VIDEO: 10 Tips from a Technology Fear Specialist

Earlier this month, I had an opportunity to share a 45 minute webinar with the wonderful Seesaw community titled, “10 Tips from a Technology Fear Specialist.” This presentation (and subsequent Q&A session with live attendees) was based on my March 21st blog post, “Adult Identity and the “I Can’t Use Technology Well” Introduction.” The archived video of the webinar is included in Seesaw’s YouTube playlist, “April PD in Your PJs.”

Please check out the video and let me know if you have any feedback, either via Twitter (@wfryer), a comment below, or my electronic contact form. The slides from the presentation are also available. I’ve added links to the YouTube video and slides to my Presentation Handouts wiki, and added the video to my YouTube playlist, “Presentations by Wesley Fryer.” That is the playlist I feature first on my personal YouTube channel. I also re-ordered the videos in that playlist tonight, so both my TEDx talks (“Becoming Your Family’s Digital Witness” from 2013 and “Digital Citizenship in the Surveillance State” from 2016) are more prominently visible.

Definitely check out the Seesaw webinar series “PD in Your PJs” and sign up to receive emails about upcoming free workshops! Also if you are not already, I recommend following @Seesaw on Twitter. Seesaw is one of the most powerful digital platforms I’ve ever used with students, teachers and parents for sharing and archiving digital media. I’ve used Seesaw the past several years in iPad Media Camp and Make Media Camp PD workshops with teachers. My wife, Shelly Fryer (@sfryer), has also shared several “PD in Your PJs” sessions for Seesaw in the past, and you can check those out in this YouTube playlist.

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Podcast464: Reflections on Media Literacy & ATLIS 2019

Welcome to Episode 464 of the Moving at the Speed of Creativity podcast, a show by Dr. Wesley Fryer (@wfryer) focusing on digital creativity, media literacy, digital literacy, digital citizenship, instructional technology integration and engaged learning both inside and outside the classroom. This episode features a reflection by Wes from the ATLIS 2019 Conference in Dallas, Texas, primarily on Media Literacy and his 3 hour workshop, “Filtering the Exoflood: Strategies for Media and Information Literacy.” All resources from the workshop are available on wfryer.me/exoflood. Refer to the podcast shownotes for links to the other websites and links referenced in this podcast. Remember to also subscribe to “The EdTech Situation Room” (@edtechSR), the weekly webshow and podcast Wes co-hosts with Jason Neiffer each week on Wednesday evenings. Also remember to subscribe to Wes’ (almost) weekly newsletter in which he shares a helpful technology tip, tool, text, and tutorial. Sign up on www.speedofcreativity.org/email-updates.

Shownotes:

  1. Subscribe to Moving at the Speed of Creativity Podcasts
  2. Wes Fryer (@wfryer) – Blog
  3. Workshop resources: Filtering the ExoFlood: Strategies for Media and Information Literacy (shortened link: wfryer.me/exoflood)
  4. [VIDEO] Manipulating the YouTube Algorithm – (Part 1/3) Smarter Every Day 213
  5. YouTube Playlist of more Media Literacy Videos (curated by Wes)
  6. 10 Media Literacy Mini-Project Badges on Badgr.io
  7. Douglas Rushkoff: Program or Be Programmed (@rushkoff)
  8. Media Literacy Kahoot Quiz
  9. Wes’ Twitter Moments (several from ATLIS 2019)
  10. The EdTech Situation Room Podcast (@edtechSR)
  11. Sign Up for Wes’ Weekly Educational Technology Newsletter Updates
Filtering the ExoFlood: Strategies for Media and Information Literacy

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Google Mesh Home WiFi Makes our Internet Access MUCH faster

This is a review of the “Google WiFi system, 3-Pack – Router replacement for whole home coverage” (NLS-1304-25) product which I posted to Amazon today.

I have been wanting to purchase a mesh Wi-Fi system at home for many months, and finally pulled the trigger last month. Wow what a difference this makes! With our previous “Apple AirPort Extreme” router and WiFi unit, I could get a maximum of about 30 Mbps down in our living room, even though our cable modem over ethernet is rated for 300 Mbps downloads. With this Google WiFi mesh system, on the same MacBook laptop I can get 200 Mbps down in my living room, and over 100 Mbps down in all locations throughout our two-story house! Wow! The cost of this upgrade is well worth it for speed improvements alone.

I was actually contemplating the Eero mesh WiFi system, but since Amazon bought Eero recently I am wary of it, even with their pronounced commitments to customer privacy. We are both an Apple and a Google household, and we certainly order a lot from Amazon, but since we already have Google Home Mini’s and a Chromecast, and are looking at other Google IoT products, I thought this would be a good move. Plus, I have had great experiences with Google’s products in the past, at school I manage over 300 Chromebooks and Google’s administrative tools are phenomenal. The same is true for their home Wi-Fi product. 

This last week was the first time I participated in the weekly YouTube live stream and podcast webshow I do with a friend in Montana, (edtechSR.com) and I was able to give my laptop priority during the videoconference on YouTube Live with a couple button taps on ef. I also loved, during initial set up of Google WiFi, how the app provided feedback to help me move the position of my home access point upstairs so it is optimized. This is an incredible improvement in our home Wi-Fi, and is making a daily difference in all of our lives. 

Of course it is also important and critical that we have home routers with updated firmware and that receive regular security updates online. IoT security is a huge problem and will likely just grow as a security issue in the months to come. Hackers as well as commercial companies will continue to try and access / compromise our home routers, since that gives them access to all the data passing through our networks to the Internet. Google is excellent in this regard. Of course Google wants to have our data, but in our modern surveillance state environment Google is a company I actually trust, along with Apple. Not so for Facebook or Amazon. If you are not currently using a mesh router system, you should make the move, and I think Google Wi-Fi is an excellent choice. 

I am a school technology director and do much more technical things with the enterprise Cisco Meraki WiFi we have. There are home mesh WiFi systems which allow for more technical set ups and configurations, but Google WiFi is all I need for home. This is an outstanding product and a great value, especially with the $100 discount I was able to use during a product sale.

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Advice for Responding to and Protecting Against Phishing Email Attacks

This month we have seen an uptick in phishing attacks against our faculty and staff at school. Here is a copy of some suggestions for responding to and protecting against email phishing attacks which I shared this evening via email with our team.

General guidelines for responding to email phishing attacks are:

  1. If you are concerned that someone who has emailed you via a suspicious message is in genuine trouble or needs assistance, contact them directly through a phone call or text message if you have their cell number.
  2. Do NOT reply or send any gift cards / money in response to a phishing email.
  3. Do NOT click any links in a phishing email. (If you think you need to visit a website referenced in a suspicious email, DIRECTLY type that web link into your browser instead.)
  4. Please “report the original message as phishing” in Gmail. (If you’re using Gmail.)

Proactive steps you can take to further protect yourself from identity theft and phishing attacks are:

  1. Turn on two step verification / multi-factor authentication on all banking and other websites if available. (The website twofactorauth.org has an updated list of sites supporting 2FA/MFA.)
  2. Use a password manager like LastPass so you can use LONG, complex, and UNIQUE passwords on every website and app you use.
  3. Help your family and friends setup 2FA/MFA and use a password manager.
  4. Consider putting a “credit freeze” or “credit lock” on your social security number, and SSNs of your spouse/children. Credit Karma has a good article about how to do this and the differences between freezes and locks.
  5. Regularly monitor your credit report, and your bank accounts to look for unknown expenses you have not authorized. Let your bank know immediately if you notice unauthorized charges so they can cancel that card and refund charges.

Stay safe out there!

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Schools Blocking YouTube and Digital Citizenship

Content filtering in schools has always been contentious since students and teachers first gained access to the World Wide Web and the Internet in the 1990s. Today in 2019, however, many people might be surprised that “draconian content filtering policies” (at least in the opinion of this author) are still in place in some schools. By “draconian,” I mean content filtering policies which excessively limit open access of information by students (and in many cases, also teachers) and which fail to meet a basic litmus test of “digital citizenship:” Providing ‘graduated” or differentiated content filtering for teachers, and for students depending on their age and developmental level. Specifically in this post, I want to address the reality that as of March 2019, some very large public school districts in both Texas and Oklahoma block ALL access to YouTube for ALL students accessing the Internet at school: High school, middle school, and elementary school students. In this post, I’ll make the case for why these policies are flawed and need to be changed, to support the literacy and digital citizenship goals which should be part of the mission of every educational institution in the United States today.

Let’s begin with a strong assertion which indicts (on this topic) at least two very large public school districts with which I’m personally familiar in Oklahoma and Texas. I’m not going to name the school districts here, my goal in writing this post is not to throw those specific districts and district leaders “under the bus.” I DO, however, aspire to help change the content filtering policies in those school districts and others, however, which have not kept up with our times and are sorely in need of updates. I have (of course) incomplete information on why these web content filtering policies persist today, but suspect there are both political and technical / IT reasons for them. Both can and should be addressed. I wish I had comprehensive data on how many public and private U.S. schools block YouTube entirely for all students or for all students and teachers today, but I don’t. If you have data on that topic, please let me know. If you’re looking for a topic for your dissertation, perhaps this will give you a helpful suggestion. Take this idea and run with it.

Here’s my strong assertion on this topic which I will support below. I invite you to quote me and share this on social media:

Schools blocking ALL access to YouTube are Un-American.

There are a variety of adjectives and descriptive phrases I could choose for the predicate of this sentence. According to Merriam-Webster, “un-American” means:

not characteristic of or consistent with American customs, principles, or traditions

While K-12 schools in the United States have historically been authoritarian organizations with hierarchical leadership structures, the “American values” which our public schools support and promote have not been and are not strictly authoritarian. The freedom of speech / freedom of expression codified in the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution is an essential value of our republic, and defines the rights of not only adults working in our schools but also students attending classes in our schools. The landmark 1969 Tinker Case decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court famously held:

…students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

Constitutional protections of freedom of expression in the United States go beyond protecting speech, however, and also provide for our rights to RECEIVE information.

The First Amendment’s right to freedom of expression encompasses intellectual freedom, which includes an individual’s right to receive information on a wide range of topics from a variety of viewpoints.

These two points are salient on the topic of filtering web content in schools, since they establish that school authorities in the United States do not have unlimited power to censor, ban, and prevent access to any books, content, websites, or ideas they deem inappropriate or immoral. Schools and school officials DO have important gatekeeping responsibilities when it comes to moderating print as well as digital materials accessed via the school library and the school’s Internet connection to the World-Wide Web, but those powers are NOT unlimited. My point here is that content filtering policies in U.S. schools should look VERY different from the national web filtering policies of authoritarian nations like China, Iran, North Korea, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt, etc. These countries (and others) block all access to YouTube, or have historically blocked YouTube access. When content access policies in a U.S. school mirror those of countries like these, it’s time to take a careful look at why those policies were created in the first place and why they are maintained today.

The “Unmasking the Digital Truth Project,” which I started ten years ago in 2009, sought to highlight the legal requirements of the federal eRate program for schools involving content filtering, as well as other legal mandates like COPPA and FERPA. These issues remain important and relevant today, especially as privacy concerns continue to grow more complex as greater amounts of personal information are shared online in our era of surveillance capitalism. (FERPAsherpa.org is one of my favorite resource sites on the topic of student privacy, btw.) While content filtering policies in some U.S. school districts have “progressed” in the past 10 years since ‘Unmasking the Digital Truth‘ launched, some have not.

YouTube continues to be the second most popular website on our planet as of January 2019, after Google. Many adults today, especially those without teenage children in their home, may not realize how incredibly important YouTube has become and remains as a contemporary information source for students. This reality is fraught with both challenges as well as opportunities. One of my favorite things to say about this is, “Video is the pencil of the 21st century.” Among other things, this means we (as teachers) and our students should be creating and sharing content in video form as skillfully and frequently as past generations shared ideas with text. It also accepts that the dominance of video and YouTube is a REALITY today, which we need to address and embrace rather than ignore or deny.

It is crazy that in the same Texas and Oklahoma high schools I’ve walked in where YouTube is completely blocked for students via WiFi, those same students can readily open their smartphones and access YouTube directly via their cell phone data plans. YouTube is one of the most important communication and information platforms for teenagers today in 2019, yet, some of our school leaders continue to support and defend policies which BLOCK all access to YouTube for those students on school networks. This is akin to a Egyptian official in the Library of Alexandria prohibiting any patrons from accessing any written texts, because “the only proper way to learn is to listen to an oral argument presented by a scholarly speaker.” That was the opinion of Socrates, according to Plato, but that idea was both wrong and ridiculous. New forms of media have shortcomings and present challenges, as Neil Postman and Marshall McLuhan remind us, but there is also an inevitability to the way media forms change and evolve.

Modern firewalls in schools permit and can support differentiated content filtering. This means users on WiFi or wired Internet connections can be authenticated and identified by their respective roles in the organization, and granted corresponding access to not only local network resources but also cloud-based / web resources, including YouTube. This means:

  1. All teachers at your school should currently have open / unrestricted access to YouTube. As professionals, teachers can and should ‘serve as the filter’ for YouTube content they access and choose to share with students. This is both legal from an eRate and COPPA standpoint, and also the professionally appropriate policy for schools to adopt.
  2. At a minimum, all high school and middle school students at your school should have filtered access to YouTube. This can be a custom setting on your specific school firewall, or the Google/YouTube provided restricted mode. That setting does not have to be enabled on individual devices, YouTube restricted mode can be enabled network-wide for students.

Here are some specific questions I challenge you to ask your school board members / trustees, school administrators, and IT staff members:

  1. What are our current policies for blocking or allowing access to YouTube for teachers and students?
  2. If teacher access to YouTube is blocked, ask: When will our network hardware and/or school policies be updated to permit teacher access to YouTube?
  3. If high/middle school student access is entirely blocked, ask: When will our network hardware and/or school policies be updated to permit filtered high/middle school student access to YouTube?
  4. What is our district/school procedure for requesting that a YouTube channel or specific video is UNBLOCKED for student access on our network, and how can that process be further streamlined / made even faster?

Without question, content filtering and student access to both content on the World Wide Web and digital devices (in both school and at home) is complex and filled with challenges. That access at school is not only (conditionally) protected by U.S. law, however, it also provides INCREDIBLE opportunities for learning and literacy both inside and outside the classroom of the 21st century. If the ideas I’ve shared in this post resonate with you, I’d love to hear from you. I’d also like to hear from folks who disagree with the ideas I’ve shared here. You can contact me directly on Twitter with a reply to @wfryer, write a comment below (which I’ll have to approve), or use my personal contact form. Of those options, I’m most likely to see your feedback and reply promptly if you engage with me on Twitter.

Together, we need to provide both safe and empowering environments in our schools and homes for digital learning. There are MANY important conversations teachers, students, parents, grandparents, school administrators, and other stakeholders in the lives of our kids need to have when it comes to YouTube. With that in mind, we’ll be hosting a “Parent University” at our school on April 23rd titled, “Let’s Talk About YouTube.” We’ll also be hosting another “Parent University” session on April 11th titled, “Let’s Talk About Sexting.” Both of these events will be open to the public, but prior online registration (free) is required. Resources related to “digital citizenship” which we have and continue to share with our school community are available on DigCit.us. I don’t pretend to have all the answers on these issues, but I do know we need more opportunities for dialog and discussion which can empower us all with more knowledge and skills.

What are your thoughts? Is YouTube access a big deal in schools? Should we be concerned about YouTube being blocked entirely in some schools from secondary student or teacher access?

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Adult Identity and the “I Can’t Use Technology Well” Introduction

Last Friday evening before turning in for the night, I shared a six part, threaded series of thoughts on Twitter based on frequent conversations I have with technology-fearful adults. Before reflecting a bit more on these ideas, as well as sharing some of the responses these tweets invited from others, I’ll share this series of (almost) 240 character posts as a single paragraph:

I am amazed how many adults start conversations with me by saying, “You know I’m just not a technology person & I can’t use these tools in very powerful ways.” In our digital era this is tantamount to an admission of illiteracy, & even worse, a desire to remain illiterate. An alarming number of adults today define themselves as technology illiterate & often actively anti-technology. They verbalize their identity in ways young people never do nor likely ever will. This is a very real digital divide, & it’s powerful because it’s tied to identity. As a self-professed “technology fear therapist” these professions of anti-technology adult identity are puzzling as well as troubling. I think this reflects, in part, the fast pace of disruptive change in society today, & our need to process it together more slowly. On a practical level, I frequently strategize ways to constructively engage those who are adamantly anti-technology. Amplifying the voices of young people sharing their excitement for learning which is enabled / empowered by technology is a favorite method. But it’s vital to help others understand I’m not just “pro-technology.” I’m pro-learning, pro-engagement, pro-relationships, pro-conversations. All those things can be strengthened & even transformed by the thoughtful & deliberate use of technology. Sometimes these conversations with “anti-tech” or “tech-fearful” adults make me realize what a different world I live in & different reality I experience DAILY because I’m a connected educator. So helping others connect with a Professional Learning Network (PLN) via social media is also an important strategy.

Here is an embedded version of the first tweet in this series. You’ll need to click the link to see the entire thread with replies.

Let me first offer this set of threaded tweets and replies as “exhibit A” to people who decry Twitter as a platform devoid of conversations. As Jason Neiffer (@techsavvyteach) has mentioned several times on The EdTech Situation Room (@edtechSR), Twitter can be a challenging place to disagree thoughtfully and at length with others. The text character limitations of the medium, as well as our general tendency to “dip to a rather shallow depth” with ideas rather than engage deeply with them and with other minds on social media, contribute to these challenges. Twitter CAN, however, offer space to share “threaded thoughts,” as I did in this situation, and invite others to both read as well as engage with more complicated thoughts. I continue to advocate strongly for the positive learning and connections which Twitter fosters specifically among connected educators. This threaded set of ideas shared on Twitter is another supportive example of that case I’ve attempted to make here on my blog.

In reflecting on some of the responses these tweets invited, I found it affirming that I’m not alone in these sentiments. Other educators frequently interact with other adults in other places who share similar sentiments and project similar ideas about their own identities as “non-tech” users.

Others observed these kinds of responses happen in different domains besides technology, including mathematics. I agree with Erik Kramer (@techerkramer) that past, traumatic experiences may explain these responses. This speaks to the idea I shared in the original Twitter thread, that we’re living in EXTREMELY disruptive and fast-changing times, which we all need more TIME together to process, digest, and come to terms with.

The ideas in this thread also point to our need for “technology fear therapy.” I’ve been using the title, “technology fear therapist” in my Twitter profile for a few months now, and it’s NOT a joke. As a school director of technology and technology integration coach with teachers, one of my most important roles is building relationships of trust with others and helping them “stretch” both their uses of technology and their self-perceptions when it comes to effective technology use. I see my role as helping other teachers thoughtfully embrace new and transformative uses of technology which improve teaching and learning.

The idea of calling out these issues and ‘naming them’ through “technology fear therapy” is something that has also resonated with Carl Hooker (@mrhooker):

I’ve proposed (in partial seriousness) that Carl and I should “found an online institute for technology fear therapy.” I’m not sure what final form this will take (it might become a co-led, online mini-course) but am sure the ideas which underlie this train of thought will continue to move forward. The technology fear therapy train has left the station, because so many adults today are afflicted by it and are in need of helpful counselors.

Do you interact with others who show signs of “technology fear disorder” (TFD)?! What are the most effective strategies you employ as a self-appointed “technology fear therapist” in your school and home? These are among the strategies I’m using now and want to refine more in the weeks and months ahead:

  1. Build relationships of trust.
  2. Learn what “technology use pain points” the other person is experiencing most frequently, or cause the most acute pain. (Password challenges are common.)
  3. Help others understand our need today to use unique passwords on every different website and app. (haveibeenpwned.com can be a personalized and effective eye opener)
  4. Recognize “technology fear therapy” invites an ongoing conversation and “journey of learning” together. The issues which you identify and the seeds of healthy therapy which you sow will not be resolved or take root immediately. They take time to understand, process, and address effectively.
  5. Share and model a “growth mindset” when it comes to technology use and specifically overcoming technology fears. Utilizing a password manager (like LastPass @lastpass) and enabling MFA (multi-factor authentication) on every important website you use are two specific ways to “walk the walk” of a technology growth mindset.
  6. Regularly amplify transformative uses of technology with other teachers and parents when you can. Do this in face-to-face conversations as well as via social media, and gatherings when appropriate. Currently at school, we’re doing this through our Seesaw learning journals, on Twitter via our #CasadyLearns hashtag, via our “Casady Learns Google+ Learning Community,” via our Technology Showcase blog, on personal blogs, and also via Facebook from time to time.
  7. Helping others educators become connected online with others who are passionate about shared topics of interest, are actively sharing their own learning, and seeking “the wisdom of the crowd” (which is a very real thing in the EduTwitterVerse) is powerful and can be transformative. I recently updated my own “Yodas” Twitter list both for my own benefit (I love following this list in Flipboard (@flipboard) and to encourage others to follow this great group of Twitter using educators.
  8. Pair conversations about thoughtful and constructive uses of technology with digital citizenship. Resources related to digital citizenship that we’ve been sharing with students, parents and teachers at our school are on the website digcit.us. Consider sharing resources and connecting with others on Twitter using the hashtag #DigCit.
  9. Consider sharing articles and thoughts related to technology fear therapy on Twitter using the hashtag #TechFearTherapy. This not only provides a good way to share and archive related article links, but also provides a way to connect with others interested in this topic.
  10. Remember the transformative power of STUDENTS sharing their joy of learning using technology, to win over the hearts and minds of adults with whom “technology fear is strong.” This can especially be true when students are creating original projects in an environment like Scratch, or tinkering with robots.

What are your thoughts about all of this? Do you have other ideas to add to my initial list of “technology fear therapist first principles and strategies?” Please share them as a comment below, or on Twitter by adding to the original tweet thread. You can also reach out to me via my personal contact form.

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Seesaw Skills, Assessment and Parent Feedback

Last week I had an opportunity to attend the LLI Southwest Conference at The Oakridge School in Arlington, Texas, and present with two of our second grade teachers about our “Seesaw Skills iPad Pilot Project,” which I’m leading this year with teachers in our Lower Division at Casady School in Oklahoma City. In this post, I’ll share a few reflections from those experiences, as well as links to the recorded audio of our presentation and our presentation slides. You can use the shortened link wfryer.me/skills to view the slides, and the audio recording (posted to YouTube with the free iPhone app Voice Record Pro) is embedded on slide two. The audio recording of our session is NOT synchronized to our slides (since I haven’t had time for the post-production effort that would require) but can provide you with the content of our session that isn’t reflected in our slides. I just recorded this on my iPhone during the session, so I’m sure the audio levels vary and aren’t perfect… but hopefully it’s good enough for those who are interested and were not able to attend the session in person!

The official title of our 1 hour conference breakout session was “From Traditional Comments and Skills to Digital Learning Journals.” The description on the conference app was:

How can elementary teachers best utilize student digital learning journals to build portfolios of work authentically reflecting the development of curricular skills? Can these digital artifacts transform the traditional narrative feedback provided to parents by classroom teachers? This active learning session will introduce participants to the ways teachers in the Lower Division at Casady School are using the “Skills View” in Seesaw Learning Journals. In addition to learning about the goals and professional development / coaching supporting our 2018-2019 iPad Seesaw Skills Pilot Project, participants will view, discuss and evaluate a variety of Casady student artifacts included in their Seesaw learning journals. Participants will also have an opportunity to participate in a Seesaw activity tied to the Skills View, to gain a deeper understanding of how these tools can be used to document student demonstrations of learning as well as skills assessment.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about our session was using a “sandbox” Seesaw class, and helping teachers attending the session add a photo of a random object with a creative, narrated description. The Seesaw support article, “How do I create a professional development class in Seesaw for Schools” provided a downloadable template I used to create this temporary class for up to 30 participants. We opted to use the QR code sign-in option, which made things go MUCH faster in the workshop than if we asked teachers to sign in with their Google accounts. As attendees came into the session room, we asked them to write their first names beside numbers we had on a whiteboard, and I added these names in Seesaw for Schools before our presentation started.

I also really liked the Seesaw activity prompt we gave teachers, since it invited everyone to be creative, whimsical, and perhaps silly. (I was in my example post!) The goal was to help teachers (many who were not familiar with the use of Seesaw as a learning journal at all) to experience how media sharing can work, and how skill ratings can be added to student submitted artifacts as they are reviewed / approved by a teacher. We left about 20 minutes in our 60 minute session for this activity, to show how skill ratings could be added, and listen to a few of the creative submissions by session participants.

Like the multi-day iPad Media Camp (@iPadMediaCamp) and Make Media Camp (@MakeMediaCamp) workshops that my wife and I lead in the summer, I love providing teachers with opportunities to “be students” (even if briefly) in technology integration workshops. Getting “hands-on” with technology tools, creating media, and sharing it with others is much more potentially impactful (and even transformative) for teachers than simply watching a demonstration session at a conference.

This was the first opportunity I’ve had to co-present at an education conference with other teachers from our school, since I started at Casady as the Director of Technology almost four years ago. (I should clarify that to say, teachers from our school other than my wife!) This was a great experience, not only putting together the session ideas and materials, but also just traveling down to the Dallas area together and attending the conference! Never underestimate the potential value and impact of “breaking bread” together with colleagues and having opportunities to extend learning about instructional strategies together! I am looking forward to not only sharing what we learned with other teachers back at school, but also continuing my collaboration with Lisa Jordan and Melissa Coate (@melissacoate), with whom I presented at LLI Southwest. Woo hoo for professional development together!

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Lessons Learned as a School Director of Technology

This is my fourth year to serve as the Director of Technology at The Casady School in Oklahoma City, and I’ve been reflecting lately on the multitude of skills I’ve developed as well as “lessons learned” during my time of service in this administrative and leadership role. In this post, I’ll attempt to summarize (but certainly not comprehensively capture) some of these skills and lessons. These are listed in a rather random order, they are NOT prioritized. While I could write separate blog posts about each one of these, for the sake of brevity (and the vain hope someone will read this entire post and find valuable ideas here) I’ll try to limit my comments about each one to two or three sentences, and include helpful links when appropriate. (This proved impossible, however…) If you’d like to hear more about one or more of these, please let me know with a post comment, by reaching out on Twitter @wfryer, or using my electronic contact form. I may record an upcoming podcast episode on this topic / these ideas.

1. VLANs, Switch and Port Management

Enterprise networks, which include school networks, are complex creations by necessity. Our school network, probably like everyone else’s, has and continues to experience evolutionary change as we respond to increased utilization, new operational expectations, and more sophisticated security threats. I’ve learned a great deal about the design of networks and the use of virtual LANs (VLANs), the management of smart, POE (power over ethernet) switches, the benefits of cloud dashboard management (we use Cisco Meraki,) and the management of ports to provide secure network segmentation for various users.

2. Multimode and Singlemode Fiber

One of the ways I brought my knowledge and skills of GeoMaps into my role as our school director of technology early on was creating a sharable, collaborative map of our school fiber optic network (including most of our dark fiber) using Google’s MyMaps. I have color coded our school fiber map, indicating 62.5 microns OM1 (orange), 50 microns OM3 (aqua) 12 strand, Singlemode Fiber OS1, Copper Ethernet runs, and Old Fiber and Copper (not in use). We use, update, and refer to this map frequently as we meet as a staff, meet with vendor partners, and continue to develop our long range plan for our technology infrastructure.

3. Understanding and Communicating Technology Support Needs versus Capacity

One of my biggest challenges as a school director of technology has been working to communicate the technology support needs of our faculty, staff, students, and campus, relative to the capacity which we have to meet those needs through our existing technology staff structure. By nature, much of what we do in information technology / IT is a “black box” which “outsiders” do not fully comprehend or understand. It’s vital, however, for key administrators to clearly understand the scope and scale of work done by the IT staff, to support and sustain that work. I’d like to say I have this puzzle completely figured out, but I do not. I have learned that periodic meetings with administrators, combined with other forms of communication like emails, written reports, and hallway conversations, all combine to shape perceptions. “Face time” with key school administrators is very important for the technology director, both to build relationships of trust and to better understand the perspectives, perceptions, and needs of different stakeholders. Data from technology support tickets plays an important but not comprehensive role. We use SchoolDude’s legacy “Incident” platform for IT ticketing, and will hopefully transition to their newer “Help Desk” product soon.

4. Importance of Roaming / Being Present

No matter what kind of IT ticketing solution you use, and no matter how good your relationships are with the faculty, staff and students you support, you will NEVER have a comprehensive window into ALL the technology support needs of your organization through your ticketing portal. I have learned as a school director of technology, and for the members of our technology support staff, it’s vital that we “roam” and periodically poke our heads into different classrooms and offices. We have 19 different buildings on 80 acres at our school, so it’s impractical as well as inefficient for me to try and ‘make the rounds’ on our campus daily. I try, however, to periodically roam and be present, even if it’s for a brief checkin, with our different division directors and administrative assistants, and when I can with individual teachers as well as staff members. Clearly the size and scale of the organization you support will dramatically affect your ability to do this… But the longer I’ve been a technology director, the more I’ve seen the importance of these periodic “walkabout” moments of connecting with the constituents I support, keeping my eyes and ears open for issues as well as opportunities to help. Sometimes this means putting in an IT support ticket on behalf of someone, for later follow-up by another staff member. Other times it means being able to immediately answer a question or help solve a problem.

5. Transformative Power of Instructional Coaching

I am completely convinced the best professional growth and development engine for teachers at any level or in any content area is instructional coaching. An athletic analogy is very appropriate in this case. How do you improve your golf swing, or more effectively learn to shoot a good jump shot? You seek the assistance of an experienced and effective coach. While my time to serve as an instructional coach has become more limited in my current job because of expanding operational technology responsibilities, I highly value these interactions with our faculty and find they bring me some of my deepest job satisfaction. I’ve been fortunate to work in both the academic and operational sides of technology in my role as a school technology director, and I think my role as a “bridge” between the instructional realities of the classroom and the often opaque world of information technology is really important. Often in school IT settings, “silos” and gaps exist between teachers in our classrooms and the technology support staff who serve them. This may not be possible in all situations, but I think the opportunities which I have to support instructional coaching at our school (working with our library media specialists / librarians, for example) as well as serving directly as an instructional coach to faculty on occasion, significantly enhances my potential effectiveness as a school leader, administrator, and technology decisionmaker.

6. Dell Command Update

This is a really specific lesson learned, but it’s significant so I’ll give it a separate bullet point. If you use Dell computers in your school and support them, you need to know about Dell Command Update. It’s a free program which downloads and installs all the firmware and device drivers for the specific Dell computer you’re running. We had tons of heartache this past fall over Windows10 updates “display bricking” the Dell All-In-One computers in two of our computer labs. Removing CMOS batteries and running Dell Command Update ended up being the solution to our WindowsOS woes.

7. Mobile Device Management (MDM) Comparisons

Our technology support staff manages several hundred Chromebooks and iPads at our school today, and several hundred more MacOS and WindowsOS laptops, desktops, and servers. Since I’ve been at our school, I’ve helped transition our support procedures to include mobile device management (MDM) solutions, and this transition is ongoing. For iPad management, we started by using the free Meraki MDM (until we exceeded 100 devices), and then transitioned to TechPilot (formerly TabPilot) thanks in part to a recommendation from Henry Finch, the director of technology at Holland Hall in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We briefly tried implementing Filewave’s MDM solution because of its promise to manage WinOS as well as MacOS devices, but ended up choosing JAMF as our solution for MacOS laptop management. We use the Google Gsuite Admin Console to manage all our Chromebooks, which requires the one-time purchase of Google admin licenses when we purchase new Chrome devices. All MDMs require an annual subscription cost or (in the case of Google) an up-front licensing cost, but those costs are WELL worth it. I look forward to the day, in the not too distant future, when we will be fully transitioned into MDM device management. We are going to explore using Microsoft’s Intune MDM for managing our Windows10 endpoints, but since those are relatively few in number on our campus, that’s a lower departmental priority than some other things right now.

8. Legacy Imaging to MDM Transition

With the release of MacOS High Sierra, Apple finally killed the wonderfully handy option for IT support staff to use “legacy imaging” solutions on Apple hardware. Our technology department put off our transition to MDM management from legacy imaging for as long as we could, but when it finally became an unavoidable requirement we did it. I loved being able to re-image a faculty or staff MacOS laptop in less than an hour using NetBoot or NetRestore. Alas, those days have gone the way of the dinosaur. And the learning curve continues…

9. Importance of Network Segmentation

As I wrote in the introductory paragraph of this novel-length post, enterprise IT networks are necessarily complex. ‘Twas not always so. Many older networks started life with relatively simple, “flat” designs which were simple and efficient. Unfortunately, however, flat networks today (even those in residential homes, with the increasing number of IoT devices and video streaming applications) are neither efficient or secure. Some of the most challenging network issues we’ve faced at our school involve intermittent connectivity issues with streaming video or other bandwidth-intensive applications. When a network like ours is flat or mostly flat, without building-level subnets “segmenting” it into different pieces, it can be extremely difficult to troubleshoot and therefore support. My personal learning curve as we’ve addressed network segmentation on our campus has been steep, but it’s been wonderful to have the opportunity to better understand network design as well as the ways we can increase both efficiency and security through design.

10. Discerning the Politics of Finance and Role Autonomy

Here’s an important but challenging lesson learned: It’s vital in an independent school like ours (and possibly in every organization) to discern the politics of finance, as well as the potential for autonomy which you have in your respective role within the food chain. As an Air Force veteran coming from a military background, I have worked in organizations with highly regimented and defined processes. Policies and written procedures are not always available in organizations, however, and in some cases this can be beneficial. It also poses challenges, however. “It’s been a journey” at our school for me to better understand how our specific budgeting, long range financial planning, and capital expenditure processes (as opposed to regular operational spending and budgeting) works in practice. These are really important things to clearly understand as a school administrator. It was also challenging for me to discern and understand the limits and scope of my autonomy as a director of technology. Initially in my first year, I remember being very hesitant to call a meeting in which I “required” people to attend. I’m still careful and (hopefully) sensitively strategic when I do this now… but I have a clearer understanding of the boundaries of my own autonomy now as a technology director. This is definitely something which comes with experience, but it also (at least in my case) also comes with the building of relationships with other staff members at our school, and the opportunity to seek counsel and mentorship from others with more experience and wisdom in “the ways of our school.”

11. Importance of Digital Citizenship

One of the ongoing initiatives at our school of which I’m most proud is the work I’ve done the past 3 years with our school psychologists around “digital citizenship.” Much of the work we’ve done together is shared on the website DigCit.us. I was recently surprised to hear some of our most tech-savvy middle division teachers express a lack of confidence in engaging their students in conversations around digital citizenship. I’m convinced we need to make conversations about digital citizenship a regular part of our dialog with students, at all grade levels, as developmentally and situationally appropriate. A video of the September 2018 presentation on our school’s “Responsible Use Policy” I shared with our school psychologist (Dr. Jeri Baucum-McKinney) is available on our school digital citizenship website. I haven’t linked it in a post yet, but my presentation on digital footprints and social media choices (“If Social Media is a GAME, What’s Your Score?”) is also available via YouTube. I value the opportunities I have to help lead “Parent University” sessions on Internet safety, screentime limits, and other topics, as our school technology director. These opportunities to directly interface with our parents and engage in dialog about digital citizenship topics has been and continues to be an important role for me at our school. Feedback from parents, students, and teachers continues to shape the topics addressed in these meetings as well as the support strategy we continue to develop for our faculty around digital citizenship.

12. Ticketing, Check Ins and Team Meetings

I’ve already mentioned our technology department’s use of SchoolDude’s legacy “Incident” platform for IT ticketing. In addition to a ticketing solution which is as streamlined and simple as possible for faculty/staff to submit tickets as well as the technology support staff to manage, I’ve learned regular “check ins with our technology support staff as well as (ideally) monthly meetings with our larger “technology team are very important. Everyone is SO busy, it’s hard to schedule meeting times that can work for everyone, and this continues to be an ongoing struggle. I’ve been amazed at times, however, how simply the sharing of information and the opportunity to have some question and answer time can help both build relationships and reduce anxiety on the part of some staff. Like many schools, we’re in the midst of a lot of changes and transitions, and these “seasons” bring a lot of stress for educators. One of the things I’m continuing to work on is bringing members of our technology team together on a periodic basis to ‘check in’ and also share feedback about how things are going, the status of ongoing projects, and issues which need special attention.

13. Documentation and Team Drives

Ever since I became our school’s director of technology, I’ve been working on better documenting our support procedures and workflows. This is super challenging, especially when some days you feel like you’re running around like a chicken with your head cut-off, plugging leaks in a massive dam. Fortunately, those days are fewer and more “far between” now, but they still happen. Google Team Drives have become an important repository for internal process documentation for our technology department, as well as “how to guides” which we share with our entire school community. Before the advent of Team Drives, I used a CNAME-mapped Google Site (support.casady.org/home/knowledgebase) to share technology documentation with our faculty and staff, as well as others outside our community who wanted to check out these resources. Internal-only documents were saved in a different Google Drive folder, and today those are saved in a Team Drive which is only accessible by our Tech Department staff. Because of confidentiality and “need to know” factors, I share technology support related files in 4 different Google Team Drives now: one for our operations department (which includes security, maintenance and grounds, as well as technology), one for our Tech Department, another for our larger Technology Team members, and finally our school-wide knowledgebase. I’ve also shared presentations and resource handouts from past technology integration workshops which I’ve led for faculty/staff, and have been led by other members of our technology team.

14. Transition to the Cloud and Local Server Management

Every IT department I know has been and is in the process of moving the bulk of local server functions into the cloud. This process was well underway when I started as our school director of technology in 2015. We “went Google” around 2011, finally (and thankfully) giving up a locally hosted Microsoft Exchange Server. When I started at Casady in 2015, we transitioned from the legacy Blackbaud student information system to their new/updated “OnSuite” platform, which was the result of their acquisition of WhippleHill in 2014. I’m very thankful we have a dedicated database manager who takes the lead in “all things Blackbaud” on campus, but it was valuable for me to “get into the weeds” with some of our transition process. Specifically, I helped transition all our comments and skills for primary and lower division teachers (PreK-K and grades 1-4) into OnSuite, and boy was that an experience I’m NOT eager to repeat. Sitting through numerous webinars and calls with with our Blackbaud project manager did give me extremely helpful insights as well as working competency in the environment to both understand and use it. It’s important to effectively delegate technology support roles and responsibilities as a school director of IT, but it’s also vital to have enough understanding of a system, its capabilities and limitations, that you can reasonably consider “the ask” of different constituents who want to make changes, get a staff member to work on a special project, etc. In addition to our transition to the Blackbaud hosted cloud service for our SIS needs, I’ve also learned a lot more about server management, server patching, and the residual roles which need to be played by local servers. For us, this includes DHCP/DNS for our domain controller, IP speaker bells and paging (via InformaCast), Google Cloud Print Service for legacy multi-function printer/copiers, management of endpoint security software, Deep Freeze client management for our labs, and several other roles which I’m leaving out in this post which is not supposed to be exhaustive! Our decision to go with Jive (now owned by LogMeIn) for our VOIP phone system, and includes a cloud-based PBX, was a very important decision in 2018. Overseeing that VOIP phone and IP speaker transition project was a 1.5 year endeavor for me at our school, and definitely an experience which also deepened my IT learning curve as well as our departmental responsibilities via our IP network.

15. Vendor Partnerships and Outsourcing

Vendor relationships are extremely important to manage and maintain as a school director of technology. It’s been interesting to me to watch how vendors succeed or fail in attempting to establish a relationship of trust with me and my staff. I’m thankful, as a private school director of technology, to not be subject to all of the regulations and requirements which the federal E-Rate program puts on public school administrators. Even though those legal mandates don’t apply in the independent school world, there are still a number of ethical as well as practical issues to keep in mind and navigate regarding vendors. Since our department does not have an administrative assistant, one of the weekly (and sometimes daily) challenges is facing the onslaught of vendor cold-calls over the phone. I’ve become more efficient (I think) in politely saying “no thanks” and hanging up on many of those cold calls, but it’s important to recognize that different constituents can initiate some “engagements,” and it’s vital to identify when a parent, alumni, or “friend of the school” has tried to initiate a vendor relationship. Certainly when it comes to current parents and alumni, this can be tricky. The counsel and mentorship of other experienced administrators can be helpful in these situations. One of my friends, who was the director of technology for a local college of education, suggested setting up a generic form and asking all inquiring vendors to submit it for review. This isn’t a procedure we’ve implemented, but from a data security perspective it would be a good one. How does the vendor handle confidential student information? Is that data encrypted end-to-end? Are other third parties granted access to the data? Where is the data stored and how is it protected from a breach or hack? As we utilize cloud-based services and outsource functions to vendors, there are a lot of important questions to ask.

16. 2 Factor Authentication (MFA), Password Managers and Phishing

Our school transitioned to Google/Gsuite 2 Factor Authentication almost two years ago. I think we were a little “ahead of the curve” on that decision, and it was right on target. The hostile security environment in which we live is not fully appreciated by most people today. Brian Krebs (@briankrebs) is one of the best security journalists to read and follow to stay abreast of these issues. You might also subscribe to the weekly podcast I create with Jason Neiffer, “The EdTech Situation Room” (@edtechSR). We frequently highlight and discuss security issues. We also have been encouraging all our faculty/staff to use a password manager like LastPass for several years. Whenever I have a chance to address our entire faculty and staff, I always talk about online safety/security and increasingly phishing. As IT professionals, it’s our duty to help raise the awareness and digital literacy skills of our constituents when it comes to online security.

17. Email Volume and Overload

Boy I wish I had a silver bullet solution to this one. Email remains the “common denominator” digital communication medium in schools today, but boy is it ever out of hand. This isn’t a school issue, of course, it’s a societal issue, but our schools can contribute to the condition of email overload. Just as our communication department carefully weighs the need to directly message our parents each time it’s requested, we need to use restraint and intention as we message faculty and staff from the technology department. I’d love to say I’m a practicing disciple of the “Inbox Zero” email management strategy, but I’m not and email is a daily struggle. At some point, I hope AI/artificial intelligence algorithms come to our rescue, but I’m not holding my breath. I’ve read and recommend David Allen’s book and methodology, “Getting Things Done,” which InBox Zero can be a component strategy. My best advice on email is: When you start in a new job role, be unrelentingly focused on maintaining InBox Zero from day one. Never use your email inbox as a holding place for “to do’s.” Delete, reply, or move all your messages out of your inbox every day. Unsubscribe from unwanted email lists and create filters to manage lists you do want to keep. Start and maintain these habits from DAY ONE on the job.

18. Media Specialist / Librarian Partnerships

I love opportunities to work with media specialists / librarians, and I always have in the different educational roles I’ve had over the years. I firmly believe that our librarians are some of the most important leaders, teachers, and shepherds of our media literacy and information literacy skills inside and outside of schools. I’m a huge proponent for and supporter of librarians, who have opportunities to work directly with both students and teachers. My relationships with our librarians as the technology director is very important, to understand the challenges they face and the needs they have, which are ever evolving.

19. Indoor and Outdoor Digital Signage

This topic definitely needs and deserves its own post. Indoor digital signage for our upper division / high school was a project our former technology director (and only previous IT director, he served for 19 years) handed off to me when I joined our school. We started using Android media players from digitalsignage.com, but eventually discovered and now use ScreenCloud Signage. I love it. We’re exploring the possibility of migrating our indoor digital signs which only play Google Slideshows to Chrome Sign Builder, which does not require a monthly subscription. On the outdoor digital signage front, I can’t publicly share all that I’ve learned… but part of it is to carefully shop your vendors and pay attention to the end user software which their solution requires. Don’t assume it’s been updated, verify it and its ease of use. It’s amazing how our expectations of “ease of use” have been elevated over the past decade when it comes to digital interfaces. I think much of that has been driven by smartphones and the iPhone specifically. Generally, iOS “just works.” That’s not always the case with smartphones or other technology solutions, but it’s changed and elevated our expectations… and that’s generally a good thing. Carefully shop your vendors when it comes to outside digital signage. That’s all I’ll say on that topic here, for now.

21. Next Generation Emergency Paging

This topic also deserves its own post. Emergency paging is one of the most important technology functions we support today at our school. When we migrated to Jive phones and IP speakers, we implemented the InformaCast Fusion system for emergency paging. Our campus administrators can now initiate a tornado or lock-down emergency with about 3 taps on their smartphone, or initiate a drill. They can also issue an ‘all clear’ pre-recorded message, or use any phone (not just a campus phone) to initiate an all-school page that goes out on every IP speaker, outside horn, and desk phone at our school. This is so important and so powerful. I could write a lot more about what I’ve learned, turning on “multi-cast” on our VOIP VLAN, specifying a “rendezvous point” for multi-cast traffic, dealing with switches which “prune” multi-cast traffic in some of our buildings, etc. But I’ll stop there.

22. SSO and Managing Logins

Single Sign On (SSO) is important for organizations from a security standpoint, and for efficiency. The less maintaining of separate “silos” of userIDs and passwords you can deal with, generally the better. We’re a Google School, so we’ve implemented some Google SSO solutions, and are looking at more. We enforce 2FA for all faculty/staff, so whenever we authenticate with Google, we’re adding an additional layer of security protection. Using a Google account to login to other school supported platforms (Seesaw Learning Journals, for example) also helps our faculty and staff maintain their sanity when it comes to usernames and passwords. “Just login with your school Google account.” I love to say that, and would like to say it even more. Password managers are also key for this. Some of the most stress-filled interactions I’ve had with our faculty and staff over the past few years have focused on passwords not working. Often this has been a personal AppleID password issue. There is no panacea, but password managers can help. LastPass is free for individuals and works well. As technology directors and support staff, we have to “walk the walk” of good security practices, and not just “talk the talk.” This starts with using LONG, UNIQUE passwords on every website or application we touch. It’s not just painful without a password manager, I think it’s impossible to do fully.

Concluding Thoughts

This turned out to be a monster post. I’ve been thinking about these ideas for many months, however. I’d considered writing this as a series, but this evening I’ve had the time to finally put my ideas into my laptop. I’ve written a lot, but I’ve also left out a bunch. I didn’t address security cameras or access control. WiFi density. Other stuff. But I think for now this is enough…

If you’ve actually read this entire digital tome, in addition to offering you my sincere thanks, I’ll invite you to share any feedback you have. As I wrote previously, please share a comment below, reach out on Twitter @wfryer, or use my electronic contact form to send me a message.

As we often say when closing out an episode on the EdTech Situation Room:

Stay savvy and stay safe out there!

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

The Dream of Creative Writing

I have been doing quite a bit of soul-searching in the past few weeks and months, and I have played with several ideas for my future that are worth noting. One of these is my desire to write fiction, to unleash my creative imagination in a channel detached almost entirely from education and educational technology. I am not saying I am going to seriously do this in the upcoming weeks and months, but it is something which I have thought about a bit, and I want to reflect upon briefly tonight.

I’ve started reading Joseph Campbell’s classic book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” from which we derive “The Hero’s Journey.” This is a pattern which we find in myth, great stories of literature, and great stories depicted now in movies. It is summarized quite well in this TedEd video, which I showed to our daughter last week and is one of my favorites whenever I discuss storytelling and digital storytelling with others.

In chapter 1 of Campell’s book this evening, I ran across this lovely summary, a turn a phrase I both respect and enjoy:

“… these are the everlastingly recurrent themes of the wonderful song of the soul’s high adventure.”

Joseph Campbell, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”

Thoughts of creative writing with joy also bring to mind Liz Gilbert’s wonderful book, “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,” and “Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking” by David Bayles and Ted Orland. With the image of the band Queen‘s retreat to a rural English farm in 1975 to compose “A Night at the Opera” and Bohemian Rhapsody, fresh on my mind from the movie by the same name, I find myself wondering what sorts of creative tales my mind could unleash given the opportunity to disconnect from the world as I know it now and tap into my own creative imagination?

As I ponder the professional opportunities and decisions which lie ahead of my family and I in the coming week, a desire to write and rediscover myself as a prolific author is one idea among many on my mind. I have loved so many things about the past four years, being a school director of technology, but the circumstances and context of my work has encouraged me to almost entirely stop writing. This is both a vocation and hobby about which I am passionate and dearly love, and plan to reclaim in the months ahead.

(This is my first mobile blogged post using the new WordPress block-based writing interface, and largely dictated using speech to text on my iPad.)

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Tips for Self-Publishing Your Book (February 2019)

Today I had an opportunity to share a 41 minute presentation with Mrs. Finley’s 12th grade Creative Writing class at our school, which I called, “Book Publishing 101.” Her students have spent the past several weeks writing and creating original children’s picture books, and publishing them as eBooks as well as printed books using Book Creator online, Book Creator for iPad, and the website Lulu.com. Here are the slides I used during my presentation:

Mrs. Finley requested I record my presentation as a video, in case students wanted to review some of the steps we discussed, so I recorded myself using an iPad and a tripod (with a $10 iPow iPad mount), and uploaded it to YouTube afterward. The audio quality isn’t fantastic since I wasn’t standing right beside the iPad, but hopefully it’s adequate.

This is the 8th year of this wonderful book writing project for Mrs. Finley and her students, and my second year to help facilitate with some technology tools and strategies. All the student book projects from last year are available on bit.ly/spr18ebooks, and this year’s student book projects are available on bit.ly/spr19ebooks. Those shortened links will redirect your web browser to Google Docs which include the covers, titles, and downloadable ePUB versions of student eBooks, as well as Lulu.com print version order pages. On an iPad, the easiest way to download the books directly is to click the Google Drive folder link, and then choose to open the desired ePUB file in the Apple Books app.

This year as I worked with our students, I tried to break down the steps required to create, build and publish a book more clearly. Taken together this IS a lot of steps, but it’s definitely a process students can handle. I called the three phrases of this workflow:

  1. Create
  2. Build
  3. Publish

These are the five steps for writing or “creating” the book, primarily “offline” but possibly using Google Docs.

After writing the book and creating original artwork, these are the ten steps to BUILD the book online using Book Creator:

This year, I took the PDF versions of completed student books from the Book Creator website, and altered the margins of the book so it would be accepted for print publishing on Lulu.com. That was a mistake, however, because the formatting of the directly downloaded PDF from app.bookcreator.com is smaller and of a poorer quality than an exported PDF from the iPad version of Book Creator. I shared this during my presentation today, and demonstrated the 11 steps of taking a finished ePUB file from Book Creator and publishing it successfully via Lulu.com. The initial steps of this workflow require the use of both an iPad and an Apple laptop, which is not ideal, but it’s the best quality workflow for simplified publishing that I’ve been able to figure out.

More resources about creating and sharing eBooks are available on the eBook page of ShowWithMedia.com. If you have feedback or questions about this workflow and these steps, please reach out to me on Twitter @wfryer, by using my electronic contact form, or with a comment below. I LOVE helping students and teachers create books and eBooks with Book Creator! I’m hopefully going to share a repeated workshop for teachers at our school in March on “Creating Multimedia eBooks,” and will use that opportunity to further reflect on and share lessons learned from these student projects.

If you’re interested in inviting me to your school or organization to share a workshop about ebook creation and publishing, please submit my speaking inquiry form. More information about my speaking topics and services are also available.

I hope these resources empower you and your students to create books and eBooks to share your creativity and ideas with the world!

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