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  • Andrew T Schwab 10:09 pm on September 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: edtech, , , , parents, teaching   

    A Little Perspective: Teaching Basic iPad Skills to Parents 

    I just got home from teaching a group of our parents basic iPad skills. I communicated my lesson through an interpreter which was a first for me. The translation delay took my brain some getting used to. What struck me the most about our parents tonight was the genuine eagerness to learn, the honest questions about parenting challenges around the iPad and just how new and unfamiliar technology is to many of them. Tonight was not the best organized event but it served to open my eyes to the tremendous need our parents have in understanding this new device and how it fits into their homes and their children’s learning.

    As the technology leader for my District, one could argue that my focus should be on things like setting technology standards and implementing data archiving solutions and they’d be right. Those things are important. Only not really. You see, we just gave iPads to 272 students. For some families this is the first computer in the home. We have parents that need basic digital literacy skills if they are to help support the learning process at home. We need to be doing a better job at meeting this need if the 1:1 program is to succeed. After tonight I’ve decided I will carve out the time to see it is done right. It’s more important to me than policies people look up once in a blue moon or technology that never touches the classroom. It’s about helping our parents and helping our kids and that’s what everyone in education should be about.

    As a technology leader in your district, what have you done for your parents lately?

    • Chris Taylor 5:33 pm on March 5, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      We are just about to embark on our first parent workshops on iPad basics and common apps.
      Like you I think this is vital for the success of a 1 to 1 program.
      We are going to use a core team of students to be the trainers

  • Andrew T Schwab 1:20 pm on September 15, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , bretford cart, deployment, edtech, , enterpise, ios, , , schools   

    The Trouble With Tribbles (And iPads Too) 



    I’m not quite old enough to have watched the Star Trek episode featuring the fuzzy little critters when it first aired back in 1967. However, I do remember as a kid staying over at my friend Egan’s house playing Star Trek the board game while waiting for the midnight reruns of Star Trek to come on. Of all the Star Trek episodes I’ve watched over the years, and I’ve watched a lot (over and over in some cases), “The Trouble With Tribbles” is one of my all time favorites. For those of you too young to remember the Original series before it had “Original” in the title, the episode takes place at a space station and centers around a planetary dispute with the Klingons involving grain. Tribbles were cute fuzzy creatures that purred hypnotically. People on the Station wanted them. The crew of the Enterprise wanted them. They were the must have item of the day. Unfortunately (Spoiler Alert!) tribbles were also incessant breeders. They multiplied like rabbits and pretty soon they overwhelmed the station and were threatening to fill up the Enterprise too. But not to fear, by the end of the episode the tribbles managed to consume poisoned grain, exposed a Klingon spy and helped Capt. Kirk save the day once more so that he could eventually make Admiral right on time for Star Trek: The Motion Picture to be released.

    But Andrew, what do tribbles and your border line scary obsession with Star Trek have to do with iPads? Well iPads are lovely little things when you’ve got one to yourself, just like tribbles. People love them and other people have a tendency to buy them after having seen one so they tend to multiply, just like tribbles. And just as when tribbles begin to multiply en mass they start to have unforeseen consequences on space stations and star ships, iPads when multiplied get very interesting indeed in school. Luckily for Kirk, the tribble story all worked out in the end. The verdict is still out on the iPads. This is my account of the three weeks before school and my experiences deploying 300 iPads to our 9th and 10th graders.

    Space, the Final Frontier.

    The funny thing about 300 iPads is that they take up a lot of space. We purchased 10-packs so as to receive a modest discount per unit. Be sure to ask for the 10-packs that include the free engraving. We engraved the iPads with the District Name and Slogan and they came out very nice. Three hundred iPads in 10 packs is 30 boxes. Where to put them? We are in declining enrollment. Last year we closed down 4 classrooms. Realizing I would need space for deployment, I took over one of these empty rooms. Our Facilities Director re-keyed the door and only three keys exists for the room. I have one, my co-worker (iteachag) has the other and the third is kept in the safe. This became the secure iPad room, where I would spend the next several weeks working feverishly to get 300 iPads ready for kids.

    Tables and Chairs, Oh My!

    iPad Deployment Tables

    Thinking ahead, I grabbed three 8 foot tables earlier in the summer when classrooms were being re-arranged and we moved those into the iPad room. The tables proved invaluable for unboxing and staging iPads during the deployment process. We setup a simple yet effective assembly line routine for unboxing and labeling iPads and getting them prepped for the carts. The one thing I forgot to get was a chair. Standing for 10-12 hours imaging iPads took it’s toll. Eventually we found an old wooden chair under a pile of junk in the corner of the room which put me just at the right height for working with the carts when seated.

    Carts and the Power to Sync

    Bretford PowerSync Cart

    After discussing options (this or this) I ordered two Bretford PowerSync carts with the iPads. I figured syncing sixty at a time (thirty per cart) would allow me to get through the iPads in decent time. I may have underestimated a bit. This has more to do with the initial setup process which I will talk about in a minute and I’m hoping that when we do the next refresh it does not take quite so long. I am already looking at adding sync capacity to accommodate supporting the existing iPads. I will definitely be adding more as we add 150 iPads next year and 150 more the year after that. On the recommendation from the folks at Corcoran USD, I ordered dedicated Macs for the sync carts. I setup the macbooks to run iTunes and XCode (more on that latter) for syncing and nothing else. The two machines were authorized in iTunes with our school account. The limit for authorization is five machines, which means we’ll max out at five carts under our current deployment scheme. This is something I’ll need to take into account as we increase iPads over the next two years.

    1 vs 300

    The process for deploying 300 iPads is quite a bit different than deploying 1. When it came time to give iPads out to teachers, which you should do well in advance of giving them to students, we followed a model much like if they had bought them at the store. We had the teachers unbox them, plug them into their macs running iTunes, activate them and set them up with their personal iTunes accounts. It was straightforward. We did thirty staff in two hour sessions of groups of ten over three days.

    When looking at deploying 300 things got more interesting. For one, I had to do the unboxing. Or more precisely, one of my former students that graduated two years ago and is attending the local CSU had to do the unboxing. I hired him for the express purpose of helping to deploy iPads. Sixty hours of minimum wage labor and it was worth every penny of it. In the system we setup, we dedicated two of the 8′ tables to this step. The iPads came out of the 10-packs and onto the tables in their individual cardboard sleeves. Those were opened, flipped over and the iPads placed on top of them face down. The plastic wraps were pushed out of the way and the Asset Tags and Book Tags applied. My helper, lets call him Carnitas, then cut the plastic wrap tabs off the iPads, leaving them protected while still able to be plugged in via the dock connector (his brilliant insight, not mine).

    Keeping Track

    Multiple iPads

    Another thing we did at this stage was the inventory. We used a google doc to capture the Serial Number, Asset Tag and Book Tag for every iPad before they went in the cart. We ran into a bit of a problem when our USB handheld scanner was unable to scan the barcode labels on the side of the 10-pack boxes. The labels are humongous and we couldn’t get the scanner to read them. At some point, Carnitas figured out that he could use his Droid phone and an App to take a picture of the label, scan the picture and email the results. This saved having to manually type each and every serial number. A barcode of the serial number on the cardboard sleeve would go a long way in helping with mass deployment (are you listening Apple?).

    Plugging In

    We started off unboxing in batches of thirty since this was the maximum cart capacity and I didn’t want to get two far ahead of ourselves until we had developed a decent process for deploying. With thirty iPads labeled, inventoried and ready to go, the next step was putting them in the carts. I started with one cart but the process was the same for both, just duplicated step for step in the second. The Bretford carts are quite nice. They have a location for plugging in a macbook and keeping it on the top of the cart while working or inside on a shelf when locked up. The charging/sync cables are thick and have decent slack in them. In fact I only have two complaints with the Bretfords, both of which are probably issues with the iPad2 rather than the carts themselves. The first is that plugging in the cables to the iPad2s was not as positive an experience as it was with iPad1s. We have twenty iPad1s, so I got to test this out first hand. In fact on several occasions it was necessary to “jiggle” the connection or unplug and plug back in the cable to get the iPad2s to be seen by the macbooks. My second complaint is directly related to the first because with a full cart it was impossible to see which iPads were not connected via iTunes. I ended up pulling them out as far as the cable would allow, pressing the home button and looking for the “Sync me” screen on the display. Doing the un-plug, plug routine generally fixed this. I finally just plugged in an iPad cable to the second USB port on the macbook for the times when only one iPad wouldn’t connect via the Bretford and set it up that way.

    The Bretford Cart In Action

    Mass Activation

    This is a secret so powerful that only a few even know it exists. Ok, just kidding but this is how I felt after having started out manually activating each iPad one at a time. It turns out there is a command line entry that puts the iTunes into Store Activation Mode (see document link at the end of the post for step by step explanation of the entire process). This allowed me to quickly (I still had to click OK 30 times) activate the iPads in the cart. This saved a ton of time. Once activated, I unplugged the cart from the macbook, closed iTunes and launched XCode!

    Updating the iOS

    Two updates were released as our iPads waited to be deployed. As soon as I plugged them in, they all wanted to be updated to iOS 4.3.5. Once again, this could have turned into an excruciating time suck if not for the secret of using XCode to do the iOS updates. iTunes choked on updating more than one iPad at a time, even in the Bretford cart (yes I tried). With XCode it was possible to update all thirty simultaneously. Well nearly. Someone at Apple must really like clicking buttons because while it is possible to update multiple iPads at the same time, I had to initiate each update individually. And each iPad required four clicks and a drop down selection. This was where the chair became a necessity. Next time I’m bringing a cushion. Once every iPad was updated to the latest iOS, I closed XCode.

    Restoring from Backup

    Did I mention that we took one iPad, loaded all the Apps we wanted onto it, set the settings up the way we wanted (particularly the few that couldn’t be set with profiles) and then took a backup of it? Well we did. I kept the “Master” iPad away from all the other iPads and labeled it in Red Ink so as not to mess it up. After the iOS update, I launched iTunes again. The iPads all came up and asked to be restored. Before this, I went into iTunes preferences and deleted all but the Master iPad backup from devices so I wouldn’t have to select which backup to restore each time. Again, this was a one iPad at a time step. Each restore had to be initiated individually and OK clicked more times than I care to remember. Once the iPad restore completed, they started syncing. This is where the time comes in. We had to initially sync about 6GB worth of data. Where this might take one iPad 20 minutes, it took a cart of thirty almost two hours. Invariably 3-4 iPads would have some kind of sync error and I then had to re-sync them to ensure all the apps transferred over.

    Applying Profiles

    Since the carts were my bottle neck, as soon as the iPads were done syncing I wanted to get them out of the carts so a new batch could go in. However there was one last step that required all of the iPads to be plugged in and connected to one computer. Applying the profile I built using the iPhone configuration utility. These profiles allow for controlling general settings. The two I used set the Wifi network up and restricted the movie and music content on the iPad to PG14. When I launched the iPhone Config Utility while connected to the cart, all of the iPads appeared. Yet again, each individual iPad had to be selected and the install button pressed to install the profile. I got very good at pre-positioning my mouse where I would need to click on things when they popped up during this time. After the profiles were installed I pulled the iPads from the cart and put them on table number three.

    Really Applying the Profiles and Renaming Too

    I said I installed the profile on the iPads but not really. It would be more accurate to say that I pushed the profile to the iPads. Installing them required that I actually touch every iPad and click three times on each one to install the profile. I figured if I was going to pick it up I might as well rename them. I plugged the iPad into my macbook (that’s macbook number three dedicated to deployment in case you’re counting) and double-clicked on the iPad to rename it. Then using the USB barcode scanner, the same one that didn’t read the 10-pack labels, I scanned the asset tag on the iPad which set the iPad name to the asset tag number. While I thought this was very smart at the time, it turned out students can rename their iPad whatever they like and I have no control over it. There are some very interesting names in the DHCP server list right now. With iPads, you have to learn to let some things go.


    An iPad without a case is like a star ship without shields (like how I came back to Star Trek there?). In fact I wish we had shields for the iPads but that is another post. The final step in our deployment process was putting the iPads in the cases. Since each case came individually wrapped, unboxing cases took some time as well. We chose a case with a custom logo and requested an ID card pocket be placed on the front. The reason for the ID Card pocket was so that we could put a student ID card with the Book Tag bar code and student name on the front of the iPad. This made checking out iPads to students a simple matter of scanning the barcode on the front without having to take the iPad completely out of the case. We pre-scanned and checked out every iPad before deployment day.

    Trash (Or Space, Part 2)

    What comes in, must go out. I had a lot of boxes and the custodians were my best friends during the deployment.

    Handing Them Out

    When it came time to actually hand them out, we chose to do it in PE of all classes. This was because 99% of freshmen and sophomores had PE. We brought in Freshmen and Sophomore teachers, setup tables and wrote a training script for everyone to follow. We wanted to do some basic orientation with students when we handed the iPads out. We placed the iPads in the boxes by period and table. Between periods, we would lay the iPads out on the correct tables. We had a student roster for each table by period and after the coach took roll, students went and found their table. They all had to hand in their iPad AUP to the teacher at their table. Then the teacher gave them the iPad. Students that did not have their iPad AUP signed by parents still participated in the orientation but were not able to take their iPads with them that day. During this time, teachers helped students put the serial number on the insurance forms. We could not require insurance but we strongly recommended it and provided forms for third party coverage. All in all the deployment went incredibly smoothly, with teachers and students doing an excellent job. Next year we plan on using our Juniors to lead the table orientation sessions while teachers float between tables.

    A Note About App Management

    There is no real enterprise solution for managing apps at the moment. There are several resources describing the different options so I won’t rehash them here. Apple seems to be trying to push for an iTunes account per device tied to the Volume Purchase Program. This is unfortunate because without a way to centrally manage iTunes accounts, it’s just not at all practical. For the time being we’ve gone the single iTunes account synced to multiple devices method. While not the best solution, I believe this to be the best option for our High School at the moment. If we were a middle school I would seriously consider classroom accounts. The main problem we have right now is that there is no simple way to update Apps school wide. We would have to enter the account password on three hundred iPads, three hundred times. I’m still working out how and when I’ll pull in iPads for the first post deployment sync. That should be fun. I was hoping to make it to winter break but we have some Apps that are crashing and need updates.

    Final Thoughts

    If a certain someone had not sent me this document full of all the secrets for deploying multiple iPads with Bretford PowerSync carts, I don’t think I would have made it. The steps for Mass Activation, XCode iOS updates and configuring iPads are all there. The physical process and workflow you decide to use to deploy iPads is up to you. The system Carnitas and I eventually figured out worked for us and we got pretty good at getting iPads ready to go in the end. Unfortunately none of this experience is what I would consider “enterprise” grade and Apple really does enterprise deployment a disservice by using the name. It felt more like a series of work arounds than a deployment strategy while I was in the middle of it and in hind sight even more so. I can only hope things get better with iOS 5 because for better or for worse, iPads in Education are here to stay. Just don’t let anyone sell you on the magical deployability of them. They may be magical in the hands of users but beware the multiplying tribbles!

    • Jforlanda 8:03 am on September 21, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for sharing. This is very insightful; and the reference links you provided were excellent as well. We are on the verge of doing a similar thing here at Stockton Unified School District. By the way, why didn’t you go with a PC-based synchronization computer? Was it because the XCode application wasn’t available on the PC?

    • Matt Penner 10:06 am on September 21, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      A fabulous and professional write up Andrew. Thanks for the notes. I’m sure we’ll refer to this as we start pushing out more iPads. We are at about 120 and have yet to commit to a solution like this.

    • Robin Canale 12:18 pm on September 21, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Great Job Andrew! The references and lessons learned are valuable resources for districts deploying iPads; and for your CTO team project as well.

    • Palmer 7:10 am on November 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      This guide was very instructive. Thank you for spending the time to put it all together. I wanted to point out another option. You can centrally sync all of the iPads before they are deployed into carts. We use a 49 port hub sold by Datamation and it allows us to download apps quickly and without involving lots of staff. It saved us money because we could use our existing notebook carts which provide more than enough space and power for the ipads therefore saving our district a lot of money by not having to purchase expensive iPad carts that both sync and charge. We just share the syncing among the various carts as necessary. We keep the 49 port syncing hub in the library, and when syncing is necessary, we can bring the hub to the cart or the cart can be rolled into the library and all the iPads are updated there.

    • Matthew 6:00 pm on October 11, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks so much for this guide. My 60 seem a little more manageable now, and some of the tips you give are going to save me a whole lot of time!

  • Andrew T Schwab 9:10 am on September 27, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: cheap storage, edtech, ESXi, freenas, NAS, SAN, small school big tech, VMWare   

    Poor Man’s SAN 

    Wikipedia defines a SAN as:

    A storage area network (SAN) is an architecture to attach remote computer data storage devices (such as disk arrays, tape libraries, and optical jukeboxes) to servers so the devices appear as locally attached to the operating system. A SAN typically has its own network of storage devices that are generally not accessible through the regular network by regular devices. The cost and complexity of SANs dropped in the late 2000s, allowing wider adoption across both enterprise and small to medium sized business environments.

    SANs come in all flavors but despite what Wikipedia says about costs dropping, I don’t know of too many small schools that have adopted SAN storage. They are still generally cost prohibitive. Most small schools I know have adopted SAN’s cheaper cousin, NAS (Network Attached Storage). NAS has the advantage of being cheap because it uses existing technology like SCSI, USB or eSATA to connect external storage directly to servers.

    NAS is great if you want to add storage to an individual server, or add storage on the network as a shared folder but if you want to build out a single storage node and slice it up to multiple servers, you really want a SAN. So what is a small school to do?

    Enter FreeNAS. FreeNAS is an open source embedded operating system that turns regular PCs into super network storage devices. For small schools, its a great alternative to expensive commercial SAN offerings. Full disclosure here though, you’re not going to get all the bells and whistles you would with a true commercial hardware SAN. No redundant controllers, fiber channel interconnects or high speed drive back-planes but for the basic functionality of a SAN that allows you to consolidate storage and share it with multiple servers, FreeNAS is more than capable.

    So how do I use FreeNAS? Well I use it in three distinct ways. Initially I setup a FreeNAS box so that I could share files and backup configurations on my ESXi VMware hosts much like I would a traditional NAS. Technically in this case, I am using FreeNAS as a central NFS file server and not a SAN but it was a good introduction to the OS for me. My first FreenNAS box was an old Dell GX270 tower with a couple 250GB EIDE drives in it. I installed FreeNAS onto a 512MB flash drive, enabled NFS and attached my VMWare hosts via the storage configuration in the VSphere Client. Easy.

    The next project was to provide “off site” backup. I had my computer class build a white box system (the case is actually black) using a basic Intel Motherboard, an Intel e5200 CPU, 2GB of RAM and 6 1TB Western Digital Green hard drives. Total parts cost was less than $1000. Again, I installed FreeNAS to a flash drive and proceeded to format the drives in RAID 5, enable and configure the iSCSI service and place the system in the furthest building from the Server Room that I could. I ended up with a headless box and a bit over 4TB of storage sitting in the Cafeteria network closet waiting for data.

    FreeNAS is the means but iSCSI is really what makes it all come together. I setup my Windows Server 2008 backup server running Backup Exec 12 to connect to the iSCSI targets on the FreeNAS box. Windows Server 2008 comes with the iSCSI initiator sofware that allows you to connect to an iSCSI target, if you are using Windows Server 2003, you can download the initiator from Microsoft here.

    In FreeNAS I broke down the drives into 2TB parts. Once mounted through iSCSI, they showed up as regular drives under Windows. Then I created Backup-to-Disk folders on these drives and now every night, the backups run across the 1Gb link from the server room to the Cafeteria network closet using iSCSI. In the event my backup server ever died, I could install Backup Exec on another server, attach the iSCSI targets to the FreeNAS box and be back up and running in no time. And even though all that data is traversing the network, its way faster than the SCSI tape drive ever was.

    I’m doing something similar for our network home folders. Again I’m using the iSCSI features of FreeNAS to share out storage to a windows file server. The home folders are located on the iSCSI drives and shared out through windows file sharing just like they would be if they were stored on locally attached storage. I also had my class build a dedicated FreeNAS box for this, again using off the shelf desktop Intel parts and 1TB western Digital Green Drives. I eventually plan to build a second FreeNAS box and use DFS with another windows server to build in redundancy for the home folders.

    Recently I wanted to experiment with running VMWare guests off of a SAN. I got the idea when Drobo came out with their Drobo Pro certified for VM. So the third way I am using FreeNAS is to store and run guest VMs. Again, iSCSI is the protocol but this time instead of windows I have the VMware host connecting directly to the FreeNAS iSCSI targets. I am not running this with any production systems, but I have been running two test systems for the past few months without any issues.

    The next step in my Poor Man’s SAN project is going to be to setup dedicated gigabit switches to create an isolated iSCSI storage area network. This may improve performance or it may just separate out the iSCSI traffic from my backbone network. I’ll know for sure when its up and running.

    Ok, so maybe it’s not a real SAN, but for a small school with no budget FreeNAS on generic Intel hardware with cheap 1 or 2TB SATA drives is an affordable solution with a lot of potential.

    “Storage area network – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2010. .

      • Tom 8:34 am on September 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Hi, From this article it sounds like you have done something I have been trying to figure out how to do. I have a FreeNas box set up and working. I have configured an iSCSI target and I can use it via VmWare ESXi 4.1. However; when I added another disk, I wanted to create another target for it and leave the original one alone. So far, all of my attempts to create a second target result in no targets (the first one becomes unavailable. I have been unable to find a reference via Google to explain how to create a second target. I’m sure my problem is that I don’t know what will make a second target “unique” and not interfere with the first target. I appreciate any help you could pass along. Thanks Tom

  • Andrew T Schwab 5:46 pm on September 24, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: edtech, GACT, Google Apps, google apps for edu, GPQI, professional development, training   

    Google Apps Qualified 

    I passed six Google Apps tests and all I got was this lousy… No wait. I’m now officially Qualified in Google Apps. As an Individual I get the above colorful PDF file to print and post on my wall (or embed in my blog). If I’d like to take it a step further I can apply to become a Google Apps Certified Trainer, which I presume would come with an even more colorful PDF file and some sort of official badge to display on my blog. Regardless of if you decide to become qualified, certified or none of the above, if you have any interest in learning about Google Apps, head over to the Google Apps Education Training site. Its packed full of great information.

  • Andrew T Schwab 9:28 pm on September 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: edtech, , k12, , reinvent, revolutionize, school   

    The School Train 

    School is a train.  I don’t mean one of those long slow freight trains bogged down by a hundred tons of steal and cargo.  No, school is a bullet train charging down the track, leaving the day 1 station on the lightning run to 180.  Once the school train sets off, altering the course of that speeding machine is a superhuman task.  The train keeps going, only stopping for the occasional holiday or mid term break when you might have time to hop out, bang the track with a big hammer to make a minor course adjustment before you have to hop back on and speed away again.

    Bullet train

    Did I mention the school train moves fast? Day 30 flies by, then day 45, 90, 120 and soon the train is slowing into day 180 and the ride is up.  You are left with what you were able to accomplish during the ride using what you had with you on day 1, supplemented with the few things you brought back on board during the occasional stops along the way.  But for the most part, what you brought with you is what you used.

    The time to truly affect the course and eventual outcome of the train is in the summer, after the short four week hop to summer school has been made and the train is safely back in the maintenance yard.  It’s a short window, but proper planning and track laying can make or break that next 200mph trip.  Unfortunately, this is the time the people that make these decisions take their vacations. So the track goes unchanged. The train may get a new paint job and some fancy new gadgets, but it’s still making the same trip as the year before.

    On that trip, the train doesn’t slow down because the computer lab fails, it doesn’t alter course because Apple releases a magical tablet device, it doesn’t make an unscheduled stop because the Internet goes down.  It keeps going, no matter what. It sticks to the schedule. It keeps going until it gets to day 180.

    The train is a challenging place to work. You work with the people that got on the train day 1 and you probably don’t see many new faces all the way through until day 180. For the most part, you stay in your section of the train. Occasionally you meet with other passengers to hear about how well last year’s train ride went or to discuss a group of passengers that might be getting off the train early. It’s basically the exact same conversations you had last year. It may even be about the same passengers. Not much changes on the train from year to year. Same train, same scenery when you look out the windows, same destination.

    I think its hard to look at the train or the destination when you’re on the train speeding down the track at 200mph. Maybe what we really need in education is more time to think about where we are going and how we get there.

    What is it that we want to change in education? Is it the destination? The tracks that get us there? The train? Or maybe even the passengers?  Can we reach a new destination if all we change is the track and we leave the same trains running on them? Are trains even the best way to get there?

    photo source http://www.flickr.com/photos/telstar/216062271/

  • Andrew T Schwab 8:36 pm on September 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: classroom, edtech, ,   

    Take Aways From The First Two Weeks – Part 2 

    In part one I talked about the need to get students setup with their network accounts in the first days of school.  I conveniently left out Teachers.  We usually have teachers back two days before the “official” start of school with students.  Those days are generally designated as professional development days when new concepts (sometimes old) are introduced and teachers are expected to become experts at something over night or better yet, re-design their entire first few weeks of class around some profound new understanding of learning the weekend before school starts (I’ll cover this thought process in another post, promise).

    What it has not historically been is a time to get teachers into their classrooms to make sure technology is working and that they are ready to go on day one of school with students.  This year was even more difficult because with budget cuts from the State, we only had one day before the official start of school.  Thankfully teachers were given the afternoon in their rooms however not very many turned on computers or checked online services to see if they were all set to go.  Which led to much fun and excitement for me in week two when every teacher decided it was time to put students on the Internet and a cascade of help requests started flowing in.  It was all mostly little things that together added up to a mini crisis for me.

    So for next year I’ll be the one going through the rooms checking all the computers the week before school and making sure everything was put back after facilities moved everything around for cleaning over summer, or after teachers came in and rearranged things or pulled all the computers off the tables and stuck them in a pile in the corner (yes that happened one year).  I’ll also see if I can build in some time to the training to remind Teachers not to wait until five minutes into the lesson to see if their Internet resources are still accessible or that they’ve forgotten the password to their favorite web 2.0 service.

    Because I’ve realized something about working at a school district, time is never on my side.  I am always up against time because the school day doesn’t stop, for anything.  The learning must flow.  That means that in the ever more connected learning environments of today’s schools, so must the Internet.

  • Andrew T Schwab 8:53 pm on April 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: cvcue, edtech, smallschoolbigtech, ssbt   

    CVCUE 2010 

    Back from presenting small school, Big Tech at CVCUE on Saturday with Danny Silva (iteachag).  It was a blast and I really enjoyed seeing all the twitter folks in person.  We had some great questions afterward and I met some guys that are trying to bring Big Tech to their school so I hope they found the information helpful.  Danny also presented his Getting the most out of Google Calendar and I have to say, even though I was playing camera man recording his session, I still managed to learn some cool new tricks.

    Jon Corippo’s (jcorippo) session on Google Forms and Quizlet was inspiring.  If you’ve never seen one of Jon’s presentations live, I highly recommend them (any of them).  He’s a truly great presenter and I always come away from his sessions with my brain in overdrive.

    For anyone not in the know, CUE’s regional affiliates put on some great professional development conferences for Educators throughout the year.  This is my second regional conference and I have to say, you can’t beat the value.  I highly encourage anyone in education to check them out.  Yes they happen on Saturdays, but that just means that the folks that show up are super dedicated to their profession and are great to hang out with.  The next awesome CUE event has got to be Teach Like a Rock Star Summer Camp being hosted at the innovative new Minarets High School in Oneal’s CA, August 3-5th.  John Corippo is assembling a superstar cast of edtech educators for a three day workshop at the brand new campus.  I encourage anyone interested in learning from the best to check it out.

    And speaking of Minarets HS, how cool is a High School where the kids do a parody of The Office with the Principle and the math teacher?  Check out The Classroom!

    And just a side note, Danny and I finally launched our podcast last week.  Check us out at https://smallschoolbigtech.wordpress.com/category/podcasts/.  We are going to try to get one out every 2 weeks or so and hope to get guests on as soon as we work out the whole skype with audacity thing.

  • Andrew T Schwab 12:33 pm on December 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , acer, edtech, , , one to one   

    Netbooks, netbooks and more netbooks 

    In case you haven’t heard (and I doubt you have) we here at Le Grand have embarked on a grand netbook experiment.  Its a funny thing really because up until a year ago we didn’t have any plans to deploy netbooks on campus.  But then something happened.  Something wonderful.  Acer sent us seed units for free.  No POs to sign, no paperwork of any kind.  Just a quick phone call, would you like to try a netbook, yes?  We’ll ship it right out.  No muss, no fuss.  And then, they did it again.  And as if by magic our little district had 4 netbooks to try, for what seemed like forever.  And even better, if we wanted to keep them, we paid 1/2 price and if not, we just shipped them back.  It was so easy, so simple, so impossibly friendly it put a big warm fuzzy feeling in my heart every time I saw one of those little Acers tucked under someone’s arm as they walked around campus.  That warm fuzzy feeling was so great that when it came time to order netbooks for our pilot project, we unanimously decided on Acer.  Afterall we had been using them for several months, hassle free and we didn’t exactly have time to go out and test a whole bunch of different netbooks.  You know how planning goes in School Districts.  We’ve got money, the end of the year is here.  Buy them, NOW!

    Cut to present day and we are considering expanding our pilot into more classes.  This time we do have the time to look at alternatives, after all we know what the Acers can do.  We’ve lived with them for almost a year now.  What we don’t know is what else is out there and given how rapidly Acer changes models it would be nice to settle on something a bit more stable.  But so far there has been no warm fuzzy feeling from any of the other vendors.  In fact it has been the opposite.  Everyone wants a PO and a trial period.  Dell wants their netbook back in 21 days, CDWG is better and will send me anything for a 30 day hands-on.  Lenovo wants me to call them back.  I already sent an email saying I wanted to tryout something similar to an Acer D250, thank you, do we really need to talk?  Can’t you just send something out?

    I want it to be easy.  Easy like Acer.  I don’t have time for POs and keeping track of deadlines on trial periods.  These things are cheap.  Why not just seed them out?  Is one unit really going to hurt you?  Spread some good will and cheer this Holiday season and let us spend a few months getting to know your netbook.  Acer did and those 4 units that we had in hand for months and eventually paid for turned into 60 units purchased at full price and left us with a tendency to buy Acer first.  In fact if Acer could just keep a model number for longer than 3 months, I’d probably not even be looking at alternatives right now.  But I am curious.  I would like to see what else is out there, I mean we are talking potentially hundreds of units moving forward and some hardware consistency would be nice.

    I am not asking for a free handout.  But I am asking for free from hassle, easy, simple, a call or an email and it arrives one day ready to be used and abused.  Willing to stay for a long term commitment.  I’m not going to make a decision based on a few weeks of hand holding.  Given today’s budget, do I spend the few dollars we have looking at alternatives or do I save that money and buy more Acers and just deal with the model changes?  Acer hooked us with their seed program and it seems like no one else is really interested in our business.   So what is a small school district to do?

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