Saturday, May 30, 2009

Change is Hard - Thoughts on our switch to Gmail

We are in the process of switching our email provider from FirstClass to Google Apps for Education. I am excited about the switch and feel that we will be gaining a great deal by moving to Gmail. However, I do acknowledge that we are also loosing some features (conferences and history to name a few) and that from many user perspectives FirstClass works just fine. Here is part of the email that I sent out to our community. (Thanks to my Twitter network for helping me with this list!)

We believe that Gmail is the best email client for Belmont Hill as an organization. Here are a few of the benefits that Gmail offers:
  • More Space - Share and store large files, emails are saved forever.
  • Collaboration Tools - Collaborate on documents, spreadsheets and presentations.
  • Personal Calendar - One calendar to rule them all.
  • Web Based - Get your email easily anywhere you have web access. No client to install.
  • Easy to use - Same interface as regular Gmail, similar to other web based emails (Yahoo, Hotmail).
  • Searchable - No need for folders, search your mail as you would search the web.
  • Portable - Get your email on your mobile phone.
  • Spam Filtering - Built in spam filter catches most unwanted solicitations.
We are excited about this switch, but also recognize that change can be difficult. We ask in advance for your patience and understanding as we embark on this new adventure. We will do everything we can to help make this transition successful.
I started training on Friday and will be training all next week. It has been interesting to see the way different people have responded to the change. Some people are very fearful, some are excited, some are angry, some are anxious, but willing to give it their best.

I wonder if this would be the response to any type of change, or if technological change is more difficult in education?

I wonder what it is like in the business world when these types of technology infrastructure changes take place. Do businesses provide training and information and hand holding? Or are employees just expected to suck it up and deal with it?

If we just expected our teachers to figure it out and deal with it, would they?

What do you think?

Image Source: Mail Box from the Flickr photostream of zizzybaloobah

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Why spend so much time on this stuff?

I am often asked why I spend so much time on this learning network stuff. In her post, Starting Your Learning Network, Christine Hollingsworth does a brilliant job of answering the question.
"For me, I just can't stop learning. It's what is recharging me professionally right now. Connecting with people from outside of family and consumer sciences and career education has allowed me to consider a variety of perspectives in a non-threatening way. More than once I've read someone's blog post, Twitter message, or listened to a podcast that has challenged my thinking. This is a good thing for someone who has been in education for over 20 years now. Maybe it will be a good thing for you, too."
Thanks so much Christine for saying it so well! I feel exactly the same way. I am hungry to learn and my PLN helps me to do that. The more I learn, the hungrier I am for more. It is a good thing that learning is completely calorie free!

Image Source: The Passage of Time from ToniVC's photostream on Flickr

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Technology To The Rescue

Check out this amazing story of how Rye Country Day School used technology to keep them going while they were closed due to a case of the H1N1 virus. Fred Bartels shares how a Ning he set up for his school took on a life of its own during the closure.

Here is a summary of what happened (written by Fred).
We had an interesting experience with a forced closure this week related to possible H1N1 cases. The closing was initially announced as being for two weeks, but after one day being closed, new CDC recommendations allowed us to reopen. (All our students with the flu are doing well.)

For most of one day, we all thought we would be closed for two weeks, so we started to quickly ramp up possible solutions for keeping courses moving forward. ...As luck would have it, we had created a school Ning a few days before the closure. We viewed it as just an additional communication/collaboration tool should we ever happen to be forced to close. The Ning was basically a shell with only three members. I sent out an email to faculty about 8 pm on the evening of the closure annoucement, letting them know about the ning site, and suggesting that for some things -like discussions- the ning might be a good optional resource. By 4 pm the following day the Ning site had over 200 members, 30 course groups, and a very rapidly developing sense of community.
I think this is a great story of turning adversity into a learning opportunity. Fred's Ning had a true pedogogical purpose and thus it thrived. I think that is the key to most technology successes. As Chris Lehmann
says, "Effective technology is like oxygen, ubiquitous, necessary and invisible." I will be interested to learn how the ning continues to function now that school is back in session.

To learn more, check out the ISEnet ning, where Fred shared his experience as the day unfolded

Image source: Helicopter Rescue Training from koert michiels' photostream on Flickr