Monday, August 26, 2013

So How Hot IS It?

So how hot  IS it at Grandview?

Got this in an email from the office today...

"Hello and welcome back!   As luck would have it, the weather forecast for Tuesday is HOT, HOT, HOT!  We wanted to send out a reminder that unfortunately Grandview does not have air conditioning.    We recommend that  small children,  elderly grandparents or anyone sensitive to the heat not attend or at the very least, bring a bottle of ice water to help tolerate the heat.  We will have fans running but even with that we fully expect the temperature inside the building to meet or exceed the outside temperature due to the number of people who attend."

I am thinking I am sensitive to heat.  Everyone with a pulse is sensitive to this much heat.

Actually, I'm thinking it is crazy that these multi-million dollar facilities DON'T have air conditioning.  Yeah the boiler may be more important in the Minnesota climate, but do they really expect kids to learn in a room that is pushing 100 in September, April, May and June?  Forget July and August because no one gets that lucky on temps in July and August.

One more thing to pack tomorrow.  BYO Ice water.  At least the advice is good.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Happy Leadership Day 2013!


(If you are wondering about the title, follow the Dangerously Irrelevant link.)

I am getting ready to go back to work at school in the next couple of weeks.  As usual, I am pretty excited to be getting back to work.  For me, it's something like most kids feel when they start getting back to school, except I usually don't need the new clothes, shoes and backpack to get ready.

I am excited because my building is finally making some strides on a 1:1 initiative.  The roll-out is going to be painfully slow (3 years!) but it is happening.  We may be the last district in the neighborhood to get rolling on this as well.

I believe the building I am in is ready for the nuts and bolts of 1:1 computing.  The teachers have a pretty good handle on software and know what they need to know there.

I think the next conversations must be about what it means to be connected to the biggest collection of knowledge the world has ever known?  What does it mean to be a citizen in this world where we are this connected?  Are there some things we should be doing to stay safe?  Are we so safe that we aren't learning anything?  Are we really prepared for students who know different things than their peers because of their access to information to ideas from all over the world?  Will our students be able to find their way in this new world after graduation.

Those other questions are more important than the basic how-to we have had.

I think if I have to sit through one more session of "how to use (put the name of your favorite word processor here)" I will be sick.  I want the revolution.  Now.

Maybe it is because I am a child of the 60s.

We have come a long way in computing in my life time.  My high school had a visionary enough math department, that we had computer time.  No we didn't have a computer, we had time on a computer.  You got approval to go use the computer from the math teacher, went upstairs to the teacher's lounge, waved politely to the teachers that were getting their nicotine fix and hurried through the cloud of smoke to the storage space where they kept the teletype machine.  Once your breathing came back to normal, you punched your teletype, fed it into the machine, which dialed-up the computer at the nearest college and the teletype put your project in cue.  Your project then waited in line with everyone else's.  The next day, with any luck, your math teacher would be able to hand you the print out of your project.

Mr. Mutzenberger, my math teacher at the time, would say that computers are going to change your life.  They will speed-up all the math in your life and make your life easier.

It was very easy to think Mr. Mutzenberger was kidding when he said that.  I may have been slow at math, but I could pretty much figure out my math problems faster with my number 2 pencil than with this computer arrangement.  Much faster.

With their new Chromebooks kids will be thinking I am nuts when I take out my number 2 pencil.

I guess what I am trying to say is the tools are there.  We need to expect teachers to use them.  I can't think of one entry level job that you are not expected to use a computer.  Why aren't we using them more in education?  If you are in a leadership position, it is time to start raising your expectations about technology use and assuring that everything is been done to assure the networks and computers work well.  I'm not so sure this effort needs to start with "this is a mouse" anymore.

We may finally be adding computers to education, but I am not so sure there is going to be a big huge change in the content in the conversations at school.  Math will still be about numbers.  Reading and writing will still be about ideas.  Science will still be about figuring out how things work.  There is a whole list of big concepts that will still continue.  But about that change, Mr. Mutzenberger was right.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

FileMaker and the Band Director

I am a FileMaker junkie.  I use it a lot to stay organized with all the information a band director needs.  The stuff that is really handy to have at your finger tips when you take the band somewhere (you need to get in touch with a parent after the parade) or who owns that instrument that is still in the cafeteria after school on a Friday afternoon.  FileMaker is the cats's pajamas for all of that info.  There are versions for OS X, Windows and iOS.  Stand alone or in a client/server across a network.

I got a question this week about how I run FileMaker across several devices.  I have (like many of you) a desktop, a laptop, an iPad, an iPod and an iPhone that could all run some version of do you keep them all in sync?

Here's what I have found.

You could use the desktop and FileMaker Pro as a "server" and have all your devices log into it to keep all the data up-to-date.  Keep the data on one machine and have all the other devices work on it there.

It is pretty easy to set-up, in FileMaker 12, go to File>Sharing and turn on the "FileMaker Network." Devices that can access that network IP address will be able to find your file, so be sure and pick out the level of security you need at this step.

That was SO easy, there has to be a catch (or two.)  And there are several.

If your IP address ever changes, the ability to find your file will change as well.  In most school networks, the addresses are issued to a machine as it turns on and it may change.  If your district does dynamic addressing with a DHCP scheme you will spend time frequently dealing with this.  Every time you turn your computer on, for instance.

One way around this is to never turn your computer off.  The official best way to do this would be to get a static address.  Talk to your network people.  They may even do it for you.

The other downside to the DHCP thing is that getting your info when you are not on the same local network is tricky.  As in I never got it to work, tricky.

Another catch is that the number of clients that can log in to your file is limited with the regular version of FileMaker.  The simultaneous users are limited to 9.  A couple of staff members with a couple of devices and you are at 9 surprisingly quick.  The official best way around this is with FileMaker Server or Server Advanced.

I like FileMaker Server Advanced for the Instant Web Publishing and unlimited connections.  Your IT people may like the admin tools.  What no one really cares for are the expenses.  Full price for the software is $2999 and it should run on its own server (more $.)

Instant Web Publishing is an easy way to publish your data to a web page without having to learn PHP or some other middle ware.  I have had pretty good luck with this, others prefer the control of Custom Web Publishing and PHP.  (I think it is worth the extra money.  Especially if you want to get to your data with an Android device or some computer that doesn't have FileMaker installed.)

So how to beat the price?  Three grand+ is over budget for my music department and probably yours.  And we all know that upgrades cost money every couple of years.

There is a way and that is to find a FileMaker Pro Host!  Professional hosting can take care of the hardware and FileMaker Server software for a low monthly fee.  I have had good luck at for just such a service.  You can try them for free.  Should you decide to go with them, the plans start at less the $20 per month.  Pretty easy to set up.  Good service by real people.

There are other services out there, AustinMichael was just the best deal when I was looking.  If you have another FMS service to recommend, go ahead and post it here.  Please recommend services you have used and liked.  I won't have time to try them out and who wants the names of the bad ones?

Anyway, with a hosting service, someone else is dealing with the hardware and the software is kept up-to-date and you can get at your data pretty much anywhere with an internet connection on any of your devices.  Even if you are on band tour to Amidon, North Dakota.

So here is a sketch of how to do this...

Using FileMaker Pro, create an amazing solution that meets all of your needs and has layouts that work well with your devices (iPhone and iPad included.)  Password protect it.  Upload it to your host.  Turn it on and enjoy getting at your data when and where you need it.

Use FileMaker Go with your iOS devices.  If you have an Android device use your favorite browser (with Instant Web Publishing on the server side.)  FM Go and IWP/Browser won't let you edit your data base structures, so do the design work on a computer (Windows or Mac with FileMaker) and think of FM Go and IWP/Browser as players for your data.

With a little set-up and a FileMaker host, you can make your job easier.  I have 264 students/families/instruments/addresses/phone numbers/pictures (you get the idea) to keep track of this year.  You know I am going to be using my own advice!

Worth the investment.