Sep 2, 2019

September is here!

It's time to celebrate back to school! Or, if you already miss summer, you may simply acknowledge its presence. Here are a few more more September events to celebrate, acknowledge, and remember:

Oct 5, 2018

SpiceWorks Help Desk

This year the GTSD EdTech support team changed how we manage tech requests. Instead of an overworked Google Form and associated Spreadsheet, we now use Spiceworks Helpdesk. This free resource has helped our small team to better coordinate tech support and more quickly solve our colleague's tech related issues. There are many features that go with this tool, but these are the ones that we have found most helpful:
  • Completely web based, completely free
  • Mobile app so we can add, view, and edit tickets while on the go
  • Simple ticket submission process for users that allows file attachments
  • Generates an automatic email to the user; replies autoupdate the ticket in the system
  • Easy to use, nonclutterd management view for technicians and admins
  • Automatically assigns the ticket to the appropriate edtech team member based on category
  • Creates a living record of the tech request, including all communications (user and internal)
  • Allows edtech to combine similar tickets
  • Canned responses keep us from typing certain phrases repeatedly; especially helpful with requests for further information
  • Produces basic reports, allows data export for more rigourous analysis

From August 28 through September 28 we received 121 tickets. First response time averages at about 4.5 hours; it takes an average of 3 days to close a ticket. This includes everything from the quick account issue to the not so quick interactive board failures/replacements. Every September I feel like I spend a lot of time on account issues, now I have the data to back up that feeling!

So what can we do wtih this data? Right now we are planning to:
  1. Evaluate response times. Down technology means a disurpted classroom (and not necessarily in the good kind of disruption). Are there "easy fixes" where we were slow to respond? Can we better group similar reports for more efficient responses?
  2. Identify potential training topics based on the types of issues a 21st century teacher can self trouble-shoot and/or fix.
  3. Look at the types of issues that are reported, especially at the start of the school year, and identify potential weaknesses in the summer technology cleanup program.

So GTSD colleagues: If your tech isn't working, if you are having account issues, if your software is missing or acting weird, that's a T3. If you submit something that doesn't fall under EdTech, we will forward it immediately to the person who can help you out.

Sep 24, 2018

Brick Builders Club: First Meeting

Today we held the first meeting of our elementary brick builders club.  It is the first of its kind for me, the school, and many of the students. All of the students have some experience building, some have only used sets with specialized pieces.

While it is my intention that this will be a fun social time, I also have learning goals for each student:
  • investigate problems and find possible solutions
  • practice collaboration and communication skills
  • adopt a growth mindset, view failure as a form of information gathering 
  • develop an understanding of how parts work together to create a whole 
We will work toward these goals through themed building challenges, collaborative games, and free builds.

With this in mind, our first meeting was all about getting to know one another's building history and preferences, establishing club rules to ensure fair play and fun, and diving into the bins holding our 15,000 bricks!

Club Rules

Before jumping into building, we discussed the club rules (borrowed from the fantastic Lego Librarian blog):
  • Respect the space. No running or jumping to other tables, work at your space on your piece. We will have time each meeting to view each other's creations!
  • Respect others. Everyone shares and helps each other out.  Teamwork makes the dream work.
  • Respect yourself. Stay positive.  We don’t compete with or put down other club members; we build for fun.
  • Respect the bricks. Bricks are for building: not eating, throwing, going up noses.  We all help during cleanup. Bricks stay at school; we don't bring our personal bricks from home.

First Challenge

Inspired by a Soul Pancake Brick X Brick video, I challenged the club to design an object or structure using a limited set of materials (bag of 15 bricks). While each student had their own bag, they were encouraged to help one another with suggestions and encouragement. Once completed we shared our creations with the rest of the club, describing what it is, and answering questions from fellow students.


Our final activity of the day was to make nameplates. Using 5x10 base plates and bricks of our own choosing we spelled out our names. These nameplates will be used to identify our creations during weekly progress photos which will be shared with families.

Sep 20, 2018

Fall Password Check

Educator logins allow access to the mundane (meeting schedules, online textbooks), the critical (lesson plans, schedules), and the private (rosters, gradebooks, student data). Account security is necessary to protect all of that data.

For a brief time security professionals advocated for complex passwords that would be difficult to hack: special characters ($, %, +, etc.), long (20+ characters), no complete words. We quickly learned that without protections on the authentication server, hackers were able to crack any mix of characters, at any length, in a relatively short time. Those "secure" passwords led to frustrating typos at login and frequent password resets. Worse, we posted the password to our laptop or monitor for easy reference.

Current guidance suggests a more reasonable approach:
  • minimum 8 characters
  • no single words or common phrases
  • no personal favorites (family or pet names, birthday, sports team, bands, etc.)
  • no common passwords
  • don't reuse home passwords for work, and vice versa
  • use multi-factor authentication when available
  • change your password when you think it may be compromised
The start of the school year is a great time to evaluate the security of the passwords used for the many accounts and services you access. Some questions to consider:
  • Does your password fail the current security recommendations?
  • Have you shared your login credentials with a colleague?
  • Is it possible that students have watched your keystrokes? 
  • Have you accessed school accounts (including Gmail) on a device that has been shared or compromised?
  • Have you noticed any strange activity with your G Suite or other accounts?
  • Do you still need to refer to a cheat sheet for more frequently used accounts?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time to update your password.

GTSD staff who would like to update their network login should submit a T3, category b (accounts). I will arrange a mutually convenient time for you to update your network password, and assist with updating other accounts as well.

Jun 10, 2018

Summer Reading

Our district's Summer Enrichment program has been released to students and families. As always, our goal is to give students limited structured activities that will keep skills fresh without getting in the way of summer. I look forward to hearing the students share the great books they have discovered this summer.

For myself, this will be the first summer in 10 years where I will not be preparing for a fall graduate class. In place of academic texts and professional reading I plan to catch up on middle school fiction, graphic novels, and biographies. There are a few "adult" titles in the mix because they have been on the shelf too long and need to be read. Of course, this list of 45 books may shift as I visit the public library, explore NetGalley, or browse the bookstore. Some of these titles were recommended by students, colleagues, review blogs, or have been sitting on my bookshelf (physical and virtual) for way too long. There are also a few that I have "reading" for several years -- this is the summer they will be finished!

100 Cupboards
20000 Leagues Under the Sea
Bad Mermaids Make Waves
Belly Up
Brown Girl Dreaming
The Complete Horowitz Horror
Coraline Graphic Novel
Digital Citizenship in Action: Empowering Students to Engage in Online Communities
Disrupting Poverty: Five Powerful Classroom Practices
The Doublecross: And Other Skills I Learned as a Superspy
Essentials for Blended Learning: A Standards-Based Guide
Flying Lessons & Other Stories
Fortunately, the Milk
Gulliver's Travels
Hidden Figures: The Untold True Story of Four African-American Women Who Helped Launch Our Nation into Space
Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust
Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong—and the New Research That's Rewriting the Story
The Innovators: How a Group of  Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution
Invisible Emmie

Mrs Bond's favorite books »

Jun 3, 2018

2017-2018 Media Center Summary

It has been an exciting and busy year in the Media Centers. The below infographic provides statistics and general program highlights. What this graphic doesn't show are the conversations students are having about what they explore, read, and create. Our students are curious and willing work hard to satisfy that curiosity. It has been a wonderful challenge to keep up with elementary student needs for wide and varied information sources. Middle school students have been careful in developing search strategies and choose resources, putting in to practice the evaluation skills they learned in elementary school.

All that said, I am most encouraged about the new Student Librarians at the middle school. Due in large part to the efforts of these students, the middle school LMC has seen a tremendous increase in activity. This crew promoted the library through morning podcasts, lunch announcements, posters, and general word of mouth. While academic checkouts still ranked highest, fiction (especially historical fiction) saw a large jump in circulation. We are already planning how to use this momentum to further develop a community of readers next school year.

Mar 27, 2018

Fake Update Screens

There is always one computer in the lab that insists on updating just as students are about to get to work. Most of the time this update runs quickly and creativity and learning can proceed. Other times it seems as though the computer is rebuilding itself from within, using every minute of the period or class.

Then there are the kids who enjoy pranks, or those choose to use their great digital skills to avoid classwork. April Fools is coming. Are you ready? and allow the user to make it seem as though their computer is installing updates (perpetually stuck at 0%). In a moment of desperation, the user can also make it appear as though a crash has just occurred (blue screen of death).  Geek Prank's Windows 10 Update is a little more sophisticated, it begins at 0% and slowly works its way through a very long update installation.

Quick way to check if this is real or a prank: All of these work through a browser in full screen mode. Simply press esc or F11 to return to windowed view. If that doesn't work, then it is very likely that the student is sharing your frustration with a slowly updating computer!