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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Enhancing Safety - Creating a "Need Assistance" Button in Outlook

Yesterday a campus asked about a panic button for their receptionist, so I wanted to find a low cost way for a campus to create a message summoning assistance without having to install physical hardware.  This is a low cost affordable way for users of Outlook to create "panic" button that can be surreptitiously activated via a couple of mouse clicks.


  • Open Outlook.

  • Make sure you are on the "Home" tab:   





  • Look for the "Quick Steps" box 






  • Click "Create New"

  • The Edit Quick Step window will appear:
  • Name your quick step with a logical name - such as "Need Assistance Now"
  • Click "Choose An Action" and scroll to "New Message"
  • Click "Show Options" and fill in the data for the email you want to quickly send when help is needed - you can send to as many recipients as you would like.  If you want to send email to Cell Phones as SMS messages, you can do so by following this guide at http://sms411.net/how-to-send-email-to-a-phone/.
    • Here is an EXAMPLE setup:


    • Click the "Finish" button when done.
    • Now test this out by clicking the name of the Quick Step in your "Quick Step" window.  
    • To send the message click the "Send" button

Monday, December 10, 2012

The human side of IT management - Go ahead and hug your IT team today

There are so many times in technology where our teams are under immense pressure; there is the start of school with what seems to be an insurmountable mountain of work orders, the stress of a system failure, or the worries for a smooth system implementation. All of this takes its toll on our employees, and sometimes I wonder if as IT leaders we do not spend enough time doing simple things to make our staff’s work lives a little bit better.  
 
This is my cutest blog post ever.....
IT staff often have incredibly difficult jobs, but sometimes we need to be IT coaches and let our team members know that they did a good job and give them a pat on the back. It’s the little statements that we make that can show our human side and help make our employees feel valued. Maybe school's IT departments can’t offer free employer-provided meals, ping pong tables, and break rooms with TVs and sofas, but we can show our human side now and then.
 
Employees need encouragement and praise when things are done well. Don’t forget the value of a simple good morning, a thoughtful hello, or a chance to laugh with our coworkers. Sure, I wish I had some of the flexibility for rewarding my staff that my colleagues in the private sector have, but we do have things we can offer too. As school leaders we can often offer better work hours, a generous set of vacation and days off, and what can arguably amount to a better work/life balance than the private sector. 
 
In the end I know that I always need to work on letting my employees and coworkers know that we are on a team, that I value them, and that I am here to work with them and for them. This is not an easy task, nor is it one that ever ends. So this coming year, hopefully all of us can strive to show our fantastic IT staff how much they mean to us by being just a bit more human and taking a moment to show we care.


This blog is cross posted at SchoolCIO - at http://www.schoolcio.com/Default.aspx?tabid=136&entryid=5164 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Documenting work to ensure consistency & sustainability


Technology personnel tend to love new projects, challenges, and the fun of learning and implementing new technologies, but much like any profession, there are necessary duties that tend to get put off for a less busy day or because there is other work that is more interesting. Documenting tasks, processes, and systems tends to fall into the less interesting work category, but it is vital that it be done well, as the number and complexity of IT systems is growing.
 
There are few employees that can remember every step taken and every configuration option selected when setting up a new system, so documenting as the work is being done has to become a part of a culture of a technology department. The other part of this equation is that IT staff tend to be highly mobile, and school IT staff are no different. Most can work equally well in or out of education, which means that school IT departments will have periodic staff changes. But what happens when the new staff member needs to upgrade a system or fix one that has failed? If the staff member that setup the system is no longer around and there is no documentation as to what was initially done, this can lead to extended down time, funds spent on consultants, and so on.
 
As technology leaders, we need to look closely at our internal processes and documentation and decide if we are doing the best job at documenting what is being done by our IT personnel. If it is not being done, or not being done well, then it is time for us to start planning a new year’s resolution and make documentation a year long push for our staff. It will take this long and, truthfully, longer. Once basic documentation is done it will still need updates, changes, etc. And new systems will be added. So once started, the impetus to keep documenting must be sustained.
 
Find a standardized place to house the documentation for your staff. At our district, we chose a private wiki that is housed on our corporate intranet. It is quick and easy to search for and to add information, which makes our staff more likely to use it. Do not ignore this factor, since if it is a pain to use the documentation system put in place, people will most likely not use it.


This blog posting is cross-posted at SchoolCIO at http://www.schoolcio.com/Default.aspx?tabid=136&EntryId=5112

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Non Tech Alert: My Thanksgiving Texas Twice-Baked Potatoes in Pictures

I know this is supposed to be a techie blog, but I have to eat too.  So what is becoming a Thanksgiving tradition for me is the preparation of Texas Twice-Baked potatoes.  They are delicious, with lots of flavor and spice, which I think adds a little flair to what I think can be a bit bland holiday meal.

The ingredients I use are as follows.  I will not give amounts, but you can see how much I used and make yours based on your taste preferences.

Ingredients:
  • Russet potatoes
  • Grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • Chopped pickled jalapenos
  • Cooked and chopped Bacon
  • Minced fresh garlic cloves
  • Cream or milk
  • Butter
  • Salt & Pepper
Add what you want - green onions are good in these, but I did not have any.

So - bake potatoes as normally done.  Cut in half.  Scoop out potato, place in bowl and mash a bit and add butter, cream/milk and mix.  Then add ingredients (use 1/2 the cheese), stuff potatoes, and top with the remaining cheese.  Bake until golden brown.

Here is the process in pictures:


















Monday, November 12, 2012

What? My iPad can do more than email and Web? iPad productivity apps (cross post with SchoolCIO)


There is one device that follows me around all the time at work, when going to meetings, while traveling—and it also goes home with me each night. It is my iPad. It is my ultimate productivity tool. I see many tech directors, CIOs, principals, and superintendents carrying theirs around as well. But what often surprises me is how many leaders just use their iPad for email and Web browsing, not exploring many of the fantastic iPad productivity apps that really can make this device shine. Many great iPad productivity apps can help leaders become more organized and effective.
 
So I want to share many of the apps that I find very useful below in my productivity app list. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it ought to really help you get a great start on using your iPad for more than email and Web browsing.
 
Note: All prices are accurate as of 10/28/2012.
  
Stock iPad Apps
Safari
Web Browser
Included with iPad
Contacts
Syncs with Exchange (Outlook) and Google
Included with iPad
Email
Syncs with Exchange (Outlook) and Google
Included with iPad
Calendar
Syncs with Exchange (Outlook) and Google
Included with iPad
Camera
Takes pictures and video.
Included with iPad
Photos
Access, email, and share your photos.
Included with iPad
FaceTime
Real time video conference with other iOS users.
Included with iPad

Notetaking Apps
Evernote
The e-filing note cabinet of choice – use as your memory.  Stores emails, text notes & audio.  Syncs across many devices and web.  You can easily share notes.  Includes a great search feature!
Free
Notability
Any easy to use simple text, written, audio and photo note app – email or PDF notes.
$0.99
GoodReader
PDF annotation and reader software – a bit complex but very powerful, with Google Drive and Box support amongst many others.
$4.99
PDF Expert
Simple PDF annotation with WiFi transfer and Box support.
$9.99
Audio Memos Free
Voice recorder, email up to 3mb files, WiFi download.
Free
Dragon Dictation
Voice to text transcriptions.
Free

Office Apps
Pages, Numbers, and Keynote
Apple’s GREAT office apps for Word Processing, spreadsheet, and presentations.  These are the apps to use if using iPad for content creation.
$9.99 each
QuickOffice Pro HD
All in one office suite – edits Microsoft Office docs and syncs with Box.net and WiFi file transfer. This more affordable suite is geared towards just editing.

$19.99
CloudOn
Cloud-Based MS Office with Box synchronization
Free
Digits Calculator
Great desktop calc with editable, comment-able eTape that can be emailed.
$1.99
Dictionary.com
Great dictionary and thesaurus.
Free

Book  Apps
iBooks, Nook & Kindle
eBooks from the big three.
Free

News Apps
Pulse
Incredible customizable news aggregator.
Free
FlipBoard
Another great customizable news aggregator.
Free
News360
Great news aggregator with excellent social media integration.
Free

Other Useful Apps
Box
Box is a great secure corporate level file sharing service. Use this app to synchronize files to the cloud and web browser.  Can sync files between computer and iPad.
Free
Twitter
Great social networking tool to expand your PLN.
Free
iThoughtsHD
Easy mind mapping with Image & PDF export, Box, and WiFi sync.
$9.99
Skitch
Simple annotation app – take a photo and mark up ideas and notes (syncs to Evernote).
Free
Explain Everything
Annotate and narrate on screen then export video – great way to narrate presentations then share.
$2.99
VDI and Remote Desktop Clients (I use Citrix)
There are many virtual desktop clients that you can often use to access work from remote locations or which you can use at work to get a full Windows desktop on your iPad. 
Vary

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Judson ISD Connect Mobile App Takes the Bronze Lovie Award



Yesterday we received notification that the Judson ISD Connect! mobile school app for Android and iOS received a Bronze award in the European Lovie Awards.  I am so very proud of my co-workers who worked very hard to make this app what it is.  I am also most appreciative of Conduit Mobile and their fantastic team who worked with us to make the app better and resolve issues to make the app what it is today. More info on the app is available at the app page at http://www.judsonisd.org/district/technology/jisd_mobile.cfm or read about our development experience here in the CTO Technotes blog via Tech & Learning Magazine.




Tuesday, October 16, 2012

We closed another work order, but does anyone know if the customer's happy?


With school budgets being filleted and diced year after year, many school districts’ IT departments have spent a lot of time trimming fat, cutting products, and squeezing budgets and employees for efficiency. One of the big dangers of all this cutting is that we will lose sight of the end goal—keeping our customers happy.
 
This year in our IT department we wanted to step back and look at how our customers perceived our day-to-day work. So we embarked on creating a simple tool to measure how well we were doing for every work order we completed. Every day, we send surveys to customers when their work orders are closed. The survey simply asks customers if their problem was solved and five questions about our service.
 
 An interesting by product of this measurement is that we now have a way to identify customers who had a bad experience, and we can try to go back and work on making the issue right or reopen a work order if their problem was not solved to their satisfaction the first time around.
 
Each weekend, all help desk technicians (all of our IT staff) get a report showing how they did for the week. They also get a list of free-form comments left by customers, both happy and unhappy. Additionally, each staff member also gets to see where they rank in relation to their colleagues. The openness of this data has certainly caused many of us to step back and think about how we are interacting with those we serve. It may be simple courtesies while on the phone or writing out our work-order solutions with correct grammar in complete sentences, but either way the end result should be a better customer experience. 
 
In the end, paying attention to the many details is what builds a great team and great customer service, which we do not want to sacrifice, even in the name of efficiency in lean times.

This blog is cross posted with SchoolCIO at http://www.schoolcio.com/Default.aspx?tabid=136&EntryId=4981

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Non Tech Alert: Spending Some Precious Moments with the Scion FR-S

Well this is another blog entry straying from the tech realm, but since I got to spend some time today with an incredible piece of driving technology today, I think this will have to qualify as a tech post.


The object of my driving desire
I don't hide my love for fun driving cars.  But this has always been tempered by budget, practicality, and life.  My current Mazda 6 fit this mold - super fun to drive, low cost, decent gas mileage, and it has room for the little buggers in my life.  

Well today, I think my car philosophy might have changed when I had a chance to drive a couple of beautiful new Scion FR-S on a test track at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. Here is a car that by any sports car measure is a fantastic value, drives like virtually nothing else in its class and looks oh so good to boot. 

Now in my affordability book, a car just shy of $25,000 may not being the ultimate economy car, but for a car that can snake through tight corners with the greatest of ease, and DOES drive like a top of the line sports car, this is a STEAL.
video
Today Scion and Yokohama setup a first drive track with some great corners that really let the FR-S shine. I must give a special thanks to Yokohama for putting their S Drive tires on the FR-S. We had these things squealing through the turns, yet they held like glue to the pavement.  I have not driven the FR-S on the stock "what were they thinking European Prius tires", but I am convinced from others that those should be ripped off by any self respecting car enthusiast. 

Enthusiast drivers were clearly the main audience out for this event today - there were some beautiful Mazda 3, 6, and RX8 in the lot, so I could tell that there were a lot of people who were very curious about all the great press the FR-S has received.  I imagine, much like me, there are many folks who are becoming Scion fans after this event.

Well my next chore is to get one from my local dealer to test drive (which could be a next to impossible feat, as they seem to have almost no Scions at their Scion dealership.)  My goal in this is to see if one of these can actually make it onto my steep driveway........ I sure hope it does, as I am sold!
















Monday, July 23, 2012

Tech & Learning Magazine and SchoolCIO cover story on (Not So) Easy Money

Getting funding in times of very tight budgets is certainly challenge for any CIO.   Tech & Learning magazine has a great new issue called "Showing You The Money".  This issue is focused on how you can get funds, as well as save them.






The issue features several fantastic technology visionaries, plus me, give their (my) views on how we now have to work on justifying expenditures, using tools like CoSN's Value of Investment and Return on Investment calculators.  The article is entitled (not so) Easy Money and is found here.

Judson ISD Connect App featured in San Antonio Express News

The San Antonio Express News featured the Judson ISD Connect app in a recent article at http://www.mysanantonio.com/default/article/Popular-app-can-check-grades-report-bullies-3689123.php






The Judson ISD Connect app was developed rapidly using the Conduit Mobile platform.



Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mashable - Apps Used To Take Stand Against Bullies

Mashable published a nice story on schools and students using apps to report bullies.  The article featured a great app by Tim Porter, Stop Bullies, and mentions our team's fantastic Judson ISD Connect! app.  It also features a great classroom project where students created their own anti-bullying app.


The story is available on Mashable at http://mashable.com/2012/06/11/bullying-apps/


Friday, May 4, 2012

Judson ISD Technology Services May 2012 Uplink Newsletter Published

Judson ISD's May 2012 Technology Services' Uplink newsletter has been published at http://www.judsonisd.org/district/technology/newsletters/JudsonISDTechnologyServicesUPLINKNewsletterMay2012.cfm

UPLINK :: Technology Services Newsletter

There are many informative articles, including: Windows 7 upgrades, Improving Email Services, iPad Apps for Productivity Enhancement, Using Twitter to Create a Personal Learning Network, and more!.  So please take a few minutes and get updated on technology at Judson ISD by reading our May 2012 newsletter.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Judson ISD Connect! App named App of the Month by Conduit Mobile

Our Judson ISD Connect! app today was named the May 2012 app of the month by Conduit Mobile.  At the same time we are proud to announce a major upgrade of the app with addition of Parent Center mobile, which adds grades, attendance, and more for both student and parent viewing.


The full blog post on the app of the month is available here on the Conduit Blog.


Blog on Conduit Mobile awarding Judson ISD Connect! as May 2012 app of the month

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Scam Emails Using Your Friends' Data To Look Legitimate

The Nigerian email scams still holds a place in the "how they used to do it the old days" files of cyber yesterday. I received an email today that reminded me of my Nigerian email scam favorites, but also had harvested the name and signature of a friend, such that the scam took on a very personal nature....the last name has been blotted out to protect the infected:



Ok - so at least my friend quickly figured this out.......but how many takers might bite off on something like this?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Don’t be a Phisherman! Creative Spoofed URL’s Meant to Lure Unsuspecting Twitter Users


Can you spot what makes the following a Phishing attempt?  You may not at first glance....this is a very creative:

Fake Twitter Site

The page above that looks like a legitimate Twitter site is in fact not legitimate at all.   I received a Direct Message on Twitter that had a shortened URL, which redirected to ltvvitter.com – which at first glance looks like the URL for Twitter and would probably fools lots of people into coughing up their Twitter credentials.  If someone was in a hurry or just not paying attention, they might easily fall prey to this scam.  The message the URL was sent with was meant to get people to click to find out more; The message said “Hey someone is posting terrible things about you... “, then linked to the phishing fake Twitter site.

Monday, March 26, 2012

iPad Productivity Apps (for Principals & Administrators)

I am going to be training our principals (and other administrators) on productivity apps for better utilizing their iPads.  I have talked with several people, who have given some great ideas and many people across the state have contributed ideas through the TECSIG email list.   So far, here is the list of iPad apps for productivity (this list would probably work for more than just educators):









iPad Apps for (Principal and Administrator) Productivity
Stock iPad Apps
Safari
Web Browser
Included with iPad
Contacts
Syncs with Exchange (Outlook)
Included with iPad
Email
Syncs with Exchange (Outlook)
Included with iPad
Calendar
Syncs with Exchange (Outlook)
Included with iPad
Camera
Takes pictures
Included with iPad
Photos
Email, tweet, your photos..
Included with iPad
FaceTime
Real time video conference with other iOS users
Included with iPad

Notetaking Apps
Evernote
The e-filing cabinet of choice – use as your memory.  Stores emails, text notes & audio.  Syncs across many devices and web.  Great search!
Free
Notability
Any easy to use simple text, written, audio and photo note app – email or PDF notes
$9.99
GoodReader
Great PDF annotation and reader software
$4.99
PDF Expert
Simple PDF annotation with WiFi transfer and Box support
$9.99
Audio Memos Free
Voice recorder, email up to 3mb files, WiFi download
Free
Dragon Dictation
Voice to text transcriptions
Free

Office Apps
Pages, Numbers, and Keynote
Apple’s GREAT office apps for Word Processing, spreadsheet, and presentations.  These are the apps to use if using iPad for content creation.
$9.99 each 
QuickOffice Pro
All in one office suite – edits Microsoft Office docs and syncs with Box.net and WiFi file transfer.  This more affordable suite is geared towards just editing.
$14.99
CloudOn
Cloud-Based MS Office with Box synchronization
Free
Digits Calculator
Great desktop calc with editable, comment-able eTape that can be emailed
$1.99
Dictionary.com
Great dictionary and thesaurus
Free

Book  Apps
iBooks, Nook & Kindle
eBooks from the big three.
Free

News Apps
Pulse
Incredible customizable news aggregator
Free
FlipBoard
Another great customizable new aggregator
Free
Texas Tribune
Stay on top of Texas news and the legislature
Free

Other Useful Apps
Box
App to synchronize files to the cloud and web browser..use to move files between PC and iPad
Free
Citrix
Get a JISD Windows desktop and use MS Office,  access your H and T drives, etc
Free
Twitter
Great social networking tool to expand your PLN
Free
iThoughtsHD
Easy mind mapping with Image & PDF export and Box synchronization
$9.99
Skitch
Simple annotation app – take a photo and mark up ideas and notes (syncs to Evernote)
Free
Explain Everything
Annotate and narrate on screen then export video – great way to narrate presentations then share
$2.99