Friendly Disruption Episode 10 Is Now Live

A new episode of Friendly Disruption is now live.  Patrick, Maggie, and I visit with Prairie’s own Megan Sova-Tower about how to use tools like Padlet to engage reluctant learners.  We also discuss the new draft of the Iowa Digital Learning Plan.  If you enjoy podcasts, I encourage you to give us a listen.

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Google’s Classroom Hub

Google has setup a great resource for using Google Classroom — the Classroom Hub.  There are tons of great videos and other resources (PDFs) located here for all levels of users– beginners to advanced users.  So, whether you are just starting out with Classroom or you are a pro, give this site a look.

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Read and Write for Google Troubleshooting

I was delighted to hear that a lot of the learning that happened on last Monday’s PL day involved the use of Read and Write for Google.  I’m thrilled that this tool is getting used in this setting.  My hope is that everyone who uses it will see it’s incredible power and use it with their students.

However, I also heard that some people had some trouble with Read and Write on Monday.  While Read and Write works really well most of the time, there are some fast, simple thing everyone can do to troubleshoot to fix problems.  One quick and easy troubleshooting tip that will often clear up problems is to clear Chrome’s browsing cache — I know this sounds kind of technical, but it’s very simple to do and anyone can do it.  The  40-second video above demonstrates the process.

If this does not work, try other simple steps like fully quitting Chrome and restarting it.  And, of course, restarting the computer itself is always something to try as well.  Remember, too, that we have the full, paid version of Read and Write.  This means it will only work when teachers are logged into the Chrome browser with their account.  Being logged into multiple Chrome profiles can also cause problems.  So, it’s recommended that all teachers should only be logged in to Chrome with your account when using Read and Write.

Our teacher setup is more complex than our student configurations.  We try to keep things as simple as possible for kids — only allowing Chrome on our 10-12 MacBooks, and restricting our all of our student Chromebooks to only work with accounts.  So, many of the issues that teachers might experience are not issues with student devices and accounts.  As always, I strongly encourage everyone to use Read and Write with your students.  Don’t hesitate to let me or any member of the technology team know if you have trouble.

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CCSD Featured in IPTV Documentary

Earlier this fall, Iowa Public Television contacted Prairie to ask if we would like to be featured in a documentary on digital learning along with three other Iowa schools.  IPTV just released the final version this week.  There’s great content in this 30-minute video and lots of familiar faces and voices. This really does a great job of highlighting the great work going on here at Prairie.  I strongly encourage everyone to watch it!

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Flash No Longer Supported

Adobe Flash is a program that was used by many web developers to create animations, games, and images in websites.   It’s an old program and has many problems related to security and efficiency.  In fact, before he died, Steve Jobs went to war with Adobe in order to kill Flash.  He finally, posthumously, succeeded.  Earlier this year, Adobe announced that it would no longer support or make Flash in 2020.

This may seem like pretty arcane information and a long time in the future.  While that’s true, there are tangible, immediate impacts for people at Prairie.  The issue is that a lot of older websites still use Flash because they don’t want to pay a developer update their pages.  These are typically educational game and video sites.  Already, all of the major web browsers — Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and MS Edge — now block all Flash content by default.

The technology department gets frequent calls about certain websites not working due to Flash.  While we can (and do) show people how to manually enable the Flash Player plugin, the day is coming soon when this will simply no longer work.  I would not be surprised if all of the major browsers remove Flash support altogether in the next few months — which means sites that don’t remove and update their Flash content will no longer be accessible.

If you have websites that you use that employ Flash, about all you can do is attempt to contact the site’s owner and ask them to update their site by removing the Flash content. The other alternative is to find a new resource.   I know these options are not very satisfying.  As always, don’t hesitate to let me or any member of the technology team know if you have questions.

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Cyber Monday Technology deals!

It has come to our attention that today is the day when leading organizations in the technology industry offer exclusive deals to savvy shoppers, perceptive purchasers, and cunning clientele.

All alliteration aside (ah! I did it again!), the technology team will not be outdone! A day known to all and sundry as “Cyber Monday” definitely resides within our chosen field of expertise… probably. Pay no attention to the fact that we aren’t a for-profit business, or salespeople, and lack a background in marketing. We’ve seen commercials, we’ve purchased things, that practically makes us sales experts, right?

Enclosed you will find directions and details on devastating deals!

Sam Ketchum can be found in the High school, starting today. He will be offering tech support to users at that location. Act quickly, and for every tech issue he assists you with, he will create two more absolutely free of charge! Wait, no, we don’t want that… instead, he will give out free tech tips and keyboard shortcuts!

But wait! There’s more!

Chris Ketchum has just set up at Prairie Creek. For a limited time, visitors will get free smiles just for stopping by! (One smile per person per visit. Not available outside the continental United States. While supplies last. No refunds, returns or exchanges. Market cash valuation of smile is .0000001 USD)

I know what you’re thinking… two Ketchums for the price of one?? You must be crazy! Well, you’re absolutely right, but we aren’t stopping there:

Charlie Braun has established an electronics emporium at Prairie Point. All repairs completed by him will be autographed free of charge, incalculably increasing its value! Broken screen? the new one will be signed, front and center— oh yeah, that would impede vision of the screen wouldn’t it. Instead, visitors will be given a personalized tour of the tech office at Point. For your own safety, keep all arms and legs inside the office while touring.

Angela Sleeper is located in the District Tech Office. The first one hundred callers will receive the honor of knowing they got to talk to Angela before the second hundred callers could! Act quickly or you might miss out!

…Alright, so perhaps offering cyber Monday deals isn’t our strength. Assisting you with your tech needs, however, is! So if you find your computer not computing right, your projector not projecting, your emails not sending and/or possessed by the ghosts of Christmas… whatever the case may be, stop in to see your nearest computer tech or email us collectively at

We’ll make your computers project, your projectors print, and your printers compute in short order! (Not really. If you witness any of the aforementioned, bring it to our attention immediately because something is probably going horribly wrong)

Thanks, and have a great day!

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Color Enhancer

On last week’s episode of Friendly Disruption, we talked about the impact of color blindness on learners. I realize that not everyone enjoys podcasts, so I thought this bit of information deserved its own blog post.   I had no idea that around 10% of our students may struggle seeing color.  Color Enhancer is a free Chrome extension that makes it easier for people with color blindness to differentiate between colors on web pages.

Please view the brief screencast I put together that shows how to use Color Enhancer.  We’ve pushed this extension out to all students and staff members.  As always, let me know if you have questions or additional ideas.

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Phishing Formative Assessment

Security is a big deal in the IT world.  While my team is doing everything we can to ensure that our hardware and software is secure, the most difficult piece of any IT enterprise to secure are the human beings.  This is true in every line of work, all over the world.  Many of the really significant IT security breaches that have happened recently are related to people being tricked into revealing sensitive information.  Usually, this happens in the form of a phishing exploit — an email that misleads people into giving out confidential information like passwords.  There are two big ideas to avoid this type of problem:

  1.  Never give your password out to any web forms that come to you via email — ie.. click a link and give your password.  No one from CCSD technology will ever ask you to give your password in a web form. If you get such an email, simply delete it.
  2. Never open an attached file in an email unless you expect it — even (especially) if it’s from someone you know.  It’s very easy to forge or spoof the “from” name in an email.  So, unless you know for sure the attached file is legitimate, don’t open it.  If you suspect the email and attachment is illegitimate, simply delete it.

In order to help all of us become more aware and hopefully less prone to this type of breach, my team will be sending out a formative assessment of sorts sometime later this school year.  We will be sending out our own version of a phishing email.  We are not doing this to embarrass or shame anyone.  Results will be kept private.  This is assessment will only be used to help us get better.  To do that we will need to know how many Prairie employees are vulnerable to a phishing type of attack.  We can then target our instruction to help us to get better and to be more secure with the sensitive data with which we are entrusted.  So, depending on the results of the assessment, we make determinations about how broadly or targeted any follow-up instruction might need to be.  As always, be on the lookout for any “phishy” emails.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to any member of the CCSD technology team with any questions you may have.

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New Friendly Disruption Episode

We’ve added a new member to the Friendly Disruption team — Patrick Donovan!  In this episode, we share tools to assist with color blind learners (Color Enhancer and Chrome Daltonize), hear from CCSD teacher Ernie Cox on how he uses Read&Write with his 10th-grade literacy students, and Patrick talks about his ISTE Ignite Session.  Color Enhancer has been pushed to all Chrome users.  Another minor change, I’ve included the full version of “Against History” (our opening music) by Dan Wilson to the end of the show.  This song is used with permission from the artist and is not only a great song but also a great thematic fit.

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Read Aloud Practice Made Easy with Read and Write

The Practice Reading Aloud tool in Read and Write is really awesome! This tool makes it easy for kids to share read-aloud practice recordings with teachers and parents.   It integrates with Google Classroom, too.  Please watch the really short (less than 2 minute) video above for all of the details.

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