Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Quick Impressions of Mercy 2.0 and the iPad Deployment

Vector portrait credit to credit to
Here is a quick, narrow take on how Mercy 2.0 is going three days into the new school year:

The Good
* The iPads' mobility and battery life impress, but the connectivity throughout the school stands out as a biggest technical strength.
* We have experienced fewer mechanical and log-in issues than the past.
* Staff has been patient and collaborative about trouble-shooting.
* The Apple TVs allow the teachers untethered access to their projectors.
* Teachers from various departments have told me of terrific apps that they have found for their students.
* Two new teachers told me, today, that they love their iPads.

The Bad
*I can't believe that Apple provided us with cheap batteries in the wireless keyboards that came with our 26 iMacs.  They did not make it to the start of school!  
*I wish we had done more training on classroom workflow with the iPads, perhaps even if it meant we spent less time exploring apps.  Getting documents to Moodle is a bit tricky with the iPad.
*I am bewildered by how many of my seniors haven't even brought their HPs to my AP class even though the entire experience has been paperless thus far.  This goes to show that the we sometimes give the young a bit too much credit for being digital natives.
*I have had my own connection troubles with the Apple TV I am using.  But I attribute this to my own failure to test out the equipment more thoroughly.  I am really looking forward to taking advantage of the technology.  But like my colleagues I have found my own little stumbling block with Mercy 2.0.

The Ugly
* I am thinking some pretty dark thoughts about some of our digital publishers.  As we try eagerly to take advantage of their resources, some have put ridiculous technical and policy obstacles in the way of our families as they try to acquire instructional materials.  It is frustrating for IT, teachers, and especially our parents when we all try to get our students fully prepared for the beginning of school.  We've learned a couple of lessons about our own process of informing parents, but I truly can say that sone of our math and  science students have really been done wrong by the publishers.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Is the Cell Phone the New Pencil?" and More

Is the cell Phone the New Pencil?
Creative Commons photo by emdot
It is commonplace to bemoan the poor writing skills of students today. Yes, there is no question that writing effectively is difficult. Yes, it is true that we don't provide enough high quality writing instruction (writing is known as the "forgotten R"). And yes, the demands of a knowledge economy require excellent writing abilities. But the students we teach today write more than any generation in human history

Where Microsoft Has More Taste than AppleApple’s most recent skeuomorph is one of the worst. The company’s Podcasts app, released in June, actually shows a reel-to-reel tape playing while the podcast is running. Do people under the age of 30 even know what a reel-to-reel tape player is?The Calendar app for the iPad has torn paper, suggesting that previous months have been ripped from a physical calendar. Gimme a break.

Top Universities Test the Online Appeal of FreeIn a major development on Tuesday, a dozen highly ranked universities said they had signed on with Coursera, a new venture offering free classes online. They still must overcome some skepticism about the quality of online education and the prospects for having the courses cover the costs of producing them, but their enthusiasm is undimmed.

Is the Khan Academy a Real 'Education Solution'
Dan Meyer and Ed Week opinion blogger Justin Reich, noting that there are errors in some of the Khan Academy videos, have started a contest inviting readers to critique the academy lessons.

Education Takes a Dramatic New Course [in Australia]

FOR the first time, all Australian students will study dance, drama, media arts, music and the visual arts until year 10, under a draft new national curriculum released yesterday.
10 Things in School that Should be Obsolete
So much about how and where kids learn has changed over the years, but the physical structure of schools has not. Looking around most school facilities — even those that aren’t old and crumbling – it’s obvious that so much of it is obsolete today, and yet still in wide use.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mercy iPad In-Service August, 2012

We have set up a very special professional day for our staff, today. The focus will be on integration our iPads into the Curriculum. In fact the general keynote presentation will be titled, "Retrofitting the Classroom for the iPad. Cheryl Davis will be coming from the San Francisco Bay area to deliver her presentation and two other elective workshops Lucy Gray of Chicago has guided us in developing the in-service event. She will also be presenting workshops as will three of our own talented staff members-- Anne Eddy, Susan Smith, and Alison Kline-Kator. Each Mercy staff member will experience three of the following workshops:

Book Creation on the iPad

Collaborative Tools for Notetaking and Mindmapping

Creating Video

Exploring Instructional Uses of YouTube

iPads in the Moodle Environment

iTunes U Content and Courses

The In-Service will be a paperless experience. Lucy has helped us build a public Google Site in the interest of making our efforts transparent and helpful to the greater educational community. Feel free to visit it:

Mercy High School Professional Development


Screen Shot from one of Cheryl's Workshop web pages

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Music in the Cloud: Amazon Trumps Apple

Apple has abandoned me. This will strike those who know me as a cult-of-Apple kind of guy as a pretty dramatic statement. Down here on the ground, Apple has been good to me. But Apple has not served me particularly well in the Cloud. And when, iTunes went to the Cloud, well, Apple abandoned me.
About a year ago, Apple came out with a great program called iTunes Match. For merely 25 bucks a year a music lover could upload his/her iTunes collection to the Cloud and access it from any Apple device. This included music not purchased from Apple. What's more if the selection is sold by iTunes, it is automatically added to iCloud for you to listen to anytime, on any device would possibly be replaced with a higher quality digital file.

So what's not to like? There is a track limit of 25,000 "songs", and a some of us have large collections which greatly exceed that number. Strangely (though Apple-haters might say, typically), Apple does not allow customers to purchase more space. And even more annoying, without going to great ends, it's impossible to upload just part of one's collection.  It's a case of Apple providing a one-size-fits-all with no flexibility at all.

Three weeks ago, Amazon came to my rescue. They have announced a plan that competes head-on with Apple. For $25 dollars a year, they will store 250,000 tracks-- ten times as many as Apple. And with this premium price they also throw in 50 GB of general file storage in the Amazon cloud.

I started uploading my 37,000 track collection immediately. Unfortunately, there have been a few drawbacks: 1) I have several  drm files I bought on iTunes that will not upload. Same for a few that exceed the track file size maximum. 2) More concerning, I had several thousand that look as though they will need conversion to mp3 format in order to upload.

Strangest of all, using wi-fi, it my upload is progressing at about 800 tracks or so a day.  the upload has been going on fro two weeks, and it looks as though to finish may take a month. 

Still, for $25, I can have an off site back-up for  the greater proportion of my collection. Furthermore it can be access and downloaded by up to ten registered devices. I think that's pretty cool. In this case, Amazon is coming through for me much better than Apple.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

FinalCut Pro X Training

Our new multimedia lab is getting its first workout, today. Five teachers and and administrator are receiving FinalCut Pro X training from Charlie Grover, a lead
Charlie Grover training our teachers
trainer from Macprofessionals. All of the teachers of our new Design Foundations course are in attendance.

Posted "Live" from the iMac Lab, 8/15/12

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The President's iPad and Other Matters

"The president not only approves of his television ads, as federal election law requires him to say in each commercial, he also screens many of them in advance, either on his iPad or during a regular Sunday evening meeting with political advisers at the White House." - Jeff Zeleny

"As schooling becomes more 'personalized' through technology (and it will), our articulated value will have to change away from content delivery and more to a focus on the learning process. Still up for debate for me is to what extent to which that human input is done face to face or virtually." - Will Richardson
"Here's the problem with incrementalism in a time of breakdown: it's a bit like asking a mechanic to tune up your tasseled loafers for your pioneering voyage to the edges of interstellar space. Sure, you can wear your tasseled loafers, incrementalists of the universe. But make no mistake: if it's the tired realm of the clapped out possible you wish to take a quantum leap beyond, you're going to need a rocket ship." - Umir Haque
"Web-enabled cellphones and tablets are creating vast new possibilities to bring high-quality, low-cost education to every community college and public school so people can afford to acquire the skills to learn 21st-century jobs. Cloud computing is giving anyone with a creative spark cheap, powerful tools to start a company with very little money. And dramatically low interest rates mean we can borrow to build new infrastructure — and make money." -- Anonymous New York Times poster from Petoskey, MI.
"Intractable educational problems will begin to disappear when learners’ rear ends are gotten off school furniture and allowed out where life is being lived, when learners’ eyes are lifted from reference works passed off as textbooks and directed to the real world, when learners’ minds are respected too much to treat them as mere storage units for secondhand, bureaucratically selected information." - Valerie Strauss
"The social and economic world of today and tomorrow require people who can critically and creatively work in teams to solve problems. Technology widens the spectrum of how individuals and teams can access, construct and communicate knowledge. Education, for the most part, isn’t creating learners along these lines. Meanwhile, computers are challenging the legitimacy of expert-driven knowledge, i.e., of the teacher at the front of the classroom being the authority. All computing devices — from laptops to tablets to smartphones — are dismantling knowledge silos and are therefore transforming the role of a teacher into something that is more of a facilitator and coach." - Arin Lavasseur
Photo from

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Evolution of a Multimedia iMac Lab

The Custodians stripped the floors over several hot summer days and then waxed them.  Electricians were brought in to re-wire the room

The Mom's Club Bought New Desks.
The Dad's Club paid to have the room cabled.

The computers arrive and our crack team of Gary Bank and Tom James install expanded memory and the purchased software.  The iMacs are running on the brand new "Mountain Lion" OS.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Lightening Student Book Bags at Last

Today we took a long step toward lightening book bags.  This is a stealth feature of Mercy 2.0.  The textbook world has been one of the last hold outs against the movement toward digital media.  As more and more classroom resources become available in digital form, Mercy wants to bring it into our students' iPads and laptops.  Consequently, our talented Media Center technician, Cheryl Corte, took on the thankless task of collecting book information of all varieties from our academic departments.  Teachers contributed in a major way, researching the various formats of their assigned materials.  Cheryl took these submissions and combed through them, so that parents could have this information in a uniform, (somewhat) reader-friendly way.

Screen Capture of our Book Purchasing Web Page
We know that the information is a little overwhelming.  But we decided that the best favor we could do for families is supply them with information and let them decide which formats best suited their daughters and pocketbooks.  Just as our computing environment will be mixed (HP tablet & Apple iPad), so too will our book environment.  As the publishing industry evolves, Mercy will attempt to stay at the digital forefront of the change.
While we are frustrated that not all texts are available in digital form, a family that wants to leap forward in that direction (saving some money as they do!), will now be able to do so with considerable Mercy's assistant.
Some facts about this program:
- At Mercy, all incoming students purchase an iPad and their own books.  Of course the iPads do not come pre-loaded with books she needs for her unique schedule anymore than a computer purchase includes lots of your favorite free music and movies, preloaded.
- Mercy is platform neutral both in terms of device and books.  Teachers expect to work in mixed environments for the next three years.
- We are eager to go paperless, but not in ways that will be detrimental to learning.  However, we are continually looking for ways to use our technology to greater educational, social, and economic advantage.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Our iPad Orientations Move on Apace!

IT Director, Tom James (center) leads 31 students through their iPad Orientation

Today, Tom James (IT Director) and Gary Bank (Network Administrator helped 31 students set up their iPads at an iPad orientation. These sessions are required of students when they pick up their new iPads.

Tom and Gary show the students the basic functions of their iPads and cover. They explain the AppleCare+ warranty. They then get them logged into the Mercy network and registered with Apple ID so that we can deploy their apps to them.

The students are then sent on their ways to play with the iPads until school starts. On August 24, ninth graders and transfer students will get a very detailed hands-on orientation to Mercy technology-- a vital, growing feature of our curriculum

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