Assualt and Batteries

After spending more than a few hours going through iBooks, popping batteries and keyboards for serial numbers, we submitted two requests that added up to over 100 replacement batteries.

We’ve heard back that the criteria we used for checking serial numbers was flawed (hmmm), and only about 24 of the batteries need to be recalled.

This is good news, in that we won’t have as much disruption as we feared in terms of the start of the school and the use the laptops. The only not-so-great part is that we now need to spend more hours pulling batteries and re-marking the iBooks to indicate which need to be replaced. Also, we were kinda looking forward to brand new batteries for so many iBooks (but not if they took six weeks to show up).

Anyway, with more nasty pictures of China Syndrome iBooks and Powerbooks showing up on Engadget and other sources, I think we’re better off.

We Navigate a Moving Table

I’m finishing an article for the Classroom Connect Connected Newsletter, and I’m really enjoying myself. It’s tentatively called “New Approaches to Student Laptop Programs,” and it’s offering an opportunity to synthesisize a lot of thoughts on the issue. One thought has to do with the changing culture of computer use in our schools.

Columbia RiverWhen we sail the Columbia River, I always think of it as a moving table. I may aim the boat directly at a crane on the far side of the river, but if I hold that course we’ll acutally end up hundreds of yards downriver from the crane. To arrive where we want to, we have to “skew” the boat toward the current, navigating an angle instead of a straight line.

It’s amazing to me that so many of our technology programs are currently shaped by fears and goals that are either fading or no longer exist. Every year, even our most basic computer users become more adept, and the worse virus we deal with is teachers’ digital pictures filling up hard drives. The point here is that the culture of computer use is always moving forward, and it’s foolish to think that most of our teachers and students use or learn about computers more at school than at home.

The table, or context, of our technology programs is constantly shifting. Even the “big news stories” about technology problems serve to move everyone forward. As a result, we need to rethink our technology programs and how they are moving as well. The best part of this is that old fears have faded, and new opportunites arrive every year.

As for the article– don’t worry. It has absolutely no references to sailing in it. :)

Learning from Children

A few weeks ago, my nine year-old son talked with sturgeon fishermen at the docks of St. Helens. They were more than happy to share their experiences and techniques with him, as most fishermen gained their love of the sport as kids and want to pass on the knowledge and passion.

A few days later, I helped him with a Google search for sturgeon sites, and there was even a photo online of one of the men he had spoke with (landing a 14 foot sturgeon). On his own, my son learned how to rig for sturgeon, which bait, which locations, anatomical information, how to catch and release, etc.

The next weekend, we were moored at the Government Island docks for two nights, and my son had made us stop at GI Joes on the way to the boat so he could provision. He bought some weights and hooks, and a jar of “Sturgeon Candy”– pickled squid. That first night at the dock, he rigged and baited his pole all by himself, set up like the men he had met the weekend before, and landed a 32 inch sturgeon in less than an hour. It was the biggest fish he had ever landed, and it felt like a shark as I held it as he removed the large, barbless hook and set the fish free again.

I fished as a boy, but at the moment I’m purposely keeping out of it. It’s my son’s passion, and I’m happy to help, but I don’t want to be an expert. It’s his topic and authority now, and an important part of his childhood. As a boy, I also had the “research bug” at his age, but I am wholly impressed by how he can research and execute at such a young age (with both face-to-face and online resources).

So, what have I learned? I think we can all create ourselves as we choose. The only limit is our effort and dedication.

Son and Sturgeon

Total Recall

Well, we’ve been lucky with the Dell laptop battery recalls, but today I found out that possibly all 115 iBooks we bought last year have recalled batteries. Our set for this year appears to be unaffected, but every iBook I’ve checked from last year is on the “bad” list.

So, it’s time to go collect a long list of iBook serial numbers, and matching iBook battery serial numbers, and email them in.

Update: we ID’ed 66 iBooks for replacement batteries and emailed in the serial numbers. We have more to track down next week…

iBook Battery

Touching Base with Pre-K through 5th

I’ve had some great meetings the last week. For the third year in a row, we’ve offered a stipend day for the Pre-K to 5 grade teams to meet with myself, the LS Tech Coordinator, and the LS Librarian to talk about curriculum for the year, tech integration and library resources.

These meetings have got better every year, and this week I got first hand reports about what worked last year, what didn’t, and what the plans are for this year.

Things that didn’t work great: video projects that had too many layers: writing, shooting, editing, music, title tracks, still images, etc. Many were never completed because there were too many layers. This year, the plan is to focus on one or two layers, and maybe do a podcast instead of a full video project.

Things that did work great: digital photo and video “documentation” in the lower grades, and sharing with kids and parents. “Outside experts” who were friends of the teachers who answered the emails of second and fourth graders about Mt. St. Helens and marine biology. Password-protected SharePoint sites where it was a “class job” each week for two students to write a report about the week for parents. Microworlds programming experiences, which is now being expanded to all students in grades 2-5 and integrated into core units.

The list goes on, but I get the great feeling that these teachers “get it” when it comes to the much broader horizons of content and sharing that technology enables. The teachers are also going to help us desing two specific “Data and Desserts” nights: one for Pre-K to 2, and the other for 3-5 parents. We’ll cover a lot of issues about “screen time” and other best practices for home use of technology.

Hmmm– I think we need to offer these meetings to teachers in all divisions.

C’est la guerre

Well, it’s crunch time. We in a battle to “fire up” for the new year and implement both new and existing systems and programs.

EdLine is moving along fine– we’ve done focus group meetings with faculty and successfully done our first trial uploads of data (that creates sites and users). We think she’ll roll.

GradeQuick plans are not running as smoothly– we were told our Web version may not be active until the end of September, which would pretty much be a disaster. They’re fedex-ing us the Network Version, but it’s going to be a bear to hit all the US faculty laptops again to install and configure clients. We’d like to use GradeQuick to do private missing assignments reports to students on EdLine.

We’re finalizing a custom-made web database for parents to record volunteer hours, and sign-ups for comittees, etc. We upgraded to Lasso 8.5 to help us customize the online database to our FileMaker Pro information system.

I’m meeting with most off the Lower School teachers for technology plans for this year. I think we’ll have our first poetry and reading group discussions podcasts created by the fourth grade students.

PaperCut is coming online, but causing some tricks for OS X users.

Our two new Xservers are almost working within planned parameters (serving home folders and doing Workgroup Manager, for clients that use AD authentication).

We’re adding a second Zoomerang account, because we use it so much for online surveys. Our revised parent email lists are almost complete. I had a serious meeting about how to revise our curriculum map yesterday as well.

Anyway, it’s a blitz. I think I want to go sailing…

Gears and Cogs

Last weekend we did a three day cruise down the Columbia River. We took our own boat, a C&C 27.

The Columbia is large, and a major shipping channel. We passed many container ships, loaded and unloaded, with registrations from around the world. Our kids were awed by their size, and I pushed my nine year-old son to take the tiller as we passed two of them, so he could feel more in control in their presence.

These ships are major parts of our lives, even though I’ve never been close to one before. It was an interesting feeling, being so close to the “back end” of global commerce. The huge, rusting ships represented so many things– world economy, trade imbalance, labor conditions and consumerism on a major scale.

I felt proud to share this experience with the kids, even though we never talked aloud about what the ships represented. I feel my kids need to have a broader eperience in their childhood than I did. I always want them to be safe, but it seems important that they see themselves as part of a much larger community. At their age, I was in a town of 1,200 people, and spent most of my time at home or in our yard, a mile outside of “city limits.”

Our kids need to see the gears and cogs of the global economy, even if they are rusted and ugly. Perhaps because they are rusted and ugly.

A picture gallery of the three day cruise is available here. A day-by-day account is available here.

The picture below is from a quieter part of the trip, motoring up Multnomah Channel after spending the night at Coon Island.

Cruising up the Multnomah Channel

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