Self Checkout with a Chromebook!

I know I’m not the first (not even close!) to do this but I figured it would be a good post anyway. We now have a self-checkout station in our library, so our students can check out books on their own. This post will show how we set it up and implemented it, which was easier than I originally thought it would be.

Hardware & Requirements

OK, let’s talk about what we used to make this happen.

Chromebook

We decided to use a Chromebook because it is pretty cheap, doesn’t take up a bunch of space and is portable. Also, it is very easy to manage.

Barcode Scanner

We also gave the Chromebook its own scanner. This was a little more expensive than I thought and we made sure it had a base that it could sit in so students didn’t have to pick it up. Also, we want one that is a little heavy duty so it will last. Think of this as an investment. You can certainly find bar code scanners for much, much less but I firmly believe you get what you pay for here. This one in the picture is $150 USD.

Labels

We also used a label printer to print off student barcodes. We used a Brother label maker with its P-Touch software. This software lets us point it to a spreadsheet so we can design a simple template with tags in it and then print merge out all the labels for a grade level or school in one go.

This is a newer model than what we use but the labels in the end should be the same.

Here is a sample of what one of our student labels looks like.

Library Sticks

We use these are sticks to affix a label to that will have a student’s name and patron number as a barcode. We use some plastic heavier duty sticks instead of paint sticks thought paint sticks would probably work just as well. I do know these are more expensive than paint sticks but they’re already colorful, don’t break easily and won’t give any kids splinters.

I’m not sure what ours are called but I’ll find out later and update the post with that info soon.

Destiny

So our library (like many others) uses Follett Destiny to manage our collection; however, I believe that if you used another database that this could still work for you providing that it is web based like Destiny is. Even if it is run locally on your own network – there may be a place for a local user to log in and checkout books through a web browser. If so, then you could possibly set this up provided you would be able to create or modify roles in that system.

Self-Checkout Access Levels and User

In order for this to work we had to create a user in Destiny that can “check out” books. What we don’t want though is for that user to be able to forgive fines, remove books from the collection and basically bring upon an apocalypse.

Lucky for us, Destiny has lots of options and I’ll show you how we made this user.

First, you need to log in as an administrator in Destiny. Then go to Back Office. From here select Access Levels. Here we can create the role and then we will create the user.

When you are at the Access Levels screen go ahead and click on Add Access Level.

From here make sure you do the following:

  • Give it a memorable name
  • Change the Automatic log out to 240 minutes (this is the max time before the system logs the user out)
  • Change the Reset Circulation time to 120 seconds (or whatever you feel is appropriate)
  • Make sure the Collection Role is Student
  • Make sure the only access is Check out library materials

Then click Save.

Now we will stay on the Back Office page and but switch from Access Levels to Manage Patrons. Click on the Add New Patron button.

This will create a new patron or user. You need to fill in the information circled in the picture:

  • Last name
  • First name
  • Username
  • Password
  • Barcode number
  • Access Level (make sure you select the one you just made)

Putting it together

On the Chromebook, we navigated to Destiny and had the librarian log in as our Sample Student. You should see that there are no options to search, check in or do anything else on Destiny except checkout books – perfect!

Now that all the hardware, access level and user are in in place here is what it looks like. I apologize for the mess, this was taken on a Friday afternoon before Spring Break – so a lot of students had returned books.

On Chrome, I zoomed into 150% so it is a little easier for anyone to see what has been checked out.

How it works

Here is how it all works together. A student has their library stick with their barcode printed on it. They pick out the book(s) they want and bring it to the self-checkout station. They scan their library stick which will bring up their account. Then they scan their books one at a time.

When they finish, they then use the trackpad on the Chromebook to click the Reset button. This resets the system and gets it ready for the next student to checkout.

If the system is inactive for 120 seconds it will automatically reset itself and after 240 minutes it will need to be re-logged in.

Details to know

We just set this up but have already had first graders use it and it went pretty well. If a student checks out too many books the system will require for an administrator to put in their username and password to accept it. If not, it will not check out that final book(s) they want.

Putting the self-checkout screen in full screen mode is also highly recommended. This will hide the address bar, bookmarks and any other tabs that may be open.

That reset button is the only real sticky point I can see. Signage is one time tutorial with the students is highly recommended but I figure after one (maybe two visits) students will be good to go. We tried it yesterday with first grade students and didn’t have too many problems!

There should be a librarian, teacher or aid nearby most times just in case.

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STEAM/STEM Core Skills

 

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

 

Developing STEM and STEAM programs (Science Technology Engineering/Art Mathematics) is very exciting, but I have noticed recently there is a lack of cohesive standards to measure progress.

Like many people, I am working on building a set of standards. Some are customized, and some are licensed.

In my research, and through various networking engagements, I have settled on a set of core skills that need to be incorporated throughout the STEAM environment. The standards are being built around these skills.

I have found more engagement among students if the skills are presented first. The skills tend to fuel the desire for hands on work. I also want students to not focus on grades and common rubric models. I want them to focus on creating and going through the design process.

These skills have been developed by the MIT FabLab Program. The FabLab has been operating for well over a decade, and many FabLab partners have developed programs for younger students as well.

The overall philosophy is to learn the skills at every level, but increase the difficulty and complexity within the projects as students gain experience.

The List

DIGITAL FABRICATION PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES
COMPUTER-AIDED DESIGN, MANUFACTURING, AND MODELING
COMPUTER-CONTROLLED CUTTING / Drawing
ELECTRONICS DESIGN AND PRODUCTION
COMPUTER-CONTROLLED MACHINING
EMBEDDED PROGRAMMING
3D MOLDING AND CASTING
COLLABORATIVE TECHNICAL DEVELOPMENT AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT
3D SCANNING AND PRINTING
SENSORS, ACTUATORS, AND DISPLAYS
INTERFACE AND APPLICATION PROGRAMMING
EMBEDDED NETWORKING AND COMMUNICATIONS
MACHINE DESIGN
DIGITAL FABRICATION APPLICATIONS AND IMPLICATIONS
INVENTION, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, AND BUSINESS MODELS
DIGITAL FABRICATION PROJECT DEVELOPMENT

Looking at this list, it might seem impossible to imagine a Grade 3 or even Grade 8 students accomplishing these in a meaningful way. I would argue that all are achievable at least at the planning and design thinking stage. Most of these are achievable with the correct level or equipment and/or some creative outsourcing.

Read More @: http://blog.tieonline.com/steam-stem-core-skills/

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Episode 163 – Momo is Stupid

Tony and Patrick are back for another outstanding episode. Tony’s travel tips, why Momo is just stupid and all the other talking points are below. You can subscribe to us on iTunes (please do) or your favorite podcasting app. 

  1. Tony’s travel tips
    1. Carry ons – you know the size!
    2. Fast Food on domestic flights – terrible smell
    3. Headphones all the time – Bumbling bumblers
  2. Linking Google Slides by Patrick Cauley
    1. https://itbabble.com/2019/02/22/linking-google-slides/
    2. Works with charts and graphs from Sheets
    3. https://support.google.com/docs/answer/7009814?co=GENIE.Platform%3DDesktop&hl=en
  3. HoloLens 2
    1. For industry more than education or consumer
    2. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/hololens/hardware
  4. Momo challenge
    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Momo_Challenge
    2. Streisand effect – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect
    3. Why do schools feel they need to take action on these known hoaxes?
      1. Slenderman – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slender_Man
      2. 2016 Clown sightings – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_clown_sightings
    4. Do a little research before acting
    5. Watch out for real scams such as phishing emails and fake calls

You can download the episode HERE!

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Linking Google Slides

I had teacher walk into the IT office with a good question. She wanted to make a slideshow about a topic and have each student in her room create one slide to add to the slideshow. Here is what you need to know.

  • She is using Google Slides
  • This is 4th Grade
  • She didn’t want students modifying or messing around with other slides
  • 4th grades don’t always make “wise” choices

OK – now you are caught up and messing around here is what we stumbled upon. I don’t think this is a new feature but it was one that I was not aware of. Before we get to the solution here is what first sprung into our minds.

One Slideshow

She would have one slideshow on her Google account and she would share it with one or two at a time and then once their slide was done, she would take away their permissions and assign new students. Or she could just let them work on a computer that is signed into her account under her supervision as they directly added it with no sharing at all.

Obviously this is extremely cumbersome and not very manageable unless you were dealing with 4–6 students, so this would not work

Loads of slideshows and some manual labor

Each student would make their own and then they would share it with her. She would then cue up a bunch of different slide shows to show or she would re-create the slides on her own slideshow.

Again, lots of work and not very practical. I can hear you, the good reader, screaming at the screen now about copy and pasting.

The best solution

So the teacher make one slideshow to rule them all. Then each student makes their own and shares it with her. She will then copy and paste the slide(s) necessary from the student slideshow to the teacher slideshow. So check out the overly simplistic screenshots below.

Teacher Slideshow
Student #1 Slideshow
Student #2 Slideshow

So, what our teacher needs to do is copy the slide from the thumbnail view. Click the thumbnail and then copy it (ctrl+c or cmd+c or right click and select copy). Then once it is copied go to the teacher slideshow and paste it in the thumbnail area. When you do this, you will see an option to link the slide or not to link the slide.

I went ahead and chose to link the slides. When I do this this little icon shows up on that particular slide on the teacher slideshow.

Now here is why this is cool. Let’s say Student #1 decides to add a little more info. Maybe a picture in this case.

Student #1 Picture

Now let’s check back with the teacher’s slideshow and see what has changed.

As you can see – very little has changed, but when you look at Student #1’s slide you will see that it says UPDATE near the top right hand corner.

Update

So when the teacher clicks it the slide will update with the latest changes. Very, very cool.

Updated!

Now, let’s say a fourth grader shares this with their “best” friend who decides it would be hilarious to replace the computer picture with a funny picture and then the teacher hits update. All the teacher needs to do is hit Undo (ctrl+z or cmd+z or hit the Undo button) and the latest changes will be undone. Simple as that.

So, if you’re ever in this situation of making a single slideshow based and want the class to contribute then give this a go. It seems to work very well.

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Episode 162 – CAPTCHAS Suck!

Tony and Patrick are back with another great episode. The talking points are below but know this CAPTCHAs suck

  1. Tony’s holiday
  2. Finally – displays are moving in the right direction by Patrick
    1. https://itbabble.com/2019/01/29/finally-displays-are-moving-in-the-right-direction/
    2. Not overthinking it
  3. CAPTCHAS suck
    1. BUSES! FRICKING BUSES!!
    2. Filling in an online form for an event at school
    3. CAPTCHAS – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CAPTCHA
  4. Report Cards – Hell on Earth? Or Really Helpful Documents?
    1. Long format unnecessary?
    2. Standards vs Grades

You can download the podcast HERE

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Finally – displays are moving in the right direction

I’m not a fan of interactive whiteboards. My opinions on interactive whiteboards have not changed. Basically I felt that it forced teachers to change how they taught in order to use the technology. I always felt that a teacher should use it as a way to enhance how they teach not force them to change.

Then I saw the Google Jamboard and thought YES! This is something that gets out of your way and lets you work. Then I used the Google Jamboard and it felt like a dream that was interrupted with a fire alarm going off next to your ear. It is a good idea but not quite finished. That on top of its ridiculous price and tiny display made it less realistic for just about anybody – regardless of budget.

Despite this I still felt hopeful. I felt that finally we getting into an interactive panel that lets teachers mirror their display, allow for annotations and white-boarding and do all this fairly fluidly without tapping the board a hundred times just to get to a map of the world (I’m looking at you Promethean).

Last week I attended a demo of a new display hitting the US market in early Spring. I won’t divulge the company or the model of the display because I’m not here to shill for them. The demo had two representatives from the company. A regional sales rep (that you would expect) and then a representative from the development team. This person apparently helps to oversee the software and the hardware implementation and how the two work with each other. This is not something you see. He was there to gather feedback and to take it back to the team. Apparently at an early demo, someone had asked for a way that the interactive display could support multiple accounts. Within 8 months they had that feature and pushed it out to older boards as a firmware update. Impressive

Attending the demo with me was a science teacher, an IT director for a larger public school system, an IT director for a division of a university and an administrator of an engineering firm. A Pretty diverse group all in all. Each had their own budgets and needs and that came out in the questioning.

The physical screen

The screen itself was quite similar to what you see on the market right now. 60–80+ inches, 4K, can be mounted on a trolley or mounted to a wall and are quite sturdy. It also has a stripped down version of Android and has lots of inputs to connect your device or another peripheral. Pretty standard features really.

In fact, the reps both said that many of the panels are all made at the same factory and then the individual companies wrap their own case, add their own software to help make their “product” stand out. So when if you’re deciding what screen your school should buy based on its appearance good luck.

Using it

Then we got to what the screen can do. Basically you can connect your computer to the screen and mirror your display or extend it and then quickly annotate on it with just a quick gesture touch on the screen. You can then save that as a screenshot or you can actually record a video of what is happening while you are working.

Thank goodness it is simple.

You can sign in to your Google Drive or your Office 365 account and so when you (a teacher) sign into the board, your cloud storage is right there at your fingertip.

Thank goodness that is simple.

You can easily bring up a whiteboard to collaborate on and you can use your finger or a passive pen (a pen without a battery) to write and multiple people can write at the same time. Again the whiteboard can be saved or recorded as people work on in.

Nice and simple.

Android messiness

As I mentioned before the board runs a stripped down Android OS. The problem with this is that there is no Google Play store meaning that you cannot easily download and install apps of your choice. You side-load an app into the board but there is not guarantee that the app will run or run properly. The representatives commented that this panel cannot run Google Play Services (no specific reason was given) because they do not meet some Google requirements. If you know what this may be please let me know in the comments.

This can limit the functionality of the board and certainly can cause issues when trying to expand its functionality. Also this is not the most intuitive or easy process for most teachers to undertake and then there are no guarantees that these apps will not crash or cause problems with the OS which may cause issues with the basic functioning of the board itself.

Wrapping up

Basic usability has come a long way from the Promethean and SmartBoards of 2010 and that is a very good thing. Now that there are a lot more companies offering a variety of options from the uber expensive Microsoft Hub to the more affordable lesser known brands such as ViewSonic.

Now these items are far more expensive than projectors but their portability, meaningful interactive features and longevity make it an appealing option for schools. We are looking at one to use in our library which will give more flexibility when dealing with a single class, small group or a large group.

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Episode 161 – It’s a HOAX!

Tony and Patrick are back! We talk about snow and other important topics and there is the first ever Story Time with Uncle Tony and it is a good one! Check out the talking points below and as always please subscribe to us on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app.

  1. Virtual Reality – I am hopeful for its future by Patrick Cauley
    1. https://itbabble.com/2019/01/10/virtual-reality-i-am-hopeful-for-its-future/
    2. PSVR – https://www.playstation.com/en-us/explore/playstation-vr/
  2. Story Time with Uncle Tony
    1. Facebook copy and paste text to see posts from old friends
    2. Afraid to copy and paste
    3. Tony retyped it in TextEdit – instead of copy and paste
    4. Facebook linking these accounts due to same content (hypothesis)
  3. Consumer Electronics Show 2019
    1. Samsung’s MicroLED – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MicroLED
    2. LG rollable TV  – https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2018/12/17/18145866/lg-rollable-tv-ces-2019-commercial-sale
    3. New laptops
      1. LG Gram
      2. Cheaper Chromebooks
      3. Lenovo Laptops
      4. Apple Airplay on most TV’s

Download this episode HERE!

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Run Self Hosted Tech Without Your School Building

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

Imagine you have had to evacuate your high school. Could you facilitate your classes and business processes without physically being in your building?

If most of your infrastructure is  in a cloud based environment, odds are you can maintain business continuity without your building. You might need an office or some type of staging area, but your organization can still meet it’s core requirements.

But what if you are self-hosted? What if most of your systems rely on infrastructure and data that is on premises?

This is an important conversation senior management and all the creative thinkers in your organization need to have. Here are some ideas to help guide you through the process and make (or test) your plan.

Choose a Secondary Location

Before anything technical happens, choose a secondary location to run your operations. Assume that the current location, and immediate area around the current location, are off-limits. Where can you affordably establish and maintain an operational space?

The space would need to include:

  1. Enough space for the core team to work
  2. Basic communication resources
  3. Hardcopies of data that is required to contact parents, students, and teachers
  4. Hardcopies of schedules and other data that are needed for basic school operations
  5. Basic supplies and consumables (even food and water) for the team to work for at least 14 days

Remember, this requires some minimalism. People could rotate in and out, but the core team should be as small as possible. Anyone who can work from home, should work from home.

If you can maintain business continuity without technology, then by all means try to achieve this. Every new requirement will only add complexity to the situation.

If you need technology, keep reading.

Create a Portable Network

For any data to flow inside or outside of the secondary location, a computer network is required. Here are some core items that would be required in a normal metropolitan/urban/suburban area where the mobile service has not been disrupted:

  1. One 4-5G router (if these are not available, then two or three 4-5G hotspots/wifi eggs)
  2. One high speed router to allow network and wifi customization
  3. 5-10 individual LAN cables; 1-3 Meters each; longer cables look messy but add flexibility
  4. 5-10 power extensions with sockets; avoid cheap ones
  5. Cable ties, double sided-tape, duct tape, and a few box knives

This setup will connect to the internet, and allow the small group of users to get online.

The environment will most likely be small, so maintaining basic safety when rigging equipment is essential. Damaged equipment will be difficult to manage during any type of emergency. Preventing trip wires prevents damage.

Create Portable Data

Many organizations have offsite servers that mirror their data. These organizations can keep operating without their normal infrastructure.

Most schools do not do this. Most schools cannot afford to do this. If the school is using an online classroom environment, then maintaining classes will be fairly simply as long as there is a protocol to follow. For all academics functions, creating a protocol. This should include:

  1. Attendance for teachers and students (time stamped, and strictly followed)
  2. Mimic the course schedule; when a teacher should be in math class, they should be online answering questions about math; they need to follow their schedule
  3. Establish office hours and lunch to provide some break time and organization
  4. Assign administrators to contact teachers for daily feedback and summaries
  5. Assign administrators to randomly contact students for daily feedback and summaries
  6. Send parents status updates on the situation at the same time everyday, unless a critical time sensitive issue presents itself

Using an online classroom system for your day-to-day teaching is not a requirement to have an online classroom system. A school can setup a Google Classroom or Microsoft Classroom environment for emergencies. These are usually free with educational licensing. These classroom environments need to be kept up-to-date with enrollment and scheduling.

There are a few other ways to run online classes without these cloud services, the cost is higher, but it is totally feasible. If you need this type of information, please email me: tony.deprato@gmail.com

Data files, such as spreadsheets and text documents, will be required for business functions. You may have an emergency where going into the campus is not prohibited. Retrieving hardware will be difficult and the outcome uncertain. Relying on external drives is not a great idea unless a set of those drives is stored off campus on a regular schedule.

Offsite storage is easy to manage using systems like Resilio Sync. The assumption is that the school does not want to use any cloud services. Using a peer-to-peer system would send copies daily from one location directly to the next.

There are other ways to sync files from one private location to another. Feel free to email and inquire.

Not Complete But Enough to Get Started

There are many options when designing these plans. Even if you feel the ideas here are not feasible, the questions raised are worth answering. The thought exercise should help develop policies and procedures for all stakeholders.

Administrators should be engaging their IT teams to find out how data is saved, where it is saved, and how it can be accessed. IT teams should be engaging administrators to determine the minimum core requirements for maintaining business continuity, and the total amount of downtime the organization can withstand.

 

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Virtual Reality – I am hopeful for its future

I recently wrote a post titled I Played with Virtual Reality. In that post I review the Mirage Solo – A standalone (no wires) Google Day Dream device. I did not find it super impressive and it got me thinking. Is the virtual reality done for right now? Is it over? I mean the hype is pretty non-existent right now concerning anything that is coming out in this area (I am also lumping in mixed and augmented reality into this topic).

I can relate

I wondered to myself about what happened? I was super pumped about this! I thought this would be revolutionary to education. Something along the lines of giving students laptops, but I was wrong. Then I ran across this CNET article by Mark Serrels titled Virtual reality feels like a dream gathering dust.

In the article, he points out that in 2019 at CES (one of the largest technology shows in the world) that VR is nothing more than a talking point in a presentation. It’s not a key feature to any device that adds value to it.

He later goes on to explain that he attended a panel at CES called AR-VR-MR Think Tank. Here the panel of professionals talk shop about these different technologies. If you are unfamiliar with those acronyms here is what they stand for:
* AR – Augmented Reality
* VR – Virtual Reality
* MR – Mixed Reality

The panel basically says that the public was sold the idea of virtual reality as a consumer product too early. It still hadn’t been developed enough by corporations or people long enough. I remember reading feverishly all that I could about VR and the different headsets (Oculus, HTC Vive) and when they were going to be sold to

There is a new version of the HTC Vive and Occulus is coming out with the Quest both are stand-alone and far more powerful than the Lenovo Mirage I got to play with, but still, it’s not that great. There are games out there for VR, but not a ton of good ones or so I thought.

So the outlook doesn’t sound too promising but then I listened to a podcast.

Top 10

I was listening to the Kinda Funny Gamecast and the hosts were going over their top 10 games of 2018. A number of Playstation VR games had made the list. Here were the three that I can remember off the top of my head.
* Beat Saber
* Moss
* Astro Bot

Kinda Funny is well respected and pretty prominent in the gaming industry and for any VR games to make their top 10 makes me feel hopeful for VR. It makes me feel that there are still companies out there who are dedicated to making it work and making it better and developing it.

Video games seem like the industry that will carry the torch. I am sure that the corporate world and maybe the medical industry may use it for training, but to make it a truly interactive experience and a seamless one I feel that the video game industry is probably the best industry for its development. They can create products that give users a chance to test it out and then give feedback on a larger scale than any other industry. Not every VR game has to be Grand Theft Auto or Super Smash Brothers to make a lasting impact too. Meaning that smaller independent companies have a chance to push the boundaries here.

I still don’t recommend schools investing in VR unless they have a very specific program with a VR need, but I do recommend that schools keep an eye on the space and an open mind a few years down the road.

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Episode 160 – AI Still Sucks

Tony and Patrick are back to wish you a Happy New Year and to spread a little ed tech love your way. This show is a good one to close out 2018 so check out the talking points below and as always, be sure to subscribe to us on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app!

  1. Good article or Facebook hit piece?
    Beware Silicon Valley’s Gifts to Our Schools
  2. Tony loves the new Ubuntu, more arguments for a Chrome Based environment and App Stream-  OR – just Ubuntu and Amazon without Google Overlords
    1. https://www.ubuntu.com/
    2. App Stream runs well – https://aws.amazon.com/appstream2/
  3. Crisis plan for IT departments
    1. You Need Power or You’re Gonna Have a Bad Time (Possible Blog Post Title)
      https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1musexE29t1HkVZUDZp9jYgg-GgniSaZW4zQdkDcktxc/edit#gid=0
    2. What happens in a bad day?
  4. AI Still Sucks
    1. Service that monitors G Suite and Office 365 schools.
    2. I looks at email and Google Drive/OneDrive documents
    3. Can read text in pictures
    4. Looks for drug mentions, violence or gun use, self harm, profanity and cyber bullying
    5. 91,661 issues reported – none that require any action from administration

You can download this episode from HERE!

Or listen to it below

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