Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tips & Tricks for Macs: Favorite Custom Settings Part 1

There are a lot of things you can do on a Mac that, when used properly, produce "ooo"s and "aaahhh"s from friends, students, and colleagues. I will outline the configurations of my Mac for you in this blog, but understand I do not propose everyone do what I do... make your computer your own. Not changing the settings I mention below is like looking over someone's shoulder and seeing the old stock Windows background on their desktop.

*First and foremost: If you break anything follow these steps to fix it.

Instant screen lock. 
This is a tricky one. First I will turn on the screen saver with hot corners, then tell my computer to wake screen saver with a password. The end result is my ability to wiggle my mouse down and right and lock my computer with a password. Perfect for teachers, office workers, and anyone who needs instant security.

  1. System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Savers > Screen Saver Tab 
  2. Now look to the lower right and click Hot Corners.
  3. I like to use the lower right corner for a Enter Screen Saver. 
  4. System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Check the box for Immediately Require Password. 
Spaces, not just for goofing off. 
This one is a seriously useful one for teachers to understand. Whether looking over a kid's shoulder or observing with Remote Desktop, kids are tricky. Spaces allows you to build multiple workspaces or desktops on a single computer. This means you can Facebook during a meeting and when people walk by flip back and forth to what you are supposed to be doing! 
  1. Applications > Mission Control > click the plus sign in the upper right. 
  2. Now you will have two desktops or spaces. 
  3. Open your "fun" browser with Facebook and drag the window to the right. You will stop and then bounce to the second space. You can now click and hold on the browser and slide to Options > Open in Desktop2. This will tell your computer that this application always lives in the second space.
  4. Now switching between the spaces is as easy as clicking the app on your dock or hitting Command + Tab. 
  5. You're Welcome. 

Just to explain my purpose of this, let me tell you how I use this in the average day. 
  • Space One: 
    • Safari - logged into ASTE Google account; logged into Apple ID for LYSD; logged into security cameras at DO; general "in front of a crowd" browser. No auto-fill, no history, no mishaps. 
    • First Class - work email
    • Skype - Open at all times.
  • Space Two: 
    • Firefox - logged into network monitoring tool; logged into LYSD Google account; logged into shared dropboxes with technology partners.
  • Space Three: 
    • Chrome - logged into personal Google account; personal Apple mail application; Yahoo Chat; etc.
  • Generally roaming, and depending on the time of day, location, etc, I will drag windows (applications) to different spaces. At any given time though, I can fast switch (Command+Tab) to any app and know the space associated.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


I have heard a lot of questions about the use of personal electronics on the LYSD network. Because of the proliferation of iOS devices, I will start with brief instructions for LYSD employees to add their device to the district's wifi...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"I upgraded my OS and now I scroll the wrong direction!"

Using a Mac for the first time can be a shock, but I think you will find it quite refreshing after a little practice. It is intuitive and natural. Your gestures and movements become part of your workflow. I am often in the habit of using a BlueTooth mouse with right and left click, thumb commands, and scrolling wheel in my right hand and an external trackpad in the left. I move items and click with my right and gesture with my left. I can build and edit documents quickly and I feel more productive than with the built in trackpad or wireless mouse. Customizing the trackpad can help you feel at home with your computer and generally make you more productive. Knowing what you like before hand is helpful, but the Apple default videos will help you find what you need.

Here is a quick tutorial to follow along if you wanted to change how to "right click" on your Mac.

Short cuts on the trackpad like pinching and swiping are really something, but you have only scratched the surface if you stop there. Let's talk now about keyboard shortcuts. OS10.8 does not have my favorite shortcut of all as a default anymore. So how do you get Command+Shift+4 back?

Lets take a look at this option and many others: 

If you have favorite tips and tricks, please comment below and share. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Teacher Retention and iBooks

Well it's that time of year again. New teachers are being hired left and right and contracts are being signed. If you live in Bush Alaska or work in education anywhere you know this is an important time of the year. It is particularly important in the state of Alaska though, more so in rural Alaska than anywhere else. 

The average teacher turnover in the bush is about two years. Some years in the Lower Yukon school district as many as four or five teachers will leave before their contract is even complete. Last year was a good year we only lost one. There are many factors surrounding teacher attrition in rural Alaska. The cost and the quality of housing, the pay, and access to medical facilities are all key factors in an educator's decision to come out to the bush. Many leave because they were unaware or ill prepared for what they encountered. Unknown factors such as travel costs, Internet access and cell phones, or simply the amount of daylight in the winter are all very important to a first-year teacher.

This brings me to my personal desire to better inform new hires in Lower Yukon. Many years ago a friend and I in Togiak made a 60 minute DVD for new teachers. (Yes, Tim, if you read this, I still have it!)

 We got rave reviews from new teachers, returning staff, and administration. We just wanted to make sure that our new colleagues would be more prepared than we were when we first arrived. My first time in the bush included being dropped off on a dirt runway with three dogs and 12 suitcases. I had no cell phone (there actually were no cell phones at the time), no contact information for my principal or assistant principal, and did not know where I lived. Luckily the school maintenance man, who was off duty at the time, passed by to pick up an outboard. He asked, "are you the new teachers?" I replied, "Is it that obvious?"

Needless to say there was a fairly steep learning curve. Being from Louisiana I did not know how to turn on my boiler. Combined with the fact that we had mailed bed sheets and blankets instead of bringing them on the plane, I spent several chilly nights before getting the hang of it. Eventually we got our boxes from the school and the post office and everything was fine. The reality is still quite obvious: being prepared for the Bush will make you more successful. Learning about the culture, the region, the customs, and the climate not only makes you a better teacher but it could very well save your life... or at least your sanity/dignity. 

The link below will take you to an iBook that I created for the Lower Yukon School District. I did not write most of it, but I did contribute. The text represents dozens of individuals from 10 villages. It has input from current and former employees. The pictures are from my camera or those of my friends. The quotes are real, the ideas are collaborative, and the purpose is simple. I wish to inform new hires to rural Alaska of the truth behind their new adventure. It's not sugarcoated but it is positive. I implore you that your feedback be the same.

The simplest method for getting this iBook is to click on this link using an iOS device. You may download this item to your computer and import it to iTunes, too. From there you can sync your books to your iPad, iPhone, or iPod. 

Thanks for trying this out and I hope that you let me know what I can do to make it better in the future.

Monday, April 22, 2013

ASTE 2014 Retreat

"What an amazing weekend," that is all I can say. Being a member of ASTE's Board is still a bit surreal for me and I cannot express how proud and thankful I truly am. Spending three nights and four days with the most brilliant educators and technologists in state leaves me feeling hopeful, energized, and excited like never before in my career.

Among the hours of stimulating conversation and thrilling discussions of the future of Alaskan education we decided on numerous details of various import: the 2014 Conference theme, for example. 

Hearing from lawyers about liability of board members, the university system on the horizon of teacher education, and even lobbyist in the legislature, we definitely learned a lot. Visits from the Department of Education also shed light on the goals of the State and the vision behind the new standards. Most of all I appressiate learning from my esteemed colleagues. At one point I shared in awe with a friend that, "there was no problem, technology based, education related, or otherwise, that couldn't be solved by the men and women in this room." This Board, made up of school board members, master teachers, superintendents  directors of technology and curriculum, and consultants, is truly remarkable. I am humbled by there mere presence and blessed by their friendship. 

All work and no play is never healthy, though. Thanks to the fun-filled leadership style of our president, we shared drinks and stories in the evenings nightly and socialized out doors when possible. Enjoying the hospitality of board member families we all had a delightful evening of bonding on the deck while serenaded by a live classical ensamble. After a delicious BBQ (including "ivory" or "white" king salmon, which I have never had before) we shared each other's company around a bonfire on the beach, staring out over glassy waters toward Admiralty Island hoping for humpbacks. Though never lucky enough to be visited by a whale, we did observe some playful sea lions. 

The final day of the retreat we wrapped up early so everyone could get to their flights and the far corners of the state. Knowing it was imposible to get to my home in one day anyway, I scheduled a bit of time to play and was rewarded handsomely! A friend took those who wanted to out on a trip around the inlet. Not enough wind to sail, we putted around and sun bathed for hours. I am told southeast Alaska is a rainy and somewhat gloomy place. As far as I can tell it is gorgeous and I would like to keep my memories that way... 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

ASTE Board Membership

In all my years as an educator, first in Louisiana and now eight years in Alaska, I have never been so excited by the future of education. I see the horizon racing toward us as communication on every level changes almost constantly. The classroom walls we once knew are falling away and the rows of desks are becoming antiquated with individualized instruction. 

This shift is where my heart is and where I feel I could be most impactful, helpful, and successful. I see no group or organization more in tune with the future as I see it than the Alaska Society for Technology in Education. 

In my career as a teacher in Alaska, the highlight of my school year was the trip to Anchorage to learn and network with the finest educators from around the state. I cherished the opportunity to show off my students’ work and our mutual successes in multimedia rich content and online learning endeavors. I was so happy to run around the Cook taping power strips and setting up projectors and speakers! Later, as a consultant, I saw myself through the lens of a vendor and professional presenter. I saw the dedication and hard work that was involved in the planning and organization of the event itself. Now an administrator, I see the leadership potential and the vision ASTE shares with the state and nation’s most effective educational technologists.

This is all to say that my deepest honor as an Alaskan educator would be to serve on the board of such a prestigious organization. I am proud to share with you now that I am on the ASTE Board and look forward to working for you in any capacity you see fit. Thank you to all who have shared their knowledge with me freely, to those that coached me along the way, and to those that encouraged me to pursue this position. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Learning Agility

I have been thinking about what makes you desirable in the workforce, hirable  or in demand... I don't know that I have the answer, though I do have thoughts on the matter. 

Being highly educated is great and it may look wonderful on a resume, but it certainly does not guarantee a job, much less a career. Far from true, I know a recent law school graduate that has yet to find a job... going on 6 months now. I once worked with a rough neck hanging drywall in my teens who had a Master's in English Literature. We both worked shirtless, without insurance  covered in dust and grime for 8-12 hours a day without overtime or insurance. Recently a former student implored his hundred or so Facebook friends to tell him why he should stay in college and not just go back to hunting and fishing in his home village. I told him it was all about choices. 

Choosing to be a professional fisherman and subsistence hunter and gatherer in a remote village is quite noble and, I admit, fairly enticing. The average Alaskan fisherman probably makes about as much as a teachers in most of the country after all. The point is that I can save a few thousand dollars, buy a boat, motor, net, and gear and try my hand at fishing any time I choose. Your average fisherman cannot throw on a suit, hobnob with education elites, and chat about the next technology horizon. I can choose. Living without choices can be a prison. 

It's time for a jail break from the cell block of traditional education! 

This picture is so fitting because the iPad offers so much... The HUGE remote is an old laser disk remote, which though laughable in size was an incredible device in it's time. Now not only do we not have to get up, but we can record our favorite shows from an app on our phones. The computer, an Apple circa late 80's, complete with a floppy disk for sharing files, is now a dinosaur to youngsters Bumping, Dropbox-ing, or Google Driv-ing files to each other (collaboratively editing real time, I might add). The mouse has a single button, a ball, and a wire... crazy, I know! Now we touch things with several fingers at once, if we touch at all. DViT technology is infra red light and camera based and who hasn't played an Xbox Kinect in this day and age?! Then there is the less familiar document camera, which obviously is wired, low quality and utterly inferior to the iPad in image quality, not to mention the editing and enhancements available through thousands of apps. Finally there is the rat's nest of components mounted to the wall. The latest iPad is superior in display to the monitor, faster than the Mac Mini from startup to surfing the web, and easier to use than the Polycom CoDec (VTC equipment). I can join a VTC from my phone or iPad and even control other PCs simultaneously with apps like Bridgit from SMART. I won't even mention the DVD/VCR... lets just say I haven't cried over scratching my favorite movie in iTunes a single time.

I think the future of success will be defined in terms of our ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn new schemata. Finding tools and resources, connecting talent and needs, and building a network far greater than previously imagined is the key. Social media and the internet in general will allow for instant access and collaboration on levels not yet dreamt of. The speed at which one masters all of these skills will determine their success. I recently read an article which referred to this as "learning agility." I think it fitting, even alluding to the physicality involved in the process of learning and growth in terms of brain development.  

Ponder this: do you get frustrated when asked to do something that "already works perfectly well the old way" in a new format or on a new device? 

If you do, I challenge you not to learn how to use the proverbial iPad in my picture above... but to learn, then unlearn the iPad as you know it. The future is now, and we need all the practice we can get. Practicing in a class is expensive, sometimes effective, rarely fun, but ultimately optional.

Get ready. Get agile. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

ASTE 2013 Summary

Mobile Me ~ Mobile You ~ Mobile Us

This year's ASTE was the best yet! I had more fun and learned more than ever before... Here are some of the notes and highlights from the sessions I attended.

Distance education

Engagement in online modality
No traditional constraints like years and I classes
Need writing in the traditional sense
Four types: credit recovery, Fast Track, Drop Ins, blended learning

Once a focus is identified educators can tailor the delivery of content and manage the means of communication. Without this focus, how can we truly meet the needs of distance learners.

iPad User Group

Cultural Integration - Native Language iBooks

Ya Ne Dah Ah School
100% Grad Rate; 60% work for village; no suicides; AYP; documentation
Jesse Carnahan

SMART Technologies

Byron public schools
Ian Fogarty (2010) Improving learning in small group collaboration
Extreme colaboration -- addition to notebook (very interesting, but difficulty in satellite internet systems)

Ipads in the Classroom - Robin Johnson

The clock app (turn iPad upside down distraction) - Great reading and writing tool.
Site words - kids learn site words app ( teacher created materials)
--write type and finger write on ipad
Reading Mastery as a "partner" (partner is the iPad)
--iTalk sync & iTalk
Record retell; save recordings for parents; parent sibling record for students; homework
Nome's iPad Wiki -

iOS Education Deployment and Management

MDM Options:

Apple TV 5.1 - Mass Configutration through Configurator
Guided Access - 3 click to lock down
Application Locks: app store iTunes Music, Photo Stream
Device Function - Game Center...
MDM - Profiler and part of OS
Reports on battery, app versions, ect..
Select or wipe and device wipe
Remote lock
Configurator - Back up and restore, institution redeem codes
Supervise devices for mobile web filtering, profile installs, MDM super imposed
Ownership Items
personal Apple ID - Simplest model
Layer Ownership - buy stuff for kid, layer inst. owned, layer of personal
iOS 6 Deployment model guide

Friday, February 15, 2013

(Making Your Own) iBooks in Education

The last post was an introduction to all the apps on my iPad at the moment, but after posting I thought of two things. First, quality, not quantity. I need to cut to the chase and explain my favorite, end of story. Second, finding the right app is difficult and the iTunes Store can sometimes be a little tricky. To help I just decided to take a snapshot of the app list on my finder. Hopefully the names will be easier for you to read and locate the apps on your own. 

Okay, then... drum roll... my favorite app is...
Book Creator by Red Jumper Studio

This app is one that truly redefines the way iPads are used in the classroom. I am referencing the SAMR Model, of course, in which an educator progresses from simply using one tool in place of another (substitution), to enhancing the lesson or strategies in which they teach (augmentation). Then a transformation takes place and a teacher truly modifies the lesson itself. The final step is creating something or doing an activity that was never before envisioned (redefinition). 

Beginning with a simple interface in which the user chooses a layout from three choices, this app then eases users into a self explanatory iBook builder. Watch this video and try it out for yourself. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

MrB's Apps!

I have been asked numerous times lately for a list of apps, so here is a screen shot gallery of items in folders I organized on my iPad... at least the current configuration on the most used device:

Image with Category:     

I love Chicktionary, and yes, it is educational! 

Elements is a must for Pysical & Chemistry. Wolfram Alfa will knock the socks off of any secondary science teacher! 

Ask my Granny, Stack the States is Top 10!! 

If you have never used SketchBook, try it now! 

If you want to learn another language or two, Duolingo is for you. Inupiat is one I want to recreate in Yup'ik, and Word Lens is stunning!!

My district is adopting Wonders, and these apps are just a drop in the bucket for what is offered by McGraw Hill. 

These are the teacher-facing apps...

Top Picks for Math = Math Ninja, Motion Math, Math Bingo, and Math Bumpies.

If you haven't seen what LYSD is doing on iTunesU, you are missing out. Download the app and click here.

I used to use Bump a lot, but I think everything is integrated well with email, dropbox, or drive now. Must have for literacy is iTalk. Must have. 

More science... what can I say, I love science. 

I love all of the apps shown here, but I am more excited about creating my own now. If you have never heard of QBooks start with WeAreAlaska and read the introduction. 

I keep all of my iPad apps seldom used here, no big deal... get a flashlight app is you are afraid of the dark. 

Our Choice is an exaple of the future of textbooks, even if you don't like the content... otherwise download my books from iTunesU.

Gotta have my Chrome. Enough said. 

One of my latest favorite apps is SMULE's AutoRap; just say anything and it will autotune and set it to a beat. If you like downloading videos you watch online, try out VDownlaoder

I gave up Skype on iPad for the most part in favor of Google+ because I can conference in other speakers and stream the whole meeting to YouTube!

If you just have to, Skype me, but I think FaceTime is a little beter. If you have a bridge or codec, check out RealPresence. 

PC Control is old-school iPod/iPhone, but I still use it a lot. Personal favorite is SplashTop. 

Spend the money... 

Storage is a must and I have several accounts in each dropbox and drive. (Not sure how MMA got in there)

Living in Alaska or the PacNW? You should get the Alaska Airlines app. You can check in, check flight status, and keep track of rewards.

Well that's about it, except for a minor discussion of docks. I can't tell you how many times people have said, "wow, you can change that?" when I alter their dock. I caution you to put those apps you truly use the most, not the ones you think you use or are the most proud of. It's all about utility!