Thursday, August 15, 2013

First Day of School

Some time over the summer the student information system software we teachers use to take roll and enter grades, and which our counselors and administrators and secretarial staff use to do all the things they do, changed.

That's right, it's completely different, and we weren't even told.

It still has the same functionality, but it has an entirely different look and interface.  We're still learning to find all the capabilities that we used to know by heart.  And over 1600 kids showed up today.

From my end the day went rather smoothly.  I know there's some work to do, though, because I'm over my contract limit in 2 classes.  For those of you outside of California, please sit down before you read this--but that means I have over 36 students in each of those two classes.

Yes, our administration is working to level out classes within a very tight scheduling ability as the district staffed us at a bare bones level.

After school I got to meet with two other teachers and one of our vice principals, the same group that had training last week on this new computerized test our district wants us to do three times a year.  We had some very lousy training last week and now we're supposed to train members of our staff who will actually give the tests this year (that would be teachers of all-freshman courses).  Keep in mind, those of us at the lousy training last week went through this process exactly once and there's no "dummy database" of students we can use to walk people through the process.  We watched a video.

If you think we feel unprepared to teach this, and were quite frustrated today as we met to try to plan this training, I understand the district people, who know that this is being done half-assed, are at least frustrated and as worried as we are.

After all this you might be thinking, "Dang, Darren, tech things sure seem screwed up in your district!"  And you'd be correct.  We're going to have to "brute force and ignorance" our way through these difficulties, then we'll know what we're doing and it'll be smooth.  Until then, though...

But there is some good news.  Have you heard of the new 4K tv's, which are supposed to leave 1080p hi-def tv's in the dust as far as picture resolution goes?  Well, I've been asking for a flat screen for my classroom for a couple years now to replace my LED projector, and some new company is selling 4K tv's at a price about 10-20% of what Sony sells them for.   Our district has a few and I get to pilot one; the only condition of getting it is that I have to give period reports on its functionality and ease of use to our district tech director.

I think I can live with that requirement!


MikeAT said...

Damned Darren and I though our department had a CF when we fielded the accident report software about four years ago.

Up until that date car crashes were done by paper. Now, mandated by the state, all were done on computer. So how does the department handle training the officers on the street who will work with this.

At roll call the SGT handed out manuals and said "This goes active in three hours. Good luck."

Thanks guys.

We seem to be doing better with a system for processing prisoners that should go online next year. The department is going to not allow anyone to take leave during a select two weeks to insure all personnel are trained on the system and then it will go active.

Hope is not a plan and pulling it out your ass is generally not the best idea. But at least we seem to be learning with the new software.

Dean Baird said...

Enjoy the 50" UHD (4K) monitor. i'm sure you'll enjoy it.

The notion of 4K leaving FHD (1080p) in the dust is fanciful marketing jargon not supported by evidence.

Small, hi-res screens are not a valid classroom solution. This UHD screen's advantage over an FHD exists only if viewed from about 3-5 ft.

Even home theater industry promoters, THX, freely admit
"On a 50-inch 1080p HD display, most consumers can begin to distinguish individual pixels only when standing within six feet of the screen. Therefore if your viewing distance is 10 feet or greater, an Ultra HD 50-inch display will likely have little perceived benefit in terms of image clarity and sharpness – which can be attributed directly to the increase in pixel count."

It's a matter of the limitations of the resolving power of the human eye. Physics and biology impose these limits and they cannot be circumvented short of cybernetic modifications of students' eyes.

A valid classroom solution is a large (70"-80"), "lo-res" (HD or FHD) monitor.

I don't know who at Tech Services got sold on the smallish UHD monitor, but it's the wrong solution at any price.

Ellen K said...

Welcome to my world. It is almost not worth working on lessons over the summer because the first day of inservice we will be confronted by a new slate of expectations. We have had so many changes made and not necessarily for the better. Far too often it is change for the sake of change. And that kind of thinking is costing districts money.

Darren said...

I'd be happy with a 720p monitor; I can't imagine why I'd need 4K or 1080p in the classroom. It's a tremendous waste of money. But the monitor is already purchased and I have need of a monitor so I'll take this one.

To be honest I'd prefer to go get a slightly larger one off the "display shelf" at Sam's Club for less than half of what this one cost--but again, the money's already been spent.