Enhancing Your Diorama Brick Paint Tutorial


Check out this short instructional tutorial that walks you through how to give a little realism and extra detail to your diorama brick work.


You Can Be Anything You Want… REALLY?

MP900309635The United States is the land of dreams. It is the most powerful and successful nation on the planet, and we as Americans know it. We’ve been told throughout our lives that we can be anything we want. You just have to work hard.

Is that really true?

Should we really be telling high school graduates they can do anything they want? It is really true that you can be anything you want in this economy? I ask this for a couple of reasons. I do believe you can still be or do anything you want in terms of a career, but I’m just wondering if you should.

Did he just say we shouldn’t strive to do or be what we want?

Yes, and no. When it comes time for a high school graduate to consider their career path, they are presented a wide variety of options. Most of which are respectable career options. The problem is, society doesn’t need most of those fields to succeed. YIKES!!!

Are you saying society doesn’t need me?

Nope. Society needs everybody to contribute. Society also needs a well balanced blend of different walks of life or careers. So yes, society does need History majors, Art majors, Literature majors, etc. The problem is, those fields are not in high demand. They also, in times of economic uncertainty, are fields that will often be cut first, because they are not crucial to the survival of the human race or society. (Some will protest this observation and I welcome the debate).

The problem I see is that we have been grooming our graduates to pick any field they have an interest in and just go for it, without giving them the true tools needed to analyze the likelihood of success in that field. Am I saying that we want to tell the next Picasso or Tolkien to pick a more lucrative field? No, but let’s be realistic. There are shortages of workers in many good fields that will benefit both the employee and society.

So what are you proposing?

Well, I know this is a larger topic than I can grasp, and my small minded solutions will not address the big picture issues of all unemployed college grads, but here is my solution.

Stop subsidizing college education for fields that there isn’t a demand for and start providing more assistance for those fields that have a true worker shortage due to lack of skilled workers to fill those positions.

Let’s just drop financial aid options or drastically cut them for non-essential fields and pile that money on the fields that are truly needed such as:

  • Education
  • Information Technology
  • Medicine
  • Energy
  • Engineering
  • Sales
  • Manufacturing

This is just a few, and these fields have huge gaps in terms of the number of actual skilled workers available to fill the open positions.

I’m not saying we should eliminate the other fields and I also don’t want to make it harder than it already is to get into these other fields, but we as a society really need to start pushing the future workers of this nation to fields we need. Then, if you still decide that an Art degree from some private college is worth the extra money, that’s all on you and I wish you all the luck.

I want to make sure that I haven’t offended on purpose those of you who have chosen careers in any of the fields I’ve mentioned. If you are currently working in those fields I applaud you and am glad you’ve made it work. I’m talking to those who have gone into the field all to find there are no jobs available and weren’t likely to be any jobs. Wouldn’t it have been nice if someone had told you before you did it? Or did they tell you and you just didn’t listen?

Inflated Expectations or Slope of Enlightenment?

I used to work for a small school district and it saddens and often sickens me to see so many schools spending so much money and so little time planning a district wide implementation of technologies. This includes iPads but isn’t specific to just iPads. I have found that many districts simply choose to implement these tools because someone else did. There are a lot of egos getting in the way of the education of our youth today.

Many administrators truly have little to no knowledge of what social media or personal devices such as the iPad can actually do, let alone how taxing on an already weak infrastructure they can be. They simply want it. Teachers have a hard enough time keeping their students on task let alone disciplined. Now add in a bunch of tools that have no management capability out of the box and you’ve got a nightmare on your hands.

I hope for our children’s sake these schools figure it out soon. A lot of money is being thrown at technology in hopes it will engage the students more so they can learn better. A great teacher can engage more students than a $10 app can and shame on Apple for not focusing more attention on that fact. Instead they are riding the hype cycle playing on the flat out inexperience of many school administrators when it comes to technology in education, and there are far too few IT Professionals willing or able to convince them that these are not well thought out ideas.

”]Many of these early adopter schools are going to quickly fall into the Trough of Disillusionment regarding their revolutionary idea to implement a half-baked tool. These tablet devices are not suited for a business or learning environment until management features such as those noted below can be offered out of the box.

  • Multi-Profile Support
  • Central Permissions/Security Management
  • Central Software/App Deployment/Management
  • Central Update Management
  • Non-Platform specific Apps for mixed environments
  • Lower prices
  • Remote Connection Capabilities
  • Discontinued Need for Sync to other computer

Apple is one of the worst in my opinion because they are making a push to get themselves deep into the education sector with no accountability on their part. What Apple should be doing is donating money to the Department of Education to go towards the continuing education of our teachers. Then they should slash the prices of their equipment/software for schools in half. Until they do this, I have no respect for the company. Schools are not the consumer world. They are spending yours and my tax money and they are wasting it on gaming devices and incomplete un-managable software/devices that is attempting to monopolize education.

It’s time people start questioning their school officials over spending on frivolous ideas. If your district seems to have a big new technology project every year, perhaps you should ask for some results from the previous project.

It’s time school officials were held accountable for poor choices.

Beware of the Contract Killer!

If you or your company are considering implementing SharePoint, here are a few important tips you need to consider, especially if you’re considering using a contractor/consultant.

  • Don’t used a phased deployment approach
  • Plan Plan Plan
  • Do not allow a contractor to drive your decisions
  • Deployment should take less than 1 week of physical work
  • Train DBA’s on SP Administration

SharePoint, especially SharePoint 2010 is a complex product. How it is used or can be used makes it even more complex, so let’s not allow bad contractors or consultants to kill your implementation before it even gets off the ground.

Let’s start with a couple definitions.

Deployment = The installation of SharePoint and all Service Applications so as to be ready for configuration based on business needs.

Implementation = The process in which the Deployed installation of SharePoint is then released to the end users for use.

It is important to understand the difference between the two terms so you can identify what tasks are to be done during which stage of your project.

You Don’t Phase Me!

I’m a strong believer in segmenting a project into smaller more manageable pieces whenever possible. This is, of course, not my recommendation for the deployment phase.

Often, contractors recommend only deploying the features of SharePoint you will use right away. On the outside, this may seem like good advice.

There’s no reason to complicate things by adding extra features you’re not ready to start using.

This is, however, a great way of over complicating a relatively simple deployment. SharePoint 2010 deploys with a simple to use installation wizard, which then allows you to install all the Service Applications via another wizard. You can choose to manually install the Service Applications instead of the wizard, but you should make sure you install them all right away.

If you can, I recommend doing the manual installation of the Service Applications as it gives you more control of Database names etc.

The recommendation to phase anything would be better suited to the Implementation stage of the project.

The Reason?

The instant you have users on the system it makes deploying additional service applications and fixing problems much more complicated. This often results in long hours after regular business hours and countless Change Management entries and Implementation Plans, all for something that could have and should have been installed in the first week during deployment. So don’t let your contractor convince you to not install all the features right away. This is a great way for contractors to make a little extra money.

My Plan is All in My Head

A plan in your head is not a reliable plan. All the parties involved need to know what the plan is and how it’s going to be executed.

Planning is actually the most important part of any project, but all too often is not done enough. If you aren’t willing to take the time to plan the deployment and implementation of SharePoint then you should consider offering the position to someone else. If you cannot see a project from start to finish and get it down on paper, how can anyone trust you can actually do it? You should know how a project is going to look at every stage before you even begin. That’s not to say there won’t be surprises along the way, but you should know how to deal the majority of them before they occur.

No Back Seat Driving Please

If you are the decision maker, make sure your decisions are what is driving your project. Contractors will have a tendency to lead you towards the same cookie cutter solutions they’ve used with other customers. Make sure you aren’t following them blindly, but don’t disregard all of their advice. Make sure their advice fits your business before going with it. After all, you hired them to help you, let them help, but don’t let them take the wheel all to find yourself in the ditch without a shovel.

You Spent How Long on Deployment?!?!

As noted before, your deployment stage should’t take more than a week. Anybody that tells you otherwise either doesn’t know what they are doing, or is trying to gouge your pocket book.

This isn’t taking into consideration the time it takes to acquire the needed hardware, funding, etc. This is simply the installation of the software should take no more than 1 week. Typically you should be able to complete the installation with Service Applications in a couple hours, which includes the documentation of the configuration used.

I Can’t Do Basic Administration, What Gives?

We ran into this issue at our organization. We got our SharePoint 2010 farm deployed and then the DBA’s, bless their hearts, locked the SQL instance down so only they could create new DB’s among other things.

The lesson is, make sure you get your DBA’s to a class on how to administer SQL for SharePoint. There are some changes that will go against their best practices which may make them pretty uncomfortable to make. That is ok and it’s ok that they don’t want to give your Farm Admin SA priveleges, but you need to understand what procedures will need to be in place in order for you to get anything done.

This makes getting all of your deployment done in one quick motion even more important if your DBA’s insist on reducing your SQL permissions after installation. If they do this, you will need to request SA perms every time you want to do something that will modify a DB. You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches if you get your DBA’s on board before you start.

Contractors Aren’t Bad… Well… Most Aren’t

Contractors just have different goals and motivations than you or your business have. They also can’t understand your business needs as well as you do, so you have to manage them appropriately. A poorly managed contractor or consultant can quickly cost a company lots of hard earned dollars. So be careful when you hire a contractor or consultant.

Microsoft Office Resources

Microsoft Office has been the productivity suite of choice for a large majority of businesses and organizations for years. The biggest challenge is training and keeping staff and other users trained on the products.

In this day and age, users are expected to be Self-Learners, thereby reducing the overhead in terms of training costs. This, however, isn’t always a natural personality trait for all users. This article isn’t intended to tackle the ins and outs of why or how to address this. It simply is intended to show users a quick easy resource to access to help become a Self-Learner for Microsoft Office products.

Microsoft has created many different versions of their Help/Support sites over the years to help users learn about their products. This latest version seems to be the most user friendly and intuitive of them all.

I strongly invite all users of Office products to check out the link below to learn more about their Office Products so you can better utilize these resources our employers have provided us and become or continue to be a Self-Learner.


SMART Board Installation

With summer fast approaching your district may be planning to install SMART boards in some classrooms. If your school typically contracts this work out, I would love the opportunity to provide an estimate for installation.

I have installed 70+ SMART Boards and ceiling mounted projectors in the last 5 years. I can assist your district in the planning and purchasing of the needed equipment in addition to the installation.

If your district is interested in an estimate Click Here to fill out an estimate request form, or if you know of any schools in the SE Minnesota region that are planning SMART Board installations e-mail them this article.

Thank you

*NEW* Read & Write Gold Released

We are happy to announce that the Read & Write Gold software has been installed on our server and is ready for students and staff to begin using.

All users should see a new Read Write Gold icon on their desktops now. The first time you open the program it will indicate that there is no user created for you and it will ask if you would like the system to create one for you. Click Yes.

What is Read & Write Gold?

Read&Write GOLD is the award-winning literacy software solution that allows struggling students to access any curriculum and complete reading, writing, and research assignments as well as take tests independently.

What can it do for students?

  • Improves Reading Fluency and Comprehension
  • Facilitates Research, Writing, and Test Taking
  • Encourages Independence and Inclusion
  • Provides Tools Suited for Instructional Support Across all RTI Tiers
  • Supports the Principles of UDL
  • Integrates with Mainstream Windows Applications
  • Includes Powerful Teacher Support Tools

What does it look like?

For more information Click Here

Should IT Communicate Less?

I have been struggling over the last several months with communication issues that end up making the IT Department look bad and administration that doesn’t see why their staff not communicating is something they should address.

Over the last 5 and 1/2 years our IT Department of 3 people have changed, adjusted, tweaked, and accommodated our communication methods and styles to ensure IT addresses all of the requests and issues our end users have.

Each year we increase our communicating and adjust our methods we find that our end users communicate less and are more frustrated.

How does more communication from IT create less and worse communication from end users?

I thought I had a solution when I asked myself that question. Initially I thought that our communicating more was either alienating or annoying our end users. Perhaps we were now giving them too much information and we have made all communication from the IT Department seem unimportant and thus end users disregard our attempts to communicate.

More communication does not reciprocate less communication back.

I discovered that the more our department communicates, does not mean our end users as a whole are communicating back less and in a less effective way.

What will happen when IT communicates more?

There are a few things that happen that can create the illusion of worse communication from end users.

  • Those who communicate effectively and efficiently have less patience for those who do not
  • Those who do not communicate well are identified quicker & are more visible on a day-to-day basis
  • Managers may not have identified bad communicators that IT has

Expounding further on these explains the reason why increased communication by one department can create that illusion of decreased communication by another department.

Those who do communicate effectively and efficiently are going to have little patience for those who do not. Those who now communicate well find it relatively easy to do so, thus have higher expectations for those they communicate with. This is a good thing and should help encourage others to follow suit, but can create the illusion of more bad communication even though there are fewer bad communicators. A good communicator understands good communication and bad or no communication now seems worse simply because of perspective and expectations.

Those who do not communicate well will typically be identified quickly by those who do communicate well and will immediately cause problems. A bad communicator may not know they are a bad communicator, but those who have to communicate with them do and it is very frustrating, if not infuriating depending on the ramifications of their poor communication skills. A bad communicator will often have more interaction with IT simply because they aren’t able to express the issues they are having and are thus more frustrated themselves.

The most frustrating issue is that many of the managers of these poor communicators may not have identified who their poor communicators are. If they have, often they have no idea what to do to fix the problem. Their response is usually to make excuses or minimize the problem. A manager that doesn’t deal well with a bad communicator may have some of their own problems communicating which will amplify all poor communication from that department.

What can be done?

Identifying the problem is only part of the solution. Often, the IT Department has little to no power to change another department, especially if management is blind to the problem or is sweeping the problem under the rug. There are, however, ways to decrease the effects of poor communication and change the culture of bad communication.

  1. Don’t stop communicating
  2. Don’t stop adjusting and perfecting your communication techniques
  3. Don’t ignore poor communicators
  4. Don’t get angry
  5. Be open, honest, and prepared if submitting official complaints

A first response might be to simply stop communicating or reduce the amount of communication your department does. This is a big mistake. Think back to the day you began. The number of bad communicators then is likely to be less than there are now. You did make a considerable difference with the work you have done. Your increased communication hasn’t gone unnoticed. Most end users have seen your increased communications and appreciate it. You don’t hear about it because you are doing a good job and technology has likely become less of a problem for the majority.

In addition to continuing your communicating, make sure you continue adjusting and attempting to perfect your communication techniques. If you are always adapting and changing to make communication easier and more effective people will notice.

If you have identified a bad communicator don’t do what others do and ignore them. Don’t just brush off a bad communication incident, it will come back to bite you. Bad communicators typically will have multiple incidents one right after the other. This means the 3rd incident, though technically less important, will be the straw that breaks the camels back. Never let bad communication slide. Address it with your supervisor if you have one. If the incident requires, address their supervisor. Sometimes it is ok to confront the poor communicator but typically it is not your place as you are not their supervisor and have no authority to reprimand.

The hardest part when trying to create better communicators is to not get angry. Allowing yourself to truly become mad or angry at the bad communicator puts you at a severe disadvantage. A poor communicator doesn’t always think things through which is sometimes why they don’t communicate well. They may not know how to express the issue they are having, so they choose to ignore it or complain to others about it. Taking it personally is not useful. The bad communicator isn’t usually trying to make you mad, they just don’t understand what they have or haven’t done that has caused the issue. Getting mad yourself simply wastes your energy and gets in the way of solving the problem.

The final and most important part about dealing with bad communicators is to be prepared, honest and open to other ideas when you do bring a complaint to your manager or their manager. Being prepared means you need to document how much communicating you have done and then show how you have not gotten any responses or bad responses from the bad communicator. If this person is habitually a bad communicator it is best to show the trend and how it has caused problems such as wasted time, wasted money, safety or security lapses etc. Going in with no proof makes you look bad and thus less credible.

There is no single way to fix poor communication in a department or district, but you as an IT Department can effect change even without the authority to write policy or punish staff. In the end, your measure for success is to show that the IT Department is not the problem but part of the solution. Showing that your department has constantly made attempts to improve can put the ball back in the poor communicators court where it is now their turn to show what they’ve done to make a difference.

Bad communication is the single most common issue in any workplace and is typically the largest issue that most employers have. Always remember that you’re not alone in your frustration and as long as you are working to improve, nobody can point their finger at you as the cause.

*New* Desktop Shortcuts

I have had many people ask for different shortcuts to be added to the student desktop. We have found now that adding more to the desktop will inevitable cause more confusion by cluttering the desktop. After much thought and quite a bit of research I found a product I think may make things a little bit simpler.

The product is called Diigo. Diigo is a cloud based or online bookmark sharing site similar to Delicious and other online bookmark sites. The primary benefit to Diigo was that users didn’t have to be logged in to see the shortcuts we created.

I would encourage all who bring their students into the labs to check out the short instruction video below to see how it works.

You can access the PEM Student Links page by clicking this link: http://www.diigo.com/user/pemhelpdesk or click the new PEM Student Links icon on the student desktop in one of the labs.

End of QTR JMC Tips & Reminders

We hope these helpful JMC end of Quarter tips, tricks, and instructions help you as you do your end of quarter grade processing and submissions. If you have questions or comments feel free to leave them below or e-mail us.

*Click here to download a printable copy of these instructions*
Be on the Right Term

Check to make sure you are on the right TERM before entering any grades or information


  1. Click TERMS
  2. Select correct Quarter

Office to Teacher

Your first step should be to perform an OFFICE to TEACHER

*If you don’t do so, any comments you entered will be erased*
  1. Click File
  2. Click Office to Teacher

Scores/Assignment Scores

Enter your scores and grades

  1. Click Edit
  2. Click Course Grades


You must calculate your grades from scores before proceeding!

  1. Ensure you are in the Course Grades
  2. Click Options
  3. Click Calculate Q# Grades from Scores
  4. Click Yes to the “Will Modify” message.
  6. Repeat for each course (Use the Drop Down Arrow to switch to the next class)

Don’t Print

There is no need to print anything anymore.

Click Done

When you have completed all of your grade/score entry you can click the Done button

Teacher to Office

When you are ready to submit your grades to the office you will need to perform a Teacher to Office in JMC.

  1. Click File
  2. Click Teacher to Office

End of Semester

The only difference from Quarter to Semester is you must calculate each quarter and do the weights

  1. Click Edit
  2. Click Course Grades
  3. Select the correct course
  4. Click Options
  5. Calculate both Qtr 1 and 2 or Qtr 3 and 4 depending on the Semester you are in
  6. Click the Weight Button
  7. Enter your grading weights (typically 50%-50%)
  8. Proceed with normal processing as usual