, built-in level). I may have left it in a classroom while working on a computer. If anyone comes across it, please let me know (I miss it...sniff-sniff...a techie and his tools are close).

2) Of more importance, there is a new version of Sophos Antivirus program that needs to be on every computer connected to the Internet on campus. I learned from our friends at the Tech Center that in some instances, the new 9.5 version didn't automatically install on every PC and the old version keeps seeking updates throughout the day; thus, impacting our Internet bandwidth (meaning it slows down our Internet speed). I need your help (so I can help you). If you still have the older version, please let me know.

Monday, November 1, 2010

STaR Chart Begins

I just learned that we will spend the better part of the month getting all the teachers in the district to take the STaR chart survey. STaR is part of the "no child left behind" program that also measures the teachers' perception to how well they see themselves integrating technology in the classroom.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tivy Tech Tip: Smart Board Exchange

Occasionally, I will share a "Tivy Tech Tip" to help you with both general computer usage and technology integration in the classroom. The tips will be practical and digestable (promise).

This week's tip is for teachers using Smart Boards.  A web site called SMART Exchange is a place where you can find free lesson plans, games, and a way to share ideas with other teachers. Visit the site and learn how you can go to the next level with your Smart Board!

Smart Exchange Main Web Page:  http://exchange.smarttech.com/
-- for Standards-Correlated Lessons (click Texas, then TEKS): http://exchange.smarttech.com/curriculum.html
-- for SB-friendly games geared for 9th-12th Graders: http://exchange.smarttech.com/search.html?q=games&sbj=&grd=g9&grd=g10&grd=g11&grd=g12

If you need help with downloading or implementing, then let me know.  I will be glad to make an appointment with your during your conference period.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Programming RealCare Babies

Katherine Elks has asked me to help her setup the RealCare Babies for two classes. I have help "charge" babies, "program" babies, and install the necessary software to assign and track functions.  Very interesting process. I love watching kids facing when the simulation software caused the babies to cry!  I especially loved the comment from one student, "How am I suppose to sleep if it cried in the middle of the night!  Can't you program it to sleep all night!"  If only real life was that easy...lol.

Gaggle Training

We have recently begun training a few teachers on Gaggle, a powerful  application that will not only allow us to create student email accounts but also a way for teachers and students to work on collaborative projects. recently. I think Gaggle will be welcomed by our students and teachers once we provide adequate training.

It also occurred to me that Gaggle could be a good solution for Homebound students who need access to assignments or a place to send them (at least those with Internet-connected home computers). It might even provide a way for them to be connected to their classmates if they align their study schedules with their classes.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Scheduled Push from Tech Center

This afternoon (Friday, October 8), between 4:00 and 5:00, a scheduled computer update will occur through the KISD server network.  This process will include updating Adobe Flash Player that has been a problem in some classes and labs.

The tech center needs you to do the following before you leave the campus today:
1. Save any open documents and close all open applications on your computer.
2. Log off your profile (Click Start – Log Off) but leave your computer on (otherwise, you will miss the updates).

On a related note, I encourage you to practice the above steps every day when you leave the campus after school.  Since I work on a few computers after school most days, I notice that many staff members simply rely on their screen saver to be a form of security while they are away from their desk.  That’s fine during the day but this scenario may result in you losing unsaved files when I force your profile to log off in order to log in with mine, so that I can work on your PC.  This may also be true during some software update “pushes” that occur every week or so.

Thanks in advance!

Tech Help Requests

Some of you have mentioned to me this week that you placed tech-related tickets through the Help Desk but do not receive an email confirmation or see your request in your web version of the Eduphoria Help Desk (“Review My Requests”).  Guess what?  It’s nothing you are doing wrong.  There has been a recent discovery that some tech help requests aren’t going in to the system. This means that neither the Tech Center nor I are receiving them.  The Tech Center is working on the problem right now.  If this happened to you, you now know for sure that we are not ignoring you…promise.  :  )

Here are my suggestions regarding Tivy Tech Help Requests from this point forward:
1) Continue to place your tech-related requests via the Help Desk.  Use either the web link located in the staff section of the KISD web page or the web link provided below my signature area.  We rely on this system for several reasons and we expect the problems to be resolved soon.
2) Send me a quick email letting me know you tech needs if it applies to the scope of my duties here on campus (edward.mathews@kerrvilleisd.net).  Do this even if you think your tech request goes through because I do not want you to wait while your ticket request is being processed and assigned to me.  Plus, I get email through my cell phone and it will buzz me when your email is delivered.  If I am in your wing or near it, I may be able to help you very quickly (this happened yesterday and within five minutes I was able to get a teacher’s computer running just in time for her next class – this could be you!).
3) Call or text my cell phone in situations where your computer goes down or you need help with something ASAP.  Obviously, you can’t send a web-based tech request if you can’t use your computer.  I will trust your judgment to what is an urgent matter and what can wait until I read your email or get the help desk ticket.  So far, the entire staff has done a great job communicating with me (and being patient with me) so I see no problems here.

I hope the above refined strategy will help both you and me as we together figure out the best method for resolving tech-related issues in a reasonable time period.  In tech-related matters that I can’t resolve, I will be glad to help you place these requests to the right department or person.

On a personal note (yes, a techie does have a personality), I really enjoy being your C.T.C.  What makes it meaningful is knowing that I can help the Tivy staff with their technology needs since I realize that with each repair or implemented solution translates to increase teaching, learning, and office productivity.  It’s been a pleasure getting to know each of you the last few weeks.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Kudos to Mouse Club

Kudos to the Mouse Squad (student technology club) and their sponsor teachers, Matt Turner and Wes Bauerschlag, for helping to install docment viewer in some our classrooms after school this week!  I have enjoyed meeting the group of students involved and love the fact they want to learn more about technology.  They will be installing more next week.  This is also a huge time saver for me!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Tivy Tech Blogs

This blog is designed with the staff and students of Tivy High School in mind; however, anyone is welcome to join.  I am in my fourth week as Tivy's Campus Technology Coordinator.  I simply love every aspect of my new job -- especially when I can help teachers with their technology needs.

Each week I will share practical tech tips that are easy to learn, easy to use, and easy to share with others.  Occasionally, I will report on emerging technologies that offer exciting solutions for educators.  If you have an interest in educational technology or simply looking to learn about technology in digestible bytes, consider joining this blog.  I would love to have you as a reader!