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.


Boolean Boost

Posted by Michael Simkins on May 14, 2006

No, that’s not the newest dietary supplement at Jamba Juice. It’s our new and much improved simple search tool. Thanks to our dedicated webmaster Rose, you can now phrase your search of the TICAL database many different ways according to your whim. And that’s not all that is improved. One entry now simultaneously searches both the name and abstract fields. You can choose to view all entries at once instead of just five at a time. And you can easily revise your search phrase to target your results. Check it out!


Second foot enters water.

Posted by Michael Simkins on May 8, 2006

LogoWell, one foot got wet by starting this blog. Now the waves are lapping at foot number two as I post my first podcast. I made it during a great TICAL cadre workshop last Saturday. Chris Walsh of WestEd was the workshop leader and he was awesome. What an accomplished guy. If you see his name on a conference program, go to his session.

Now, if you ever wondered how the TICAL Logo came to be what it is, you can listen to my maiden podcast and get the gist. Oh, and I promise to improve with practice!


My computer crashed.

Posted by Michael Simkins on March 31, 2006

“My computer crashed.” How many times have you heard those unsettling words? Most of the time, I’m skeptical. I figure it’s user error and smugly go about my life. But yesterday, those words came out of my own mouth–accompanied by a few other choice words as well.

It was 4 PM. I was leaving the next morning for the ASCD conference in Chicago. After that my next stop was Sacramento. Everything I needed for my ASCD presentations and my workshop in Sacramento was on that laptop that had clammed up and would tell me nothing, let alone do my bidding. Coarse expletive.

Thanks to Andrea and Doug, our Santa Cruz County Office of Education tech support gurus, I’m here in Chicago sitting relatively pretty. I have a loaner laptop. I have VPN access to the county office server. I’ve been able to get hold of nearly all the files and documents I want for the next few days. I’ll get by. But what a royal pain.

And what an eye opener. I’ve been lucky. I’ve been “computer-dependent” for years and have never had a major crisis. Yeah, I’ve been inconvenienced a few times, but nothing major. We’re talking sending my laptop back for a keyboard replacement while I went on a ski vacation. Hardly counts as a serious incident (even though when I go skiing, I do tend to spend as much or more time on the computer as on the slopes).

The bottom line? I now have new appreciation for the teacher who says, “I don’t do more technology integration in my lessons because the technology I have is just not dependable.” In the current situation, my worst-case scenario was simply to be required to talk to 100 people without benefit of PowerPoint slides. What if I had 33 fifth graders in the final stretch of a 6-week long multimedia project and the server storing all their files crashed? Pandemonium.

Technology can be a magical thing, as long as your wand works.

Continue reading My computer crashed.


School Leader Development: Building 21st Century Schools

Posted by Michael Simkins on March 25, 2006

Under the fearless leadership of TICAL cadre member Kevin Silberberg, five of us had the good fortune to be immersed for two days in Microsoft’s new School Leader Development curriculum. It’s part of their Partners in Learning project and it’s a very cool overview of key topics from how the world–and students–are changing, to how people learn, to what leaders need to do to help initiate and sustain the changes necessary to retool education for the 21st century.

We had a great little group. Cadre member Sheila Grady brought fellow administrator Steve Rosentsweig. Both from Las Virgenes Unified School District, they’re part of a committee to define the district’s technology vision. Walk’bout creator George Manthey represented ACSA. Stephen Choi, Director of Technology for San Marino Unified School District, completed our coterie.

I’m sold on the curriculum and looking for opportunities to share it. — Michael