The Virtual Credential Officer is your friend.

Posted by Michael Simkins on September 14, 2006

You know we’re making some progress with technology when even a government bureaucracy can get it right. A couple weeks ago, one of the 67 reminders that popped up on my To Do List was “renew administrative credential.” I thought, “Oh crud.”

You don’t have to be that old to know this used to be quite a tedious process. First you had to get a special, oddly sized, multi-carbon form which was available only by mail or at your local county office of education. You had to fill it out on a typewriter. Then you had to go to the bank, to a real live human teller during banking hours, and get a certified check for the renewal fee. If you had a job as a school administrator, which presumably you did or you would not have to renew the darn credential in the first place, it could take weeks to get all those steps accomplished. Then, once you mailed your special form and special check to the Department of Education, it would take months before you would finally get your new credential in the mail, and you still weren’t done. You had to find the time to take the credential to your local county office of education to be duly “registered.” Fail to get all this done before the expiration date of your old credential and bad news: no paycheck this month.

Well, I had learned that teachers could renew their credentials on-line, so I decided to go look and see if maybe administrators could do the same. Sure enough. Divulge a bit of pertinent information and my record flashed on the screen. A few clicks to swear I was still a good person, a string of digits off my VISA card, and I was done. Amazing. And this is a government website.

I got an immediate confirmation e-mail. A few days later, I got the paper certificate in the mail. As I now work in a county office of education, I walked over to human resources to get the thing registered and was told, “Oh, we already got confirmation of your renewal.” As I said above, “Amazing!” Kudos to the Virtual Credential Officer.

And just in case you haven’t heard, as of January 1, on-line renewal will be the only way to renew.

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Getting Ready for My Close-up

Posted by Michael Simkins on June 7, 2006

My age shows not just in the wrinkles, creaks, and need to turn the volume up on the television, but also in my disinclination to videoconferencing–especially the multi-site virtual meeting in which various people or groups of people participate from various locations. I know it’s way cheaper to get a bunch of people together virtually than to have them all travel to a common destination, but it just isn’t the same. First, there are the technical difficulties. As anyone who has attended a videoconference knows, these can range from not being able to hear or see people at remote sites to people disappearing altogether. Second, even when the technology goes smoothly (have you ever been in a videoconference when all the technology went smoothly?), a lot of the subtleties of communication are lost. You can look at the face on the screen, but you can’t lean over and whisper a comment in the monitor’s ear. Nor can you solve the world’s problems during a chat as you and a colleague walk up the hall for a restroom break.

All that said, I know I need to get over it. Videoconferencing is here to stay. Steve Vaughn, one of our TICAL cadre members, is working on a nice introduction to web-based videoconferencing for our site. I’ve already learned something just from seeing his draft. I also visited the K-12 HSN collection of Conferencing Resources. If you, like me, are ready to begin extinction therapy for your fear of videoconferencing, I highly recommend the The Videoconference Zone. It is a hilarious spoof of the classic television program The Twilight Zone (1959-64). In fact, even if you love videoconferencing, go watch the movie anyway. It’s less than seven minutes long so you won’t even need popcorn.

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