How to Make Action Figure Flight Stands for FREE


Need some action figure flight stands but don’t want to spend much if any money. In this quick tutorial video I show you how I make some really simple, cheap flight stands you can use with any of your action figures, from Marvel Legends, SH Figuarts, Bandai, Mafex, and on and on.

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Microsoft Ignite Activity Overload


I am so excited. On Sunday I get to hop on a plane headed for Chicago for the Microsoft Ignite conference May 4th-8th. Of all the nerd inspired things one could do, going to a Microsoft technology conference has got to be at the top of the list.

I’m learning pretty quickly, though that nerds apparently know how to party, or at least to appear to know how to party. I’ve not been to a conference of this size, so having to pick and choose my after-hours entertainment from the slew of options available to me is a bit daunting, but a nice problem to have.

I, and my employer are hoping I’ll come away from this 5 day experience with some valuable knowledge, skills, and contacts regarding SharePoint, Office 365, OneDrive for Business, Skype for Business, Windows PowerShell and so many other technologies.

I’m not sure if I have any readers that are also going to Ignite, but if you are, what sessions are you looking forward too and what after-hours stuff are you hoping to do? I’m really hoping I’ll bump elbows with someone important who has extra tickets to one of the Wild vs. Blackhawks playoff games as I’d love to see my team when I’m in Chicago.

For those of you not a member of the nerd world of enterprise technologies, what are your recommendations for things to do in the great Windy City of Chicago USA next week? Any great restaurants you can recommend? We’re going to be downtown in the Michigan ave area so I’m looking for great ideas there?

If any of you are going, I’d say we should meet up and have a drink, but let’s be honest, are we really going to do that? Do you really want to meet me? Of all the people out there, I’ll be honest, it’s not going to be that awesome meeting me… ha ha or is it? If you’re willing to go to a midnight viewing of the new Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) movie with me, then I’ll meet up with pretty much anybody, or you have tickets to the Hawks game, just don’t plan on murdering me please, that would be a pretty big downer.

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.

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.

http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/#

The Netflix No-No


Many of you have subscribed to Netflix which has allowed you to take advantage of the thousands of movies and tv shows they provide via DVD or the Watch Instantly feature online. I also have a Netflix account and love the service.

Recently I have gotten several requests to get the Netflix Watch Instantly feature to work at school. Unfortunately, I have to tell those who request this that we cannot do this.

Why Not?

According to the Netflix user agreement on their website, presenting any Netflix service to a classroom of students is against the usage agreement. Below is an excerpt from the user agreement.

 Unless otherwise specified, the Netflix service, and any content viewed through our service, are for your personal and non-commercial use only and we grant you a limited, non exclusive, non transferable, license to access the Netflix service for that purpose. Except for the foregoing limited license, no right, title or interest shall be transferred to you. You may not download (other than through page caching necessary for personal use, or as otherwise expressly permitted by these Terms of Use), modify, copy, distribute, transmit, display, perform, reproduce, duplicate, publish, license, create derivative works from, or offer for sale any information contained on, or obtained from or through, the Netflix website

There’s a lot in there but translation shows that it would be a breach of your user agreement if you use your Netflix account at school.

I even called Netflix to double-check that I was interpreting this correct. Unfortunately I have interpreted the agreement accurately. The Netflix employee was very friendly and understood that it would be a great opportunity for our students to have access to their library of videos, but unfortunately their agreement is for personal use only and presentation of Netflix movies in a classroom environment constitutes a public presentation of copyrighted materials.

This means that Netflix is not for school use.

Please take this into consideration if you have a Netflix account and make sure you are in compliance of your user agreement and not putting the district at risk of being in copyright violation.

 

*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

Instructions

  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

Calculate

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.
  5. *CLICK SAVE AFTER EVERY CLASS/COURSE*
  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

No More Technology Plans!!


We recently received word from the Network Coordinator, Mary Mehsikomer, indicating that schools applying for Priority 1 services for E-Rate will no longer be required to submit a Technology Plan. See below list of changes.

 

  1.  Technology plans will no longer be required for school districts and libraries who are applying only for Priority 1 services (telecommunications and Internet access).
  2.  Technology plans will still be required for any school or library that is applying for Priority 2 (Internal connections – wiring and eligible equipment) requests.
  3. With this change in the technology planning requirement, it is even more important that you pick the correct services “bucket” (Telecommunications, Internet Access, Internal Connections, or Basic Maintenance on Internal Connections) when filing for E-rate.
  4.  These changes take effect beginning with the Funding Year 2011 (July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012).
  5.  Technology plan approval for schools and libraries filing for Priority 2 (Internal Connections) from a Certified Technology Plan Approver, will still be required.
  6. All CIPA requirements still apply.
  7.  Technology Plan requirements have been altered to remove the requirement to have a section on the budget.

 I am truly not a fan of this change. I think having a technology plan was one of the only ways the state was able to enforce the importance of technology in school district. Of course there were issues with the way it was done in the past. Plans weren’t followed. Budgets weren’t funded etc, but it was better than not having a plan at all.

I would highly recommend all districts continue creating technology plans, even if you don’t apply for Priority 2 requests. Technology is an important part of our education system, but it is not the most important part. Districts need to account for the money they spend, and a Technology Plan helps in that accounting process. The plan is not intended to be a static document and can change as the years go by, but hopefully the original direction is still in place, or you’ve at least documented why your direction is now changing.

Technology departments should not be flying by the seat of their pants. If you are, take a few minutes to think about where your district is heading and where it wants to go and how technology can assist in some of those goals. That should write your plan for you. If you don’t know or your district doesn’t know, you best be concerned.



Great Leadership = Great Education


We all know that it is important to have great leadership in business. This is no different in education. Over the last 5-6 years I have worked in education I have seen several leaders throughout my district and other districts in our region. I have found that one thing is same in any district.

The better the leader, the more successful the district. The strongest schools in our region have some of the most competent leaders in the correct positions at their districts. The weakest districts seem to have less strong leaders and more people in the wrong jobs.

Districts need to start looking closer at the people they place in leadership positions. This doesn’t just include the Superintendent and Principal position, however.

Let’s back up though. Great leadership in mid-level to low-level positions is great, but how effective can that leader be if the highest level of leadership is just good? What if those leaders aren’t even good?

It’s true, if you don’t have the authority to make great decisions it’s going to be that much harder to promote change or to implement great programs. This shouldn’t be a deterrent to you, however. Sometimes decision makers become great because of mid to lower level leaders who won’t stand by and watch as poor decisions are made. If you know something needs to be done to improve your district you need to work to get it done. Even if it means pressuring your high level leaders to make the right decisions. It’s a risk that can pay off greatly for the district and yourself if you succeed. It is also a good way of getting yourself in trouble if you’re wrong. Confidence in your abilities and knowledge will go a long way, but make sure it’s confidence and not arrogance. Never let a bad leader stand in your way of creating success at your district.

A great book everyone should read is “Good to Great” by Jim Collins (Click Here for more info). 

 In his book Jim explains that businesses need to make sure they have the right people on the bus, and once they are on, they are sitting in the right seat. This book was recommended to me by a great leader at my district and it has helped me to work toward this goal. Even though the book is geared toward businesses the majority of the concepts easily translate into education. I should say, the business of education, which is where most of the mistakes occur in education.

This is the key reason why many districts struggle to succeed. They may have the right people, but many times these people aren’t qualified or don’t have the ambition to be great leaders. Often districts will even settle for just good leaders. Why settle for a good leader when you can have a great one? All too often districts end up settling for a current staff member to move into a leadership role simply because of licensure and seniority. This is a great mistake. Too often these people don’t have true leadership skills. It doesn’t mean they cannot become great, but they have a much longer road to travel to get there than someone who already has the experience. The problem becomes greater when a district fills all the high-end positions with these people. Now who is there to mentor these new leaders? There is nobody. They must fend for themselves, and all too often they will fail, not because they couldn’t do it, but because they just weren’t in the right seat sitting next to the right person on the bus.

Anybody can become a great leader if willing to put in the work. Acknowledge your weaknesses and conquer them. Be ready to allow someone else to take the credit for your ideas if you have to. A great leader also builds up others to become great as well. Don’t forget, there is probably someone out there building you up as we speak. Return that favor to someone else. Great leaders can’t be selfish.

There are many great leaders out there, some in the right seat and some who are not. Beware of the leader who claims greatness, as they don’t likely know their own worth. I certainly am not a great leader. I strive to be one and will continue fighting for my district to become great. Until that happens I will simply continue challenging mediocrity and working for excellence in everything I do at my district and I encourage all of you leaders to do the same.