Friday, October 18, 2013

Old and New

Good Morning Readers!

This blog is finished.  Okay, not really.  I'm simply moving it from Blogger to Weebly.  This is the last post on blogger.  I'm doing so much more with Weebly and it makes sense to simply do all my web "stuff" in one spot.

I'm moving the URL this afternoon.  It's still www.learnteachtech.com but it will point to the new site by this evening.

If you want to check it out early, head to www.learnteachtech.weebly.com and start reading about what I'm doing with technology in AVID.

Sincerely,

Ben

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Device Management Dream

Last school year I had a classroom set of MacBooks.  They were a mix of older ones with the case that would crack by your wrist and the unibody ones with the grey bottom that would come off.  In addition to all that, they were old and the batteries were a disaster and the keys were starting to pop off.  They took at least 5 minutes to log in and be ready for a student to work.  There were many times when we would lose wireless connections or log ins simply wouldn't work.

Then I got Chromebooks.

I never thought of myself as a device manager.  The MacBooks were locked down tight and I couldn't make any changes as a classroom teacher.  Anytime something needed to be fixed, they needed to go to a district tech person.

When this school year started, I needed to update the Chromebooks that had been sitting all summer.  I had also changed schools and needed to update wireless access.

In less than 90 minutes all the Chromebooks had been updated and were ready for a new class of students.  It was all done by a classroom teacher and a tutor.

I'm continually blown away by how easy the Chromebooks are to maintain.  Not only are these laptops less expensive, they are also easier to maintain.  They save money by not having to pay a tech person to come out and work their magic.

Now, if I could just find someone to donate a Chromebook Pixel....

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Why aren't we using Moodle?

I love co-teaching.  Right now I'm co-teaching a masters level class on using technology in the classroom.  My co-teacher is awesome and we work well together.

While I was listening to my co-teacher talk about learning management systems (LMS), I heard a learner say, "Why aren't we using Moodle?"  The presentation was about Moodle, Haiku, and couple of others.  The comment from the teacher was "Moodle is the standard platform in many school districts."  We are using both Blackboard and Haiku for our class.

The point isn't that we are using any specific one LMS.  We could easily use Moodle, Blackboard, Haiku, Desire to Learn, or something else.  The point is that you are leaving this graduate level class with the knowledge of how to use a LMS.  The skills that you learn with Haiku or Blackboard translate into just about any other LMS tool that you will find.

For the record, here's why we choose Haiku:

  • It's free. (Blackboard, D2L and others aren't)
  • It's hosted. (Moodle needs it's own server)
  • It's fairly simple with drag and drop simplicity.
  • Students can create their own sites and have access to our site.
I'm not saying Haiku is the best.  It's the the easiest for us to implement in the class.   So, learn how to use Haiku and you will be able to use just about any system and you can say in a job interview that you have experience with learning management systems.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Google Enterprise Customer Service - Amazing

Through Donor's Choose, I wrote a project for 30 Chromebooks.  It was funded by my awesome friends and family and complete strangers.

All 30 of them arrived.  It was like Christmas in May with a light snow falling Minneapolis.

One of the Chromebooks came with a keyboard that didn't work.  The home row (asdfghjkl) wouldn't do anything.  This made it impossible to put in the school wifi password.

But this post is about Google Enterprise customer service.

I emailed the generic support email and got a response within 10 minutes.  That never happens.

They needed more information which I sent back immediately.  Ten minutes later, I got another email saying that my hardware issue had been escalated to the replacement people.  I also got a phone call from the same person who sent the email to make sure I understood everything and to answer any other questions.  Really?  Awesome!!!

By the afternoon, I had an email from the replacement people saying that my replacement Chromebook was already being shipped out and complete directions for returning the defective one.

I'm blown away.  The support from Google Enterprise was outstanding.  I couldn't have asked for anything better.

Thank you Google!!!




Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Chromebooks!!!!

They have arrived!  I spent a Friday afternoon unboxing all of them and setting up the cart.  Then I took one home for the weekend to play.  I put the MacBook Pro and iPad on the shelf.

I loved it!

It did everything that I needed and wanted it to do.  The battery was a champ.

My only issue was the screen size.  I'm a bit spoiled with the MacBook size.  It's not much bigger but the jump from 11" to 13" is considerable.

Today was the first day the students go their hands on them.  I'll write about that tomorrow. Right now, I just want to enjoy the fact that my friends and family donated the funds to support students they have never met, a teacher they have never seen teach, and a classroom in a building they've never been too.  Just blind faith that I'm a good teacher, leading great students, and will make the most of their generosity.  What a blessing!!!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Sullibreeze Spoken Word

This video has been floating around the web for a bit and it's stuck in my head, especially in this testing season and seeing the stress on students faces.


"Test us tests, but the finals are never final 'cause they never prepare us for the biggest test, which is survival."

"My world changers and my dream chasers because the purpose of why I hate school but love education was to initiate a world-wide debate but to let them know that whether 72 or 88, 44 or 68, we will not let exam results decide our fate. Peace." - sulibreezy

I'm not sure I agree with all of sulibreezy's posts or videos.  This one really speaks to me though. I pulled out 2 quotes that I can't get out of my head. 

I don't give tests.  I don't think I've given a test in 2 years.  I've had students write tests, create jeopardy boards, and participate in Philosophical Chairs and Socratic Seminars.  I'd much rather listen to 24 voices debate the merits of war from The Clay Marble than regurgitate facts from chapter 15.

They all read the book.  I watched them.  I read with them.  They read to me.  They read to each other. I don't need any lower level garbage to show me that.  They need higher level stimulation to make sense of what they read and how it impacts them.  They need to know it's okay to disagree with someone in conversation while sharing beliefs.  They need to know how to open their mind and listen.

Hate school?  I do.  Luckily I believe that my classroom isn't really school.  We don't sit in rows.  We don't always raise hands.  We don't always get along.  We don't always treat each other the best.  It's messy.  It's confusing. It's discussion.  It's reflection.  It's games.  It's struggling.  It's not knowing.  It's sit on the floor with your laptop and write.  It's go in the hallway and collect yourself because you are laughing too hard.  It's open the door and let outside people in.  It's get on a bus and visit that campus and see what lies ahead for you.  It's more than whats inside that numbered room.  It's more than one day of one year.   

That's education and it's so damn exciting.

No Meetings! Chromebooks!!!

A rare day.  No meetings after school.  I think I'll blog.

I'm super excited for tomorrow.  A UPS plane landed in Minneapolis at 6:03 this morning carrying 30 Chromebooks.  They are scheduled to be at my school by the end of the day tomorrow.  THE END OF THE DAY!!!  30 CHROMEBOOKS!!!

Part of me thinks I'm greedy.  I already have 30 MacBooks in my room.  However, they are 4 and 5 years old.  They weren't mine to start with.  Many were missing keys when they got to me.  There were a couple scratched screens.  In addition, MacBook batteries are set to only last about 3 years.  These don't make it through a day.  I'm lucky to get about 3 hours.

Here's why I'm excited about the Chromebooks:

  • They are new.  I get to set them up and care for them from day 1.  I don't have to worry about what I'm getting.
  • They start up in 8 seconds. That's instant compared to the minutes for MacBooks.  
  • They wake up instantly.  That, with the start up time, is huge for management in the classroom!
  • We haven't used anything on a MacBook for software that isn't web-based.  The extra money spent on iLife is wasted in my room.
  • The batteries will last more than a school day.
I'm can't wait!  I need to figure out how to number them effectively.  I need to figure out how they are going to work with the cart that I have.  I need to make sure that students have access to a guest account for the first day so that we can hit the ground running.

Oh, boy. Chromebooks are coming!