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Webinar on iPad deployment and the WIFI project

Here’s a link to a webinar I hosted through Region XIII. It’s about 45 minutes long but you get to hear my pre-flu dulcet tones as I talk about the project from start to finish.


“Give Me Your Digits” – the Evolution of the Telephone

Rotary iPhone Dock

I remember a day, not so long ago, when everyone had ONE phone number. It was sometime in between the movie Wall Street and the TV show “Saved by the Bell”. In our household, we just finished a major debate about the validity and cost-effectiveness of keeping our home phone. This isn’t a new argument as many of our friends are “Cell-Only” friends. Times sure have changed….

Our family has the benefit of having access to a great resource when it comes to the history of telephones; Her name is Aunt Gloria. Aunt Gloria worked for “Ma Bell” for 50 years (and 1 day she likes to throw in). She started working in the 1950’s and can vividly recall what switch boards were like and if you wanted to place a call from Austin to El Paso you had to route through Chicago. The scary thing is that wasn’t all that long ago, but light years in terms of technology evolution. TV’s and Radio’s from that era have certainly come a long way as well, but they still have a place of relevance in our society (although declining).

Home telephones are on the verge of obsolescence. Without a doubt cell phones have had a large affect on this, but taking a look at history you’ll find that telephones, and the numbers themselves, have been evolving too.

Up until the mid-1960’s, telephone numbers all started with 3 letters followed by 4 numbers (the “LLL-NNNN” format) thought to help us with memorization. When you’d call the switch board operator, or “hello girl”,  you’d give them a word then the number so they know where you were placing your call (i.e. “TREnton – 3403”) The Russians were the first on record to actual go to the all-numeral approach in 1968 which has now evolved into our current automatic dialing format. The letters required to call certain places remain on our phones and lots of advertisers still take advantage of that via mnemonics that help us remember their business. (call 1-888-BOLOGNA)

LBJ Phone

Can you hear me now?

While this history lesson is useful and entertaining (Aunt Gloria tells a great story about how she hung up on then President LBJ), it doesn’t help us with our current domestic dilemma. Do we keep our home number or get rid of it? After a couple days of contemplation, a brief trip to the store made our decision for us – we decided to keep it.
While the ability to locate the house for a random 911 emergency was a very important factor, it wasn’t until we went up to the check-out line of a local Randalls grocery that we realized our home phone number is a part of us. We use it at the gas station. We use it to get discounts on toys at Toys R Us. We even use it to work-out. It’s amazing how quickly the phone number has become our defacto replacement for identification. One of our friends actually uses our phone number when going to the store. This change has been happening over the last several years and while it’s true we could switch all those memberships to our cell phone, who wants to go through all that mess? So instead of paying for home phone service, we now view it more like we are paying for “multiple membership identity” service. Think this is crazy? Recollect how often you give out your home phone number to people. Now think of how often you use it to verify membership for some service or signing up for something. Which do you use if for more often? Last year I’d estimate we gave our phone number to 2-3 people and used it over 30 times to sign-up for something, and even that might be a low number. So then next time you go to Home Depot or 7-Eleven, see what the googly-eyed clerk behind the counter reacts when you tell him your number is “Trenton-3403”.


Resources: A short history of the telephone & Aunt Gloria

Holiday App Menu!

Here’s a delectable list of Free Holiday Apps to entertain you in the weeks to come!

Carl’s Holiday App Menu

A Modern Interview for a Modern Position

Recently, we were lucky enough to create a new position for our district titled – “Educational Technologist: Mobile Integration Specialist”. You always hear stories about training our kids for jobs that aren’t even created, and here was the perfect real world example of that. This position’s job description focused it’s traits on the 4 C’s of 21st century skills along with an emphasis on mobile learning (BYOT, iPads, etc).

Going through the interview process can be time-consuming and cumbersome at times so I wanted to make sure that we had:
A) Ample time to accept qualified candidates
B) A group of core staff filter the applications with a rating system
C) A smaller group of core staff to interview those that made it through the application process and
D) A larger group of core staff actually being trained by the finalists in a professional development setting.

Photo courtesy Business Week

It’s this last method that I’d like to focus on. I feel like individuals on paper and in an interview setting don’t always show what they truly are like. I’ve often said, that when it comes to the Presidential election, we should put all the candidates on an island Survivor-style and see who makes it. Those of us at home can see the true colors of the candidates.

Since we didn’t have a television show or an island, we elected for the “mock” training instead. Only there was nothing mock about this training. It represented the final step in a lengthy, elaborative process. Those making it to this final round were all extremely talented and worthy of the position. However, seeing them in action in what will be their actual habitat was not only eye-opening, but also extremely informative into how they work, operate and relate.
The finalists were given over a week to prepare a lesson with only a few parameters:
1. It was between 45 minutes – 1 hour
2. It had to involve the iPad in some way
3. The group they would be training would be made up of a diverse group of staff members.

Prior to the interviews, I sent the large group the applications of the finalists to look over and an evaluation survey of their thoughts on how the person presented. (here’s a Sample) As you can tell by the survey, I broke it down into areas such as content organization and reading the audience.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, all of the finalists did a great job demonstrating their training skills. It came down to what the group thought would be the best fit for the position. The interesting part of this is the process involved over 20 people from all different levels over the course of a month. Through all of those levels, there were a clear two candidates that everyone felt were the cream of the crop. The final training/interview re-iterated that fact, so much so that staff were actually pleading with me to hire both candidates.

While I think the talent pool of the candidates has a major factor in this being successful, I’m left wondering, why don’t we do this with all of our potential hires? I know the job may not merit an “in-action” style interview, but I could easily see this translating to teachers. Imagine a potential teacher with a focus group of 2nd grade kids coming in and teaching for a day with the kids. Or how about a mechanic having to diagnose a problem and fix it with a car? The two are not as different as you might think. It takes interaction, knowledge, creativity, and lots of critical thinking to be succesful in these style of interviews.

There are some drawbacks with this style of interview, mainly that a teacher in the group could derail the entire group if he/she doesn’t like a candidate.  Also, except for a couple of members of the focus training group, not all of them knew the backgrounds of the candidates besides their paper resume as they all didn’t sit through the initial interviews.  The reason I thought it was successful here was that the people chosen to be part of the focus group were and are all sensible, open-minded instructors that I respect tremendously.  Add to that the fact that all of them would have some interaction with this person down the road, it was important that they had buy-in on the process.

Now, if only they had the power to let me hire two candidates instead of one…

Banks Can Do It, But Not Textbooks?

As I was navigating my banking site today, I realized something.  They’ve gone through a massive shift into making the user experience much more pleasurable and easier to navigate.  In the past, to deposit a check from home (very cool and handy feature) I would have to surf around or search the site for “Deposit @ Home”.  Now there are handy pop-up tools and floating, flash-based modules that make the experience as easy as next, next, submit.

I know what you’re thinking.  I said the most dreaded word in the iPad world up there. The dreaded F-word.  Well, here’s the other amazing thing about this bank.  They also made a very user-friendly, simple iPhone and iPad app.  I can actually deposit a check using my phone now.  I can bring up a copy of my car insurance should I get pulled over by a cop.  (what’s the odds the police officer accepts my non-paper form of proof of insurance – that’s another post for a later date)

So I started thinking, if this banking site can become interactive and iOS friendly, why

Textbooks haven't evolved much from Egypt

can’t textbook companies? Now to be fair, I know a bank has a lot of money and interest in making the user experience successful for their customers.  So I started snooping around.

Turns out, not that this is a shock, there are THOUSANDS of other companies committed to highly interactive websites with accompanying apps that keep users connected and in some cases even collaborating.  Even today, my wife and mother-in-law were sharing recipes were talking about sharing recipes while I was in the other room.  I walked in expecting them to be exchanging 3X5 recipe cards.  Imagine my surprise when I saw my wife on her iPod and my mother-in-law on her iPad digitally sharing recipes via a website!

Imagine that?! Sharing, collaborating, and communicating via a web platform and app for something as simple as recipes?  How is it possible that our textbook companies are light years behind these commercial and non-commercial companies?  When visiting with a textbook company last week (I’ll omit their name but let’s just say they rhyme with “Smearson”), they pointed out that their virtual learning platform was flash-only and that they had no real plans to integrate with the iPad or other iOS devices.  Quite a remarkable line to draw in the sand considering the explosion of mobile devices and specifically iPads in schools.  Not only that, but their online platform was very basic and linear, with no real interface or space for collaboration.  It’s almost as if they took their paper textbook, digitized it, and then added a couple of extra features like a quiz button and even….*gasp*…..a highlighter!

It’s been a pretty frustrating experience to say the least when it comes to tackling these companies which has led me to believe that schools should really focus their attention on creating their own learning platforms and textbooks.  Rather than spend the money on books, pay teachers to create their own textbooks.  Scott Floyd from White Oak ISD has done just that.  He’s working with a consortium of school districts to identify experts in various subject areas.  Teams of teachers are working together in the CK-12 online platform to create freely available, and iOS friendly “flexbooks”.  Add to that, the built-in tools for collaboration, and I really see this model as the necessary future for our educational relevance.  There are currently 91 flexbooks available for download off the site.  This idea of a crowd-sourced textbook holds the future for our field.

Banks realize it.

Recipe sites see it.

When will textbooks follow suit?


What Were Your Parents Thinking?

Being in education, I’ve come across several names that are, well, just plain crazy.   Having grown up with a last name like Hooker, I heard all sorts of jokes as you might imagine.  My sister, Anita, had an even worse time of things (go ahead, say it out loud and you’ll figure out why).  One of the first questions I always get is “what were your parents thinking?”

Since my parents never could come up with a believable answer to that question, it inspired me to look for other names out there that might prompt the same question.  What follows is a list of some of the names that either I, other educators, facebook friends, or twitter followers have come across in their lives.  I realize this has nothing to do with technology aside from the fact that social media is great for even the minutia (credit Dean Shareski for that one)

To keep this in some sort of orderly fashion, I’ll list these in categories:

Food Related Category: 

I’m not sure why parents like to name their kid after food items.   Maybe it’s America’s fascination with eating. Perhaps it’s what was on the menu the night of inception.  Who knows, but here goes:

Candy Cane

Pepper Mint (I think these two were related)

Cinnamon Danish – A middle school student from Sweetwater

Brocolli (I kid you not, can’t remember who told me this, but at least it’s a break from

Her middle name could be "with cheese"

the sweet names)

OrangeJello (or-ange-ello) and LemonJello (Le-mange-ello) – Again, relatives.

Mister Alfredo (Actual spelling – Not quite a food, but close)

Razi Berry (pronounced like raspberry)

Alternate Spellings and Pronunciations:

I’m not talking about adding a “y” in Robyn or anything either.  I’m talking blatant disregard for the English dictionary.

Butiful Mellody (supposed to be “Beautiful Melody”)

La-A (pronounced La-dash-ah)

Neveah (Heaven spelled backwards)

Nirmal (wonder how normal this kid will turn out)

Espn (Pronounced Es-Pin)

Social Media at work

ABC (Pronounced uh-bee-cee)

ABCDE (Pronounced Ab-sud-ee)

Pajama (Pronounced paj-ee-may)

CacheMonet (Pronounced like “Cash Money”)

Name, Profession or Both?

Bus Drivers – Mrs. Sippi (probably not a good name for a bus driver) and Mr. Safety (much better name for a bus driver)

OB/GYN – Dr. Cassinova and Dr. Hurt – Which one would you go to as a woman?

Kindergarten teacher – Mrs. Gizzlebox – Just sounds like a teacher’s name.

And of course, Dick Chopp – A famous local urologist who’s motto is “There’s more vasectomies to be done”. Seriously.  Here’s his site:

Family trends:

A family of three named: Lamblight, Moonbeam and Starshine

Another family of three: Sir Galliant, Sir Courage, Sir Valiant

Twins: Dorothy and Dorothea

Ima and Eura Hogg – Former Governor of Texas Jim Hogg’s daughters

April May – Her last name was June ‘

Three girls – Today, Tomorrow, and Yesterday

The Liss Family – Ruth and Dick

Literal Names?

Justin Case

Ferrel Hogg (no relation to Jim from above)

Howard E Butts (Founder of the famous H.E.B. grocery store – probably a better name than Butts Market)*

Pearl Harbor

John The Baptist (that’s his first name)

Your Highness

Orion Starr

Borderline Inappropriate Category:

Already mentioned my sister Anita Hooker – Especially fun when a principal calls her down to the office, comes out like  “I need a hooker to the office”

Richard Blower

Motivational Educator Harry Wong

Richard Head

Harry Wong

Harry Dick (Senator)

Marcus Pucci

Phil McKrackin

Phillip Ajarapoo (a teacher in Round Rock)

Shitthead (pronounced shi-thead)

While all these give me more inspiration than every to name my next child “@” or “Google”, I think with a name like Hooker he/she will have a hard enough time.  Finally, I bring you one more late addition:

Batman Bin Suparman

This one actually comes with a picture of a driver’s license:

Thanks to contributers Chris Parker, Jolynn Rettig, @Kristy_Vincent, AJ Muller, Mary Ries, Shawn Clark, Sean Forkner, Joan Hughes, @computerExplore aka Lisa Johnson, Jim Ford, Sheri Ford, Shawn Clark, Donyle Clark, Karen French, Tracy Lord, Sue St. Germain, Jane Mullen, Catherine Searcy-Edmund and of course, my sister, Anita.

*Thanks to Molly May for pointing out that Harry E. Butts of HEB fame, is actually Howard E. Butts

iOS update Guide

This is far from the definitive guide to updating your iOS devices, but it’s user-friendly with lots of pictures!
In this guide you’ll find several different ways to back up important files, how to transfer purchases to your machine, and how to create an encrypted back-up.  While every update is different, I tried to include as many scenarios as I could in here without becoming completely overwhelming.   It’s not a clean process by any stretch, but if you couple of hours to spare and follow these steps, you’re important files will be safe.

Good luck and happy updates!!

Eanes iOS5 Update Guide

Appy Hour Menus

All – I’ve started a new page on this site called “Appy Hour Menus”.  Here I’ll post all the interactive Appy Hour Menus that we are doing at Westlake and at Eanes ISD.  Thanks to Lisa Johnson at Northeast ISD for the original (and fun!) idea.

Instructions for your own Appy Hour:

I post a QR code link to this Appy Hour Menu using  Staff (and students) then scan the QR code, open in Safari, then Open in iBooks.  This makes the menu interactive so that the links will take you to the free app in the App store on your iPad.


Here’s this weeks menu, a BBQ flavored version of Bloom’s –

WIFI Pilot – Part 2 – Launch day

iPad Launch Day, Aug 24th

With over a year’s worth of small pilots, research, endless hours prepping teachers, and getting our infrastructure ready, the day had finally come.  August 24th, the third day of school, was the targeted launch day of 95% of our iPads (some Sophomores would have to wait until the following day).  We knew that iPad Orientation for students would be much more brief than the same for staff, but we needed to get the message out to all kids in a uniform way.  The plan was to distribute the iPads during English courses.  That meant hitting as many as 8 classes every 52-minute class period.  With 8 periods in the school day, we had a bit of a logistical problem.  There were only so many people to distribute and talk to students.  We needed a plan.  Luckily, our Technology Services department and the Educational Technology staff had one in mind:

1. iPads would need to be distributed from a central location near all the classrooms.  The book room in the area of the Language Arts wing made the most sense.  We would have 1 or 2 “runners” from the Tech Dept to make sure we had enough in each class.  While we had a fairly accurate count on classroom enrollment, kids change classes a lot during the first couple of weeks.  With a location found, we needed to have the iPads and cases at the ready.

2. Cases were supplied by the school, however, because of a customs issue in the DFW airport, the cases were held up.  We needed some in a hurry and were able to quickly get a back-up set of 1500 delivered the night before.

3. We needed a tech person in each classroom registering the iPad serial number with the student’s SIS account online.

4. We needed another person in each classroom doing the orientation and answering questions.  The Ed Techs, the assistant principals, and I had a script, but we wanted to make sure the message was consistent.  So, the day before we threw together a quick 5-minute video for all classes to watch and we would be available for questions.  This would give us some buffer to get the iPads ready in classes if there weren’t enough.

At 8:45am we handed out our first set of iPads and didn’t stop until the last class at 4:05.  It was remarkable for a couple of reasons.  For one, the students really could sense the importance and responsibility being placed on them with this device.  Secondly, it became a seamless part of the classroom much faster than I would have imagined. While I figured it would be primary use would be substitution in nature at first (take your notes on the iPad instead of paper), I didn’t expect it to quickly become an augmentative and transformative part of the classroom so quickly.  Within days, I started receiving all the different ways students were innovating and the ways teachers were changing the way they taught.   All this within one week!

Bob Murphy in Environmental Science had his students develop a Project-based lesson with only 3 rules.  1 – It had to be about the planet Earth, 2- They had to develop their group distribution and delegation of duties, and 3-

Last minute morning prep on Launch day

They had to try something out of their comfort zone using the iPad.  Norman Morgan’s class had a student unable to attend class and used Facetime and the app to share the lesson with the student in real-time.  Barbara Vinson’s ASL students had to create a Keynote with embedded video of themselves signing the words they were on each Keynote slide.  Again, this was all within the first week of having iPads in the hands of students.

I can only imagine what this will look like by next spring, but for now, we are looking at what the next steps will be.   Our only major issue the first week was the Jamf Console not being able to distribute apps for a couple of days as the traffic crashed the server.  Some other smaller issues were not having enough people manning the “Genius bar” in the library, as students we eager to get in there and learn some new apps, ask for advice, and get some quick fixes.  While I’m sure we’ll run into other issues, the launch and subsequent roll-out has gone incredibly smoothly.  We hosted two parent WIFI nights for the community to ask questions.  The biggest parent complaint we’ve received so far is when are the rest of the sophomores and freshman going to get them?

Excited student show me his new device

Our next steps will be investigating rolling out the iPads to all high school students and coordinating pilots at all the elementary schools and middle schools.  We’ll have the benefit of more time and now the experience from a full-fledged pilot to help us on those campuses, but we need to continue to learn and adapt much like the technology will.  We are now eliciting support from three separate university groups studying and researching various parts of the 1:1 pilot. This will give us some valuable evaluative data that we often don’t have the time to collect and review during our busy lives in district.

I hope that our roll-out and the subsequent data that we will be able to help other districts attempting similar pilots.  After all, the synergy and value of student-driven learning shouldn’t be restricted to just our district.  I think it’s ultimately the way to change and advance the educational system in this country and hopefully make school more meaningful for kids too.  In the long-run, that’s what it should be all about anyway.

WIFI iPad Pilot – Part 1 – Synergy

What started out as a twinkle in the eye of a few administrators during a January visit to Cupertino has become an all-out war as we head into a new semester of school.  Many of people have asked how have we progressed with the planned roll-out of over 1500 iPads to Juniors & Seniors at Westlake High School.

One word comes to mind: Synergy

We have had a large group of administrators, teachers, students and parents all championing the cause of bringing access into the hands of our students.  Each person has played their part in getting this up and running, and while I sometimes feel like Slim Pickens riding the bomb in Dr. Strangelove, it’s been a magical journey to be a part of.  What follows are key events that led up to what will eventually be the largest roll-out of technology in our district’s history. (but not most expensive!)

The Mothership

The AHA Moment: No, not that great 80’s band, but the moment when 5 administrators, including myself, visited Cupertino in January for an executive briefing.  I can’t tell you what I learned and saw due to some strict Apple security policies, but we all experienced some level of awakening.   With an air of dire circumstances surrounding our district and the state, we knew we couldn’t stick with the static quo.   We have to innovate or risk losing our foothold as a mainstay and public institution.  That moment of realization struck midway through our first day there when, during an iPad presentation, Westlake’s principal Linda Rawlings turned to the group and said, “We need one of those for every high school student.”

The Research & Development Phase: Like Apple and any other successful

company, a large amount of time and money is invested in R & D.  School districts have neither the time nor the money to do this, however, we are armed with new forms of social media that can do our research for us.  I tapped into twitter and my TEC-SIG community pretty heavily to see what had worked and what hadn’t worked for 1-to-1 initiatives.  Since the iPads were still relatively new on the market, there wasn’t a lot out there in terms of educational deployments so we had to develop our back-end systems to handle a large scale roll-out.  Key teacher leaders also needed a few of these in their hands to really validate that the iPad was the most useful solution.  I skyped with tech coordinators and superintendents from Brazil to British Columbia, seeking advice about how to make any type of roll-out successful.  In the end, I was able to gather these key points to what would make a 1-to-1 solution of any kind work:

1. Staff buy-in – From the Superintendent to the guy putting in the network cables, everyone has to believe this is the right direction.  Sure there can be doubts and fear along the way, but that’s why it’s important to have a group belief that will get use through those times of second-guessing. It’s also important to get the technology in the hands of teachers as soon as possible. They drive the bus, so the sooner it’s in their hands the better.

My 2-year old leading iPad training in June

2. Don’t make it about the technology – True the iPad is a wonderfully cool and interactive tool, but it represents a level of access to content and content creation that expands student learning.  That’s where the power lies.

3. Talk to kids – This is where I found most of my surprises.  The students crave to have a level of “real world” learning in their lives, but at the same time, they feel significant pressure to pass state and national assessments.  Strange that the two aren’t related I thought….

4. Get legal – Without a progressive, adaptable legal consultant, many projects can die

This is what 1500 iPads in boxes looks like

in a bureaucratic abyss.  We are blessed to have someone in district that thinks about what’s important for kids first and foremost.

5. Infrastructure back-up – A willing tech department that can also see the potential benefit to students and not their own bottom line is important.  Too often I hear stories across the country of how “my tech department said we can’t do that.”  While I’ve had my share of challenges here, it helped that the Director of that department shared in the “AHA” moment with the rest of us.  Without his support and his department’s endless hours of work, any project of this magnitude will never get off the ground.

In terms of staff roll-out, we went about deployment in three phases:

Phase 1: Instructional Coaches, Admin, & Department Heads – These key personnel needed it in their hands early to really research and find the potential benefits and pitfalls.  We were able to procure enough funds to get these in their hands well before we even considered this as a possibility for this year.

Phase 2: Teachers –  After a successful Bond election and positive early feedback from our Phase 1 group, we approached the School Board in late May to propose we attempt to move fast on this and get it started with the first week of school.  When speaking with other successful 1:1 districts, they reinforced how important it was to start the year out with the technology and not do a partial phase-in throughout the year.  That meant ordering them at the end of May and then getting them into the hands of teachers as soon as possible.  We started with those teachers in the WIFI pilot group on July 14th and never looked back.  While we gave them some basic orientation to the iPad, our goal was to give them as much time as possible to discover and learn with them before the start of the school year.

WIFI Parent Night

Phase 3: Students – We targeted the 3rd day of school, Aug. 24th, as launch day.  This would give us time to hold at least one parent feedback night and get the appropriate loan agreement and insurance forms into the hands of kids on the first day of school.  We knew that coordinating an effort of this magnitude would take a lot of planning and ultimately…..synergy… make it be successful.  With all the parts in place, we prepared for August 24th – iPad Delivery Day or iD-Day – with baited breath and hope for a smooth launch.

(To Be Continued – WIFI iPad Pilot – Part 2 – The Launch)