Friday, May 4, 2018

Why I don't miss Windows

How many Chromebook and Chromebox units are deployed in our district? Six hundred? One thousand? Fourteen hundred? It doesn't matter really; its a rhetorical question. Chrome devices work and work well. They update invisibly.  That's a lot more than can be said of certain "other" platforms. I can't imagine dealing with hundreds of student windows machines mired in a perpetual update quagmire, and am thankful for the distance. Four years ago, we chose Chrome. Chrome's growing ecosystem, ease of use, and dilapidated support structures of windows makes our choice look pretty darn good.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Exam View Updates

Posts intended to help teachers extend the useful life of ancient ExamView versions have appeared in TekEdCentric here, here, here, herehere, and, most recently, here. Soon, there will be another post that details how you can embed your exam view tests directly into a New Google Site.

Google recently announced that users of New Google Sites will be able to embed html code directly into their Google sites. That means that the web servers some currently run on laptops or the Dropbox web server lashups that some endure just to get online exams in front of students may become a thing of the past, to be replaced by something a bit easier.

When I get a chance to create a tutorial, I'll post it. Then there will be one more post to Exam View life support. ;-)

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Google Drive Going Away Message

The Google Drive App is a seriously awesome resource for backing up your digital stuff. Running on your MacBook, Google Drive is a lot like a virtual flash drive - but without the likelihood of dying in your washer, landing in the grocery store parking lot, or suffering some other kind of failure. I've posted a few times on the benefits of using Google Drive with your MacBook here, and here, and here and here and here,  It's an excellent resource for backing up your MacBook and the stand alone files some are still using like word docs, presentations, exam view tests, PDFs, videos, and other things you might store locally.  Numerous times during the last four years, the Google Drive App has allowed people to quickly and painlessly recover from hardware failures and software collapses. It does a great job of backing up  and - when disaster strikes - restoring your stuff.

Last fall, Google announced the retirement of the Google Drive App for Mac and PC computers.  As the  end of February nears, Google is scaring the daylight out of users, warning them that Google Drive for Mac/PC is going away soon.

Google's indelicate, panic inducing drive warning

While the Google Drive App for Mac and PC may be going away, Google Drive cloud based storage is, at this point, not going anywhere. And while the app itself is being retired, it is being replaced with two refreshed versions. Google File Stream is intended for business and education accounts. Google Backup and Sync is intended for consumer accounts. In my review of both products, I find they both work well, are easy to install and use, and each offers a fresher interface. Personally, I like the look and feel of Google Backup and Sync better than File Stream. It's just a bit cleaner. However, File Stream offers the ability to backup and sync Team Drives, which many EWG users are beginning to explore. If syncing Team Drives is important to you, consider using File Stream.

The deprecation of the Google Drive app running on your MacBook or PC is no reason to stop using Google Drive as your cloud based backup. Simply upgrade to File Stream or Backup and Sync. For those still using discrete, standalone files, an automatic backup and sync tool like those mentioned is still beyond important. Update your MacBook today to keep your backups current.

If you have questions about which Google Drive backup and sync tool is right for you, (and you're an EWG employee ;-)), contact me.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Embed Video from Google Drive

Youtube is arguably an easier, better place than Google Drive for video distribution. The statistics YouTube keeps on your videos include information about your audience, how many times your video has been viewed, at what point people stopped watching your video, and a lot more. Yet, there may be occasions when, for whatever reason, you just want to host a video in Google Drive. The video below shows how to embed a Google Drive video in your blogger blog, or anywhere else.

You can also upload video directly to your blog. While uploading directly is quite easy, you get less control over and less information about your video and how it is being used.

Video uploaded directly to Blogger

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Top EWG Tech Tips For 2018

Traveling throughout the district, I get to see tech supporting powerful, collaborative, thought provoking activities every day. I also get to see simple things that slow down or otherwise break tech. Remember, tech only breaks when you need it most so avoiding any kind of tech disruption is key. As the calendar year begins anew, I thought a top ten tech tips would be helpful.  Here it is.

  1. Take your laptop to the printer. Few things are worse than trudging back to your room to reprint after digital demons devour your first or second print job. Take your laptop to the printer.
  2. Large radius power cable loops are charger friendly. Bend your power cable sharply and tightly, and it will break. Replacements are expensive, and IT people will growl at you for wrecking their equipment. Again, make big radius, cable friendly loops when storing your power supply. 
    Cable friendly loops
  3. If you still use lots of standalone office apps like word, excel, or powerpoint, ExamView, or something else not cloud based, Google Drive is still your friend. On the MacBook, you can use Google File Stream to automatically sync your documents and other files to your Google Drive. Think of Google File Stream as a virtual flash drive that automatically backs up your stuff. That your stuff is backed up is important, because no one else is backing up your stuff. Use Google File Stream today, and use it tomorrow. Once the smoke escapes its MacBook confines, it's too late to start. Oh, and that smoke? It's your data -potentially years of work - going to a digital oblivion.
  4. Still using a flash drive as every day storage for documents, curriculum, student work, tests, and other important stuff? Stop it. Before you send your flash drive through the laundry, lose it at the grocery store, or it just quits working - (taking years of data with it), migrate to the cloud. We're a Google school, so using and backing up to Google Drive makes sense, but you can also use Dropbox, Onedrive, iCloud, or something else. Get over the fallacy that you can keep your flash drives and data safer than cloud based providers.
  5. Still emailing documents, PDFs, and other files to colleagues? 1996 was a long time ago. Collaborate and share through GDrive or something else, instead. That way, everyone enjoys access to the same, current, up-to-date document.
  6. It's okay to upgrade your MacBook to High Sierra. Sure, for years you were told not to because it would break your wifi connection at school. That is no longer the case, and upgrades are now recommended. Plug your device in, hit the upgrade button from the Apps Store update tab, and let the process happen. Your MacBook will perform better, enjoy longer battery life, and also provide better end user security.
  7. Rebooting your Chromebook, MacBook, iPad, or other devices fixes most problems. Sound not sounding? Clicker not clicking? Display not displaying? Reboot. Do this before submitting a ticket or calling IT.
  8.  Be kind to display adapter dongles. Using a display adapter dongle as a laptop rest is a proven way to make sure it is broken when you
    Dongles are not weight bearing supports!
    need it most. It should bear no weight nor suffer twisting, torquing strains.
  9. Do not perform any laptop, iPad, or network upgrades during the school day or just before you want to use your device, especially if your students are testing, presenting, performing, or otherwise involved in some kind of learning activity. Ditto for final project/exam periods. Updates will always take longer than expected, especially if the margin of time to upgrade approaches the amount of time available.
  10. If your students are to watch a video during class time, consider projecting it through a single device, rather than having everyone stream the video. Our district's bandwidth is awesome, but 25 plus streams from Youtube or some other media source is likely to give everyone in your class a good dose of the buffering hour glass. Playing a video on one device is roughly analogous to carpooling; something we should probably do more often.