Monday, March 12, 2018

Immediate Feedback Via Digital Applications in the Elementary Classroom

Immediate Feedback Via Digital Applications in the Elementary Classroom

High levels of digital exposure has changed the way students’ learn compared to students of the past. The chronic exposure of digital media  has completely rewired our children’s brains.  Why do they prefer immediate feedback and gratification?  Is it due to the digital age learner?  Students take picture/videos, blog/vlog,  and receive immediate reaction from social media (likes/dislikes) ~Musically, Instagram, YouTube,  etc. by their peers.  They are more cognizant (good or bad) of what they are posting based on the immediate feedback provided by their peers.  So how do we transfer this concept of immediate gratification and immediate rewards into the classroom?

To truly understand this concept lets look at it from a classroom perspective.  The student of the past would take a test, project, etc. and the teacher would grade the test/project and the student would receive the grade maybe within the week.  Also, teachers will display top students’ work on bulletin boards.  This concept is not something we want to get away from but we should diversify our approach in order to maximize today’s student achievement.

If we flip this concept, students take more tests online, communicate in the classroom via blogs and vlogs, and use digital portfolio apps to showcase their papers/projects while having the capability of receiving immediate gratification and immediate rewards.  If students know they are to receive feedback from their peers through the use of  classroom blogs or digital classroom portfolio they will work harder (generally to receive that instant feedback from teachers and peers).   This is why I love classroom blogs (Kid Blog) and digital portfolios (Seesaw) because teachers can moderate these sites but it allows students to express themselves in a safe environment while receiving constructive feedback from their peers. Our teachers starting as early as 2nd grade are using Seesaw and other digital applications to engage their students as well as teaching them social responsibility.  

As students change our teaching practices must change to keep our students engaged and excited about learning. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Could Your Team Survive without Job Titles?
This past Wednesday, Dave Katz was kind enough to take a bunch of students and a handful of staff on a tour at Cisco. It was a fantastic experience! After the tour, he had three team members tell their stories that described their individual paths to Cisco.

I'm not sure if it others caught the common threads in each of the stories we heard that day, but three things I noticed that were present in each of their unique presentations were:

(1) TEAMWORK - There was an absence of, "I work on this" or "I do that." Each story was riddled with "we." It takes one kind of team member to calm down an irate customer and another kind of team member to solve their problem. Having written recently about cross-skilled teams, this resonated with me.

(2) HARD WORK - No one said that working for Cisco, or their path to get there, was a cakewalk. Companies that produce great products possess hard-working teams.

(3) SOFT SKILLS - Dave continually pounded into us, "Dream big! None of what you see is outside the realm of what you can do!" (I must have heard that mantra at least half-a-dozen times). He followed this up by saying soft skills are essential! Again, this reminded me of my recent post since all the six areas pointed out by the skills evaluation are soft-skills.

What I didn't hear was "look at me, I'm so awesome," or "my team succeeds because of me." I did hear mention of job titles when various team-members were introduced, but there wasn't an emphasis on that. The whole emphasis was teamwork and being part of something bigger than yourself.

So, what if you dropped job titles within your organization? Would your employees complain? Job titles give us a comfort zone of work. They also give us an excuse not to do something we should. Both of these outcomes are dangerous. Face it, many tasks that must be completed at any company fall outside of job descriptions. "Other duties as assigned" might be one of the best places for a team to show great success.

Here are some questions I should ask myself: (1) Can my team survive without job titles? (2) Are there particular team members that are swamped with work and others that seem to just skate along no problem? (3) Am I an example of hard work for my team to follow? (4) Do I steal my team's success and claim it as my own?

Jeff Sutherland's book on SCRUM emphasizes how title's need to be gone. Teams of people should associate themselves with the projects and success of the team. What I saw at Cisco was exactly that. Thank you Dave for the great tour and providing lunch for us all, Cisco provides a great success story that we can all learn from.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

An Easy Method to Visualize Your Team (DIY)

After writing a little snippet yesterday on LinkedIn and using a radar graph to demonstrate how skills can be visualized, I decided to go a little deeper.

As we look into the problem of developing SCRUM teams from scratch, we know that teams need to be cross-skilled. For people that have demonstrated skills and abilities this isn't much of an issue. In fact, for people that work together and know each other well this becomes second nature. But what about the wild card? The person that you know nothing about... the person that hasn't demonstrated any skills?

This is an attempt to solve the measurement problem prior to team development. Initially, this quick survey could be filled out using introspection. Ideally, after teams develop and real skills become known, team-members can rate each other's ability and probably do it with much higher accuracy.

The concept for this idea is based off of a "Chart of Skill Categories" as found online at: The chart has a fantastic breakdown of the following six categories:

  1. Relationship
  2. Communication
  3. Management / Leadership
  4. Analytical
  5. Creative
  6. Physical / Technical

Each primary skill category has a subset. For example, "Analytical" is broken down into:

  • Analysis / Problem Solving
  • Information / Data Management
  • Computational / Quantitative

Each of these subsets also contains various descriptions. For example, "Analysis / Problem Solving" is broken down into Analyze, Research, and Solve Problems.

The one thing I love most about this chart is that it represents real skills that are used in business. Interview questions often revolve around the ideas on this cart.

Armed with this skills chart, I made a Google Form.

To create a chart for a person, the values must be highlighted on the results page and a radar chart must be created. I'm sure someone out there can think of a better way to automate the creation of the chart.

I think one great way to get a scope of the whole team's abilities would be to have each team-member fill out the form and create an overlay. Your team would easily be able to identify their weak points.

Feel free to copy/use/modify any of the files provided. They are read-only, so you will need to create a duplicate in a Google account if you want to use the Google version of the form.

If you do have ideas of how to automate a form like this and have the charts automatically created and emailed, I would love to chat!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

MakerCarts in Elementary School

Carol Gehringer, Media Coordinator

The Maker Carts on the Lower Campus allow us to engage our students in using their imaginations to solve problems with creative solutions, and to create models in connection with their learning, enabling them to remember those lessons longer.

If you have ANY of the following, please drop them by the media center:                          
empty thread spools                           clothes pins
oatmeal containers                             wrapping paper sheets
corks                                                   wood blocks & pieces
dixie cups                                            party picks
dental floss                                          buttons
milk cartons                                         magnet sticks
fake jewels                                          cardboard boxes

How have we used our Maker Carts this year? Check out the castles, plantations, scenes from stories, inventions, and more by our creative elementary students:


Friday, February 2, 2018

Get Out of the Way, Let Your TEAM do their THING

Change can be difficult to plan and execute when a team has to take a top-down approach to everything they do.  Like when, the leader hears of a problem, tries to excite his/her team to enact a possible solution, and further try to keep team members motivated and pointed in the direction of a good solution.

It doesn't have to be this way.

Leaders need to (1) empower their team members, (2) give them the tools they need to succeed, and (3) get out of the way of success.

I heard a great example of this two days ago and regarding success from within my own team.  Our administration was trying to solve a problem in making sure that new students received the training they needed and didn't feel too overwhelmed by our high demands on technical ability.  Some students adapt quickly.  Some students adapt more slowly and need help.

The real challenge is students that come into the school midway into the school year.  They are almost immediately under pressure to perform for assignments.  Students can feel swallowed up by their workload, learning new systems, and if they aren't getting the technical instruction they need, then they can easily get frustrated.

The *DMAIC model helps with coming up with solutions (look up DMAIC if you aren't already familiar).  However, organic change can happen when team members are brought into problem solving at early stages of the problem definition.  Sometimes, these problems are not nearly as significant as they seem and a properly equipped team can snuff out the issue before it turns into a fire.

That's exactly what Mr. O'Brien, our Upper Campus media specialist, did when he heard that we had a few students that were reaching a steep learning curve.  He opened up an avenue to deliver a solution (which represent value) back to the students and their families.  The solution was to offer a Thursday help class.

Two days ago, in a meeting, I heard how the class was already being effective.  The best part is that there were no committees, extra meetings, planning sessions, or anything in Mr. O'Brien's way to offer the solution and begin testing it out on his own.

That's a great example of an empowered team member and we need to push this concept both team-wide and school-wide.

*DMAIC - Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control.  This process has a strong presence in SCRUM, Lean Agile Six Sigma, and DevOps.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Improving Imaging - Utilizing Tools to their Fullest Potential

As imaging might not be your thing, I'm going to cut right to the bottom line:

If you are looking for ways to increase efficiency, look internally first, the tools might be sitting right in front of you!

It happens quite often that an IT Department buys tools based on a certain feature set.  The sales teams for these tools, whether they be software, hardware, services, etc, will latch on to specific needs in an effort to build a relationship with the customer that will lead to a sale.  Then down the road, after a customer may be satisfied, further contact with the customer regarding other features can fall on dead ears.

You will have a hard time convincing an already happy customer that other features can drastically help them in their business.  When the IT Department then discovers these deeper features on their own... it's like discovering gold!

That's exactly what has happened to us with Filewave.  We use Filewave to manage software packages, configuration files, scripts, and Apple profiles for roughly 600 devices on our network.  We've been very happy.  Our team has been researching Filewave imaging.  I stood up a Filewave Imaging Server for them to play with, but believed our current method of deployment was probably more efficient (using Filewave Thunderbolt Imaging).

This past year, we deployed our Windows images based on the product model.  We have a limited amount of PC's and they are nearly all the same model, so it wasn't a big deal.  But, as we researched the ability of introducing more PC models, monolithic imaging fell short and has fallen short for many years.  Macs tend to be easier to deal with as the base installations contain hardware support for all the devices supported by that version of the OS install.

But, monolithic imaging is not the way to support modern PC/Mac installations.  Users have a vast variety of software requirements.  This is true in business where a DEV team may have specific tools for testing and an OPS team might have another set.  In education we see this when students in CompSci need Java VM frameworks and access to the command line and we want to keep command line tools out of the hands of non-CompSci students.

No matter what, there are essential components that every image needs, but handling monolithic images can mean handling many versions for many devices.  This is definitely NOT a DevOps approved method of getting things done.

What if our department could create one "golden" image for Macs and another one for PCs?  We could focus on just keeping the essentials baked into the image and reduce the amount of variables for things going awry during post imaging.  Additionally, we could continue to improve the image during the year, rather than once a year.

That is exactly what my team is doing.  PLUS, they are doing this with tools we already have access to via Filewave and Filewave Image Server.  PC images will have driver filesets assigned based on PC model.  Mac images will have the latest greatest OS and the most recent update packages.

How does this affect my team and efficiency?

  • Though it takes longer to reimage using netboot (Mac) or PXE (PC), we use less resources than utilizing Thunderbolt Imaging.
  • Our environment will easily support reimaging 20 or more devices at a time (with space being a primary limitation rather than human resources or physical devices needed to control the reimaging process)
  • It is scalable - we expect that we can add Filewave boosters to further improve the efficiencies
  • Thunderbolt Imaging is a 'baby-sitting' process, now my team will be able to get other things done while they wait for imaging to complete
  • For PC reimaging, we expect to improve times by 50% from Clonezilla (an open-source imaging tool)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Responsibility in the Vlog Generation

Written by Daniel O'Brien

With the advent of access to the internet and popularity of video services like Youtube, we are placed in a time of unparalleled growth. The power that comes with being able to look up a video on just about anything, and have it right in front of you immediately is pretty cool. However, the occurrences that demonstrate the need for discernment and responsibility grow more and more troubling with each negative news report we hear.

For our students, Youtube is a huge source of entertainment. They watch a bunch of different vloggers and channels, and it is a primary way that they consume entertainment in the 21st century. Most of them probably know about Logan Paul, a vlogger who, with a film crew, wandered into Japan’s Aokigahara forest (nicknamed the “suicide forest” because of the amount of people who wander in there to die alone), presuming it’s haunted, wanting to film a creepy video. Only a few minutes into the forest, they stumble upon the corpse of a man who has hanged himself. Unsure of how to deal with the situation, Logan and his crew crack jokes and laugh uncomfortably. Logan also has a second video in which he runs around Tokyo dressed in silly hats, breaking a Gameboy on the ground, throwing a stuffed Pokeball at citizens and policemen on the street -- yes, really. Due to both of these videos, there has been public outcry at his poor taste, and he has since taken down the suicide forest video and apologized for his error in judgement.

As a former missionary and English teacher who lived and worked in Japan for 3 years, I feel a special connection to the country and people, and have to ask where responsibility is in this mess; also, how do we address that responsibility with our children, and approach them in the new age of instant entertainment?

Certainly Paul himself is responsible. He owned his mistake, apologized for (one of) the videos, and appears to show regret for posting it -- but he doesn’t necessarily get off that easy. You don’t go into that forest unless you are expecting to find something, and even after the fact, the video itself went through editing before ever finding its way to Youtube. He had opportunities to scrap the idea out of respect and good judgement. Posting the video was not a flippant mistake, but rather a premeditated error. His actions are an epitome of the “ugly American” stereotype the rest of the world is repulsed by, and he has promoted this selfish, disrespectful mentality to millions of children and teens. Hopefully Paul has learned from this experience, and will, in the future, be able to communicate learning and growth to his followers. The latest reports say that his platform is being revoked; I am not sure what Paul will do in the future, but again, I simply hope that there is learning and growth for him from the experience.

Youtube itself is problematic. Their system of monetizing videos lends itself to the antics Paul indulges in. His channel frequently has videos that are questionable; the series of stunts in Japan is not the first time eyebrows have been raised at his behavior online. However, the more views a video receives, the more revenue Youtube and Paul receive from the ads that run alongside (and sometimes within) the video. The more shocking videos get more views, especially from a teenage audience, further encouraging more shocking behavior to increase view count. Even after the video made Youtube’s trending page (due to an algorithm that promotes videos based on view count, regardless of content), Youtube did not take it down. Paul himself took the video down after realizing his error, as a repercussion to the public outcry against him. Ultimately, as a corporation, Youtube’s end goal is to make money and increase their viewers, so we cannot rely on them to police their own content, especially when their method for awarding “viral” videos is flawed. This can be seen time and again with past controversies such as the most recent lure of going viral in the wave of Tide Pod challenge videos, the older Pewdiepie fiasco (in which he faced major public outcry for using racial epithets, and creating anti-semitic videos and posting them online to be shocking), or children’s channels that grow unsettlingly creepy the further the algorithm takes you into the videos, because they cannot differentiate between actual cartoons posted to Youtube and parody videos that morph the characters into nightmare-fuel. Really, the only action we see Youtube take against its own content is when there is major public outcry, and their bottom-line could be damaged from the incident.

We as adults also must recognize that we are responsible for what our students and children are consuming. Do you know who your children subscribes to, spends hours watching, and looks up to as role models? Do those channels promote consumerism, exploitation, and shock tactics (like Paul or PewDiePie), or are your kids watching Youtube channels that broaden understanding on difficult topics, lessons and hobby videos, and how-to information? I know that realistically it is impossible for adults to keep up with the amount and the pace at which our students consume entertainment in a 21st century world, so we need to foster a culture of open discussion with them. If we ban a platform as a knee-jerk reaction because there is the potential for negative content to be available, that content becomes more enticing because now it is “forbidden”. Alternatively, by fostering healthy relationships with our children, and having an idea of what entertainment they are interested in (think wide, not deep), we can have conversations about what is appropriate and respectful, and ask what they think about a given incident like this when it occurs. I, admittedly, did not know who Logan Paul was before some of my friends from Japan began denouncing him on Facebook -- but since I have read up on it, I have been able to have small conversations with groups of students about it, to hear what they think, and talk about it, providing perspective as someone who has also lived and worked in that country. Ultimately, we want to have conversations that will help students learn discernment, modeling how to decide if we do or do not feel comfortable consuming a given type of entertainment, and how to think critically and discuss the entertainment that they consume.