Teleportation Considerations

Teleportation Considerations

In the Hyper Tunnel
Experience Music Project, Seattle, 2014

The drive home from Seattle is about six hours. It’s just long enough to have that one fidgety spot. When we approach that spot, I start hearing wishes for teleportation from the backseat.

“Just imagine…. We could be home already.” “We could transport ourselves to the pyramids for a weekend.”

“We could catch March Madness games in different arenas. On the same day.”

Usually I join the “we could” game, but this week I started thinking about the whole country zinging back and forth for March Madness games. We’d need bigger arenas. And the idea of needing bigger arenas led me to ask a lot of questions of my teenage-travelers-turned-quantum-scientists. We ended up talking quite a bit about the societal adjustments that follow an advance in technology, e.g. not wearing Google Glass in public restrooms.

So, out of the mouths of babes, here is a beginning list of considerations about teleportation: Practical Concerns about Teleporting
  • Would travelers experience jet lag?
  • How many people could simultaneously teleport from a single location to a single destination?
  • What happens when everyone wants to go to a warm location at the same time in the winter? Or concerts or sporting events? Will traffic control be required?
  • How would luggage work? Clothes? Jewelry? Prosthetics?
  • What about hackers and glitches? Would teleportation make it easier to be a cat burglar? What if we teleported into a brick wall?
  • Would GIS engineers need to develop more sophisticated three-dimensional coordinate maps to account for multi-story buildings?
Societal and Legal Concerns about Teleporting
  • We would need rules about not teleporting into homes without the owner’s permission. We talked about having an accept process for incoming travelers, similar to what we do now for Bluetooth files and collect phone calls.
  • No teleporting into bathrooms. (This seemed to be an important one for teenage boys. I, on the other hand, thought it would be lovely to teleport to an underutilized bathroom. They’ve never stood in the girls’ line at a stadium.)
  • Would there be a data log of where we transported? How long would it be stored? Who could access the log?
  • How would this change war? If a country could teleport its entire army across the globe in the blink of an eye, that changes things, right?
  • Would passports be sufficient enough for international teleportation travelers?
  • As the technology moves from a station-based teleportation (think airport and air traffic control) to individual devices/portals, what new concerns are discovered?

We only have questions. No answers.

Just so I don’t leave anyone thinking this is a super-serious group of boys, watch this clip that is a perhaps more honest representation of the drive. Somebody invent that teleporter, please.
On CIOs in K-12 Education

On CIOs in K-12 Education

teachers at table

Thanks to Marco Torres for the Flickr Creative Commons image above.

Confession. I am a reluctant CIO. I catch myself swallowing the words Chief Information Officer during moments of introduction in a figurative hunching of the shoulders. I don’t have issues with the title or role in general, but have spent most of my working years in education and non-profits where C-level titles were viewed with skepticism. We run lean organizations by necessity, not choice. Until recently, our organizations did not have CEOs or CFOs or COOs or CIOs. We had leaders, but operated in a world apart from our corporate counterparts. We have evolved. I am still adjusting. 

The Need for CIOs in Education

In the spring of 2010, the State of Oregon signed a state-level agreement with Google for the provision of Google Apps for Education to K-12 public school districts. Within a matter of months, the number of Oregon districts adopting Google Apps for Education skyrocketed. I lead the ORVSD training team that provides support and training for Google Apps, in addition to other digital learning tools. During one of our initial trainings, I had my first moment of clarity about the need for CIOs in education. Eric Edens, who was part of the Google Apps Edu team at that time, is responsible. Following a fairly technical meeting about user management and email transition, Eric remarked that schools were challenging the Apps team with scale issues they had not encountered in their business apps rollouts. In our largest districts, we have tens of thousands of users. Even our smallest districts have hundreds of users, which makes them larger than most companies. Our school migrations dwarfed the average business migrations.

I think about Eric’s observation regularly. He’s right, of course. We address issues of scale each day in our schools. Even with lean budgets, we purchase connectivity, devices, and apps in bulk. We provide training, support, and access. We control technology budgets that aren’t tied to increasing corporate growth, but to equity and access. Supporting technology for hundreds or thousands of teachers and students is a serious job, one that requires serious leadership.

The Role of CIOs in Education

In decades past, K-12 technology directors tended to be network operations directors. They were skilled systems engineers who built the first district networks, equipped the first computer labs, and maintained projectors, printers, and email servers. Those are still vital functions, but education is operating in the same, rapidly-expanding technology ecosystem as the rest of the world. The role of technology leadership is expanding with it.

Whether you call them IT directors or CIOs, new technology leaders manage staff, budgets, and infrastructure, like before. Added to it, they are leading the following charges:

  • Integration of technology into learning—and by this, I don’t mean computer labs…. I mean getting us out of the way of the user and trying to make technology invisible
  • Transitions to mobile learning environments, digital learning environments, heterogeneous platform environments (bring your own device and/or mixed-platform classrooms and the increased need for wireless)
  • Increasing data and analytics for our users and our stakeholders
  • Virtualization, cloud computing, enterprise and workflow efficiencies

The Future of CIOs in Education

We have several CIOs in Oregon’s K-12 districts. Some are Chief Technology Officers. Some are Technology Directors or IT Managers. We are still grappling with the focus shift from technology (network operations and computer labs) to information (data, apps, and users). We are still thinking schools are the underfunded*, behind-the-curve little guy in the technology arena, rather than the leader in optimizing budgets and services. I am still shrugging a little as I say CIO.

As I continue shrugging, the CIO role continues evolving. At least a few of my Oregon peers are already interpreting the title CIO as Chief Innovation Officer. They are driving their organizations’ momentum into mobile and digital learning. Joe Morelock is doing this in Canby, Oregon. And the Chief Digital Officer is on the horizon. Strike that. It’s here already. The Verge profiled New York City’s Rachel Haot earlier this year. It was my first glance at a role that makes complete sense and is rising as quickly as the tide of all things digital. 

There are days it may seem like we’re riding the tidal wave, rather than leading. And there are bleak days when budgets don’t match needs. We have teachers and students who are making a transition to digital learning. We have administrators relying on us for counsel on student devices, digital textbooks and content, social media, and data systems. Regardless of the title, K-12 education needs information leaders.

*Let me clarify that we really, truly are underfunded—the K-12 system is as a whole in most states. However, ask any corporate CIO how the recession has left them feeling. I suspect the response would sound similar. Constraints are constraints. Our work is to increase efficiency. I am struggling with this idea of efficiency as we slowly work towards sharing technology services in our region. 

Chromebooks in Our Schools — One Year Later — The Coda

Chromebooks in Our Schools — One Year Later — The Coda

Mr. Cochran, Mr. Fleming, Mr. Felton, and Mr. Hisaw.

Mr. Cochran, Mr. Fleming, Mr. Felton, and Mr. Hisaw

This is the final part of a series. Part one is here. Part two is there. Part three is here.

1) I’ve been taking a lot of photos and talking to a lot of our students, teachers, and interested parties this year. I want to make sure it’s on the record that I get no benefit from Google or any other company for doing this. I love my job. I love the schools and people where I live. I’m excited about the technology we bring into our classrooms in the right ways and get frustrated when we do it wrong, usually because of short staff, short money, or short time. I prefer to learn from the wrong and highlight the right. That is all.

2) I do a lot of talking (quiet, Ryan) and writing about all of this. There are hundreds of people around me who do the real work. Here’s a partial list of thanks:

  • The Original Eight (CCMS sixth-grade teachers in 2006 plus Jim Crouch, student teacher) — Heidi Lea, Zach Fleming, Lori Meadows, Les Parker, Ryan Cochran, Vicki Bobbit, Casey Callan, and Sue Simmons — you’re the best ever!
  • D.C. Lundy — Principal at Powell Butte School during the initial Intel 1:1 pilot and chief instigator for technology in education, Crook County style
  • Kurt Sloper — Sixth-grade teacher at Powell Butte that first year and my professional development guinea pig (he’s now Assistant Principal at CCMS and has continued to be a great guinea pig)
  • Steve Swisher and Dennis Dempsey — CCSD (circa 2006) and HDESD Superintendents, respectively; ones who pushed us to push the envelope
  • Bruce Hahn — The CCSD Director of Technology who makes all our crazy ideas happen
  • Rocky Miner — Principal of CCMS (circa 2006, currently CCHS Principal) and team time champion
  • Stacy Smith — Current Principal of CCMS (Assistant Principal in 2006) who walks the walk each day
  • Andie Sangston — Queen (see part three)
  • Mike Witnauer — 1:1 Program Manager (after I was pulled away for another project) and smart guy
  • Steve Welden, Lance Queen, and Yancey Fall — CCSD Tech and savers-of-the-day for many years now
  • Rachael Huish — CCMS Math Teacher (circa 2011; Rachael is now a school administrator in Southern Oregon) and the original Chromebook cheerleader and just…leader
  • Charlene Walker — CCMS Science Teacher and current, tireless Chromebook team leader
  • CCSD Teachers — wish I could list them all….
  • CCSD Students and Parents — funny, smart, wily, exasperating, and supportive

CCMS students with Chromebooks
CCMS Students with Cr-48s (Chromebooks)

Chromebooks in Our Schools — One Year Later — Part Three

Chromebooks in Our Schools — One Year Later — Part Three

CCMS students with Chromebooks

This is part three of a series. Part one is here. Part two is there. The coda is here.

(I’m a big fan of unboxing posts and videos. But, I always want to know how things are a year or two later…. Did the device hold up? Is it still in use after the shininess and newness faded? Still meaningful? What were the people and machine surprises? This three part series is my effort to answer my own questions.)

Part Three – The Classrooms

One student. One laptop. In Crook County, we have been on the road toward this vision of learning for over five years now. In part one of this series, I wrote about the investment in the people. It’s first for a reason. We want to make sure the 1:1 program is a learning program, not a tech program. (Over the years, I have gotten a little more upset each time I’ve read this New York Times article about 1:1 programs. It’s a primer on what not to do.)

In part two, I wrote about prior-year issues that were answered by the Google Chromebooks at Crook County Middle School. The Chromebooks are a great size. They’re fast. They require very little up-front attention from our tech staff. They have been a good addition to our classrooms. We take care of and try to protect them (Mr. Fleming’s football strategy).

The Chromebooks have been fairly low maintenance. We weren’t sure this would be the case; we have the original Cr-48 test units, not the Samsung or Acer production models.

The biggest issue we struggle with is the wireless connection dropping at random times. We’re not sure yet if this is our wireless infrastructure or the laptops. (Andie read this and called to let me know that the wireless issues seem to be resolved. Wahoo!)

This summer, we also had a large number of machines throw what we affectionately call the frowny face error. Andie Sangston, our technology support person at CCMS, solved this problem with her super genius skills (and some help from the Chromebook gurus at Google).

The students would tell you the trackpads were really flaky at first. Ben Fohner and Andy Warr, Google Chromebook team members, got an earful of that exact complaint when they came to observe last March. Andy’s name is still mentioned with reverence in the hallways because of just this issue. When talking with some of the students and listening to their gripes, he ran the latest update on their machines. The trackpad issues disappeared. Most CCMS students still believe he was magic. (Some students and teachers still don’t like the trackpad, but we have students every year who prefer a USB mouse over a trackpad.)

Each time we have encountered something like this, Google has responded quickly. We appreciate that. Andie does, especially. She keeps the whole program afloat. Teachers and students turn to her with questions and requests for help.

Andie Sangston, CCMS tech support, on rollout day

Andie Sangston, CCMS tech support, on rollout day

We have been checking in with those teachers and students regularly. The Chromebooks are used often each day. They are used for traditional tasks like writing and researching, but also for unexpected projects like fitness tracking and stats analysis in PE class. The start-up speed continues to impress everyone. The Chromebooks are ready when the students are. (This is much different than our first years.)

The worries about the laptops being cloud machines, web only, or offline bricks didn’t amount to much. I think of them as adult problems (similar to first-world problems). The students live comfortably on the web and in the cloud.

I could write more, but these are already long posts. Perhaps the best way to summarize our experience is that we are buying more Chromebooks. We’ve bought hundreds more for classrooms across our region. If we could afford to purchase more, we would.

We would buy more not because they’re bright, new shiny tools. We would buy more not because we think they will solve all our education woes. We would buy more because of where this all started…. We try to improve our device selection each time we purchase a batch of laptops for students. We want the best match for the classroom and our students. The Chromebooks are it.

Our most recent rollout day; fourth-grade students in Redmond School District

Our most recent rollout day; fourth-grade students in Redmond School District

Next: the coda. It’s here.

Chromebooks in Our Schools — One Year Later — Part Two

Chromebooks in Our Schools — One Year Later — Part Two

CCMS student and teacher, Casey Callan, during rollout week

CCMS student and teacher, Casey Callan, during rollout week

This is part two of a series. Part one is here. Part three is there. The coda is here.

(I’m a big fan of unboxing posts and videos. But, I always want to know how things are a year or two later…. Did the device hold up? Is it still in use after the shininess and newness faded? Still meaningful? What were the people and machine surprises? This three part series is my effort to answer my own questions.)

Part Two — The Chromebooks

In part one of this series, I stressed the importance of professional development for any technology program in education. Crook County Middle School did that part really well. The teachers invested in and continued improving the original plan long after changes in my job took me away from my weekly visits to their classrooms. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good.

Another thing that wasn’t perfect on the first try was our laptop selection. (We purchased a laptop for each incoming sixth-grader, three years in a row.)

With the original 1:1 grant for Powell Butte Elementary, we purchased Gateway tablets. These were really nice machines, but much too large for sixth-grade students. They were also expensive.

When we expanded the program to sixth-graders across the district in the second year, we selected Lenovo ThinkPads. They were nice machines too, but still a little too large for sixth-grade shoulders and backpacks. We also began to realize that our students needed only about 10% of the capacity of these full-bodied laptops. The ThinkPads were approximately $1000 each.

The recession hit. We learned really quickly that this was also too expensive — our education budgets were devastated.

In addition to cost, we struggled with configuration issues. The original Gateways and Lenovos were Microsoft XP machines that connected to the CCSD network. Each student had a directory account. Startup times were a killer in the classroom. After a frustrating autumn, teachers realized they had to think ahead and have students start up their machines at the beginning of class if they hoped to use them by the middle.

Rocky Miner, CCMS Principal, with student
CCMS Principal Rocky Miner helps a student login during rollout week

So, we iterated. Our third year of purchases was netbooks. The smaller form factor was great…until it wasn’t. The keyboards were too small, as were the screens. We were like Goldilocks in the cabin of the three bears.

The thing that did work well that year was a switch to Ubuntu for the operating system. Startup was faster and the netbooks were able to be used more flexibly than the other laptops.

And then we met the Chromebooks….

Let me recap the issues we struggled with for years: cost, size, speed. And I’ll add an additional one: hands-on time by the tech staff (between imaging and updating, it was a lot).

CCMS student receiving her Cr-48 box (Chromebook)
CCMS student receiving her Cr-48 box (Chromebook)

Those four issues were addressed within days of the Chromebook rollout:

Cost — We are still in the midst of real budget strain in our districts. $1000 machines for each student are out of the question. As I write this, the Chromebooks are priced at under $500 off the shelf. We have not figured out how to purchase one for each student in this recession, even at that price, but this moves us much closer to a sustainable model. (We are purchasing hundreds of them across the region for classroom sets.)

SizeThis is one of my favorite parts. The 12″ screen, full-size keyboard, and lightweight shell are the perfect size for students (and adults!) of all sizes. The Chromebooks fit easily into a backpack or messenger bag. They also fit school desks well.

Speed — Google says it’s eight seconds for startup. It’s rare that it takes that long.

Technology Prep Time — The photo above is a pretty good representation of how we rolled out 750 machines in February 2011. We gave them directly to the students…in the unopened boxes. They unboxed the machines. They installed the battery and set up their accounts. Within thirty minutes, they were logged in and online. The longest part of the process was taking the account picture.

CCMS student at the important account picture stage
CCMS student at the important account picture stage

In case I need to state this explicitly, the tech staff didn’t touch the machines ahead of time. We were in love. And we’ve stayed in love. I’ll recap the rollout year in Part Three of this series. Stay tuned.

(full set of Chromebook pilot photos here)

Repeat: the longest part of the process was taking the account picture.

account photo

Last time: the longest part of the process was taking the account picture. (All the “kids” had fun with the photos.)

CCMS student at the important account picture stage
CCMS teacher Ryan Cochran photobombs this student’s profile pic

Next: part three. It’s here.