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