Tuesday, October 28, 2014

If your MacBook breaks, do you know where the files stored on it go?

As wonderful as Google Docs and Spreadsheets are, they're not perfect. Sometimes document layouts are too intense to be easily managed with web based tools. Sometimes people have a lot of time and intellectual capital invested in formats that don't play well with web based tools, so programs like ExamView, Word, Numbers, Pages, Excel, and others continue to fill an important roll. Sometimes people just hate Google Docs and want to use Word. In my travels throughout the district, I've seen just how important some of the applications that run on faculty MacBooks are. To varying degrees, teachers are productive with local applications that run on the Mac, and for some, there are no practical 'Google' or other online alternatives. There's no shame in using a legacy or local application if it is helping kids learn or helping you do your job.

About a week ago, it occurred to me that within this district, there is a problem with using local applications, though. Late one evening, I exchanged a flurry of emails with a teacher who lost her Numbers gradebook. Keep in mind that Numbers and other programs that run directly from your MacBook typically save files to the local drive on the MacBook. Something had gone wrong with her Mac, and the Numbers file was simply gone. Was there a backup? No! Later that same week, I helped another teacher rescue content -years of content, in fact - from a flash drive that was about to go the giant flash drive pile at the central landfill. Fortunately, we were able to rescue her files. For the teacher who lost her Numbers gradebook, the outcome was not a happy one. She'll be reentering a lot of grades from memory or paper.

You will never, ever regret having a good backup of your data. But who among us is interested in taking the time to back things up on a regular basis, or ever, for that matter? Crickets....

I encourage you to consider your use of local 'on the MacBook' programs and am suggesting that you use Google Drive to painlessly, effortlessly, and automatically backup your local data to the Google Drive cloud. Should disaster land on your MacBook, you can simply pick up the next available device and your files will seamlessly restore from the Google Drive backup.

Please consider the directions in the embedded presentation. Between the presentation and PD opportunities, EWG should be able to meet a goal of No Teacher Ever Losing Data. Don't wait until next month. Don't wait until April, May, or June. Don't wait for your MacBook to break, get lost, or fall victim to some rare computing malady. Set up Google Drive to work for you today. You'll be happy knowing that a backup of your content is happening automatically. If after giving the directions in the embedded presentation a try you still have questions, please contact me.

UPDATE:  11/24/2014
Even Apple Fans are cautioning against MacBook hard drive failure, and are exhorting users to have good backups.

Is it broken for me, or everyone?

Monday, during several demonstrations with faculty using Google Drive, Google Classroom, and Google Presentations, the 'network' seemed to be performing more slowly than usual. We noticed the slowdown seemed to be pronounced with Google products. Whenever Google Drive, or other Google tools break, seem slow, or are simply not behaving the way I think they should behave, I head on over to the Google Apps Status Dashboard. The Apps Status Dashboard lets users see if various Google services are experiencing disruptions, outages, or if they're operating normally. A quick look at the Apps Status Dashboard yesterday confirmed that something indeed was amiss. Knowing that there is a problem can help you make informed decisions about options for lesson and classroom activities. While there's nothing that we can do to help effect a repair, knowing that some of the brightest, most capable geeks on the planet are hard at work resolving the issue as we consider plan B is somewhat comforting.

Other tools for checking a site's status include
http://www.isitdownrightnow.com/ and http://isup.me. Both will give you a good idea if a site is down, or if it's an issue with your computer or network. 

Consider using these tools before reaching out for help. If a tool hints that there are issues with a resource you're trying to use, your local IT gurus probably can't help. If you find out it's just you, then an SOS to IT makes sense.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Using Google Calendar to Reserve Computer Lab Time at Wawaloam

Pat shared a calendar with you for reserving computer lab time with your classes. Unfortunately, teachers are having trouble reserving dates and times through calendar. The reserved times just do not show up for other people with whom the calendar had been shared. Here's why. When you create an event in calendar, the event is, by default, created in your own personal calendar where it is visible to you, but to you only. To overcome this default behavior when you attempt to reserve computer lab time, you must tell calendar to post your reservation (event) on the Wawaloam Computer Lab Calendar. Click the calendar drop down and select the appropriate calendar *before* creating the event.

The video below demonstrates one way to successfully reserve time in the computer lab.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The First Eight Weeks In Review

Sometimes it is hard to recognize our collective progress unless we take a step back and reflect on where we started and where we are. Bear with me for a few minutes as I take a look back at the first eight weeks of school.

Everyone at Metcalf and a lot of teachers at Wawaloam saw this message every time they tried to project their computer to a screen or whiteboard:

Teacher's at the senior high had no projection options at all! Remember that mess, the aggravation, and the frustration that went along with it? A bulk purchase of dongles and wires fixed the vast majority of projection issues. At this point, teachers are projecting seamlessly, reliably, and with ease. If you're not, please contact me.

No look back would be complete without mentioning wireless. Wireless connectivity certainly caused its share of pain during the early weeks. And while no wireless system is perfect, and even the best wireless systems will experience interruptions and sporadic drops, EWG started off the year in pretty rough shape primarily because the vast majority of devices were trying to connect to the old wireless network. In an earlier post, I provided some directions on how to make sure you were connecting to the right network. Faculty and staff should be connecting to EWG_Staff. EWG_Secure is an older network which, at this point, has more aggressive filtering restrictions in place. You should avoid EWG_Secure at all cost! Use it as a fallback network for when all else fails only. If your MacBook, iPad, or other device is still connecting to EWG_Secure, (or if you're not sure how to tell), please contact me.

The third and final leg in my commentary on improvements is about printing. 

Hold on. Before you skewer this messenger, hear me out. Cloud Printing is not everyone's favorite, and perhaps it's no one's favorite. But in replacing the aged, monolithic system of previous years, Cloud Printing provides a solution for many devices; Macs, PCs, Chromebooks, iPads, iPhones, and the Android family of tablets and mobile devices. Is Cloud Printing perfect? No chance. Is Cloud Printing the most elegant printing system? Nope. Does Cloud Printing solve all of your printing needs or whim? Probably not. Is Cloud Printing a step toward an open, easily supported printing for all devices? You bet. If you are having issues printing with your device, contact me. I like an easy challenge.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cloud Printing Update

UPDATE:  11/5/2015
Skip this mess and jump right to the newest update.

Why would you want to setup Cloud Printing on your MacBook? Two reasons. First, Google Cloud Print is the printing system being used at our schools. Second, files uploaded to Google do not always convert or preview cleanly. The layout on a Google Doc imported from a complicated Word document is often a mangled mess. And, files from some programs like test generators will not convert at all. Cloud printing will allow you to print to district printers like Sharp Find Me from applications like Word, Excel, ExamView or your favorite equation editor that makes math problems look just right. In an earlier post, I described how to setup cloud printing on your MacBook. Admittedly, the solution was not for the tech averse. The directions included lots of steps through unfamiliar terrain. Recently, I had the chance to simplify the directions to setup cloud printing on your MacBook. Setting up Cloud Printing is not too complicated.  Don't panic, or worry about breaking anything. The worst outcome is that Cloud Printing won't work right, but the most likely result is a better printing solution for you. Try it!

Update, 10/10
Although Cloud Printer offers in-app purchase options, you don't need to purchase anything to print to Sharp Find Me. If you want to cook up an extra batch of nerd zen, go for the optional purchase, but it is really not necessary. Choose Sharp Find Me, then click Submit Print Job.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Printing to the Brother Printer in J206

The color printer in J206 does not support Apple's Air Print, nor does it support Google's Cloud Print. However, iPads can still print to the printer with a helper app called Brother iPrint&Scan, available at the App Store. The video below takes you through a the basic installation and setup.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Google Tutorials

Richard Byrne blogs at freetech4teachers.com. freetech4teachers.com is a great site for educators seeking free tech based classroom resources. Recently, Richard put a lot of Google tutorials he created into a Youtube playlist. I visited the playlist earlier this week, and found it contains high quality videos that may help you with a problem you've been having, may provide inspiration, or may simply give you courage to attempt something new. The playlist is worth a few minutes of your time.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Notability Auto Backups

Notability is a most impressive iPad app for organizing information and marking up documents like PDFs. Its integration with many and varied file formats and every major cloud based storage service is remarkable. However...

Sometimes even iPads break, or updates to the OS go awry as happened to a dozen students this week. When bad things happen to iPads, Notability notes can land in a digital void, never to bee seen again. One feature Notability has that every Notability user should turn on right now is the Auto Backup feature. Take 60 seconds to make sure Notability's Auto Backup feature is setup on your iPad. Follow the steps below to make sure your notes are backed up!