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bryan hogan

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The Sad Story of a Mobile Technology Pioneer -- The Death of a Technology

From Chris Ziegler at The Verge:

"It's easy to look back at Palm's story arc from 1992 to 2012 and feel a sense of loss and sadness — this was a company that pioneered PDAs, popularized smartphones, and developed a revolutionary new platform on limited resources with an extraordinary concentration of industry talent before meeting its demise at the hands of HP."

As an early adopter of Palm (thanks to Mr. Kesler, way back in the NCG days), this story really saddens me.  My Palm experience included  the Palm IIIx, Palm V (a fantastic device!), Treo 300, Treo 600, and Treo 650.  There are so many things they got right early on, but simply failed to keep innovating.  (Are you listening, RIM?)

Think about this: The beauty of Palm OS (back in the Palm/Treo days) was the simplicity and speed of the interface. It catered to business users (95% of the market), not techies (5% of the market).  Windows CE (mobile) users criticized the device for a lack of home screen widgets (they stuck to a simple list of  app icons) and lack of of true multitasking.  Sound familiar?

A lesson for us all . . . ignoring the onslaught of the growing technology trends due to user demands and market innovation, while keeping the technology simple and user friendly, increases the risk of being obsolete within a few short years of cresting the mountain peak of success.

 

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iPad Stylus Advice -- Surprising IT Pick

From Ellis Hamburger at The Verge:

"If you're purchasing a stylus so you can write notes on your iPad, you're going to be disappointed. None of the styli I tested had narrow enough tips to provide the agility to scrawl anything but quick notes, doodles, and scribbles. But, if you're interested in drawing with apps like Paper, you can't go wrong with a few of these options. The Wacom Bamboo Stylus, with its combination of sleek looks, small tip, and great responsiveness is our winner for everyday use. If you're serious about writing on your iPad, the Adonit Jot Pro is the clear choice, while you'll have to be pretty careful with it. If you break the plastic disc on your Adonit, you'll have to wait for a replacement. The Kuel H10 is a fantastic and tiny won't-mind-if-you-lose-it stylus, while the Cosmonaut is unbeatable for diagramming or writing flash cards."

I've tried several of the ones tested.  Of those, the Bamboo works best.  However, one "boutique" brand (yes, I just said "boutique") that wasn't tested that I'm a huge fan of is iFaraday.  I started using their "Basic" model over a year ago, and just recently picked up the Rx II.  While these don't have the weighty feel that that Bamboo does, the writing tip itself is much better.  Very smooth.  Very clean.  (Here's a review of the "Basic" model.)

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Afidence Applause for Recruiting "Afidence Can Pick'em"

“In my opinion, when it comes to selecting the right people, Bryan and Barbara [Afidence] is doing it the best.  Not only do they hire the best technically, they also hire for the soft skills that go above and beyond.”

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The Need for Good Financial Planning Before Transitioning to the Cloud

From Drue Reeves and Daryl Plummer at Harvard Business Review:

"For companies, cloud computing's new economic model stands in stark contrast to the traditional economic model of IT where we buy technology from a vendor as a capital investment and continue to invest in maintaining and servicing it over time. Traditionally, much of the money allocated to technology has been locked away in capital expense allocations used for buying physical goods. However, cloud services are just that, a service, and require reallocating money to operating expense budgets. This can be a big change when your company must still pay to maintain existing infrastructure. It may even mean that new lines of expenditure must be created if cloud services don't replace existing services. (And you don't need us to tell you how hard it is to create new lines of expenditure.)"

Drue and Daryl make a great point about the change from capital to operational budgeting when transitioning to the cloud.  This is something that is often overlooked and can haunt you if the right financial planning isn't done in advance.

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Taste of Afidence Published -- April

Click here to view "The Taste"

 

As another fiscal quarter closes we've continued to experience an influx of new clients that are unhappy with their current IT provider.

We've found that regardless of whether the client was dazzled by the lower rates typically found in the shop down the street or by the flashy, high-rise vendor the results have been the same -- IT torment and dollars wasted.  We also found that the service had nothing to do with the offerings or size of the company, but rather the company's quality and ethics.

Going forward, we want to share with you the top 3 things to be aware of when choosing your IT support vendor:

  1. BEWARE the "Contract".  If they are that good, why do they need a contract?
  2. BEWARE the "Kickback".  Do they receive financial incentives for recommending and selling the products they recommend to you?
  3. BEWARE the "Bait and Switch".  The guy/gal giving you the recommendation most likely won't be the one supporting you . . . if they are, who supports them when they are on vacation or out sick?

A simple way to avoid loss of time and money is to CALL Afidence today before you sign.   We have unparalleled client satisfaction and our mission is to be your trusted IT advisor and support vendor, which means we have to be better than good ALL the time!

We hope to hear from you soon . . . call Crystal at 513-234-5822, x441

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Reading Comprehension: A Shared Responsibility

As English teachers we are accountable for teaching students how to read literature and informational text. However, literacy should be something of a "team sport" that we can all contribute to throughout the education process, not just the English Department. Social Studies, Science, and even Math teachers have the ability to assist in the call to improve literacy. Not only is this integral to preparing students for college and career readiness, but taking a team approach will also help students better comprehend the material as well as help them understand that reading and writing are integral parts of communication and all of life.

The following is a list of “tips”, if you will, that may help the “team approach” outside of English.  For instance, what can Science teachers, Social Studies teachers, and Math teachers do to supplement the teaching of reading? A few strategies include:

  • Create anticipation guides that list key ideas or questions for students to focus on BEFORE reading that will guide them DURING reading.
  • Provide an anticipatory set that provides background knowledge and stimulates interest before reading (science: demonstrations, K-W-L charts, history: guest speaker, thought provoking questions, anticipation guides, math: advance organizers that focus on the major concepts of a piece of text).
  • Provide and scaffold graphic organizers that guide the information students should be looking for WHILE reading.
  • Double journal entries, where students can ask questions, make connections, observe patterns, etc. WHILE they read.
  • Provide students with annotation marks that help them ask questions, identify main ideas and important supporting details, mark confusion, etc. For textbooks that can’t be marked, provide post it notes or bookmarkers where students can physically interact with the text using annotations.
  • Teach and utilize questioning strategies such as:
    • SQ3R: S (survey: skim text for headings and charts), Q (question: turn headings into questions) 3R( read, recite, review: read to answer questions, answer questions and make notes, reread for details and unanswered questions).
    • ReQuest: have partners read a text together, write 2-3 questions to quiz one another (after modeling this as a teacher). Possibly have student one ask questions for first paragraph, student two ask questions after the second paragraph, etc.
    • Create question-answer relationship charts that have students use different levels of questions based upon Bloom’s taxonomy. Square One: in the text question, Square Two: compile information and think question, Square Three: question the author, Square Four: judgment/evaluation question. This will need to be highly modeled and scaffolded before it becomes an individual student activity.

This is a very limited and general list, so please check out my sources for more specific ideas and strategies:

  1. Chapman, Anne. "34: Teaching Strategies Across the Curriculum." Making Sense: Teaching Critical Reading across the Curriculum. New York: College Entrance Examination Board, 1993. Print.
  2. Fisher, Douglas, and Nancy Frey. Improving Adolescent Literacy: Content Area Strategies at Work. Boston: Pearson, 2012. Print.
  3. Lee, C.D., Spratly, A. (2010). Reading in the Disciplines: The Challenges of Adolescent Literacy. New York: NY: Carnegie Corporation of New York.

The best news for increasing adolescent literacy is that Ohio has now adopted the Common Core Standards. These standards will insist on shared responsibility of reading, writing, speaking, and listening amongst all the disciplines.  This will also mean a shift to more informational text, along with a shift in the complexity of the reading for each grade level (making it more complex).  There is now a READING STANDARD for Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subject. Surely, this will produce students who are better prepared for college and future careers.

I’m hoping to hear from Math, Social Studies, and Science teachers on any advice they may have on incorporating their subject into the English curriculum!

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That Positive Reinforcement Stuff

I teach in a setting in which the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis are used every day, as naturally as the sun rises in the morning.  As a teacher of children with autism, in a specialized program for students with autism, I’ve come to recognize those same principles are simply the basis for good teaching, not just what we do in our special corner of the educational world.  Sometimes applying those principles doesn’t come so easily to teachers, as it takes understanding and time to put it all into effective practice.  An increasing number of students with special needs are continually being educated in the regular classroom environment causing teachers to be really challenged with meeting the needs of children with a variety of learning styles and issues, and the behavior management piece may be more significant than ever.  In writing this article, my hope is to to share some thoughts, ideas, and support to those who are facing such challenges.

A couple of years ago, I was involved in the transition of a student with autism back into their “home school”, and attended a meeting with the staff who were going to be involved in supporting that child’s education.  As we discussed things that may come up in the classroom, the teacher commented that sometimes “that positive reinforcement stuff doesn’t work”, and wondered what she should do if that was the case with this student.  It became clear to me that she needed a deeper understanding of what “positive reinforcement” means.  Her experiences led her to believe that sticker charts and praise for doing the right thing was all she needed.  When that didn’t work for some students, she believed the principle had failed her.

Many teachers have classroom reward systems in place, or even school-wide positive behavior support programs, but these may not work effectively with all students.  When a student comes from a different background, or has specific learning and/or behavioral issues, these systems may not be individualized enough to help each of those children.  That’s when we need to step back and look at what we’re doing more closely, in order to reach those who may be most in need of extra support.  Improving your own ability to reinforce/reward appropriate learning behaviors may go a long way to maintaining control in the classroom, as well as increasing learning opportunities for your students.

By definition, positive reinforcement occurs when something following a behavior increases the likely hood that the behavior will occur again.  To truly understand positive reinforcement, you need to recognize that what is “reinforcing” to one person may not be to another.  You may have a child who loves having a sticker put up on a chart for the entire world to see, and another who could care less.  For some students, public praise is attention they seek, and is thoroughly appreciated.  For another child, it might be downright embarrassing.    I come from a program where students are motivated to complete tasks and learn by some pretty strange things.  Would you complete your work for the pleasure of hearing a tape recording of somebody sneezing?!? Probably not, but my point is that when we’re thinking about positive reinforcement, we need to take individual differences and preferences into account.  To utilize this tool well, you really need to know your students.  This will be especially helpful if you need to develop or carry out a behavior improvement plan for a particular child, but will also help you motivate your class in general.

Finding out what makes your students tick is not always easy, but there are some things you can do to help you learn what interests them:

  • For younger students, a classroom discussion about favorite things might give you insight.  In Kindergarten, we had a daily morning meeting time with a question of the day, which always helped us learn more about our kids. Older students may be able to fill out an interest survey.
  • Parent questionnaires are helpful, especially when the students have difficulty expressing their interests for one reason or another (e.g. age, disability, personality).
  • Play with a variety of fun phrases/rituals….see which ones really capture the attention of your students.  Although the girls in the class might be totally tickled by hearing, “That’s Bieberiffic!!” the boys in the room might start making wretching noises.  We had a class of 6 year olds who absolutely delighted in the times one of us would end a lesson by saying, “You guys were such great listeners, you deserve to be Superstars!” Then we’d all stand up, count down from 10, and strike our best “Superstar” pose.  Silly?  Absolutely. But it was something that ALL of the students (including 6 students with an autistic spectrum disorder) absolutely loved doing. Most importantly, we saw increased attention and fewer disruptive behaviors during large group lessons.
  • Observation!! Watch how your students individually respond to praise/public attention.  Watch how they interact with others, and the activities they are drawn to doing when they have choice.

Taking the time to learn more about your individual students, and standing back to look at how you are using positive reinforcement to improve student behavior and learning may help you run your classroom more smoothly and effectively at a time when our job is more challenging than ever.  In the near future, I hope to provide you with ideas for using praise more effectively and developing classroom-wide reward systems, as well as adapting classroom and school-wide behavior support systems to those individuals who don’t quite “fit the mold”.  Who knows?  You may end up with a sneeze-lover in your class one of these days!

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Focusing on Priorities in a Day Filled with Chaos

From Tony Schwartz at Harvard Business Review:

"Do the most important thing first in the morning, preferably without interruption, for 60 to 90 minutes, with a clear start and stop time."

I cannot agree more.  Tackling the more challenging tasks of the day, at least for me, requires a fresh mind.  I also find that getting my daily priorities organized the night before (just before leaving work) works well for me.  Not only does it help me stay on-task, but I sleep better knowing that I have a handle on what lies ahead.

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What Average User Cares About the New iPad Specs?

From John Gruber at Daring Fireball:

"What is changed — and what is unchanged — in this newest iteration of the iPad reveals Apple’s priorities. Most important: how things look on screen, how they feel, how smoothly they animate. Not important: a faster CPU. Important: faster graphics processing. (Those last two priorities emphasize the hole that Intel has dug itself. Their expertise — CPUs — is no longer the most important processing bottleneck for personal computing. Graphics are.)"

I'm a tech-geek at heart, but Mr. Gruber is exactly right.  Most non-tech people could care less about the  CPU speed of their tablet, phone, or PC.  However, they do care about the overall experience.  How does it look?  How does it feel?  Does it do what I want it to do, and do it well?

Perhaps a great example of this is the iPhone/iPad approach to screen resolution.  In the world of laptops/desktops (Macs included), higher resolution usually equates to more stuff (though smaller) on your screen.  On the iPhone/iPad, higher resolutions equates to better looking stuff (same size) on your screen.  Which is more important to you?

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A Sneak Peak Into the Next Version of Microsoft Office

From Tom Warren at The Verge:

"Overall there's clearly a number of improvements and new features in Office 15, and Microsoft is only at the beginning of testing some of these externally. Microsoft isn't discussing any of its planned features for Office 15 just yet, but the features we have detailed today are part of its key testing phase for the initial Technical Preview. We expect to see some more improvements in the Touch Mode interface for Office 15 and perhaps some additional features in each client application once a public beta is made available this summer."

This looks like the natural evolution of Microsoft's Ribbon interface that will be touch-optimized.  (Perhaps their iPad version, which hasn't been announced/released, will show some of the same functionality!)  Microsoft moved to the Ribbon interface with Office 2007.  However, Outlook wasn't really updated until 2010.  Given this early preview, it looks like all Office applications will benefit from the enhancements this time.

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The Difference Between 2nd & 3rd Place - It's the Apps!

From Nilay Patel at The Verge

"And while Windows 8 has a long way to go before it can challenge the iPad, it feels almost inevitable that Microsoft will quickly succeed where Android tablets have thus far failed — especially because Microsoft is aggressively courting developers to write apps for its new Metro interface.

Perhaps more importantly, Google doesn't seem to feel any pressure to increase the quality or quantity of Android tablet apps, which have lagged far behind their iPad counterparts. Rubin told reporters this week that he "can't force someone to write a tablet app," but that he's hopeful developers "put in the muscle" to make their Android phone apps work better on larger screens. Until Google articulates a clear strategy to make Android relevant on tablets, that doesn't seem likely to happen."

It is hard to believe that Google isn't being more determined in recruiting quality developers.  Surely they recognize that much of the success of the iPhone, iPad, not to mention Windows, can be carried on the back of quality apps.  Of course, if your entire financial model is based on driving ad revenue, they just may not see the value.

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Will Windows 8 "Win" You Over?

From Tim Stevens at Engadget

"Disjointed is the key word that comes to mind after you spend some time with Windows 8. As a tablet OS, if you can keep in Metro land, things feel good. Very good. The gestures are a bit more complex and less intuitive than we've seen on other tablet operating systems, but more savvy users will appreciate that. That said, Windows is still primarily a desktop operating system, and once you get to that level the cracks in the foundation start to show."

Windows 8 is clearly a very big undertaking by Microsoft.  Not only do they want to show a fresh and innovative followup to the highly successful Windows 7, but they also want (and need) an answer to the iPad.  Can they really pull off a "one solution to rule them all"?  Early reviews suggest it will be an uphill battle.  (Mr. Miyagi's "Walk on the Road" parable comes to mind, relative to Microsoft attempting to serve two masters: Metro-Style Apps AND old-school Desktop Apps.)  It's also hard not to think about Microsoft's track record with "every-other-OS-release" (skip them).  Still, you have to believe there is a solid case to be made for a single OS strategy.

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Did You Know the iPhone Business is Larger Than Microsoft?

From Henry Blodget at Business Insider

But regardless of what happens, Microsoft can only now look up in awe and realize that a product that was introduced 5 years ago and that Steve Ballmer famously dissed is now larger and more profitable than Microsoft's whole company.”

Stunning is an understatement. While this article seems to focus more on the negative implications to Microsoft, the real story is what good can happen when an organization delivers a “complete” revolutionary solution.  (Well designed.  Well built.  Adequate supply.  Easy to use.  Priced right.)  Apple has now pulled this off with music, phones, and a whole new tablet market.  Wonder what’s next?

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