Does your tablet project suffer from shiny ball syndrome?

Every time I see on the nightly news that a local school district is deploying a large number of iPads, it makes me think about the lure of the bin of shiny balls in the toy and hobby shop I worked at as a teenager.  I often wonder, is this iPad deployment carefully thought out or is that deployment going to wind up back in the bin with the other well intended shiny balls

So what does a bin of shiny balls in a toy store have to do with tablet deployments in a school district?  Well cool tech gadgets have a very similiar lure as the shiny balls in the bin.  With enough and the right marketing, the gadgets begin to shine brightly to the point they can  blind the most well intended into thinking they must need it over the technology or gadget they are presently using.  But the problem lies in not knowing and recognizing that the lure of the shine could be both incorrectly directed and brief.

Sure an iPad deployment in 2011 may get you on the local nightly news, an article in the paper and a bunch of PR at a board meeting.  But in the end if the tablets are underutilized or the wrong solution to the problem, you will be doing the equivalent of throwing the shiny ball back into the bin and walking away.

Are you deploying tablets on a large scale this school year or just at the pilot stage?  I like to hear about the apps you plan to run, if your deployment ran into the shiny ball syndrome and any of the other issues you had to address to make your deployment efficient and a success.


We’re back!

Wow I can’t believe it has been over 3 years since I have written a post on this blog.  If it wasn’t for an email reminder from WordPress,  it would have been even longer.

 Looks like my last post was right before the economy tanked and tech budgets began to head south.  Despite the economy,  technology continued to march forward in a rapid pace during those 3 years. Think iPads, Android phones and tablets, private and public clouds, desktop and server virtualization just to mention a few.  Netbooks that were all the rage and on the rise at the time, don’t seem so shiny and new anymore.

With all that is new, new questions arise, such as:

  • How do we roll out tablet tablets and integrate them with the networks we already built?
  •  Is it iPad and/or Android?
  • What tablet apps do we use and how do we deploy them?
  • When it comes to  server virtualization is it VMware’s vSphere or Microsoft’s Hyper-V?
  • How to we roll out “Bring Your Own Tech” in our schools ?
  • and many other initiatives as we move toward blended and distributed education.

So where does that land this blog?  I don’t really know for sure but I think I’ll try to describe the problems I see and ask for your help along the way.  Together we will discover the exciting possibilities and explore viable solutions in these areas together.

As always, still digging.

What’s on your school’s computers?

Let’s face it, despite all of the talk about Web 2.0 and cloud computing the majority of us are still dependent on the software installed on our computers. 

This process will continue despite all the hype of the web and 2.0. …  and it doesn’t matter if you use an iPhone, Blackberry, MAC, Linux or any of the flavors of Windows … 2000, XP or Vista.  Locally installed software like gas powered automobiles is not dead or going away anytime soon.   Just look at how big of a deal Apple’s iTunes App Store has become.  Several new applications pop up in the iTunes store daily. 

Top all that off with the fact that classroom computer hard drives keep getting bigger each year (does anyone even need this much storage).  Then add the fact that alot of K12 educational PC applications have been around since the 20th century, they are almost always stable and work despite building Internet speeds or any Internet connectivity at all.  To sum it up …. locally installed (client server or standalone) educational software is still important in 2008.

Now despite all of those facts I rarely notice anyone in my Twitter K12 micro blogging network talking about the software they have installed on their computers.  Surely someone out there is buying and installing software in their classroom or on a school office computer for the new school year.

So based on all the above I decided I would start the ball rolling and create a post that listed the software we have been loading on our Windows XP base images this summer.  Our base image is the root of all the other images (K3, Intermediate, Middle School, High School, administrative, etc.) we create.  So in the list you will see very little department or school/classroom level software.  I will leave the list of applications from those images for future post(s).


McAfee VirusScan Enterprise 8.5
Java 6.7
Silverlight 1.0
Rosetta Stone plugin
Microsoft Virtual Earth
XP image resizer
Windows desktop search
CD burning/DVD software – Software that is shipped with the computer


Microsoft Office 2007
Internet Explorer 7
Google Earth 4.3


Windows Movie Maker 2.1
Audacity and Lame MP3
IrfanView – graphic viewer for Windows
Microsoft Media Player 11 for XP
Adobe Acrobat Reader 9.0
Adobe Flash 9
Adobe Shockwave 11
Quicktime 7.5
Real Player 11

Now that you have seen my list let’s start a conversation.  Let us know what software you have installed on your school’s computers.

Why Microsoft’s future looks like the Wii remote whiteboard project

Robert Scoble wrote a blog post “This is why I love the tech industry…” late last night where you can almost feel the excitement he was still experiencing hours after his interview with Microsoft Researcher Andy Wilson.  Andy as Robert puts it “He’s the guy behind the “Surface” technology that you use your hands on. ”

For edtech folks that are familiar with the work of Johnny Chung Lee, Ph.D. Graduate Student @ Carnegie Mellon University and his Wii remote projects, they can relate to Robert’s fascination when they remember the amazement they felt the first time they learned about Surface Computing from Johnny Chung Lee’s work. 

If you are familiar with Johnny’s work in Surface Computing when you watch Robert’s interview videos you should quickly see the link between Andy’s and Johnny’s work. If you are not familiar with Johnny’s work or Surface Computing technology these videos will give you a great introduction to Surface Computing. 

The only fundamental difference in Johnny’s and Andy’s work in Surface Computing is funding.  Johnny is a grad student that creates inexpensive surface computing prototypes for early adopters in the open for free while Andy has a well paying gig working for a commercial company,  Microsoft helping them integrate surface technology into their future products.

Robert’s interview videos below give you the opportunity to peek at Microsoft’s Surface Computing work.

  1. Part I 28 minutes long – LaserTouch: AN Inexpensive Multi-touch sensing platform
  2. Part II 1 minute long – Finger or stylus?
  3. Part III 6 minutes long – Interacting with virtual objects on a display that can show depth

Keep in mind that the work shown in these videos is software research and not an end user product that will be available at Best Buy next year.

The good news for grad students like Johnny Chung Lee is that big technology companies like Microsoft and Apple are paying attention and understand that this type of interface is the furture input device of Operating Systems of the future.  

Side note: I wish someone like Andy or Johnny would explain the software algorithms behind Surface Computing.  This information has the potential to be a great discussion for a Math class.  If the discussion could be geared toward high school students it would show a real world example of why Math is so important for the future and how it fits into the real world.  It may even influence a few bright Math stars to go into the Surface Computing Technology field.

The future of Twitter and Microblogging in education is an open protocol

If something Twitter like is ever going to make it’s way into the world’s schools in any big way, the core architecture or protocol of microblogging which today we see as Twitter, needs to be made decentralized and into an open standard.  This process would allow Twitter to move from a consumer space to an enterprise solution.   


There are many high scale school social mapping based applications that potentially will only evolve if an enterprise class microblogging standardized architecture exists.  This would create high and reliable scalibility – the potential to scale beyond just one school … a whole district at the very least and the ability to scale higher – all in realtime –  applications such as: all call announcement system, all call emergency system and many others based around staff to staff, administration to staff, admin to parent, parent to staff, student to student, student to staff etc. communications systems.


Dave Winer wrote a post yesterday about decentralization microblogging that he says was driven by Scott Hanselman post, Why is Microblogging centralized?  If you have been following Dave’s blog of late you have been reading his posts about the problems with Twitter scaling and how they are related around the centralized design of the system.  Dave’s solutions to the problem always seem to be based around RSS at the core, technology that he has mastered and been the core developer of.


I left a comment at Dave’s post that has really nothing to do with what Dave is proposing which is backing up my Twitterstream as RSS on another server somewhere or allowing my Twitter client to poll RSS feeds when Twitter is down.  The comments I left is more in context with Scott’s original post and proposal to distribute Twitter into a generalized spec for microblogging. 


Don’t get me wrong, I respect Dave and all the work his has done in RSS and I understand what he states in is post is not a full solution.  I just wish he would start thinking and pointing people beyond his RSS forest.  Yes RSS or something XML will be woven into this solution on the backend as transport language but the solution at the core is bigger then RSS alone.   


What the social tech industry needs to do right now is get past it’s amazement of Twitter and any thoughts of bolting band-aids to the present scaling non-distributed mircoblogging architecture of Twitter and to start building something open and scaliable for the opportunities that are up ahead.  


Dave went for a walk and came back with this thought “If Twitter were to go down, then the desktop client would fall back to polling the feeds. It would probably be slower, but it would work.”


Sorry Dave I don’t want Twirl probing 100+ feeds when Twitter goes down.  This is not a solution or option for me and is the reason static RSS pages sitting behind RSS  never became the achitecture and won’t be the future realtime microblogging solution.  The fact is the Twitter architecture, with all it’s problems scales by orders of magnitude over static RSS files sitting behind http servers.  The answer up ahead is to move the microblogging load off of the Twitter sphere and off of the main Twitter servers and onto a decentralized “microblogging cloud” architecture that is deployed around the world and most importantly “owned by no one”.  That is the proposal and conversation you want to have with the young microblogging developer community.  


The present conversation really needs to go straight to the development of the Microblogging architecture.  Wasn’t that the answer with the web? ie. http, html, dns.  If the Web was designed around a Twitter like architecture we all would be serving our web pages and blogs served off Tim Berners-Lee’s server farm at CERN right now.


Someone or some group needs to start standardizing a microblogging protocol that would be supported by all present and future micro blogging clients/catchers/applications.  The investment into the future of microblogging by education is dependent on it.


Centering the Web 2.0 conversation

web 2.0 centered conversation

There is a conversation already started that talks about Web 2.0 integration into K12 schools and the classroom.  Teachers around the world has already embraced the technology and are discovering  ways to intergrate it’s vast potential  into their classrooms.  School administrators and IT departments need to join the Web 2.0 conversation to form a complete “centered team”.  Implementation of Web 2.0 without this necessary centered conversation in 2008 will limit Web 2.0’s potential in the school house.     

First look at Secure Computing

Secure Computing There is a company out there named Secure Computing.  They say they want to be “your trusted source for enterprise security”.  Yesterday I sat down with them to see if they could be our trusted source for K12 security.

Web Gateway Security Secure Computing products are broken into solutions sets.  The solution set presented yesterday was based around their Web Gateway Security solution.

Webwasher Everything in their Web Gateway Security Solution seems to based around the product Webwasher.   Like most security products in the Web 1.0 world, Webwasher does URL fitering.  Their marketing says this “First reputation based URL Filter eliminating security exposure, limiting legal risks and productivity losses caused by in adverted or unauthorized employee access to inappropriate, malicious or distracting Web content.”

There is another module of Webwasher that addresses “Anti-Malware”.  They use this module to bring the Web 2.0 conversation into their marketing conversation.  From a marketing standpoint brilliant.

Other modules include AntiVirus, SSL Scanner, Content Reporter, Instant message and Peer-to-peer security and SecureCache.

Buying all of these modules together is not cheap or in my opinion smart.  Because their architecture is module based it allows you take a la carte approach and build the solution that works best for your school district as you go.

My next step is to get one of their appliance’s in my district and open the hood to see what it can do.