Information Systems

Tech Talk

  • Atomic Learning: A Zombie to Be?

    Posted October 29, 2015

    For several years, Lab has subscribed to Atomic Learning, the online learning portal for technology training videos, staff training, and technology classroom integration. In the last couple of years, AL has expanded its scope to offer a rich variety of professional development and higher-level opportunities to learn about teaching with technology, including projects, self-assessments, and other such tools.

    Despite being regularly publicized over the years through Tech Talk, new teacher orientation, its visible spot on the Faculty/Staff page in LabNet, and the daily exchanges around help desk tickets, usage data reveals that Lab users accessed or downloaded content from AL just 66 times in the last 12 months.

    It may be that people are not clear on how to log in, which can get tricky to communicate because we can’t post that information on a world readable web page. We’ll send out an email detailing how to log in as a reminder.

    Or it may just be that the product is not a good fit for Lab, despite its strong market presence and CODIE award-winning status. Whatever the reason, it will be difficult to justify the significant cost of renewing in January when usage numbers, which have never been robust, are this low. If you have any thoughts or input on AL and its possible discontinuation, kindly send them directly to John Krug, who has admin duties for the AL product.

  • Computing Capital Requests: Next Steps

    Posted October 29, 2015

    Thanks to those who submitted computing capital requests. Next steps are for Curt to go through the requests and discuss them with principals and supervisors to ensure that decisions made about them are aligned with division or office goals for the use of technology in the instructional and operational program. The goal is still to turn these requests around and get approvals ordered by Thanksgiving.

  • What We’re Up To (A Brief Sampling)

    Posted October 29, 2015

    Supporting MS ERB testing ✳︎ providing a/v services for events (18 in the last two weeks) ✳︎ securing the contract for Schoology ✳︎ attending an Apple roundtable of local tech directors ✳︎ managing developments in the construction project, both in Parks Hall and next phase in Judd ✳︎ finalizing the purchase of servers for IDF closets in Parks Hall * supporting the emerging Maker Space in Earl Shapiro Hall ✳︎ supporting the Chromebook pilot in the Middle School ✳︎ setting staff goals for the year as part of the staff evaluation process ✳︎ making 114 iCart deliveries in the month of October ✳︎ reworking app sets on iPads for looping teachers, managing incoming requests for additional apps ✳︎ assisting new IS employees in adapting to position demands….and much more.

  • Your Input Requested

    Posted October 29, 2015

    If there are items you would like to see in Tech Talk, or you are doing something with technology in your class or office that you would like to share, be sure to let Curt know. We appreciate your taking the time to read Tech Talk, and feedback on it is generally good, but like so many things in our professional lives, there is always room for improvement. Thanks and have a happy Halloween weekend.

  • Fair Use and Copyright:

    Posted October 14, 2015

    Volumes have been written about Fair Use of copyrighted material in educational settings. No effort will be made here to replicate it. Instead, there are a couple of good links below for the uninitiated.

    It's a complicated topic that many education professionals find difficult to interpret (as do many attorneys and judges). Some level of informed judgement is required before one can be reasonably certain that a given work is compliant with the spirit and letter of the law. Challenging though it may be, none of us is entitled to ignore Fair Use because it’s hard to figure out.

    Determining Fair Use in our daily work is a responsibility we all share, students, teachers, administrators, and staff members alike. It is not IS’ role to be the copyright police, though in some instances we have regrettably been cast in that light. We encourage you to examine the materials linked below and look forward to partnering with you in using copyrighted material responsibly in your role here at Lab.

    If you have not read up on Fair Use, these links from the University of Minnesota libraries will be helpful:

DIT Bits Blog

  • Leadership 101: Avoiding the Bermuda Triangle

    09/17/2015 10:24 AM

    One of the most basic skills any leader with any hope of success needs to master is avoiding triangulation. You know the scenario: an issue arises between Party A and Party B. Party A goes to a third party to complain about Party B.

    The third party intervenes and talks to Party B, often with good intentions, or because they think it's their job, or they don't realize what's about to happen. Party B then complains about Party A to the third party, and things deteriorate rapidly as all three parties enter the Bermuda Triangle where effective communication goes to die.

    The only way to avoid triangulation is to ask a simple question when Party A wants to involve you as the third party: "Have you talked with Party B about these concerns? I suggest you do so, honestly and candidly, and then let me know how that turns out." Then you smile, turn, and walk away.

    That's it. So simple, yet over and over again, I see smart, talented people walk right into the Bermuda Triangle time and again, and I really can't understand why. My best guess is that they are just not comfortable thinking about the potentially uncomfortable conversation Party A and Party B might have when they sit down together, so they try to grease the wheels so the uncomfortable conversation never happens. That's a shame, for it's most often the case that getting to the bottom of an issue requires people to be uncomfortable while they figure things out.

    if you are party A, don't go to a third party. Go the source. Stop the game before it starts, and begin with a "help me understand" approach. You may have to do this a couple of times before you start to get results. If your repeated efforts are ignored or otherwise unsuccessful, then you may need to engage a third party (more on this below).

    If you are party B, and a third party tries to engage you on behalf of Party A, refuse to play the game. Simply say, "I'm sorry to hear Party A is having a problem that may involve me. I would like to speak with them directly and will contact them promptly to address this. Would you like me to let you know how that turned out?"

    Are there times when a third party should get involved in resolving an issue? Of course. If Parties A and B have made a genuine effort to resolve an issue but haven't been successful, then by all means intervene, but only to facilitate, preferably with both parties in the same room. Don't get caught running back and forth between the two parties; it implies an adversarial relationship between the parties that isn't healthy for the institution.

    You may also find recurring patterns of poor performance, unclear expectations, or institutional constraints that create conditions conducive to conflict. The right third party can bring a different perspective to such situations and help both parties understand the larger context that may be making communication difficult.

    Ultimately, what we want is for people to develop sufficient trust to enjoy healthy working relationships. That's not possible without a commitment to candor in our conversations with one another, even when it means agreeing to disagree or being uncomfortable while we work together to solve problems and clarify expectations. Most of the time, you can't and shouldn't outsource these conversations. We should all know by now what happens when you do.