Inoculation: Our Responsiblities Year In, Year Out

Main takeaway from our meeting with Michael Thompson: inoculation.

Student’s social use of technology for communication, building friendships, developing identity, and trying on personae will continue. It won’t be entirely “harvested” for educational use, and nor should it be. It’s part of their growing up. It’s part of what school is for kids: 1,000 social experiments a day, as Thompson describes it.

However, it’s not like social media is a self-taught curriculum for kids. There are risks, and perhaps the greatest errors occur when their language and put downs and intentional hurtfulness directly affect each other. Not strangers or anonymous others on the Internet, but other kids they see almost daily in the halls or across the classroom.

The challenge for us is to understand that the message of how and why this is wrong needs to be expressed over and over again. From fifth grade to twelfth, using language and examples are are age-appropriate, and perhaps blunt and shocking and profane when necessary. Once a year, at least, hopefully at the start of the year.

Consider this an inoculation– an increase in sensitivity or awareness, and an attempt to clearly state each year where the lines are, the hurtfulness that is created when crossed, and the consequences of making these mistakes. To adults, it may seem obvious, but it’s not to many students.

Even a yearly, blunt and clear conversation may not prevent all problems, but at least we can be clear. It’s a responsibility.

Google Wave

If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth watching the Google Wave presentation on Youtube:

What’s interesting to me is if they follow through on both the open source promises and the federation promises, meaning that we could run our own Wave server locally, have complete privacy of local waves, yet tap into the extensions built by them and by others. Could be the next big thing in 24-36 months.

Cafe Med

So ends a quiet week. Most of the MS and HS were out on trips, and my son was in the Lake District. They all return this afternoon or evening, and this morning was delightfully quiet.

Yesterday we took the time got as a tech and media department to Cafe Med for eats and drinks. We sat at an outside communal table on a warm and sunny afternoon, enjoying Mezi plates and chips. I wish we had time to do that once a month.

So far, I like the WordPress upgrade. My fake registrations have dropped to zero. I also like the iPhone interface for posting. I’ve also been enjoying Mozy for backing up my computers– slow, but a good interface and affordable for backing up files. It’s cool that it keeps a local backup volume now, and supports versioning.

Moblin, Optimized OS for Netbooks

So, as we trial netbooks, should we also try out Linux OS systems that are optimized for netbooks?

Moblin is an interesting option, and there’s a report that Dell netbooks could ship with it.


London in the Fall

I have to admit it– the weather has been nice around here lately. Often sunny, around 60-70 degrees. The leaves are beginning to fall.

We went to the Southampton Boat Show last weekend. My son is spending the week in the Lake District with his class. I’ve been walking home with wife and daughter in the evening for fun.

London summers can be somewhat harsh– sunny and warm one day, blowing and driving rain the next. Lots of storms that roll through. A little dis-concerting. Not a bad idea to visit the states.

Now, though, it’s getting cooler but it’s calmer. I hope to do at least an overnight sail to the Isle of Wight on our boat this weekend, if my son isn’t too tired from his adventures.

Techwise, we’re fighting with the HP Mirroring software on our new HP NAS units, getting them to mirror to the HP Lefthand SAN. And paying bills. And doing Zimbra training. And relaxing a bit, as most of the HS and MS are out on trips this week.

Starbucks has a new deal here– free Wifi if you register a Starbucks card. So I did, and it’s pretty fast.

Meeting with Michael Thompson

I’ve arranged a tech/media team meeting with Michael Thompson when he’s on campus next Tuesday. I was at a parent talk with him last year, and I was impressed by his ideas about kids, media and technology, and how it becomes part of their social lives.

I think it would be valuable for our team to talk and ask some questions about what he’s seen work well and not work so well with media and technology in other schools, and in the overall impact of “kids growing up.” We could share some of our experiences with the Middle School laptop program, and also talk about where High School students might be heading in the future (as well as the choice of using a student-made audio presentation at last year’s commencement).

You can learn more about Michael Thompson at

Data Phones for IT Staff

Now that I’ve had an iPhone for a couple of months, I’m using it more and more to stay in touch with the school’s needs on the weekends. I like to keep an eye on email, and know that the systems are running fine.

My core support staff have been doing the same– those who are in charge of infrastructure services. As one said this morning, “I’d rather be woken up at 3 a.m. to reset the email server, than to find out at 7 a.m. after 16 people have tried to contact me.”

Thus, we starting a plan to reimburse infrastructure IT staff up to £240 a year (£20 a month) for their own data phone charges. It’s a once a year thing, provided the receipts add up to £240 or more.

The plan is to help them afford the data charges, so they can be more in touch and respond sooner if there is a serious infrastructure issue on the weekend or evening. We already have Alertsite monitoring our core web servers and email, and we can up alerts for other servers as well.

As for VPN on iPhones– I don’t even want to discuss that yet… :)

Things I Enjoy

Riding home first class on the train from Portsmouth to London. Only five quid more on weekends.

Visiting Gosport

My first post from iPhone. I’m visiting our boat today.

A Happy Report about Destiny

Many years ago, I helped with the transition at a school from an old library catalog database to a Follett Destiny system. It wasn’t too hard in terms of the transfer of MARC records, but it was hard to set up the catalogs to be different for the three divisional libraries at the school. If I recall correctly, we had to set them up as if they were separate schools in a school district, and sharing user data between them wasn’t fun or easy to maintain.

Currently, we have two divisional libraries using Destiny, and most of these issues appear to be resolved, and we do have relatively clean data export and import routines between the student information system and Destiny. Students can log in from home, see the catalogs, see what they have checked out, reserve books, see overdues etc. We haven’t set up accounts for all parents, because we don’t have a centralized authentication for parents (yet, but we are discussing it).

An interesting and fun development in Destiny is the specialized web interface for elementary-age students. It’s very colorful and playful, and they can see the book covers of popular and recommended books, and they can create their own book lists and even post their own book reviews and recommendations to each other (which the librarians moderate before they go live).

I really like this growth of online interactivity for the younger students. Kudos to the Destiny development team.

Not All Toys…

I had a great conversation just over a year ago with another tech-interested teacher. He said, “Not all toys belong in the classroom.”

His point was that not all things kids enjoy doing with technology necessarily belong in the classroom. That could include many types of games, and possibly a fair range of social network tools and techniques that are very important to kids’ social lives or developing sense of independent authority, but not really adaptable to a classroom environment.

In no way did he mean that chat, online discussions, online exchanges of data, or even Twitter-types of communication (texting) should be banned from classrooms. Instead, he was saying that we had to pick and choose, and also we had to teach children about making the right decisions about “time and space” decisions about technology use. In effect, kids need to separate their personal and “work” lives to some extent, as do we all. School can be fun and innovative, but it is also work, and developing disciplined thought and work practices is what schools are all about.

Looking back over the past two years of posts to this blog, it’s obvious that I haven’t had time and energy to contribute as often as I did the first two years. I’d like to change that, and try to make this blog more central to my online presence again. I have a Facebook page, and a Twitter account, but I also have a large family photo site and a small, neglected sailing blog. What I would like to do is separate my work and play a bit, and post mostly edtech posts here, family and sailing posts to the second sailing blog, and use the photo site as a support to both blogs.

This might also fit in better with my evolving interest in mobile technology, and this new iPhone I’m using. I really like how I can post directly to Facebook, both text and images, but I’d rather do it directly to this blog and echo the materials to Facebook. In the end, I fully own this site, and I’d like to see it be a long-term site for contributing ideas to this profession.

More to come, and that’s for visiting here! At the moment, I’m writing this on my laptop on the train to Portsmouth, where I will likely upload this to from my boat using a 3G usb stick. It’s fun to do work like this when I’m traveling without family. I need to visit the boat today to check on her and warm up the diesel engine.

A Hybrid Wireless Approach

I’d be interested in hearing from other schools about how they are doing with 5 ghz N wireless systems.

From what I understand, 5 ghz will likely be the dominant frequency in the future, because of speed benefits over the 2.4 ghz range. The challenge is that 5 ghz is A and N protocols only, meaning that older devices or mobile devices that are B and G protocol will only work on 2.4 ghz.

Secondly, it’s my understanding that 2.4 ghz radios supporting B and G protocols can penetrate walls with their signals and support wireless laptops in several rooms at once (even through floors). 5 ghz radios supporting A and N reflect off of walls instead of passing through them, meaning that the quality of the signal and reception and throughput of a 5 ghz N client in the room with the access point can be very high, but clients in the adjacent room or through the floor or ceiling may not have any connectivity at all.

Thus, the “grid” of a 5 ghz wireless deployment may need to be significantly more populated than a 2.4 ghz b/g/n deployment. This means more investment in more access points that may cost more than the 2.4 radios did. Apple now sells access points that broadcast on both frequencies, but these are still more “home use” access points that are a bit of a challenge to maintain in a large, dense environment.

At the moment, we’re using a hybrid wireless system. We have high-end, single cell, self- balancing 5 ghz access points supporting high density areas, but a broader net of inexpensive, not self-balancing or single cell access points doing 2.4 ghz for a “base layer” of wireless coverage. It seems that really doing a full 5 ghz solution everywhere would be very expensive, because of the range limitations, and having the dual radios (2.4 and 5 ghz) in the same access points still means a lot of access points to complete the tight and dense grid.

Complicated, but we’re working. I’d be interesting in hearing others’ experiences.

A FinalSite Report and Request

We’ve been working with Finalsite for about a year now, and I think it’s time for a quick report.

In the main, Finalsite has allowed us to greatly increase the value of the main school website. We now have a parent/student portal with fairly comprehensive calendar layers and directories with sophisticated relationships (linking parents to students and students to siblings, etc.). The calendar layers are relatively easy to maintain, as long as we can agree which events go into which layers. The directories are harder work, because getting the directories to be up-datable and fully related involves a log of detail work. Some can be done with relationship and role-changing uploads, and some is purely one-by-one edits to a lot of accounts.

Next year, we hope that a new student information system with automated data exchanges to Finalsite will help, but I doubt all of the challenges we have now will disappear.

Our challenges will also be a bit larger with the upcoming launch of the alumni portal, with a factor of 3 times as many users as the parent/student site, but we don’t plan to have relationships in the directories there yet, so it will be more of a one-to-one upload to maintain type of deal (similar to what we had in our previous web site for all users). In the end, though, we need the relationships in the parent/student site directories.

In terms of parent response, the most praised element of our Finalsite is the email alerts that parents can subscribe to for divisional and grade level pages. Basically, when new stories are posted there, parents can get a full copy (with images and download links) in their inboxes, from a couple of dozen different pages on our site.

In part, this was achieved because we decided to make heavy use of the News Manager module in Finalsite for making divisional and grade level pages. In effect, these are news story postings that go straight out to parents when posted, and they roll down the pages much like a WordPress design. Our landing page for parents and students have “ticker boxes” from the main site pages (divisions, athletics, all school, etc.). that shows the latest stories.

This is all very slick, but it wasn’t how Finalsite was designed to be used. The News Manager module was designed to only be used by the Advancement Office, and as a result we have no ability to moderate news stories or segment off permissions to specific groups to specific areas. Also, there is no delay on the email notifications going out to parents, so typos or informational mistakes go right out the instant the story is posted.

So, we don’t regret going the News Manager route (compared to having teachers build standard pages, or try to use the classroom pages that we have had real difficulties trying to tame), but we strongly request that Finalsite upgrade the News Manager module so that it can have better permissions (content creators limited to specific categories), moderated posting (approval of posts before they go out), and a timer on the email alerts of at least 15 minutes so that edits can be done before hundreds of emails go out for each story.

We also built a Faculty/Staff portal this summer, and it has worked very well so far for protected access to online resources. We really hope to take advantage of Finalsite’s work with single sign on authentication for both student information systems and for additional systems like Module and our new Zimbra online email system. It would be great if our Finalsite could be a true single sign-on portal for multiple web services (for parents, students, and faculty and staff).

Lots of work to do. Some (occasionally serious) bumps so far. Future doesn’t look bad, as long as we roll with the punches.

Photo Galleries Revamped

Hi, All

This was my “clean up web presence” weekend, and in addition to revamping WordPress, and I also upgraded our family’s Photo Gallery site.

Here’s a link:

Sailing Voyage Images

There’s over 2,400 images there from our various mis-adventures, including a large set from our recent week sailing in the San Juan Islands.

At Chitchester

WordPress Updated

Thanks to a comment of a colleague, I found out that WordPress has been targeted by some not-so-great worms and admin take-over attacks lately. I haven’t updated the software here for, ahem, quite a long time, so I did a full backup this week, updated the software to the latest, safest version, and deleted over 700 fake user registrations.

One thing I always wanted here was the “image verification” when people register, or when unregistered users wanted to post a comment. I have that on now, and I hope it reduces the fake registrations I’ve been receiving.

Other than that, it’s a nice morning in London, and we plan to head back to the Southampton Boat Show for more fun and “looking” today. Even my wife plans to do the free scuba diving experience with my daughter.

Hey, this is my 300th post on this blog. The first was back in 2005.

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