Clarify – Today is a dark day

As a professional, there are those magical moments when you come across a system, technique or app that just works. It doesn’t just works, it works exactly as expected. It crushes those pesky expectations and everytime you produce a product using it, you feel as though you’ve bettered yourself, your peers, your clients or all of the above.

Clarify, my dear friends, is that app for me.

As an educator and working with IT, explaining how to perform tasks is a daily occurence. Whether I am working with administrators and the schdule or students on how not to reply all to an email, I and the IT team are needed. Clarify allowed us to work smarter. We could prempt these problems by using Clarify to make step-by-step instructions. Not only could you make these instructions, easily and quickly, but then you could upload them to Clarify’s server, so you could email out a link, embed it into a website or heck even export as a PDF or Word file. It was awesome.

The app itself is awesome, but Clarify’s awesomeness didn’t stop there. Oh no. Their support was second to none. A couple of years ago I upgraded to Clarify 2 and was having some issues with it. I emailed their support. None other than Trevor DeVore (co-founder) emailed me back. It took about a week and a lot of work (mostly on Trevor’s part) to pinpoint the problem, but it turned out to be a third party app that wasn’t playing nice with Clarify. Most tech support teams would have given up (beliveve me I know) after the first couple of solutions didn’t work, but Trevor kept at it until it was working.

Clarify is a product of Blue Mango Learning and they make a “grown up” version of Clarify called Screen Steps. It is definitely more tailored for larger companies for their training purposes and apparently that part of their business is growing pretty well because they are just in a position to dedicate the amount of time needed to keep Clarify supported and to keep their servers up and running.

You can read their reasons from their blog here.

You can’t blame them, there are only so many hours in a day and instead of letting a service sit their and fester with the “appearance” of support. They are stepping away from it.

Mark my words people, I will use Clarify until the wheels fall off. I’m thankful to the people of Blue Mango for their work and support and having the great idea of creating a program to develop step-by-step instructions for everybody.

Whoever (if anyone) steps up in this niche market – beware! You have some big shoes to fill.

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Episode 141 – GO REDS!

141

Tony and I were in Cincinnati together and took in a Reds game (they won by the way). No, that is not us on the jumbotron. While there we also had a chance to sit down together and talk Ed Tech, which is what we love to do anyway.

Check out the talking points below!

  1. Hello Cincinnatti! 
  2. What’s been going on? 
  3. Tony’s post on Technology Surveys for New Hires. 
    1. https://itbabble.com/2017/07/14/technology-surveys-for-new-hires/ 
  4. Patrick is back on Mac – sort of Extortion = Swivl 
    1. Crazy prices now 
    2. https://www.swivl.com/store/ 
    3. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/satarii/swivl-multipurpose-motion-platform-for-mobile-and  
    4. What does it do and why is it popular? 
https://itbabble.podomatic.com/enclosure/2017-08-25T07_21_04-07_00.mp3″

You can download the show here!

You can also subscribe to us on iTunes or Podomatic.

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Redefine PD with the 80/20 Principle

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

A very significant part of Educational Technology Leadership is devoted to professional development, new systems implementation, and the long term planning of support.

Every year as the semester starts-up, administrators around the world are planning for professional development (PD). There is pressure during those initial weeks to try and rapidly develop the faculty within new areas, to help everyone review all current requirements, and to re-train in areas of concern. Many of these areas rely highly, or solely, upon technology; technology is often the center of the professional development process.

Year after year, group after group, and plan after plan, results tend to be the same. There is never enough time to meet everyone’s agenda, teachers feel rushed, and confidence among many is low but silenced. So why do organizations follow this same pattern?

After many years of asking this question, and proposing options, the answers seem to come down to:

  • This is the only fair way to expose EVERYONE to EVERYTHING.
  • The goal is not mastery; the goal is introduction; mastery comes later.
  • Large groups working together help to create future support groups; the process is team building.
  • Support and resources for PD are easier to manager in mass; the first week or two of the new year shift support to critical needs.

Everyone is 100% and 100% is Wrong

The Pareto principle (80/20) is taught in economics, business, marketing, etc., because when tested, it tests true.

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few, or the principle of factor sparsity)[1] states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. (https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Pareto_principle)

For example:

  • 20% of the customers create 80% of the revenue
  • 20% of the software bugs cause 80% of the crashes
  • 20% of the features cause 80% of the usage
  • 20% of users create 80% of the technology support tickets.

80/20 is often seen as a negative metric, when in fact, is a great opportunity to improve PD outcomes.

Following the 80/20 rule, any given PD item needs to be mastered by only 20% of the organization in order for the entire organization to benefit.

Read More @ The International Educator

 

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Technology Surveys for New Hires

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

Since 2008, I have been working with groups of new hires. There is much stress and confusion when people are relocating to another country. I always try and provide the information new hires need to understand the technology culture at the school, and within the country.

Initially, I was simply doing Q and A, and creating FAQ documents. One year, I realized that I was missing a huge opportunity to do some data driven decision making. I began to develop a set of surveys.

Survey data helps to shape the professional development for orientation and possible configurations for IT systems. Additionally, the data aids in the team building process by identifying new people with higher level skills. These people can then immediately contribute at the level they should be contributing instead of being sidelined because they are new.

Meet Them Where They Are

Many schools are hesitant to do surveys because new hires have a tremendous amount of paperwork to complete. Schools often do not want to add any additional communication to an already very busy process.

I do understand this view point, however, new hires will not be overwhelmed if a technology survey is incorporated into an already required technology process.

In the spring, I recommend all schools setup and activate the email accounts for the new hires. The moment they sign in the first time, they are a captive audience. The first email they see in their inbox could be the technology survey. New hires usually like getting their new account in the spring, so they will not be irritated at the process.

If the school has setup social media for new hires, such as a Facebook Group, those accounts can also be used to share links to surveys.

Read The Rest of the Post @TheInternationalEducator, TIE ONLINE

Posted in Educational Technology, Google Apps, Helpful Tips, Instructional Technology, TIEONLINE, Tony DePrato | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Interactive whiteboards should DIE!!!

Yes, you read it correctly. I typed three exclamation points in the title. That is how strongly I feel about interactive whiteboards. Let me tell you where that comes from. It was my first international school and they were doing a quick tech presentations (setting up email, our electronic grade book, etc.) One of those presentations was with the school’s new Promethean Interactive Whiteboard.

At first blush I was impressed. I really was and wish I had one in my class. There appeared to be endless possibilities for student engagement. It seemed like a perfect marriage of technology and education. A great compliment to great lessons.

That’s the problem. The interactive whiteboards are not complimentary to lesson plans. In order for them to be effective, in my opinion, the interactive whiteboard has to be the center of the lesson and you have to use it all the time.

Menus

You may ask yourself Patrick, what’s the big deal? I am so glad you asked. Let’s start with the menus. Dear God the menus. There are way too many of them. Just to bring up that coordinate plane, it would take 3-5 clicks (or taps using the pen). You have to go from menu, to menu, to menu to find something and if you didn’t know where it was and had to looking forward then you have a few minutes of dead air in your classroom.

Then there is the alignment and calibration. Calibrating the pen for the boards is usually quite easy, but if the projector is not properly installed, sometimes calibrating the pen can be a real pain. The reason is, the software usually has places for you to tap with the pen in order to make sure when you place the pen on the board it lands true and makes the selection or annotation that you want to make.

You see good reader, if the projector is installed incorrectly or not set up well enough, then those calibration targets may be on the border of off the whiteboard all together making accurate calibration a pipe dream. Sometimes, this can be remedied with a quick adjustment on the projector, but there are other times, when the projector itself will have to be moved and remounted – a time consuming and depending on your interactive whiteboard provider could be an additional cost.

Cost

You can’t talk about a major addition to a classroom or school without considering cost. As we all know money does not fall from the sky and schools need to work within a budget (if they want to keep their doors open that is). So one needs to consider these costs:

  • Unit itself
  • Installation
  • Upkeep
  • Repairs

Now these costs differ from vendor to vendor and depending on your particular contract. I am going to say $5,000 per unit which includes a projector. If you pay more than this, please don’t go to your vendor, show them this piece and say Hey bub! What’s the dealio? I’ve known schools who pay much more just because of their location and services available.

Now, one thing that most schools don’t think about is the long term with these devices. Once it is installed and working properly it will take care of itself. Like a refrigerator or a stove. This is true . . . for a while. The very first time you turn on the projector, the picture will look great (at least I hope it does). However, if you compare day 1 to day 50 to day to day 365 you will notice that the picture will be dimmer each time. It’s just how light bulbs work and that is the heart of that projector. When that light bulb goes out, you need to replace it. These bulbs are not cheap and if you’re replacing 20% of your bulbs every year, then your costs go up. Be sure to tack that onto the original budgeted item. As you can see these costs can add up quickly.

Alternatives

So there are my problems, so what can schools do about this? What options do they have? Schools and teachers don’t want to not have an interactive display in their room. It looks good for parents and guests walking through the halls. There are some teachers who do use them.

There are alternatives out there. There are interactive displays (no projectors) that can replace your school’s interactive white board. The advantages to these boards are numerous.

  1. Dim much slower
  2. No bulbs to replace
  3. Easier and cheaper to mount
  4. No pen calibration or very easy pen calibration
  5. Lower costs over time
  6. Higher resolution (better picture)

Microsoft makes one called the Surface Hub which comes in two sizes – 55″ and an 84″ Their prices are $9,000 and *gulp* $22,000. Yeah that second price is a little hard to swallow. If your school is on Office 365 it might be worth considering and there may be a discount. It does some neat things too and would be great for Skype in the Classroom.

Google has the newly minted Jamboard (what a terrible name) made by Benq for $5000 which looks pretty promising.

This is more of what I am talking about and while 55″ isn’t as large as I would like and the rolling stand is an extra $1000 and of course what would an IT product be without licensing which you have to pay every year.  However, add all that up and I still think the Jamboard would win out over a traditional interactive whiteboard.

Bottom line is I don’t like them. They don’t deliver on their promise of really enhancing a classroom. They are too cumbersome to use and just not super effective.

What do you think? Leave those comments below!

Posted in Opinion, Patrick Cauley | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

SoundCloud ☹

I’ve talked about SoundCloud before as a good, free service for classes and schools to use to publish podcasts. I mean there are Android and iOS apps which make posting dead simple. You can also find some pretty great music and other quality podcasts on the site too.

In the past couple of years there have been articles that SoundCloud is in financialtrouble. These articles have been around and people have been wondering how and when (if at all) the much beloved service would become profitable. I mean it has a really large user base, depending on where you look it looks like there are between 50-200 million users.

Well the news today is definitely not good. SoundCloud has closed two offices and laid off  40% of its staff. Not a sign of a company moving in the right direction. Apparently the people at Soundcloud are making this move in an effort to become profitable, but time will tell and it seems like an extreme action.

If you or your school uses SoundCloud it may be time to think of finding a new provider to host your podcasts.

There are a bunch out there. IT Babble uses Podomatic (the free version) there are other options out there. Rather than me drone on, I figured I would like to a pretty concise article from TechNorms.

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Weekly Rant: Clouded Judgement

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

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Weekly Rant: Island of Garbage

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

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AI in the classroom – WATCH OUT FOR THE SLAP!

OUCH! What the hell was that kid doing?

Have you ever wondered how you could track your student’s engagement? Well look no further than France. Apparently there is a business school there that is doing just that. Now before you imagine a classroom filled with cameras pointed right at students in a lecture hall, think again. Apparently this is a business school called Nestor in France that is offering online classes.

I saw this in an article from The Verge  where it is stated that they are using AI to monitor when students are engaged and distracted. If a student is distracted a robot does not reach through the screen to slap the day dreaming student (though that would be crazy). Instead it lets students (and teachers I suppose) of if the student is engaged or not.

I wonder how this handles students who are pondering new concepts – would it count those students as engaged or not? The article doesn’t say nor does it mention much about the data it collects.

At any rate, it sounds like a good idea, but the more I think about it, the more I am not sure how this will work.

What do you think?

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Episode 140 – It’s REAL!

Tony and myself are back! It’s been a while since we published a podcast, but this one is worth it! We talk about the Zoom Q8, Microsoft news, Ransomware and Tony’s rant. Check out the talking points below and find us on iTunes, Podomatic or your favorite podcast app.

  1. Zoom Q8
    https://www.zoom-na.com/products/field-video-recording/video-recording/zoom-q8
  2. Microsoft news
    1. Windows 10S
    2. We think the Edge browser stinks
    3. Surface laptop – http://www.techradar.com/reviews/microsoft-surface-laptop
    4. Surface Pro (5) – https://blogs.windows.com/devices/2017/05/23/meetnewsurface-pro/#tuASGQ8wLX6FXZX8.97
  3. Ransomware – It’s real!
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ransomware
  4. Tony’s Rant

You can download the episode HERE!

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