Be nice to your System Administrator

I know, I know, most of us don't have any idea who our system administrator is or what he does. If you have a clue, you figure he's like the email guy , and more often then not you zone out after 5 minutes of conversation with him. Traditionally, they are not the most skilled socialites and their techno babble can have you going in circles.

But they are the key to getting organized online, and you cannot have a techno revolution at your school without him. So do your homework. Get on google and learn something about unix, or linux, or servers, or whatever. Better yet try to learn about the software you want to use and generally how to install it.

Then buy the guy a beer or lunch and ask him to install it for you. If you're lucky he actually will do his job, and be excited that someone from the nongeek universe actually knows what he is capable of. Then ask him about solutions to all the great projects you've been dreaming of. He may just know about a lot of this stuff, most of which is free and open-source. Geeks love challenges, takes one to know one, and if you present yourself to be marginally knowledgeable, then the computer guy may just feel that spark that gets him to work. If you can get the system administrator on board you are well on way to getting it all.

Hot Potato -An Introduction

Hot Potato is awesome software free to personal users that generates all kinds online of quizzes. It is extremely easy to use and cake to install.

I'm the head of the ESL department at Hawaii Tokai International College. The Chancellor and Vice Chancellor asked me to develop an online training for students in Japan planning to attend our program. Hot Potato was the answer. I decided that students should start by first learning the most common thousand words in English. I then asked each instructor in the department to make a few Hot Potatos quizzes based on the list. Lucky for me they didn't revolt, and went along with plan. With a little help from Dreamweaver, I was able to put together a website that featured the vocabulary plus lots of extras such as listening quizzes and even quizzes with embedded video. This was my first project collaborating technologically with my colleagues and I was worried the whole thing might just blow up.

But sure enough everyone submitted their quizzes by deadline, all was posted to the website, and thanks to a built in HOT Potato script, the students in Japan were prompted for their names every time they took a quiz, and their grades were sent to me via email. A lot of time collaborating and setting up, but once all testing was over the students were flying through the quizzes.

Success! We had reached the students online thanks to Hot Potato and my department was on its way down the path of revolution.

So begins the educational tech revolution...

I did it! I got my department online. I got software to grade my tests, keep track of student's assignments, make fancy online magazines, even help with the boring admin stuff, it goes on and on. I did it all for free. I hate paper and I will never use it again. Good for the trees. In this blog I share my story, offering technology and political advice about how to get your class, department, school, or business working online to increase efficiency, learning, and save the rainforest's too.

And so it begins. After years of making copies, grading multiple choice quizzes, keeping track of papers, getting wrapped up in endless and seemingly pointless paperwork, looking at student's bored faces needing a way to go beyond the walls of the classroom, I have an epiphany. What if everything(save for the actual face-to-face communication part of teaching) could be done online? What if I could start training the students before they even took classes, a kind of pre-teaching? What if all syllabi could be posted? What if each course had a 24 hour meeting place to discuss topics, save and edit assignments, and even check grades? How about elegant online magazines to showcase student work? You know the kids are online all the time anyways, so why not serve up our content fresh and easy.

The dream goes on for teachers and administrators too. Imagine a central location that lists enrollment, classes, teachers, provides stats, the skies the limit. Okay, enough dreaming, you get the point already. So welcome to the blog that explains how to make the dream come true.