This question was on a back to school parent form from one of Kid1’s teachers. My wife asked me to fill it out…
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It’s been almost two months since I wrote about my Inbox Zero experiment and I am happy to share that I’m consistently hitting Inbox Zero every day. It does take some work but as an added benefit, I’ve been limiting my “email processing” to 2-3 times during the day so I am not constantly stuck in email all day (I do respond in real time from my phone, however). The system held up during a conference, which is usually when I get buried, keeps the weekend email manageable and survived a flood of back to school emails. I cleared out all my backlogged Stars and now use them for those high profile action items. I’ve also added a few To Do labels for my team so I can follow up on assigned tasks (team task management is the next big thing to crack). My “Needs Action” label has been working great. It’s the first place I go in the morning to see what I can knock out and it’s the last place I go in the evening to see what’s on the plate for the next day.
Of course, just as I figure out all this Inbox management stuff, Google goes ahead and finally announces Inbox for GAFE accounts, classic…
I like the system I’m using now. It’s simple and it works. If the Gmail app for Android supported Send+Archive, I think it might be perfect. I’m in no hurry to jump into Inbox right away. Maybe I’ll enable it on my personal Gmail account (cause it’s still a mess) and give it a go there.
My personal gmail account is unusable. I wade through the sludge occasionally, but mostly, it’s a lost cause. I really want to try Inbox, but since it’s not available for GAFE accounts, I’m not ready to make the change only to have to go back and forth between old and new.
Needless to say, I have been searching for an Inbox Zero solution almost since I started using gmail. To date, I’ve tried filters and labels, I’ve tried different apps, Sortd being the latest but I’ve never found a solution that worked across desktop and mobile with a simple workflow that didn’t require a lot of effort. Many solutions try to make the Inbox more than email and while the allure of a task list or file cabinet in gmail is strong, at the end of the day, what I really need is a way to make sure I’m staying on top of the demands of my email. I was tired of “losing” email requests for technology, new furniture, help and the like. I even went to far as to switch from iOS to Android to get the native gmail app experience on my phone. It got better, but despite a more native gmail experience, the wall of email continued to threaten to bury me.
Enter Principal Todd (who almost certainly gets more email than me and never has a concern in the world about his Inbox) and his “duh, you moron” suggestion to use “Send & Archive” and Stars to manage the deluge. First, per Todd’s instructions, I enabled the “Send & Archive” button in gmail settings. A magical thing this. It means I can archive an email, or conversation, as soon as I’ve replied. If someone replies back, it pops back into the Inbox, but it doesn’t live there, clogging up the pipes (I wish it worked on mobile).
Then I went off the reservation a bit and deleted all of the filters and labels I had originally put in place to “manage” the flow of email into my Inbox. I kept the ones that diverted the listerv emails, obviously, but the rest are now toast. I did keep one label, my Needs Action throwback. I use it as a place holder for when I have to take information out of gmail and put it somewhere else. This is one of the places I still struggle a bit.
As for stars, I’m still cleaning up from a starring binge period where I starred every email I needed to follow up on (which was like almost all of them). Once I get them cleared out, I think I’m going to use Stars for “send info somewhere else” and I might be able to lose the Needs Action label altogether. For now, they’re the legacy part of this equation.
I’m also using a combination of Google Sheets and Docs to track different request. Information that comes in via email and needs a place to go ends up there. Thanks to Joe Ayala, we’ve also started using Slack with the team, and I now find myself relegating ToDo’s for my team which require action to Slack rather than email, because the message is visible to all and can be “checked off” when completed. It took me a bit of time to figure out the relationship between email, slack and google docs, but it’s starting to coalesce nicely.
Every day this week I hit Inbox Zero and as of now, I spent about 5 minutes clearing the 10 Needs Action emails out which were just waiting for me to put their information elsewhere (down to only two!). This whole process has been a lot of work and I definitely over did it with trying to keep up (I felt like I was in email constantly). With school out now, the flow should go down and I’ll have some time to tweak things. I’m considering setting up a few daily “desktop” email times where I go through the batch, rather than constantly trying to react in real time. I’m still able to reply to the important stuff on Mobile and archive where needed, but it’s not as efficient as via the web.
I’d really like the “Send & Archive” option on the mobile gmail app. That would make the circle complete but for now, I found Inbox Zero without third party add ons are apps. Yay!
The 9.7″ iPad Pro arrived this week and I think the picture says it all. The ink experience on this thing is amazing. I’m an old college rule notebook note taker, and in the modern laptop era, I never really made the switch to typing notes because I like to doodle. Enter the iPad Pro 12.9 and a glimmer of hope, but at 1.5lbs, not the feather weight daily carry I was hoping for. At just under 1lbs, the 9.7″ iPad Pro has solved that particular issue.
The 9.7″ iPad Pro is fast and when paired with the Pencil, it’s a doodling note takers dream. It’s also an amazing tablet for art, as my kids have quickly discovered. When I bring it home, they instantly grab it and intuitively start being creative. Finger, shminger, we’re made to use tools and the Apple Pencil is so responsive, it might as well be laying down graphite on the screen.
That’s not to say everything is perfect. I’ve noticed little things that show how Apple isn’t quite putting the same thoughtfulness into end user experience that it used to. The way you’re supposed to charge the Pencil by plugging it into the iPad is ridiculous. I mean, seriously, it looks lame sticking out the bottom of the iPad and you can’t really use the iPad while the Pencil is charging like that. Alternatively, their is the little adapter that comes with the Pencil that you can use to charge it from a regular lightning cable but can you say, going to lose it in the first 5 minutes? The cap on the Pencil’s lightening port rattles ever so slightly, as if someone left a few too many decimal places on the tolerances for the slot. But the biggest issue with the Pencil is storing it with the iPad. Absent a case with a loop option or a magnetic attraction docking scenario, the Pencil feels like an add on to the iPad as an experience. I’m also looking for a case with a hand loop that will make the iPad comfortable to hold one handed while using the Pencil. Pressing down with the Pencil and holding it one handed is a bit awkward on a naked iPad.
Having said that, the Pencil/iPad Pro technology is a home run. Now if only Apple would make an iPad/Pencil combo for $350 and convince SBAC to develop a tablet friendly version of their online assessments, they’d have a real shot at taking on the Chromebook in the classroom. For now, the iPad Pro is going to be relegated to piloting with our Teacher Leaders and in specific graphic intensive programs (STEAM!). As a general purpose learning platform, it’s too expensive and the parts just aren’t integrated together well enough to survive the classroom.
Just the other day I was talking with a district about SBAC (CAASPP) testing on Chromebooks. They were commenting that it was such a pain having to switch Chromebooks from single-app kiosk mode back to regular login mode so the kids could use them for learning. To which I paused and said, “You do know you can just push the app to the login screen and then the kids can use them for testing or learning whenever they want, right?”
With Chromebooks, SBAC testing and learning go together like peanut butter and chocolate
Using this configuration, we leave the AirTest app available all year round. That means we typically only have to worry about managing the OS version upgrades during testing. This is a great, low impact option for us because it means our Chromebooks aren’t bricks sitting in carts when testing isn’t taking place in the classroom during the testing window and we don’t have to move Chromebooks in and out of OUs to enable public sessions or kiosk modes to “prepare” for testing. We can spend our time making sure the Chromebooks are updated to the right OS version, hold a charge and don’t have broken parts so we’re good to go on the first day of testing.
If this sounds like the route you’d like to take, read up on Scenario 1 from this Google Support page. It’s pretty straight forward. When students power on the Chromebook, they will be prompted with the option to login to their GAFE account and get to work or they can open the app launcher (which needs some management features please, but that’s a topic for another post) and select the AirSecure Browser, which will magically launch as a Kiosk App, no login required.
Best of both worlds, just like a peanut butter cup.
We have a problem with Google Chromebooks and CAASPP testing. New Chromebooks auto update before we can enroll them which means we cannot lock their Chrome OS version to one officially supported by SBAC. Major problem for preparing for testing. Given that one of the big compelling reasons behind school adoption of Chromebooks over iPads is how well they handled the SBAC online assessments, this is kind of a big deal.
From Google Support:
“Unfortunately it is out of our hands that the state testing apps only support version 46, which we have moved on from since some months ago.”
At this time, Google officially only supports the latest version 48 of Chrome and there is no way to downgrade managed and enrolled devices to a previous version. Unfortunately it is out of our hands that the state testing apps only support version 46, which we have moved on from since some months ago.
Yet, I have checked on the internet and have found a “Known Issues” page from the “CAASPP” web page available athttp://www.caaspp.org/system-status/issues-log.html .
It also seems like there is a help desk accessible by chat, e-mail or by phone on the right side of the web page. I truly hope this can help you solve your issue.”
We haven’t moved on, Google, because we can’t. This is a Google process problem not a CAASPP problem and we need it resolved by Google ASAP.
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I don’t often use my phone to make calls but when I do, I have a crazy expectation of being able to adjust the volume to an appropriate level. Yesterday I found out that when using my Nexus 6P with earbuds, the volume is really loud. When I tried to turn it down, I discovered that the OS call volume slider won’t let me adjust the call volume below a minimum threshold, which is still way too loud. The alarm, notification and media volume sliders all let me go down to zero, but strangely the call volume slider won’t go below 20%, as if Google is concerned I might accidentally set the volume to zero and not be able to hear people talking on the other end of a call.
It turns out others have the same issue. I’m hoping this is a simple UI fix that will come out in an update because as of right now, my ears hurt after a long phone conversation with earbuds. I tried using the phone with no earbuds but the minimum handset volume is too loud too. Same issue, no volume control below that 20% hard stop. Not good Google, not good.
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Rigor came up in a conversation yesterday. Rigor is one of those words I have a hard time getting a solid grip on during a conversation. For some reason, my mental image of rigor in education has always been a bit slippery. My early experiences in education originally led me to frame rigor as meaning “More Harder” (i.e. let’s do more work and make it more difficult work too) which doesn’t square with what I now think people mean when they say more rigor. Having to actively overcome my ingrained misconception every time I hear the word is probably what the fuzzy mental construct thing is all about. So of course after percolating on the conversation last night, I woke up this morning with this on my mind:
Reps = Mastery
Project Based Learning = Creativity, Collaboration and Critical Thinking
Presenting = Communication
Blogging = Authentic Audience
Minecraft = Problem Solving
All of the Above Better and Faster = Rigor
I’d like to lock this in my brain so that it triggers when I hear the word rigor but instead when I think of the above, I go straight to, “this is what good instruction should look like”. I guess that’s what I get from hanging around #obiwancorippo too much…
What’s your definition of Rigor?
This week, Eric Patnoudes posted a link to a list from the Harvard Business Review about being a change leader and pointed out that tech was nowhere to be found. In the education context it got me thinking about why #edTech.
At a most basic level, Technology = Information Access. I think when we talk about edTech, we sometimes forget this simple truth. We are comfortable handing every student a textbook so that they can access information for learning and yet we still debate the value of handing every student an Internet connected device for accessing information for learning. We hold edtech to a higher standard, as if simply using it to access information is no better (and possibly quite a bit more cumbersome) then accessing information in a textbook.
When was the last time a working professional or personally curious individual put down their smart phone and looked for a piece of information or an answer to a question in an encyclopedia or a textbook? (referencing the TE doesn’t count!) In the modern world, people simply don’t do it that way anymore and yet that’s how many think information access should continue to look in classrooms.
And more telling, schools that have deployed technology into classrooms expect edTech to look like something more than just information access or tech integration is considered a failure. In fact, classrooms were kids are accessing information on the Internet using devices are often said to be doing the same thing, the same way, or labeled at Substitution, the lowest level of the SAMR model. But accessing information on the Internet via a connected device is not the same as accessing information from a textbook (or a worksheet). Not if we’ve replaced textbooks with the World Wide Web as the primary information source in the classroom. Not if we’ve taught kids how to find, assess and utilize information from the web. Not even if we’ve scaffolded that experience with curated resources and links. Accessing information on a device is only substitution if we’ve substituted an analog textbook (or worksheet) for a “digital” version. Otherwise, it’s embracing a new tool to access information in a new way. A way that was not possible before the device and the Internet were available in the classroom.
Today, the World Wide Web is the textbook. Information is everywhere; in blog posts, youtube videos, scanned documents, websites, podcasts and personal learning networks (PLNs). The Web is an infinite, multi-media rich, multi-dimensional massively online textbook and it’s messy because it’s constantly evolving, updating and changing. The real challenge might just be that nobody has written a Teacher’s Edition (TE) for it yet.
Getting back to Eric’s original tweet, change leaders in education should be moving the vision forward for what learning looks like in our classrooms. For me, at a foundational level, that includes using technology to access information.
If you’ve been following my conversion from iOS to Android, you may have picked up that it’s been a bumpy road. My wife and I have been on AT&T forever. We had a pretty good system going for a while. Every year, we would renew one of our Unlimited lines and I would get the new iPhone. My wife would get the one year old iPhone and everything was great. We never worried about data caps, never wondered if we’d go over or not. We used iMessage exclusively to message family and paid the odd $2-$3 per month for misc. text messages to non-iOS users when needed. And then my wife’s phone was stolen and the alternating year schedule went out the window. More people were sending more SMS and MMS messages to me at work and AT&T kept hinting that they would be doing away with the Unlimited plan eventually. I also was missing out on tethering, which would have come in handy a few times but was unavailable to me as an Unlimited data plan holder.
So, enter the Nexus 5X, the Nexus 6P and a growing frustration with using Google Apps on iOS. It was time for a change in more ways than one. Rather than go the subsidized iPhone route and renew our AT&T unlimited plans for another 2 years (an option that looks to be going away as of Jan 8th), I decided we would make the switch to Android. Thankfully my wife was up for the adventure. One of the benefits of the decision was the freedom of having unlocked phones. The cost of both Nexus Android phones was about the same as if we had paid the subsidized cost for two iPhones plus the $45 “upgrade” fee. Not being locked to a carrier gave us options. Maybe too many options. Having been on AT&T my entire iPhone life, the thought of giving up my AT&T unlimited data plan was more traumatic than abandoning iOS in favor of Android.
I did the research. We use a lot of data. The blue spikes on the left are my wife’s iPhone 5. Since there is no way she was using more data than me, she obviously had that wifi problem that caused her to use LTE while connected to Wifi. For a while, her iPhone wouldn’t even connect to Wifi. We didn’t think much of it at the time, being on the unlimited plan and all (she hit 11GB one month!). Figuring Aug-Nov represented a more typical data usage pattern, I did some quick back of the napkin calculations and figured we’d be ok if we switched from our unlimited plans to a metered data plan.
I looked at plan options. T-Mobile has decent plans and coverage looks like it should be good here in San Jose. I discounted Sprint and Verizon. Sprint because I had a 4G hokey puck that didn’t work very well at home and Verizon because then I might as well just stay with AT&T. Actually, staying with AT&T was an option too. In fact, it’s my fall back option if this thing goes sideways. The AT&T 15GB family plan looks like it would work for us. Averaging out my data usage over the past year, I used an average of 2.6GB per month. I heard the promise of Project Fi calling to me through the Nexus Android phones.
Project Fi is google’s beta entry into Cell phone service. They are basically riding on top of T-Mobile and Sprint. In an interesting twist, they use both services and supposedly (although from forum posts, not really) are supposed to switch between networks based on which has the best signal. Project Fi is also supposed to heavily rely on “Open” Wifi hotspots. I’m not really sure how that’s supposed to work, given that most open wifi around here still requires a click through or OK on a splash page to access the net, which Project Fi doesn’t consider “Open”. Regardless, the pricing is attractive. A month to month (cancel anytime) $20 flat fee for Voice and Texting and $10 per month per Gig of data. I figure with my monthly average, I should come out ahead on Data costs over a year. Theoretically.
My SIM arrived and I’ve been on Project Fi for a few days. Activation was straight forward. My AT&T number ported over the same day and apparently automatically cancelled my account. I must say it’s a nerve racking experience moving over to a metered data plan. I’ve been constantly checking my data usage, watching it creep up each day and consciously not streaming Songza in the car. The Project Fi app and web site are clean and provide a great summary of usage. Too good. I’ve got my eye on that Data graph.
My 6P started off on Project Fi at home with a weak LTE signal (and speed) and I immediately wondered if I was on Sprint or T-Mobile. I read about some similar issues and found the Signal Spy app which allowed me to see what network I was connected to and better yet manually switch networks. I forced the phone to GSM which put me on T-Mobile with full LTE and 30Mb downloads. Yay. Three hours later it was back on Sprint. I read something about the Project Fi app update and app caches. I ran the Repair command in Signal Spy (which apparently clears all that stuff out) and then we hit the road to Monterey.
On the road I watched Signal Spy as my phone connected to Sprint and then T-Mobile (it was almost exclusively on T-Mobile the entire trip). Auto switching was apparently working. One of my biggest concerns with Fi was the T-Mobile coverage. Back in the day, I was on Verizon, then switched to AT&T when Verizon’s move to digital killed their coverage in the rural central valley. I’ve been used to coverage just about everywhere since I can remember owning a cell phone. Now, even at the top of mountains and in the valleys of Yosemite. The jury is still out on Project Fi but for the quick trip down to Monterey, it wasn’t bad.
I did run into one oddity. While my wife was driving us home, I was uploading a photo post to twitter and the phone dropped all Data. It did the … searching for signal thing and then came up on T-Mobile. The Signal Spy log told me it was on Sprint before. My tweet died in transmission and I had to go back and re-compose and re-send it.
When I got home, I was once again on Sprint (but home wifi made that a moot point). I did open a support ticket with Project Fi via the app and received instructions for reseting Project Fi on the phone. Not something I wanted to do at the time because it involved resting my phone. So I left it for the night and when I woke up the next morning, the phone was on 4 glorious bars of T-Mobile LTE again.
My wife’s SIM is set to arrive on Tuesday. Then I’ll have two phones to compare service too. I wish they had a family plan, but the per Gig pricing seems ok for now. And they only bill for what’s used, which should keep my wife’s bill low. We’ll see how the metered data thing goes for me. I’ve set the data threshold alarms so I don’t accidentally go way over my plan on the first month.
I guess I’m back in experimenting mode, downloading apps (Signal Spy is a must), troubleshooting issues. Trying out different settings and configurations. All stuff I love to do.
Just not sure I really should be doing it with our primary phone service. I might need to actually fire up that Sonic.net home VoIP phone, just in case.