Saturday, August 12, 2006

Data Projectors and Wireless Mice

The pace keeps getting quicker as I figure out more of my job. One interesting thread this week has been data projection. Over the summer, data projectors were installed in the classrooms. The classrooms already had Touch Media boxes. Those allowed teachers to order video on demand from a central location and display it in as many classrooms as needed. For example, all the grade four classes could watch an oceans video at 10:00 from their homerooms. The new data projectors are tied in with that, so teachers are able to display their television or their computer through the data projector. It is a slick set up and I can see it getting lots of use.

Of course, being good teachers, they immediately began pushing at the edges of the situation. Before the first day was over, I had requests for wireless mice and keyboards. That seems like a logical request, since their computers are in a fixed location and in most classrooms that location is not near their projection screens. All teachers know how effective it usually is to be standing behind the class while trying to interact with students-- many of them want to watch you rather than the screen.

I brought up the request at a department meeting and was told that a different division had done a pilot project with Bluetooth mice, but the signal bleed through into the next classroom. I can imagine all sorts of merry mishaps when one teacher is inadvertently controlling the computer in their colleague' room.

Since Bluetooth was out, we decided to test a few radio frequency mice. In a highly scientific study that involved me roaming around the room and down the halls with a wireless mouse and my teammate sitting at his desk watching to see in which situations the cursor moved, we determined that the wireless mouse worked all over the classroom and into the hallways but not into the next room.

My next step is to find a good price for a bulk purchase on wireless mice. The price here seems significantly higher than it would be in the US. I need to see if that is indeed the case or if I'm not yet getting the "best price", as we ask for here when bargaining.

(Anyone know a good place in Singapore to buy a lot of wireless mice? I'll get quotes from Parasilk and Challenger. Anywhere else I should be checking?)

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Died and Gone to Resource Land

It's been a really fast three weeks.

The school has taken great care of us. We've been wined and dined and toured around town. They set us up with Lilian Lim, realtor extraordinaire who, despite the competitive real estate market here in Singapore, found great condos to show us. We decided on one that's just a fifteen minute walk to work. It's across the street from HDB flats so we have a grocery store, ATM, and hawker stalls nearby. The MRT station is just fifteen minutes away as well. And it's only a ten minute taxi ride from the quarantine station where my poor cats are waiting for August 20 when I can spring them from kitty jail.

We spent last week taking part in new teacher orientation. In my division, that meant lots of classroom time for teachers. I still need to get my brain around the teaching side of my job. I find it more than a bit unsettling that all the returning staff that I've met have made comments to the effect of, "Oh! You are the new tech coordinator? You're going to be really busy." -- All right; I'm not too unsettled. I knew I was stepping into a big job and I'm following someone who did it extremely well. I hope I can uphold his high standards.

One of the delights of this job is all the resources. In my previous tech position, I only dreamed of being able to offer my staff resources such as BrainPop and United Streaming. This school has all that and much more. They even use Conversar to stream videos directly into the classroom. Teachers are able to preview the videos and bookmark them so that they can jump directly to the desired sections. They all received data projectors and six teachers are piloting Smartboards. I love seeing technology used to support teachers so well.

I have a ton to learn but my department has been wonderfully supportive, and good fun. We feel a bit amazed that we've landed in such a good school. Now, to get some sleep so I'll be awake for a day full of meetings...

Let Your Voice Be Heard: Revise DOPA

Brian over at Bump on a Blog is making it REALLY easy to contact your representative regarding DOPA.  He has a nifty little thing in his side bar. You select your city and state and it pops open your default email program and addresses a well-crafted letter to your senator.

And then he goes one step further and gives you the code to paste into your own blog template so that you can offer the same service.  I've pasted it in my sidebar for your convenience, but I'll have you go to his blog to get the code.

I may be half way around the world, but I'm still heartsick that DOPA has gotten this far. Please take the time to contact your representative.

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