I’ll soon be taking over iPad deployment for Rockingham County Public Schools. As a small project, I plan to document my experiences with an already frustrating process dealing with multiple group funding, app purchasing and management as well as things like repairs.
The U.S.-based organization Autism Speaks estimates there are hundreds of apps built for use on iOS devices, specifically for autism. A search of the Apple iTunes store brought more than 580 autism-related apps, while an Android Market search for autism apps yielded about 250 results.
“The more we dig, the bigger the rabbit hole is and we’re starting to think tech is a really big key for how we can develop therapies quickly,” said Marc Sirkin, vice president of social marketing and online fundraising for Autism Speaks.
Yesterday we taught a class about a few online websites and tools that make our lives easier. Here is the Google Doc we used to present and a little info about each one. It was a quick class, just enough to peak people’s interest in the tools, not how to use them completely.
Link: YDAS – Cool Stuff
Google Reader has changed once again, this time adding the ability to share links to other kinds of social websites like Facebook and Twitter. Now you can also add your own, with the help of this article.
Teachers in Okaloosa County, Florida are getting all their laptop computers replaced with desktop machines. We’ve all pondered the idea of mobile laptops for teachers that they could use at home or at work and have full access to install programs and be responsible for backing up files on, but what are the benefits?
From a technology staff stand point, we don’t really care. Apple has finally created desktop iMacs and laptops that are easy to open and maintain. iBooks have 44 screws on them to remove the harddrive or optical drive; today’s iMacs have an easily removable glass pane and a few screws and MacBooks are also a few screws from removing the bottom cover to access all the easily removeable guts. Sadly, budgets keep us from buying the newest and greatest for all the schools at once. So I’ll be keeping my hex wrench and screw driver readily available.
From at data view, mobile laptops are a nightmare. Without joining them to a network server, we can’t be sure all a users files are backed up. They are easily stolen, left at home, dropped and attacked by cable-loving pets. In a county with 23 schools worth of teachers, I couldn’t imagine troubleshooting computers that I didn’t know what the base installed software/operating system was, assuming we also gave teachers free reign over their laptops like NETS*T programs do. When desktops break, we hook two computers up together and “clone” them from one another, solving 95% of software/operating system issues, leaving user data untouched thanks to a server.
Do we also need wireless access because of the nature of a laptop to be moved? I don’t think so. With no cheap solution to building wide wireless access, we struggle to keep up with 20% of a building’s faculty armed with ipods and laptops by installing . iPads have also been adding to that problem.
But is the problem really making the choice for teachers instead of offering it, maintaining the network for desktops and only doing troubleshooting and repairs for laptops without data management? It’s an interesting debate to follow, for sure.
I’ll be the first to admit, if being on the technology staff isn’t proof enough, I love new technology. I like the advances that technology makes and what it allows us to do easier or more of. I like that we can do things we normally don’t do or do it in places we usually don’t. I think in the name of technology, almost any new product is an investment in the greater good for us all.
But what about teachers? We spend millions of dollars on classroom technology and even have staff dedicated to looking at new technology, evaluating it’s usefulness in the classroom and even creating sample lesson plans to use with it. We are digital salesmen. We see a valuable experience in something and practice it, offer it, and teach it.
One has to wonder what the saturation point is or if there even is one. Is it correct to think that too much technology isn’t a problem but on a case-by-case basis per teacher? Is it up to the teacher, administrator or IT department of any business or school to decided how much technology is right for getting the job done? Does the saturation point constantly move as new technology is adapted to?
I quickly evaluate someone when I talk to them and decided if I should introduce a new technology to help alleviate a problem. Is the person I’m talking to more worried about getting the job done at that moment or trying to figure out a way to do the job better? How do they react when I bring up a new website tool or piece of equipment? Do they ask me if there is technology to fix the problem and if there is, how many steps does it add to their routine?
And what about the human element of learning or teaching by computers? How does that affect students relationship skills or work ethics? If a child can always create a slide show presentation because the tools are easy to use, how will that student cope with not being able to consistently produce equally comparable results when using household objects to create the science project they need to turn in. The direct analog of computer tools (glue, scissors, paper, markers, etc.) are never as easy to use as the font menu or cut / paste in PowerPoint. Will the student and parents be less able to work on a project together if the student is used to using Google to find out how to do things on a computer instead of being able to communicate an assignment and their ideas and plans to a parent to get the science project built?
This is an illustration/comic that is floating around the internet. It was in response to the geeks of the world being unhappy with Apple’s new iPad, a new gadget that we all had our eyes on since rumors of a tablet PC coming out of the Cupertino computer maker’s offices. It was not a tablet at all, but a big iPod lacking in capability in our eyes. But I want to discuss a different aspect of this graph: geeks that repair computers vs computer end users. In my case, the Technology Department of Rockingham County and it’s administrators, teachers and students.
What is important for someone like me, an IT professional, to understand is that this graphic is 1) very much true and 2) in need of a solution.
As the number of computer users continues to dwarf the number of IT professionals/geeks/nerds/etc, we need to understand that not everyone will not only know as much as we do but also not WANT to know as much as we do about computers and being a “power user”. We are becoming the car mechanics of computers. You bring us your problems, we fix them, we send you on your way. But is it my duty to just fix them or should I also try to educate you as to why it broke or how I fixed it?
In my job, there are two types of technology staff, Computer Resource Technicians and Instructional Technology Resource Teachers. Both of these jobs have this same quandary. One sets up, repairs and maintains computers and networks and the other shows people how to use them and implement them in their classroom to make things better. We both have opportunities to make that geek circle, our proud container, bigger. Encompass more users. Educate the masses. But what if you don’t care.
Personally, I want to make it a challenge to myself to educate you on how your computer works and why it’s doing what it’s doing (whether good or bad) so you won’t feel helpless or completely lost. Confusion is embarrassing and uncomfortable. If I take my car to a shop, I don’t want to be fleeced with services and parts that I don’t need. I want to protect myself. It’s part of why I took the time to learn how to change my own oil (or let my father teach me against my will) and look up on the internet how to replace my alternator when it goes bad and to know what parts I’m seeing under the hood so I can tell someone if something looks funny.
So excuse my forwardness when I stumble on my own words to make what I do a little less confusing for you. Have patience with me as I have patience with you. You can tell me it makes a knocking sound and your mouse stops working while I explain to you the parts inside your printer or that your wireless mouse lost it’s bluetooth connection. All we can do for each other is ask questions back and forth and try to solve the problem together. I’m not trying to impress you with my computer jargon, I’m trying to impress you with caring.