Sunday, December 13, 2015

Why I want to go Google


Just like millions of other people around the world (if not billions), I have used Google to search for everything on the internet. It works. However, I have held the opinion that I didn't want to do everything through Google because I didn't want them to have so much control over my life. Besides using Google to search, I have Gmail, love YouTube, prefer Google Maps to Apple Maps, use Google Translate and obviously use their blogging platform here. I have signed parents up with Gmail accounts who didn't have one but needed one for our school services. I use Google for many things but just could not see using more tools. At the same time, I decided to own iPhones and MacBooks, work in an Apple-based school district, and think Apple is the greatest. Talk about taking over the world.

However, recently, I have had a change of heart. Having worked with the iPad now for nearly four years and being a OneDrive/Office 365 district, I have developed serious concerns for using Office 365 and am making the push to switch to GAFE. I made a list of our essential apps (Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iMovie, Explain Everything, and Canvas to name a few) and then determined which ones link with OneDrive for Business and which ones link with Google Drive. At the time, none of these apps integrated directly with OneDrive for Business (as of this writing, Explain Everything has added support for OneDrive for Business but that's it) but all of them had direct integration with Google Drive. I will give credit that you can Open in... OneDrive to get items into the OneDrive app but that's about it. Once the items are in the OneDrive app, it's hard to get them out. In addition, working on a MacBook, the OneDrive sync engine is horrible. There is no sharing capability and the sync is slow. With repeated posts to the OneDrive blog, Microsoft refuses to update their engine for Mac users (Enable SharePoint Doc Libraries Sync via Mac One Drive for Business). In addition, Microsoft has changed their Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps so that they allow editing but that's about it.

So, what does this all mean? I am still in an Office 365 district but am trying to make strides to more into the GAFE world. Trying to work in so many different places and with so many different companies because of the fear that one company will have too much of my life, I have realized that simpler is better. Why not keep my materials in one place? Why not live simpler by going to one source for storage, searching, and productivity? 

Friday, February 6, 2015

App Tip: Changing iWork File Names in iOS

Changing the name of a Pages, Keynote, or Numbers Document
Everyday I learn something new about iOS 8+, I love finding the new features that accompany Apple's stock apps and their productivity tools.

For instance, in the previous versions of these three programs, you had to start a document and then close the document, tap on the name, and then change the name of the file so that they weren't all Blank#. Now, while the document is open, just tap the name and you can change it right then and there. No more having to add the extra steps. Thank you Apple!


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Back in Action

The past couple of months have flown by. I took a break from writing to get through the holidays and then we had a major MacBook deployment in my district. December and January feel like a fleeting thought. A mist in the wind. Those two months were gone before I even knew what was happening. I also took some time to reflect on the past six months of writings and wanted to make sure that I was fulfilling my self-described mission--to write quick bites of information that promote technology in education and share my journey as a technology integration specialist (technology coach). I felt that I was getting a little long winded at times and know that I can do better.

I tried hard to make sure that I had a weekly post and realize that making this a weekly blog doesn't fit life. There are so many opportunities to share snippets of life as a technology coach, ideas and samples or work, tips and tricks, app reviews and thoughts about my journey that I think I could do more. I also know that there are times that life as a dad, husband, community member, and average Joe take precedence and forcing a weekly entry on a certain day may not always work.

So, as A Quick Byte continues on, posts will be less scheduled but more genuine. Thanks to those who have been reading the posts even in my absence and be on the look out for more Quick Bytes of technology in education!


Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Pictorial History of Computers

I was watching some classic Batman and got thinking about the great tools that Batman had at his disposal. From his Bat Computer (that printed out punch cards!) to his portable Bat Lab, a Bat Swatter, Bat Inspect Bomb, and my favorite--shark repellent.  Don't forget, if you ever wondered what was what, it was all labeled.

Thinking of the classics, and with Thanksgiving coming up this week, I thought I would give thanks to the computer industry as a whole with a look back at some of the history of computers (obviously this is not a complete history but some of my favorite contributions to the computer industry). I remember programming an Apple IIe in computer class in eighth grade and who could forget the original Oregon Trail. I've always been intrigued with computers and computer history. Growing up near IBM land (Endicott, NY) also fed this love of technology. Without the following inventions, would we be where we are today regarding technology?
















All image sources are linked in the title of the image.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

What if...

Are there any more powerful words than the combination of "what if..." in the English language? These two words gave us the airplane, transistors for TVs, the first computer, the printing press (okay, that was long before American-English but you get the point).

So, I ask some "what if..." questions.

What if we had one internet browsing language?
I get tired switching from browser to browser. Our student information system "likes" one browser. Our website "likes" another. Our streaming announcements system "likes" another and doesn't work on anything else. Internet Explorer, FireFox, Safari, Chrome, Dolphin.....what if?

What if the internet were free?
Why do internet providers charge so much for data access? At any point in history, the value of knowledge has been priceless. With instant access to anything and everything, why is it that ISPs put a hefty pricetag on data? Cell phone companies put caps on data. Cable providers put caps on speed. Satellite charges exorbitant prices. If you live in urban areas, you are fortunate to have many choices. If you live in rural areas, good luck.  Free universal internet access...what if?

What if educators were on the forefront of technology initiatives?
Budget restraints, legislative mandates, public opinion, and even technology manufacturers all throttle educators' access to technology. Fear of change and administrative mandates keep teachers from trying new things. Schoold are initiating 1:1 programs and the students in the poorest of the poor districts are coming to school with better technology skills and equipment than the teachers have. Unfrotunately, too many educators wear the badge of digital immigrant with too much pride. They could change the world if they were on the forefront; but only...what if?

I have lots of other what if questions, many not related to educational technology; but I will have to ponder them later.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Twitter Tips to Keep Your Sanity

I started using Twitter this past spring and had to quickly figure out how to go through so many posts, pictures, articles, links, etc. The more I read, the more people I followed. The more people I followed, the more I tried to read, and the viscous cycle began. I realized I couldn't read it all. Then I thought, "How do these people have the time to constantly post to Twitter?" Did they really sit at the computer all day? Did the not have students to attend to? Real jobs? What's the deal?

Then I discovered some secrets. OK, they really aren't secrets but great tools to keep Twitter flowing smoothly without losing your sanity or your job. Confession: I am not a pro on Twitter and often find myself floundering trying to follow etiquette and do what's right. This is just a short list of what has helped me.

1) Twitter Lists
Twitter has a built-in feature to create lists to whittle down your long list of tweets to read. Putting your favorite tweeters in the list allows you to quickly see what your favorite people are up to. Subscribing to lists lets you use the collective knowledge of others to curate quality material.

2) Hashtags
I know that everyone who is involved in Twitter uses hashtags but it took me a while to realize I could put multiple hashtags in the search field and only those tweets with all the hashtags would appear. #edtech and #ipaded narrows down the people you are reading and focuses in on those two hashtags (for example).

3) Bufferapp.com
I figured out one way that people appear to tweet all the time. Bufferapp.com. This is a great tool that lets you schedule posts in advance. You can use the built in schedule or create your own and link Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, App.net, and Google+. With a pro account, you can include even more accounts. Then, using browser plug-ins, the Buffer app itself (the Buffer app is available in the App store, Google Play store or via the web at bufferapp.com), or third-party apps that tie to Buffer like TweetCaster, you can buffer your posts to scheduled times. There is also an override to post immediately. Now, I am one of those that posts all week long without having to be on the computer constantly.

4) Reposts
I have learned some of my favorite tweeters actually post the same post multiple times. That way, if you miss it one day, you might see it in your feed another day or time. After all, just following a couple hundred people and/or companies can make your list of tweets extend beyond the normal day's reading.

So, if you are new to Twitter, try these tips and see if it helps you keep your sanity.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Look In The Mirror

This coming week presents me with an opportunity to share my journey as a technology coach at the South Carolina Ed Tech Conference (http://edtech.scaet.org). I have prepared and prepared and am ready to present on the tools I use as a technology coach. The theme of the conference is "IT Superheroes" so I am presenting on Superheroes in Training-Lessons Learned From The Field. I will be sharing how we as technology coaches have to be like superheroes with lightning speed, a strong cohort of partners, and a stocked utility belt of tools. I had planned since late August when I found out I was chosen to present. I had it all planned. I had the perfect slides in my Keynote. I was all set. I was 100% confident in my presentation until...

Until I read Scott McLeod's Dangerously Irrelevent! piece a couple weeks ago entitled "Wasting opportunities at ed tech conferences." While Scott must have taken a lot of heat for his opinion (based on a post three days later) that a lot of sessions at ed tech conferences are mostly about tools, the latest app, and extensions while offering few opportunities to change a child's life; he made me think. He made me think about my upcoming presentation and I realized that while I was going to have fun with my presentation sharing apps and tools that make my job easier as a coach, I was not offering other technology coaches, teachers, or school leaders much that would have a direct impact on student learning. I reviewed my presentation and it was about organization and communication and very little instruction. Being a person who prides himself on tying presentations to student engagement and instruction (based on feedback from participants in small and large venues), I realized I was about to miss the mark with this one.

Technology coaches deal a lot with teachers and we spend a lot of time telling people how to make instruction better with the use of technology. We also get to spend time with students but not as much direct contact as we have with teachers. However, we can never forget that it is always students first; students second; and students in the end.

So I went back and made sure that I have now included more instructional components and dialogue in my presentation. It is not at the level I will strive for in the future but at this point, it is the type of presentation I had submitted, was approved for, and is published in the conference guide. Future presentation submissions will focus more on instruction and improved learning for students.

Whether or not you agree with the premise of missed opportunities, I think the broader picture does need to be looked at and addressed. Thanks for helping me to remember what matters most Scott.