Thursday, July 31, 2014

#WeirdWindowsErrors - What are you trying to say!?

I have seen my share of weird error messages and dialog boxes over the years. This one popped up as I logged into an ultrabook I use for network testing:

I guess my exercise is done for the day. Wahoo!!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Work Life: #Bloomboard Super User Training

I am attending the Bloomboard Super User Training in preparation for the state's new teacher assessment program. Administrators use the system as part of their walkthrough/evaluations and teachers use the system as a way to store digital artifacts to support their teaching evidence.

What follows will be brief (I assume) notes from the training.

This is a train-the-trainer model. We are learning the system in order to train others to use the system.


  • Intro/opening reflection
  • Logging on, orientation, bloomboard support
  • Creating PGP, Bloomlist, Marketplace resources
  • Informal and Formal Observation
  • Closing Reflection
Played a "Backpack Bingo" game in which participants were asked to find certain objects. Those objects were then used to complete the following:

TESS is a _____ because _____. Ex: "Lotion because it smooths the rough edges;" "Make-up bag because it holds all the different pieces together to make teachers look and feel good;" etc.

Bloomboard supports Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. It can be run in IE 8, 9, and 10, if the Chromium Frame plug-in is installed. IE 11 is not supported at this time at all.

Presenter observation: The presenter remained in Powerpoint's "edit mode" and clicked on the slides as they appear down the left rather than actually running the slideshow. Slides were a bit small because participants see all the program menus, etc.

People fall into four main categories:
  • High Will/High Skill
  • High Skill/Low Will
  • Low Skill/High Will
  • Low Skill/Low Will
Participants given a demo account to explore the system until live accounts are activated.

It is essential to use the provided navigation rather than the browser's navigation tools.

There are training videos, PDFs, etc.

Use "Portfolio" button to access dashboard.

Sticky notes with goals and tagged with certain key markers as a way for observer to communicate with the learner.

Goals should be taken from the PGP (Professional Growth Plan). There is no "form" in Bloomboard. Rather, use tags to reference the PGP. 

New goals reveals two index cards: strength and growth.

Add a goal.

"More Info" allows for expanded details regarding that goal.

Align goals with indicators (right side)

Indicators are then attached to the goal sticky notes.

Can add resources from the Marketplace (Browse Resource, lower right)

Resources have ratings/reviews to help educators decide whether or not to use them. Add to Bloomlist, if desired.

Can add a Bloomlist Item which is like a 'to do' list that helps reach the goal. Also, can add 'more details' which can include a date and how often this 'to do' should be done.

Presenter Observation: Participants repeatedly asked to put phones in airplane mode in order to keep off the local wifi. That is fine for folks who actually use wifi and may have left it active. Local wifi is password-protected, so only people previously on this system would be affecting this system. It would be more accurate to tell folks to turn off the wifi on their phones. I, in fact, am using my phone as a hot spot so that I am not even using the local wifi.

In the rubric, orange boxes are observer and teal boxes are the learner.

Observers will ask learners to rate themselves. Take snapshot, naming it something useful. If the observer has a meeting set, learner can attach snapshot to that meeting.

Squares indicate ratings, diamonds indicate snapshots that have been saved.

At top, use Activities to attach evals/goals/etc.

Where do you find evidence?

Where do you find support?

Observer dashboard is different than learner side. Observer uses their dashboard to schedule observations and/or find evidence and support.

Scheduling informal observation:
  • Pick a date
  • Set time
  • Send invitations (unless it is marked private)
  • Once scheduled, activities section opens
    • Artifacts, not required
    • Rating (do not have to fill out ALL ratings, just what was observed)
    • Feedback and next steps
    • Observation blank notepad opens up
      • As you take notes, on right side there is a rubric. 
      • Select the text, then observer can click checkboxes for rubrics
      • Can add comments as well
      • Upper part of notepad is a lightning bolt that allows you to quickly pick and choose the rubrics. Can also tag it to a goal. That seems WAY faster.
  • Observers can edit their notes from "Collected Evidence" at top of Informal Observation
  • Can upload artifacts as observer and/or learner - optional
  • Observer can create a rating.
  • Feedback and Next Steps
    • Positive, growth, other things you want the teacher to see. Share it for learner to see it.
  • Upon uploading a n artifact, if you get an error, you should be able to just refresh the page and find your item in the drop-down.
  • Cannot upload Google Docs at this time - just save as MS format then upload.
Schools can train at whatever level/timeframe needed and expand training over multiple sessions. Should make sure that school has the live account info several days before the training.

Items recommended by the observer to the learner will appear on the Bloomlist on the learner's home page.

Formal Observations:
  • Most items are same as informal observation
  • Schedule formal observation
    • Pre-observation conference
    • Observation date
    • Post-observation conference
  • Pre-obs form: Learner must share before observer can see it.
  • Observation notes, tags, etc.
  • Formal has meeting notes sections added
  • As a learner:
    • Fill out the pre-obs form
    • SHARE it when finished.
    • Complete ratings, etc as required in the Observation list
Training - Use marketplace to drive it:
  • Give one, get one
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Text-based protocol
  • Calibration through video observation
  • Personalized Learning PLCs
ADE does not require PGP, but district may require it.

Marketplace is located on Resources Tab

Must add resource to your Bloomlist BEFORE you can actually view the resource to decide if you want to use the resource.

Use the Help system for knowledge base, step-by-steps, etc.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A unified plan is NOT conforming... Huh?

A unified plan is NOT conforming... Huh?

On July 22, 2014, Fathom Events is hosting a nationwide interactive program called "We Will Not Conform" hosted by Glenn Beck and a bunch of other folks who are against the Common Core standards (CCSS). Well, interactive is use loosely because folks on the West Coast and, presumably Arizona, will be on a tape delay and therefore will not actually be allowed to interact during the program. Now, that's a great way to start things out, right? Get one of the most populous regions to participate by making them watch a $20 movie.

That aside, my initial thought is actually much more primitive than that. See, the whole premise is that Beck and his friends will get on screen and toss up a bunch false and misleading jibber-jabber about Common Core Standards such that, "By the end of the night, the brainpower, experience, and passion of cinema audiences nationwide will be captured in a unified plan of action distributed to all participants."

Catch that? A unified plan. So... "WE WILL NOT CONFORM" hopes to achieve its goal by getting everyone there to conform to a unified plan of "attack" on schools. Let that sink in.

No, really, go back and read that again. Think about it. We are being asked NOT to conform to one thing by conforming to another. Wow. How many lemmings are going to shell out $20/seat for this? Unfortunately, a lot.

I am no Common Core expert by any stretch. I am just a guy who helps support the technology that is being put in place at districts in my education service area and the state. But, here's the thing about Common Core Standards: every state has standards. Long before there was any talk of CCSS, states were already using standards by which teachers had to teach and students had to learn. Without some kind of standard, how would your child even learn anything? You'd have some students in 2nd Grade learning algebra whether or not they had the fundamentals. And then when your child was failing, it would be "too bad. This is what we teach." That is crazy.

Oh, I know, people argue that CCSS will make cookie-cutter kids out of our children. Here's the thing: in the "old days," people didn't move around as much. So, state standards were fine. Today, people move all the time - especially between states. So, when your student is learning certain things in Pennsylvania (as I did) and then moves to Colorado (as I did), he has to either re-take certain courses because the "standards and content" didn't match (as I had to) or has to take a whole different set of courses because "we don't follow that track. We have THIS track for you to follow." Ridiculous. Of course, the "Common" Core State Standards are basically ineffective in this regard because many states are not participating in those standards. Or, some states, like Florida, are taking the standards, calling them something else, and passing those off as traditional state standards. We essentially have the same thing we have always had: a random mish-mash of what is being taught, what is expected, and what our children are going to learn through the forced system of public education in this country. Alas, compulsory public education is a topic of discussion for another post.

I want to know that my children will have the same (or close to the same) education experience as any other child in this country. That is, of course, but a dream.

Now, we know that the education experience isn't the same with or without CCSS. The districts in which essentially unlimited funding provides a myriad of opportunities (such as art, music, robotics, etc) always provide courses that rural and/or poorer districts simply can't afford to offer. That, too, is a discussion for another time.

I am not fool enough to think the relative handful of people who read my blatherings are going to somehow change the minds of the anti-CCSS folks. But, I do think it is important to raise the issue that a group of folks claiming to "NOT CONFORM" are going to attempt to brainwash a sector of this society by making them CONFORM to a "unified plan of action."

So, when it comes to non-conformity, it appears that, "all-in-all, you're just another brick in the wall." It's just a matter of deciding whose wall you want to be bricked into.

(Final quote comes from Pink Floyd's song "Another brick in the wall")