Wednesday, March 30, 2011

That table sure is Smart!

Touchscreen technology has been around for quite some time, with IBM creating some of the first touchscreen devices in the late 60's. Restaurant employees have been using touchscreens for years to communicate with the back of the house and create that bill we all enjoy paying after a great meal. If you ask a student today about touchscreens, they will pull out their iPod or iPad and show us what a multi-touch device is capable of, kind of makes those card games that were placed in bars years ago look a little silly. A few years ago I came across a video on Microsoft's multi-touch table, this video is a little newer than the one I watched, but you will get the idea. About a year after seeing the multi-touch video I ran across the Smart Table at a conference. I quickly thought of the Microsoft table, however Smart (think Smart board) had primary age content loaded on the table. Fast forward a couple years and our district has purchased (with grant funds) 4 Smart Tables, that will be delivered tomorrow to Kindergarten classrooms at each elementary school. The Kindergarten teachers have received professional development on the basics of the tables and have future training scheduled on using the software provided with the tables to create their own content that is transferred to the tables using a usb flash drive. The tables are going to be a great addition to the classroom, and they are a very student centered device, which is where the technology should be, in the hands of the students.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Over the break

What an exciting Spring Break it was. Construction on AJUSD's new culinary program at Apache Junction High School was scheduled to begin the week of March 14th, and the location just so happened to be in the same building as our data center!

Moving a data center is probably not at the top of the list of fun things to do, however the timing of the move worked out well for us. We have been able to power down a number of servers and with plans to continue the virtualization process, we will shut down more in the future. Virtualization is a general term for running multiple virtual servers on one machine. So what took multiple physical servers before, can now be done on one. Doing this will save the district funds in server support, maintenance, and energy costs. So we took this opportunity to consolidate from three racks of equipment to two, and with less servers running, less heat, and less AC needed to cool things.

Many hours went into the preparation and in the end it made for a very quick and safe move. There are to many people to list, but I want to thank everyone in the Technology and Maintenance departments for their efforts with making this project a success.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Just thinking...

that the role technology plays in the everyday life of kids today is amazing. I know, nothing new about that, but I see this more often with a 7 and 10 year old at home. It made me reflect a bit on growing up and the advancement of technology seems to have crawled at a snails pace then when compared to today. I was excited to pull a Pocketeer out of my pocket when traveling, you remember those...

Now there are literally dozens of choices for pocket sized devices that can hold not only games, but books, music, TV shows, videos, and you can even phone a friend if that becomes boring. As time went by my Pocketeers turned into the handheld video games that were blinking lines on the screen, great for playing football, basketball, and other games. Better, but not sure that my kids would be very engaged with that today. I often wonder what would happen if today's generation did a little time travel, kind of like that movie where the modern day aircraft carrier ends up back in the the Pacific during WWII, and ended up back in the late 70's and 80's. Of course they would adapt and survive, but I think they might feel a little cheated that information and the ability to not just entertain themselves, but teach themselves wasn't at their fingertips.

Last week my 7 year old pulled out her dry erase easel and I quietly watched from the table. She started drawing symbols and after a few minutes, she told me that she was writing Chinese. I asked her where she learned how to draw the symbols and she said the Internet. Somewhere the day before there was a discussion of Chinese symbols and she wanted to write sentences using the symbols so she looked them up on Google Images, and off she went. My kid isn't special or smarter than any other 7 year old in today's world, they just know where to go for information. My daughter still had some questions, and I was there to guide her, but I wasn't feeding her the information, she was obtaining that on her own.

I guess the point that I would like to make with sharing this story is that our students today are probably looking for the same type of learning experience when they are at school. There will never be a replacement for good teaching, but teaching differently is something that will never stop evolving. The Pocketeer of the 70's was pretty cool, but an iTouch would have been much better:).