Going with Outlook/Exchange

After a long process, my school has decided to move to Microsoft Outlook/Exchange 2007.   I realize that this is 2008-06-02_2119bucking the trend to move towards outsourced email with Google’s Apps for Schools and Microsoft Live, but these systems did not meet our requirements.  I use Gmail for my personal email and am very happy with it, but we felt that for an enterprise, it were not quite ready to go in that direction.

What is exciting about this move is that we will have better basic email functionality for our basic email users  and more advanced functionality for many of our high end users.  The basic functions include:

  • HTML email support
  • Outlook Web Access — A much improved web user email interface
  • Advanced search
  • HTML mailto: support so our SIS email class and email parents links will work
  • A standard, clean user interface for our community

The advanced features include:

  • Industry standard calendaring
  • Integration with many of our installed databases
  • PDA/Phone integration

As we migrate, the one space in FirstClass that is not replicated in Outlook/Exchange is the conference.  We will be using Group mail lists, Outlook Public Folders for some of these conferences in addition to Moodle forums and possibly some Drupal or other open source forum software.  The result is that we’ll be moving to web apps being the center of our universe with our email system driving us in that direction.

I’ll be posting more along our migration road. 

I’ve created a documentation web site for this project here.  What do you think?

Balancing Technology Change with School Change

I’ve spent a great deal of time over my past 10 years as a Technology Director implementing new technologies that automate data systems (multiple student information systems, admissions, development, and business office systems), allow easier communication (e-mail), and help teachers teach and students learn (blogs, wikis, moodle and other communications tools).

We use FirstClass as our e-mail server and over the past couple of years, we have had some big gripes with FirstClass.  They have released server updates with big bugs and their support leaves much to be desired.  So earlier on this year we began to evaluate different communications platforms.  We started by defining criteria that we would use to evaluate each platforms.  Then we installed or tested Google Apps for Schools, Microsoft Live, Novell GroupWise and Microsoft Exchange 2007 .  We’re a Microsoft school and the only system that fit a majority of the criterion was Microsoft Exchange 2007.

So we went to user testing.  Most users who tested Exchange and Outlook gave us very positive feedback.  I’ve spoken to multiple Network Admins and Directors of Technology who give good reviews to Outlook.  I have evaluated it myself and really prefer its user interface to that of FirstClass.

But, with all of those positives, I still ask: What are the benefits of changing systems?  What are the benefits to asking 200 faculty and staff and 400 students to learn a new system that pretty much does the same thing they were doing on FirstClass?  The send and receive e-mail.  That’s what most people use e-mail for, right?

Yes, there will be a many administrators and staff who will have a system that makes their lives more convenient.  There may be some teachers who use the document sharing and collaboration tools built into Exchange 2007.  The Microsoft Office integration is much tighter and our Student Information System had an e-mail class roster link that will actually work correctly.  Web site links from e-mail will work correctly and we won’t have to be deleting and reconfiguring FirstClass folders that have become corrupted.  There is easier support for administrator, faculty and student handheld devices.

But does this list tip the scale?

What about the time it’s going to take to train all of the faculty, staff and students to use this new system?

It this technology for technology sake, even with the improvements we will see?

I wonder this about many of the changes that are coming down the pike such as Windows Vista and Office 2007.

I see all of the great things that I could be doing with faculty next fall to integrate technology into the curriculum at our school and then realize that changing to Exchange might delay them.  Or it might make thing easier.  Is it worth it?

I know you can’t answer this question, but it’s the one won’t get out of my head right now.

I yearn to think more about teaching and learning with technology and find myself hung up on seemingly surface level decisions about our e-mail system.  I’m definitely feeling a bit frustrated.

Thanks for listening.  I’ll update you once we make a decision.

Photo from: http://flickr.com/photos/priddy/3507724/

NJECC Presentation – Creating Global Collaborations

NJECC did a great job with their conference today. Thanks to all who contributed to the conversation.

The technology worked and as promised, here are my slides and a number of other resources from my network.

From Twitter:

From vvrotny:

From elemenous:

From scmorgan:

From participants:

Social Networking from Faculty and Student Perspectives

Over the past two weeks arvind and I have discussed Social Networking on our webcast over at EdTechTalk.  The first show consisted of us discussing facebook social networks from the faculty perspective based on the Ohio Education Association’s recommendation that educators delete the social networking  accounts.  Here is the first show: 21st Century Learning #58: A Discussion of the Issues Surrounding Social Networking Between Faculty and Students

The second week we were excited to have four students join in the myspaceconversation.  They mostly agreed that it was a good idea to keep some separation between school and our personal lives but had some great insights into how these different media are merging — including the thought that teachers and students might be blackberry texting each other before long.  Here’s a link to the second show: 21st Century Learning #59: Students Discussing Social Networking between Faculty and Students.

I think that these two pieces are a good orientation to social networking for faculty and administrators around the world.  If you’re interested in this topic, you might also want to check out: EdTechTalk #80 with Tom Wood, cyber safety advocate

What do you think? What would you add or subtract?  What social networking resources do you use?

Managing Progress

 This year is a rebuilding year.  As I wrote about in my reorganization post in the summer, I have three new staff members in my department this year.  We are physically 12_11_2007 08_02 AMspread all over the school, creating divisions that can negatively effect department cohesiveness if we do not stay in frequent contact.

To work around this, we’ve been meeting bi-weekly as a whole department.   I meet daily with my Network Administration and Technical Support Specialist.  I have also scheduled bi-weekly meetings with individual department members.  I know, you’re saying, that’s a lot of meetings.  But these meetings are critical to keeping things going.  To check in and move projects forward.  To know how my staff is feeling.  As we grow more cohesive, I can see taking some time off of these meetings, but for now, they are critical. 

In the support staff meetings, we have been digging through our network settings (active directory policies, Internet settings, and router and switch configs), desktop and laptop image  creation and configuration, policies and procedures, and how to communicate with faculty and staff.  These conversations allow us to share best practices.  It allows us to know what our technical issues are and to wrestle with making decisions for next September. 

In full department meetings, we started by discussing how we are communicating internally, what we have been doing over the semester, and which tools we will be rolling out to the academic community over the next year.  We’ve used so many different technologies over the past few years, that keeping up is tough.  So we created a list of the department blog, wiki, and our web help desk.   We discussed how to use each one.  We use these tools in our day to day work with the school and the department.     

So is this and effective management technique? 

In order to evaluate them, I need to look back to the goals of my department:

  • To provide reliable and consistent access to technology for students, faculty, and staff
  • To develop technology skills in students, faculty and staff that support the curricular goals of the school

If I measure us against those goals, we are definitely more prepared to support our faculty and staff. This is a slow process because we are going through all of our configurations with a fine tooth comb, but we’re fixing support issues that have been nagging us for years and we’re looking to the future for major improvements.

On the classroom integration front, I see progress in taking our more technology savvy faculty to the next level.  We are also making progress in implementing student and faculty curriculum standards.  We are building out our Intranet where we can support WordPress MU, Gallery, Moodle, and some group Drupal sites.  We’ll be concentrating on how we use these tools in the spring.

How do you manage staff transitions?

How do you keep a dispersed department cohesive?

Skype: Easy Collaborations with Audio and Video Conferencing

I’m presenting at the AIMS conference on Monday, November 5th, 2007. There is no Internet access at the Baltimore Convention Center (for this conference at least) so I’m doing a traditional power point presentation. Here it is (I’m sure I’ll be updating this tonight after I tweak the whole way to Baltimore, but…):

 

 

I’ve also pulled together a number of resources in del.icio.us:

  1. Youth Voices

  2. Remote Access: Whose Tools? Theirs.

  3. Remote Access: Learning = Connecting

  4. Life ’round here wiki – Life Round Here

  5. The Global Education Collaborative

  6. The Connected Classroom » home

  7. the22initiative » home

  8. Friends and Flags Project

  9. 3Cs » CAIS-BP

  10. globalprojects2007 » home

  11. Musings – Just Learning » Let’s Go Global!

  12. » [Live Blog] – Global Collaboration Multi-faceted Refractions

  13. teachersseekingteachers » home

  14. Classroom 2.0

    Welcome to the CLASSROOM 2.0 social networking site! This network is devoted to those interested in the practical application of Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies in the classroom and in their own professional development.

  15. Personal Learning Space

  16. Elgg Plans » home

Link: http://del.icio.us/rss/alex.ragone/global-collaboration

Lucy Gray’s Global Education Links.

I’ll be posting a video of the presentation later on this week.

This is by no means a list of resources on Global Collaboration. If you have others, please post them here!

Thanks!

Circumventing the Great Firewall

This morning, I was at home with my daughter, Claire, who was sick.  I checked my  Twitter feed.  Jeff Utecht asked if someone could send him the K-12 Online Conference Presentations.  Apparently, they are blocked in China.  I direct Twittered him back telling him I could, and forgot about the interaction. 

A few minutes later, Jeff send me a Skype text message.  After a short im session, we decided that Jeff would create a ftp account on his server and I would upload the K-12 files for the next two weeks.  I had uploaded all of the files to Jeff’s server by 10:30 am EST — I believe that’s 12:30am in Jeff’s time zone in China.

What’s the point of this post? 

First of all, you can’t block everything, and in countries that allow Internet communications, there will always be a way to work around the filters.   Great as that is,  I was worried that the Chinese  government might find Jeff and shut down his server if I blogged about it.  I checked with Jeff and he reassured me that it would not be a problem. 

Second, is that always amazes me how small technology can make the world feel.  The fact that I was chatting with someone around the world was amazing. The fact that I was conscious of the differences in freedom between the US and China and was able to get feedback about the realities on the ground.  

Just one more story of how the web has brought us closer together.

K-12 Online Conference

Over the next three weeks, there is an exciting online event happening called the K-12 Online Conference.

Here’s a description:

The “K12 Online Conference” is for teachers, administrators and educators around the world interested in the use of Web 2.0 tools in classrooms and professional practice! This year’s conference is scheduled to be held over two weeks, Oct. 23-27 and Oct. 30- Nov. 3 and will include a preconference keynote. The conference theme is “Unleashing the Potential.”

The conference is being held via Read/Write web technologies that I posted here. Please take a look at the Conference Pre-Keynote and the Conference Agenda for session details.

This is a first of its type conference for K-12 educators. It is collecting a lot of momentum and is sure to change the way we think of professional development in the future.

EducationBridges.net Elgg

I never thought that the EducationBridges.net Elgg would be such an interesting place to visit. It’s almost become my aggregator since I don’t always have the time to open my Flock Aggregator each day. I get an global perspecive on educational technology, and it’s hard to believe that this space is continuing to grow. Here are some quick examples:

John Patten writes, “A teacher sent me an email this morning asking me to look at the logs for his Moodle site. Yesterday he started a forum on his site for the
very first time. He had almost 2000 hits on his site yesterday, in one
day! Granted some of theses hits are the same students going to
different areas in his Moodle site, but that was still pretty
impressive.”

Felicia George writes, “I was frustrated by the inability to get any sound on my computer. I decided to bite the bullet and do some troubleshooting. I followed the directions under the control panel until I reached a point where I didn’t understand what I was doing. Then, I did what I should have
done first. I switched the speakers from the ones on my computer to the ones that I knew worked. Now I have sound.”

and

Beth Ritter-Guth writes: Today was a really productive day. The students in my Honors College English 1 class exploded mentos and diet coke to demonstrate the writing process. We were going for distance. Our chem professor donated goggles. It was
a lot of fun.

… So, what does this all have to do with learning to write? The best
writers are the ones who care about the world they write in 🙂

So invite your teachers to check it out. Go to EducationBridges.net and register. Click on Read What Other Folks are Saying to see what’s happening in this space.

Happy Browsing.

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