The extinction of the tech integrator

Yep – I am calling it. Put it in your books people the role of integration specialists in schools will disappear sure as the sun sets everyday. Now, I know and have known integration specialists and I am here to tell you that these people are smart, hard working and a big help to the school. However, their role just won’t be there in the future. I’m not sure exactly when this will happen but read on to hear my analysis.

The next generation

In a school, when people start talking about technology integration and they talk about people who are resistant or need more assistance than others they are, mostly they are talking to the aging members of their staff. This is not always, but it certainly seems to be the implication.

Newer (or younger teachers if you will) walk into a role where the expectation is to use technology to be a big part of their class. Now, whether these newer teachers actually possess the skills to do this on day one or not is another story. However, they do have the advantage of starting fresh. They’re not getting rid of an older system for a newer one. They are starting with the “newer one.” This is helpful and as these systems change or transition to newer systems, the adjustments are not as difficult to make as to learning something new that is replacing an aging system.

With more and more teachers feeling more comfortable with technology, the demand for another teacher to push-in or help with tech planning just won’t be as necessary in the future. In an ideal situation, teachers will be collaborating with one another nearly seamlessly and working together to build units that are rich in content that leverages technology and its many benefits. Therefore a tech integration specialists just won’t be as necessary in a school environment. This day won’t happen next year or the year after that, but I would be surprised if well equipped schools ten years from now still employ an integration specialist.

It’s easier!


As more and more software come out, it becomes easier and easier to use. Image editors are a perfect example. Take a look at PicMonkey. It can do a lot, borders, overlays, effects and more. It does these pretty easily too. Back in the day (not very long ago mind you) to accomplish a lot of these tasks, you would need a powerful, expensive and difficult to use image editor like Photoshop.

Editing videos is the same way. Most people don’t need Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut. They can do most of what they want in WeVideo, iMovie or Animoto. Hell, even YouTube has a basic video editor now. However, the most glaring to me is website creation. If you don’t know a line of HTML, you can still create a good looking dynamic website using Wix, Webs or Weebly.

I know my friend Tony would say that this is the dumbing down of technology and pandering to the lowest common denominator and this is a bad thing. Whether you agree with him or not is not the issue. The issue here is that as it becomes easier to create and express oneself, there is less and less assistance needed. Our teachers are smart people and can pick up something pretty quickly. They usually don’t require a three week intensive class to learn about Wix for example.

They are a luxury


You know what type of doctor gets hit hard when the economy goes south? Dentist. I imagine integration specialists would fall into that category. While schools may get grants for devices and services now and new staff. When budgets need to be cut, the “less essential” and new staff face the chopping block. I’ve actually seen it as PE teachers lost their job and the school simply combined PE classes to make up for the reduced staff. It’s not pretty but it is a reality. I am sure if my school at the time had an integration specialist – I guarantee that person would have gone or at least become a classroom teacher.

Not dying – more like morphing


The title of this post tends to think that integration specialists will be out on the street searching for a job. This isn’t the case, but I believe their role will change. Right now, their roles are pretty defined. These people are tasks with bringing meaningful technology into a learning environment. In the future it won’t, it just can’t be this anymore.

As schools acclimate themselves more and more to utilizing technology in their daily lessons, this person’s role will shift or pivot to a more administrative position. That’s not to say that they will never help out in the classroom, but if they’re smart – they aren’t just Johnny on the Spot with a quick fix. They are teaching the teachers how to integrate in the process allowing for more creativity in the future. Therefore, the integrator may be needed less in the classroom and more of an advisory person.

The flip side to all of this, is as teachers utilize more and more technology – more and more systems need to be looked after. More and more workshops should be held introducing more complex and cross curricular opportunities. A knowledge base should be created and maintained. On top of all that the integrator will know more than any other person what tools are and aren’t working in the classes. This person will naturally be elevated to a role that is on par with a curriculum coordinator.

In fact, I dare say that this person will be slightly more important that the curriculum coordinator. This person will also be included in educational technology direction of a school. What hardware to invest in, what expectations should be set. I am not just talking expectations for teachers here – I’m talking expectations for teachers, students, administrators and even parents to a limited extent. I’ve met people in my travels who hope to become an integration specialists. I wonder if they see all the options?

Your hard drive crashed – I don’t care

Yeah, I’m trying to get your attention and yes I do care – just not about your personal data. This post is about how schools should (and hopefully do) handle data. As a school and being in IT, I do care about data. I care a lot about it. I find it essential, but I don’t care about all data equally – that is just stupid. So read on if and let me know if you agree or disagree with what I have to say.

What is important

Here is what is happening at our school. We have issued 13″ MacBook Pros to our staff. We use a student information system, we use Atlas Rubicon for curriculum needs and we are a Google Apps for Education school.

That data is important to me. That is what we need for transitioning old staff to new staff. To keeping accurate attendance, grades, running transcripts and reports. Making sure that our curriculum is aligned vertically and horizontally. Yep – that stuff is important that is what we need. That info is backed up locally and in the cloud and with the exception of Google, we pay good money for this to happen and to protect this data. This is what is important to me and the school I work for.

What isn’t important

Now to the other side. As a school, I don’t care what’s on your hard drive. I just don’t because if that data is lost, then it isn’t going to hurt the school one bit. It will inconvenience the teacher – for sure – but classes will not be canceled, the curriculum will still be taught, students will still be assessed in a timely and professional manner and reports will be sent out on time. Here is quick excerpt from our user agreement that makes our stance quite clear.

I am empathetic to the teacher who loses data because I’ve been there and it isn’t fun. Honestly though – as a professional – I don’t care. Your music, photos, personal files and movies don’t interest me or the school for that matter, nor should they because they have nothing to do with the day-to-day operations. It really doesn’t. You should be backing up your data anyway – which is something Tony and I have written about. You can read about it here and here.

It’s not your computer

We issue laptops to people at our school but the staff treat it as their own personal laptop. I’ve seen teachers torrent media, fill up the hard drive with music and photos and install their own personal programs that have nothing to do with school. I’m not saying all people do it, but many have and when the computer dies, their data dies with it and they are frustrated, upset and generally unhappy but you see the school doesn’t care about that data. The school’s important data is already protected and backed up. The school cares about the computer being repaired and getting it back into the hands of a staff member so they can do their work and that teachers can do their job at a high level and that’s it. So if you’ve lost 75 GB of music – sorry for that, but you have classes and students who need your attention.

Issuing external hard drives?


Man this is such a bad idea. I know some schools do this, but they would be better off giving their money to charity. At least it will be going to a good cause. These hard drives are a money pit. Teachers will lose them, have them stolen or the hard drives will simply just fail. Let me tell you good reader, hard drives fail – it is not a matter of if but a matter of when.

If schools issue external hard drives to teachers, then when they fail, they need to go out and purchase new hard drives for those people. While they are not terribly expensive, when you expand that cost to include a staff of 100 or more, it gets pretty pricey.

Then when they leave what do you do? Does the school reclaim an old hard drive that will fail – only to give it to a new staff member? No, they usually just give it to the staff member leaving. Terrible – it’s just money down the drain.

The only reason a school would do this is to appease the staff and make them happy. That is it. It doesn’t truly benefit any aspect of the teaching and learning process. It also has a bad side effect of reinforcing that the school computer they are using is, in fact, for their personal use. I can see the though bubbles now Well, they gave me this computer and a hard drive, I might as well add all my media to it. I mean they’re letting me do it right? It is just a bad practice and needs to go away.

The cloud


Ahh the cloud. If your school has Google Apps, Office 365 or Zoho, then your staff most likely has some sort of cloud storage ability. As I mentioned earlier – we have Google Apps and they give us 30GB of storage which is a lot!

For teachers, this is where they should be storing important documents such as quizzes, units, etc. It should also be on Atlas, but certainly here too. That way if there computer fizzles out all they need is another computer with Internet and they can go right on working. I’ve seen this in practice and man it makes me happy. Another bonus feature is that you can transfer data from one account to another as well! That is much easier than doing it from one computer to another.

If your school doesn’t have this, then get your own. Google Drive – free – 25GB. Microsoft One Drive – Free – 30GB and there are plenty more out there. This is where those important personal files need to go – online not just your hard drive.

If you keep everything on your computer’s hard drive and you don’t back up, then make sure you have a mirror handy. When it fails, then you know who to look in the eye and blame – not the school you work for or the company that made the hard drive.

Google Drive issues – it may be Adware!

damnyouadware

So recently, I’ve had a number of students and a few teachers stop by complaining that their Google Drive wasn’t working properly. After exploring a short time with these people I discovered a common thread – they were getting pop ups for advertisements. Otherwise known as Adware. Now, I’m not sure why, but these crap is severely interfering with Google Drive. They could not create files and some had difficulties editing anything!

Being a Google Apps for Education school, this was problematic. Lucky for us, we devised a way to get them back on their feet. The main culprit was people streaming TV shows on their computer from untrustworthy sites. Below is the guide I made for our staff to help them out. The moral here is be careful.

You can download the guide in PDF form here.

Google Drive issues due to Adware

If you get repeated error messages with Google Drive and Google Docs it is most likely due to Adware.

Adware is unwanted software that uses sneaky and dishonest methods to get installed on your computer, and then changes the behavior of your web browser. Once installed, it does things like injecting advertisements into web pages, causing pop-up windows or tabs to open to advertising sites, and changing your home page and/or search engine.” AdwareMedic websitehttp://www.adwaremedic.com/index.php

Adware comes from sites where you may have download software like download.com or Softonic. It can also come from streaming “free” TV shows or movies on your computer from less than reputable sites or services.

Now that you know let’s get started.

Step 1 – Clean up your Chrome extensions

Open Chrome and go to your settings or preferences.

On the left hand side click on Extensions.

A list of all installed extensions will show up. You may have a lot. Delete them all.

A lot of Adware extensions will “hide” their true nature by naming themselves something familiar or different.

For extensions you want to keep, you can re-install them after you’ve cleaned all the Adware of your computer, so delete them now.

Step 2 – Search Engines

Now on the left hand side click on Settings.

Now click on Manage search engines…

Now make Google the default and delete everything else.

Like the extensions – using some of these search engines can install Adware so we have to get rid of them.

Step 3 – Clear Browsing Data…

Now click on Chrome at the top and select Clear Browsing Data…

This window will pop up. Tick every box and make sure the beginning of time is selected.

Then click Clear browsing data.

Step 4 – Download a program to clean your computer

Quit Chrome.

If you have a Mac use Adware Medic

If you have a Windows machine use Ad-Aware

Both are free and both work. Download, install and run them.

Step 5 – Restart your computer

For the changes to take place you may have to restart your computer.

Once it comes back up, run these programs again until it reports that the Adware is gone.

Congratulations – hopefully

While this may not remove everything, it will remove most of your Adware and should fix the Google Drive problems you’ve been having.

Remember to only visit reputable websites and that when you are seemingly getting “something for free” you are most likely exposing yourself to harmful websites. Be responsible it is your responsibility to keep your computer running and in good condition.

What if this doesn’t work?

If this doesn’t work you may want to explore wiping your computer, and starting from scratch.

Best of luck!

Great programs at a great price

If you have a computer, whether it be a Mac or PC software bundles are a great way to get great software at great prices. Yeah, I may need a thesaurus but this doesn’t take anything away form the Ultra-Premium Mac Bundle at StackSocial right now.

All of these programs together will only cost you $44.99 US dollars. Let’s take a look at what you get.

ScreenFlow 5 alone is worth the price. While some of the other software you may not want, what they are offering is inanely cheap. While I’m not a huge Civilization fan, I am a fan of Data Rescue, Things, ScreenFlow (of course) ExpanDrive and Typed (which I’m using right now) look pretty interesting.

Go over and check it out yourself. The bundle is only good for a few more days, so get yours while you can.

stacksocial – Ultra Premium Mac Bundle

Space probes are definitely cool

Space is pretty cool. There so much out there we don’t know but it’s not because we’re not looking. Spaceprob.es give you great information of probes that NASA has sent out. Check out info about the Juno probe that I didn’t know much about.

Now I know its mission, latest news and even videos or photos it has sent back to us. Pretty darn cool. The site was created by Ariel Waldman and Lisa Ballard who are both space enthusiast.

Check it out for yourself and if you have a space unit coming up, it’s certainly worth a look.

spaceprob.es