Meetings are a cornerstone of the shared decision making process in education. And yet, it has been my experience that meetings are often thrown together at the last minute. I am of the belief that EVERY meeting of any importance should have one or more goals, and a written agenda. With that in mind, here is a great link about Planning Meeting Agendas and another discussing The Seven Sins of Deadly Meetings. I believe a little planning goes a long way toward making meetings shorter and more productive. A favorite quote:
“If circulated before the meeting, the agenda allows members time to prepare to participate more effectively at the meeting.”
While visiting the Education World website, I happened upon this great School Culture Triage survey. The idea behind this survey is to quickly and accurately evaluate a school’s culture. According to the article containing the survey:
“In every case, the higher the school culture score, the better the school was ranked. The lower the survey score, the lower the school’s ranking.”
This fall, I will suggest implementing this survey with our staff, and use the results as a starting point for staff development.
We have all run into CAPTCHAs (those little squiggly words we must type to access web services). You might also know there are multiple projects under way with the goal of scanning books and documents into digital form. Now imagine combining these two concepts!
Enter reCAPTCHA, whose goal it is to provide login security AND help digitize thousands of books. Every time a user uses reCAPTCHA to log into a website, they are also asked to decrypt a “hard to read” word from one of the book digitizing projects. So as you log in to a website, you are helping digitize a book. Check out THIS ARTICLE discussing reCAPTCHA in more detail.
Have you ever wished that your hard drive would just tell you why it’s so full, and what files are filling it up? Well, now there is a free program called WinDirStat that does just that. WinDirStat, gives you a graphical view of your hard drive with blocks representing files. The beauty of this is, you can quickly see which giant files are taking up your hard drive, and where they are located. This program would be great for educators to monitor their hard drives and keep free space available.
Two-factor authentication is a very popular term in security these days. Basically, the idea here is that, instead of providing just “something you know” such as your userid and password, it is much safer to also provide something else. That is, provide an additional FACTOR before you are allowed to enter a secure area, such as an online bank account.
One of the smarter ways of doing this is to provide something unrelated to your password, for example “something you have“. Among the coolest “something you have” devices is the new PayPal Security Key device. Basically, it is a little electronic display that generates a new 6 digit number every 30 seconds. When you log into PayPal or Ebay, you simply enter this special number along with your userid and password.
I think the time will be soon when public school districts adopt something like this to help secure sensitive student data. These key creation devices have been available in the business world for years, and it’s about time that school districts took data security seriously!
The term MBWA is a “strategic management” term dating back decades. Apparently, it originated with the Hewlett Packard company, where HP Managers would seldom be at their desks. Instead, they would be found out with their employees, walking around the company. This idea of MBWA is having a revival of sorts in education, where managers are being encouraged to regularly visit classrooms via “Walk Throughs“. In particular, principals are being encouraged to regularly visit many classrooms in sequence. The key here is that the visits are non-threatening and have specific goals in mind.
For example, the visits might check classroom security, or check the lighting in classrooms, or checking for textbook use and availability. Also, these visits can be directed toward particular teaching strategies, perhaps as followup to a recent inservice. The key to these walk throughs is that they are not putative, and that teachers and staff know up front that the principal will be performing walk throughs on a consistent basis.
Here are Twelve Guidelines for Management by Walking Around.
One of the great worries I have regarding my computer science students is that they spend way too much time sitting at their computers indoors. I always joke to them that their lack of tans and muscle tone is an obvious sign that they are computer geeks. It turns out that studies have been done showing that natural lighting and outdoor learning BOTH improve student test scores. Now if I can just figure a way to teach PowerPoint outdoors, I’ll be set
For a long time, a $100 laptop has been discussed as a possible solution to the Global Digital Divide. Basically, the “digital divide” refers to the fact that under-devleoped countries don’t have ready access to technology. This is especially true in areas like Africa, where Internet access is rare. Well, the XO-1 Computer is finally making headway toward this goal. Currently at $135-$175, this is the closest device yet to this goal.
Critics contend that little thought has been put toward issues such as recycling these computers once they go bad, and other issues such as tech support. Even Bill Gates has criticized the $100 computer. Overall, however, critics are missing the point. A $100 many not solve the Global Digital Divide, but it is much better than simply ignoring the problem as the developing world has for decades.
Ultimately, research toward the goal of a cheaper laptop computer may also help public schools in the US, were funding is, at best, inconsistent. I look at this research by MIT as a win-win for everyone.
One of the major problems with the Internet in general is the number of logins each user must have to navigate the net. Currently, I have over 50 registrations or passwords to websites that I use in one way or another. There have been many attempts in the past to have one login/password for all “identity management”.
Even giants like Microsoft have failed in this area with their Microsoft Passport system (now Microsoft Live ID). The newest contender in this race toward “one password to rule them all” OpenID. Where others have failed, OpenID may actually succeed. One reason OpenID has a fighting chance is it’s Open Source origins. Because of this, OpenID is not owned by anybody in particular. This allows anybody, including industry giants like AOL to use OpenID. Here’s hoping that OpenID (or something like it) finally takes hold.
Much has been made of the iPhone being the next big thing in consumer electronics. I think, however, that the iPhone itself (as a hardware device) will not be remembered. Rather, it will be the touch screen interface that will survive the test of history. The iPhone interface, I believe, suggests the future of user input for all electronic devices. Along with voice/speech recognition finally fulfilling decades of promise, I think the mouse and keyboard may be on their way out!