Thursday, September 25, 2014

Friday Fad: MTV killed the video star

My generation grew up on MTV when it was Music Television.

MTV was cool because the videos were cool, the bumpers (like above) were cool, and the commercials were cool. It was the channel we wanted to watch 24-hours a day.

Adults were portrayed as incapable of understanding MTV or the kids who watched videos.

Musicians were outrageous, hip, cool, and different-looking. 

Music was the escape. We weren't set in a particular genre of music, either. We were entertained with every genre. We could veg out in front of our TVs because the videos took us on adventures through a variety of songs. 

I think my generation has their favorite videos. I like to visit the website Vevo to take a trip down memory lane by watching those music videos from the 80s. (Note: I had a small, small hand in developing the Vevo project (2008-09- a blog post for another time.)

MTV now vs. the 1980s-early 90s is the fad. It is not the same Music Television that made us cool for associating with it. 

Not to say the category of music television is dead. There are captivating videos continued to this day from artists available online for immediate consumption. And there are even great mashup videos that combine songs from multiple artists into solid tracks. 

But part of me remembers those original videos from MTV and the original mashup:

I miss my MTV. I want my MTV!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Student for a Day

Spanish 2 view from the back row
Today I had the privilege of attending our high school as a sophomore student. In fact, several district administrators served as students at our various schools. Our CFO attended an elementary campus as a third grader. Our HR director attended our middle school as an 8th grader. Two of our C&I directors attended elementary schools as 4th and 5th graders. And our Superintendent was also at our high school as a freshman and he rode the bus from home to work!

Our task was to get the student perspective on day to day instruction. As I entered teacher rooms, I let them know to treat me as a student and that I was serving as a documentarian. What I would view would not be part of an evaluation but just getting a student perspective.

Health Science class middle row
I have to say, I have really been looking forward to doing this! In previous districts, I have seen this done usually just by the Superintendent....for one class period...and the class is pre-selected by the campus administrators. It is more of a public relations event than an actual reflection of practice.

Today's Student for a Day was a bit more authentic. I went in to get perspective. I attended five class periods and lunch. I traveled through the halls with a backpack. I had normal bathroom breaks and a schedule to follow. I would have loved to stay the entire day, but I had to return for our team to share what we observed.

I decided not to post the actual observations but to share what we as administrators gleaned from this exercise. As a group we shared what we observed from teacher communication to how kids interact with each other and their teachers. We shared how teachers integrated new instructional design, technology implementation, and classroom organization.

In effect, we shared what we were able to observe as symptoms of systemic change: positive and negative.

Today was more than just "being a kid". Today was really about observing change at the individual classroom level. We can look at data. We can read the latest systems-solution book. We can go to conferences. We can get campus reports. But in the end, isn't the observable change what education is really about? And what better perspective to observe than at the student eye-level?

Notes from Algebra 2 AP

In a career as an instructional support staff member, I have had the privilege of visiting classrooms in various districts. My role allows me to be in classrooms when instruction is taking place. I am able to sit in a classroom without drawing attention to myself. I am not there to judge or complete a report. And teachers are usually comfortable with me being there. As a trainer, getting to see my teachers in their natural environment has provided invaluable information to help me hone training to meet their needs. I can produce more relevant training because of these types of interactions in their rooms.

Professional Communications
Venn Diagramming
I know I can get this type of data better than a principal or an assistant Superintendent because I am not in an evaluator role. There is a greater comfort between me and a teacher than an administrator/evaluator visiting the teacher. And my data collection is more global because I am not just observing technical knowledge. I am gathering data about workflow, classroom design, cording, organization, teacher movement, student eye-level, lighting, etc. These things are considerable data to someone like me who creates professional development. I can image my teachers by room when I know what their instructional space is really like.

My point is I hope this post leads you to take time to get data about your teachers by observing them in their natural environment. I would encourage you to take the step to try to be a student for a day. Think of it like filming a documentary in another habitat: dress like them; wear a backpack; use their wifi; and eat at their tables. Observe without questioning or interviewing.

Then collect and share your data. Share it with your other administrators. They may not know you look at more than who is or isn't using electronic technology. This would be a great way to share a new perspective they may not have considered. Who knows? Maybe it will help you create your own "Student for a Day" with your administrative team in your district?! It is worth the try!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Friday Fad: HD DVD

In the Fall of 2006, I submitted an article to the TCEA publication Tech-Edge. I was very nervous about it. In the article, I made the claim that one type of technology would surpass a similar one of equal measure. I was predicting the success of BluRay DVDs over HD DVDs.

My prediction was formed from two articles read online: In May 2006, Sony had announced that the new Playstation system would contain a BluRay drive to work with the HD graphics in the gaming system (ZDNet, 2006). And in June of that same year, Forbes reported Pioneer Electronics had stopped manufacturing the standard for DVD recording to focus its RnD on BluRay technology.

The problem with the early prediction was that HD DVD was the only available high definition video player and DVD for purchase for home. The movie studios had not released BluRay movies yet because BluRay players were not yet available in the United States. 


In the mid-1990's, commercials had been airing about a new type of TV coming soon that would display high definition content. Standard tvs at the time offered a 4:3 viewing aspect ratio with 480 pixels. The new high definition tv sets were going to offer a new aspect ratio of 16:9 with 1080 pixels. This meant a sharper image contrast than previously available. 

The initial HDTVs were not the flat-panel TVs we see now. They were still in the large box and the screens were still curved. They still took up a lot of space on a media console or table. At first, the market didn't choose to invest in HD TVs. There was not much content available because broadcast (cable/satellite) was still analog. It would not be until 2005 that the market would introduce consumers to the high definition DVD. On top of the conversion of DVD to HD-DVD, the FCC announced in 2006 that broadcast television would move to digital by January 1, 2007. This meant the consumer either had to purchase a new TV capable of handling the digital broadcast or they would need to purchase a digital conversion box to convert their analog broadcasts to digital.

This was the push the average consumer needed to join the high definition television market. In 2005, Toshiba introduce the HD-DVD player. HD was different than the standard DVD because it was 5x sharper and more vivid in color and included the Dolby Digital Sound standard which was also cleaner and crisper.

While the HD-DVD system was backed by Toshiba, the BluRay technology was financially backed by Sony & Philips. Microsoft was providing integration for HD-DVD with its Xbox 360 system. Sony was preparing to release its new Playstation system with BluRay integration.

In summer 2008, Warner Brothers, Netflix and BestBuy announced they would no longer provide HD-DVD formats and would be switching to BluRay. Toshiba made the announcement that year that they would no longer support HD-DVD systems and would stop producing the content and players. In the end, Toshiba's loss of the HD-DVD system was a loss of over $1 billion.

Why did HD-DVD fail?
The key answer to why HD-DVD failed is in the content it failed to produce. Sony Entertainment owned a large portion of movie rights when it purchased Columbia Pictures and TriStar in 1989. Most consumers wanted movies in HD that were not available through the HD-DVD formats so their frustration for an expanded movie library was not met by Toshiba who had trouble securing rights to produce such a large library. When Warner Bros made their announcement that they would no longer be issued HD-DVDs, the end was very near for HD-DVD.

The final straw was when Walmart quit selling HD-DVD players and the tide turned for BluRay players.

It is interesting to note that standard DVD still dominates the American market in terms of sales for home use. BluRay players have exceeded reaching 60-million homes but the new 8K-Ultra HD TVs are starting to be sold in the US markets. Where will BluRay stand in the new Ultra HD market? So far, early predictions are for more streaming video services than discs with the consumers.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Friday Fad: Introducing the iPod (2001)

Apple blew us away again this week introducing the Apple Watch. For me, I wasn't so impressed with the idea of bringing watches back until I saw this new Apple Watch. Now I want to wear one again.

In 2001, Steve Jobs presented the iPod to the world at one of their product showcase events. The video below is the promotional video about the aspects of the first portable music playing device with proprietary software library and store, and the ability to hold 1000 songs on one device.

Meet the Apple iPod:

Before iPod (in the late 90s), portable MP3 digital music players did exist. The players were just difficult to use and there were different ones: Sony, Diamond Rio, Archos, NOMAD - these were all battery powered MP3 players with storage for between 32MB-6GB price points. 

For each of these portable music systems, you had to use their proprietary software to install on our computer for managing your library. You still had to purchase CDs and then rip them to your computer using your Windows/Mac CD tools. Then you had to import the actual MP3s into the software for your MP3 player. And you had to limit your musical selection based on how much space your device could handle. 

Because of all these steps, the only people who used portable MP3 players were kids. Only kids could figure out all these steps and do it with little difficulty. It was rare to see adults with MP3 players. Adults had portable CD players. Kids had MP3 players. 

In January 2001, Apple released iTunes as a software for managing your libraries and playlists. It worked with your CDs and MP3s. Nine months later in October, Apple introduced the iPod as basically the portable version of iTunes "that lets you put your entire music collection in your pocket and listen to it wherever you go" (Steve Jobs). 

The iPod came to be because Steve Jobs perceived when travelers discover they did not have specific CDs or tapes with them to put in their players, they would not listen to music at all. His idea filled a problem by making music easy to manage and store on a portable system with enough capacity to store a large music library.

The iPod reached an even higher amount of success in 2003 when the iTunes store began selling music. Capacity had to increase from 6GB to 40GB by late 2003. In 2004, capacity went from 60GB to 160GB due to the store adding the ability to purchase TV shows and movies and color screen options were added. 

And then there is sadness because as I write this, a news blurb just popped up informing me that Apple discontinued selling the iPod Classic this week. It isn't available anymore. They still had a 160GB capacity iPod until September 9 when the new tech rolled out this week. With Cloud computing, the need for high capacity storage is just not needed as much anymore.

It is strange too when reviewing timelines on these releases on how close the iPod introduction was to the events on September 11, 2001. The introduction of the very first iPod by Steve Jobs happened one month after 9/11.

In the 13 years of the iPod, I only had two models and both were purchased in 2003. I had one classic model an employer purchased for me to learn to use. I will shamefully admit that this one sat on my desk unused for weeks because I didn't understand the scroll wheel. I had to have a kid show me how to use  it. The other model I still have in my car. It contains my entire music library in my glove box. I have a multi-CD changer system dashboard. I bet it still has some CDs in it but I don't think I could find where that CD changer is or what CDs are in it without the manual.

My iPod continues to hold my collections of music. I plug it in right before long road trips to get the latest purchases. It hasn't had an update to the software since 2007. And I will continue to use it until it dies.

Monday, September 8, 2014


Want the answer to going paperless? Don't install a printer. 

I am in the fourth month of my current job and guess what? No printer installed. 

My department has offered to give me a printer. Technology has offered to install a printer or to add me to a shared printer. I refuse. I was even offered a new printer to be installed in my office. I still refuse. 

Instead of printing, I use copy and paste more. I do strain to manage multiple open windows and tabs. I take screen shots more often. I use my iPad on a stand with a screenshot of previous screens so I can view multiple items at the same time, instead of printing. 

When asked to provide a handout, I make a collaborative document and share it online. I am used to the comic relief and blank stares I get from colleagues when I am asked to provide a handout and I give them a shortened URL to a collaborative document. I imagine they think that this bit of Austin-hippie will burn out soon. 

In some ways, it does feel like more work that it is worth. On a Macbook, I don't have a lot of viewable space like my colleagues with multiple screens. And there is temptation in the empty lab right next door. I know I could run in, print something, and leave without turning on a light and no one would know I did it. 

But I don't do it. I store everything I need in one cloud.

Am I paperless? No. I think I am just print-fasting. There are too many things in life requiring paper (cooking, toiletries, money, gift wrap, postal services, insurance, legal services, billing, etc.). Even the Quakers use paper. 

At work, I still use notecards to jot down small ideas or quick notes. I still use the large format Post-It notes and Sharpies to diagram big ideas. 

I just don't use the drawers in my desk to store paper. I don't hang files. I don't have folders. I don't have labels. I don't format labels or use Sharpies to separate which folder is which. 

My cloud is my home for my documents. All my files. I can access them with my computer, my iPad, my phone or your iPad, your phone, or that computer over there. 


People talk about trying to go paperless. How about taking the first step? Uninstall your ability to print. Think of it like a diet - you must remove the foods that may cause you to stumble. Remove your printers. Fast your printers. 

Now that does sound like an Austin-hippie!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Friday Fad: A Cat with No Lives: :C - CueCat

Before QR Codes or hashtags a company called Digital Convergence created and promoted a computer technology system called the CueCat. The CueCat was an infrared barcode scanner that plugged into your computer via USB/PS2 to find a website URL by scanning a barcode. The clever marketing strategists used the stretched out cat shape to partner to your computer's mouse. 

If we go back to 1999, the dominant operating system was Windows 98. Broadband Internet was available to about 6% of the world's population. Internet Explorer 5.0 & Netscape 6.0 were the most used web browsers. This was a time when web addresses were not plastered on the world around us. You didn't see a company's web address or a product web address unless you web searched for it. People didn't memorize web addresses. This was Web 1.0. The inclusion of multimedia plug-ins for Flash and Java interactive content would not arrive until late 2000. Company websites were about the company and not the products yet. The web was static. 

At a time when people were unfamiliar with www addressing or remembering to check out a website when they got in front of a computer, the confusing metrics of a barcode made as much sense as a URL. You could say a full http://www. web address to a crowd of familiar people and most of them would think you were speaking barcode. 

So the CueCat made sense in that you could scan a code to connect to a website without having to know http://www. - you just scanned something and it went there. 

Also the CueCat scanner was free. They had them available where newspapers were sold. At the time, these places were called bookstores. 

The CueCat attached to your computer by USB or PS2. Newspapers, magazines, and even special web editions of news sections would contain barcodes with the punctuation cue of a colon and a capital C ":C" indicated the place to scan with your CueCat.

As a resident in the Dallas area, I remember the Dallas Morning News heavily promoting CueCat as a revolutionary way to connect stories in print to content on the web. There was a $185 million dollar investment from the Belo Corp (owners of Dallas Morning News), Coca-Cola, Forbes, and others. 

In 1999, the CueCat was released to the general public but by late 2000, the life of the CueCat was nearly dead. By 2005, you could purchase CueCats in a liquidation sale for $0.30 each in orders of 500,000 or more. Wikipedia's entry about the CueCat includes the note that PC Magazine lists it as one of "The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time" (in 2006).

What caused the CueCat to use up all its lives ($185 million dollars) so quickly? 

1. No Privacy or Data Security

2. No Mobility

3. Didn't Solve a Problem 

Data Privacy & Security:
Each CueCat had its own serial number and you had to enter your name, your email, and zip code into the CueCat system to access use of the barcode. Each time you scanned with your CueCat, the data about what you were scanning and seeing online was sent to Digital Convergence. This system was hacked a few times and people's data was shared. No matter where you are in time, people generally don't like learning that their private information is collected or that it was shared by several hacks. 

Also in a response to the public outcry over data and privacy, Digital Convergence asserted that although the public received their CueCats for free, they did not actually own the device. In other words, because you are using something I gave you for free, I have the right to take and use your data as I see fit. 

That went over like a lead balloon. 

You had to be at your computer because it connected by a cord like your mouse. Not many people would sit at their computers to read the paper. A writer for the Wall Street Journal labeled it as "unnatural and ridiculous". 

No Problemo:
The most successful and marketable technology is that which solves a problem. For the CueCat, the problem they solved was typing a URL which isn't a difficult thing, really. In Technology, I have had many people come up to me and tell me their "million-dollar" idea for a new device or app they feel the world would pay riches to acquire. My response is what the market teaches us all the time: our devices and applications must fulfill something we need. You cannot simply create a useless technology and it be adopted quickly with a popular need for it to exist. 

Did you ever use a CueCat or remember using or seeing one?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Power of the Password

Huffington Post had an interesting editorial on the power of the password in this article linked here (Caution: article contains some expletives).

The writer shared how the need for changing his password became a mantra for himself each morning as he would type in the phrase "Forgive@h3r" in relation to a nasty divorce he had been through. For one month, this was more than a password. It became a mantra for him to live daily for an entire month. 

His mood improved from this new password and it changed the way he looked at his ex-wife. At the next password upgrade, he added a new mantra: Quit@smokin4ever and it helped him quit by having this monthly goal. Later he changed to Save4trip@thailand in order to save money for a nice vacation. 

Changing one's password can seem like such a burden. I often here from staff that they have too many passwords and a lot of people can never remember their passwords for the different systems they access. Why not make a password a life changing mantra that not only is remembered but reminds you of something in your life you have made as a goal. 

Using numbers mixed in as letters is as simple as recognizing the elements that unite them to appear like letters. This is commonly referred to as "leet" or leetspeak or numerically as 1337 which is short form for "elite" speak for the cyber community (according to W1|<1P3[)14 - Wikipedia). It is also characteristically called "calculator speak" which uses letters as replacement on a calculator. For instance, how many of you typed 0.7734 into a calculator only to turn it upside down to read the word "HELLO"? 

0 can be a replacement for "O"

1 can be a replacement for an "I" or an "l"

2 can be a replacement for "to" or "too"

3 can be a replacement for the letter "E"

4 can be a replacement for "for" or "A"

5 can be a replacement for an "S"

Websites and even business networking require more complex passwords as more cyber attacks on our security occur. Passwords must contain upper and lower case letters along with numbers and sometimes symbols. It can be a burden to come up with a password that meets the requirements. I often see staff create a difficult password out of frustration with being rejected each time. They make it nonsequential and with no meaning and then struggle to remember it or where they wrote it down when they were so quickly forced to make one. 

Make it easy and make it personable. This is a password that you may be entering often. I like the idea of setting your password to be a tangible goal in your own personal life - one that serves as a daily reminder each time you enter it in. 

Some other passwords the author set in his life:


Other ideas: