LMSaaS

Over breakfast this weekend at a popular farmhouse two high school teachers sat next to me to discuss how their respective LMS solutions made teaching difficult. Both were from wealthy suburbs outside Milwaukee. What really peaked my interest was hearing how one spent over 45 minutes trying to add polling for in-class feedback.
LMSaaSI helped lead the adoption of a Moodle LMS at a private Wisconsin college in 2007 that is still in use today and also had the pleasure of attending a conference at UW-Madison with Martin Dougiamas the founder of Moodle.

Yet over that breakfast I was intrigued by their difficulty with all things LMS for the upcoming school year. Frustration ranged from how one teacher received no LMS training (poll example above) while the second teacher spoke about her district migrating to a new LMS vendor over the summer.

Of course no technology discussion can avoid a teacher mentioning K12 servers going offline for hours during the school day making their teaching even more difficult. Seems like teachers have a lot to confront on a daily basis in delivering education to a classroom of twenty plus students. A local LMS run from an empty closet is no longer acceptable.
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Google offer ending soon for K12

Last year Google announced it would provide industrial strength email anti-spam & anti virus (Postini) to K12 schools for FREE.  Act Now – Deploy later. Google’s offer ends July 2010

Google Apps for EducationAs budgets have been cut across the country for education, this is a smart move for many financially strapped school districts.  Does it pay for a District to force taxpayers to pay for expensive, legacy email programs like FirstClass and Novell when cloud based solutions with robust feature sets are being embraced by K12 and Colleges around the country.

Source article

Tags: Google, Google Apps for Education, education, Postini, anti-virus, K12, trends

Google’s Learning Management System

Google has released their internal learning platform, CloudCourse under an open source license. Built entirely on Google’s own App Engine, CloudCourse is a new entry into a crowded LMS arena.  CloudCourse provides calendaring, waitlist management and approval features.

google cloudcourse LMS
Google CloudCourse LMS

To no surprise CloudCourse is fully integrated with Google Calendar.  Google has also made CloudCourse customizable for schools by supporting service provider interfaces:

Sync services – Sync CloudCourse data with school’s internal systems
Room services – Schedule classes in school locations
User info services – Support for school profiles (employee title, picture, etc)

CloudCourse was built in Python and uses Django (web application framework) and the Closure Javascript library.
CloudCourse
code site and wiki link

Tags: CloudCourse, open source, Learning Management System, LMS, education, python, django, trends

Google providing migration tools for Microsoft Exchange

Google is making it easy to switch from Microsoft Exchange to Google Apps for email.  Google is providing a migration tool for business and K12 Districts to move from Microsoft Exchange 2003 and 2007 to Google’s Apps suite.  This follows their migration solution for Lotus Notes last summer.

switchfromexchange

Google migration from Exchange:

The process to migrate looks relatively simple. Through Google Apps, a customer enters their Microsoft Exchange user name and what it calls “two-legged OAuth,” consisting of a consumer user key and a consumer “secret”. They then upload a .CSV file consisting of the email addresses, calendar and contact information. It is optional what to migrate. For example, an IT administrator may upload email addresses and contact data but not the calendar. Email service does not get interrupted during the migration.

Coupled with Google’s offer to provide free anti-spam and anti-virus filtering (Postini) for K12 schools until July 2010 — its getting more and more difficult for Districts to continue using expensive, power hungry ($$$$) and outdated email services like Novell and FirstClass.

Why?  Check out Google’s simple cost calculator to see how much your School District (Tax Payers) can save by switching.  The Oregon School District in Wisconsin left Novell for Google and saved over $11,000 annually.  In tight economic times this makes a lot of sense (and lots of cents)

Google’s AWESOME offer to K12 Schools

Act Now – Deploy later. Google’s offer ends July 2010

Google has been helping K12 Schools and Colleges save money by giving free access to their powerful tools in an enterprise setting.  Google began offering Gmail and have continued to add more tools to their suite specifically tuned for schools.  Known as Google Apps for Education (GAE) this collection provides an excellent solution for schools just as most technology budgets are shrinking…or should I say…being slashed to the bone.

Google Apps for Education

To no surprise Gmail has been a hit with schools.  In 2006 Arizona State University was one of the first colleges to migrate to Gmail.  They moved 65,000 student email accounts saving over $400,000 in ANNUAL related email costs.  Since then more higher education institutions including Northwestern University (case study) and Notre Dame (moved 15,000 students and 150,000 alumni and saved $1.5 Million) have migrated to Gmail.

For Students, Faculty and Administrative staff, GAE has grown to include 7GB of individual email storage, integration with GoogleCalendar, GoogleDocs (word processing, spreadsheets and presentations) and GoogleSites (websites and wikis) for web publishing.  Google has even added 10GB of storage to their Google Video offering.  These tools provide a tremendous savings for schools who can retire in-house or expensive outsourced systems.

From Good To Great:
A necessary email-related tool schools need is anti-spam and anti-virus protection.  And Google has recently responded with an AWESOME offer for K12 Schools that’s too good to pass up:

Until July 2010 K12 Districts can migrate to Google Apps for Education AND receive FREE anti-spam/anti virus-protection via Postini

Postini is a popular (Google owned) industrial strength anti-spam & anti-virus solution.  And Google is even offering deep discounts on email archiving, malware protection and web filtering for K12 Districts as part of Postini.

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Can Microsoft Surface make you smarter?

At the 2009 Brainstorm conference I had an opportunity to see SMART’s Microsoft Surface knockoff, the SmartTable. SMART is selling this table for a whopping $8,000.00!

Ask any K12 teacher, Curriculum Director or Ed Tech Specialist if your districts’ approved curriculum is able to run on a SmartTable.  Chances are the answer is no. Just like SMART’s smartboards dumboards I’m afraid their SmartTable was even less impressive. Again their custom software cannot be modified easily to meet any district’s requirements. But shouldn’t it be easily modifiable to succeed and allow any educational software to run on their table?

smarttableSMART’s sales team pointed me to their custom programming tools (SDK) that permits schools to make application changes to “force” existing school software to run correctly on their SmartTable.

Lets think this through: Your school purchases software from say – Adobe, but has to have their school’s IT staff custom program Photoshop in order to join SMART’s “commonly used software” list and run on their SmartTable? Since when did over extended school districts hire ex Adobe software engineers to recode Photoshop?

I gave the SmartTable a spin at BrainStorm 10.0 and was not impressed with this “dumb” product either. I’ll admit when I first stood in-front of the SmartTable — I was thinking of Microsoft’s Surface. And that is where they ‘get’ you into purchasing. I also suggest reading their technical specifications to the SmartTable.

Many think the SmartTable is a touch screen flat panel display. Actually the SmartTable contains a projector placed on the floor inside the SmartTable (its actually a fully enclosed box) projecting a display against a glass surface. Its nothing more than their Smartboard crammed into a box.

For $8,000 that’s not high tech at all.

Latest read: The Age of Turbulance

I finished Alan Greenspan‘s book The Age of Turbulence Adventures in a New World and learned it was more than I expected from the former Chairman of The Federal Reserve.  And with the recession still in high gear it was also good timing.
The Age of TurbulanceBeyond his sheer volume of knowledge regarding the economy, global markets and international finance I was most impressed with Greenspan’s simple yet immense observation: America needs an overhauled K12 educational system for our country to have a strong economy in 2030.

The impact of Technology, Globalization & Innovation as he outlines should not be overlooked regarding educational reform.  I must admit the real interest for most readers would be to jump the chapter that addresses the recession.  Its worth taking the time to read the book in full.

Greenspan’s impact in Washington, the economy and Republican politics spans Presidential administrations from Nixon to W. Bush.  Greenspan has enjoyed a pretty interesting life.  I was most struck not by his interest in music but rather his high school music partner Stan Getz.  His comments about his role in Y2K for the government and financial markets and the impact of fiber optic networks were welcoming for any geek or fanboy.

There is just a huge amount of economic learning you can pickup from his 25 chapters.  My favorite chapters surprisingly fall in a row:

19. Globalization and Regulation
20. The “Conundrum”
21. Education and Income Inequality
22. The world retires. But can it afford to?

There are some amazing things you can learn from an economist.  His view of W. Bush’s administration and their loss of focus on the economy was eye opening.  Bush never changed any economic plans beyond what he promised during his election campaign.  W. Bush repeatedly ignored The Fed’s view of the sliding economy and needed changes over the close of his Presidency and handed his successor an economy with financial, housing and automotive markets in crisis.

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Latest read: Who Controls the Internet?

Think the internet is still the wild west?  Think again.  In a new update of Who Controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World law professors Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu share how the long arm of foreign governments still can stretch the illusion that the internet (and thereby globalization) are shrinking the world.

On the surface you may believe — even in 2009 that you can still say anything, do anything or hack any computer around the globe without impunity because you can hide inside the internet.

Goldsmith and Wu challenge Tom Friedman’s (The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century) position that globalization is opening up communication in countries that have long suppressed their citizen’s ability to speak freely.

China for example. Or think about the European Union.  Is the EU able to dictate how Microsoft releases software?  Think again.  When Microsoft published it’s passport technology it was rejected by the EU.  Rather than pay a fine Microsoft added the tougher security standards dictated by the EU for all customers worldwide.  Those standards are even tougher than those used in America.

Can France tell Yahoo or eBay what products to sell?  They can and they already do.  This book is written from a legal standpoint since both teach at the Law Schools of Harvard and Columbia respectively. Is it strange to see government control over the internet?  Would this be different if today was September 10 2001?  Goldsmith and Wu share their insight to the way Law helps and hinders the internet.  From simply selling memorabilia to cybercrime you learn gaping holes exist even today to prosecute offenders and criminals.

The “I Love You” virus that cost US companies millions of dollars originated in The Philippines, but since there is no law against this type of crime in the The Philippines the US was unable to arrest the known hacker.  Similar rules apply in Russia. When the FBI arrested a hacker who extorted millions from US companies, Russia did not acknowledge this type of crime and did not agree to extradite, so the FBI was forced to release the criminal.

Goldsmith and Wu share the legal case between Yahoo and the country of France that forced Yahoo’s online store to pull Nazi related memorabilia even though Yahoo is an American based company.  But Yahoo’s remote offices in France proved to the key error Jerry Yang overlooked.  Yahoo has stumbled a lot lately.

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Brainstorm 10.0

brainstorm 10.0Attended Brainstorm 10.0 today and had a chance to hear PC industry pundit John C. Dvorak.  Brainstorm had a great number of technology sessions for K12 Technology Directors.

The most surprising session was “HD video over IP for Distance Learning” because the original presenter did not show up….so I decided to try an Unconference session that ran two hours long.  Lots of great learning about how K12 Districts around the Midwest want to bring distance learning and HD video into the classroom.

K12 Technology Plan: CIPA

K12 Teachers and Administrators have questions about some of the finer points regarding CIPA and their school district.  It appears there is a misunderstanding: not all CIPA products are created equal and more importantly your District may actually have the wrong CIPA product installed.

From a technical point-of-view CIPA solutions range in flexibility like Tylenol:  Extra Strength Tylenol, Regular Strength Tylenol, Tylenol 8 hour and Tylenol PM.
For a real-world overview of YouTube, K12 web filtering & CIPA: Click Here

Many CIPA related questions from teachers and administrators can be addressed by a single resource:  District Technology Policy.  If you do not have one — get one — following these easy steps:

1. Google “K12 district technology policy
2. Read policies posted online by Districts around the country
2a. Find one that looks appealing for the needs of your District

2b. Don’t forget to acknowledge their efforts…send an email acknowledging their work
3. Copy/paste
4. Modify as needed WITH District-wide consensus
5. Publish your Policy under Creative Commons

In many respects the CIPA vendor you choose may limit your flexibility in unblocking webpages.  Most robust CIPA products DO permit teachers/district coordinators to permit custom URLs to be available on the fly.
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