Where have I been?

Another year has passed (and then some) without an update on this blog. I have been continuing my learning and reading but have neglected to post on the blog. Here is what I have been up to since the last post.

  • Added Backblaze to my backup plan which has my data stored four different locations
  • Changed positions and roles within my job.
  • Explored Amazon Connect and setup my LLC phone number through the platform and forwarded to Google Voice for voicemail
  • Learned Regex (Regular Expressions)
  • Learned Agile and Scrum Project Management methodology
  • Wrote documentation for my job
  • Built the Saturn V Rocket kit from LEGO
  • Read for Fun:
  • The Widow Spy
  • Simple Rules
  • Business for Punks
  • Saint Mick
  • The Russian Five
  • Behind the Bench
  • If These Walls Could Talk
  • It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work
  • Five Presidents

Backup Plan – Updated

In a previous post from 2015 I discussed my backup plan and in Dec. 2016 I updated the backup plan after reviewing my existing plan.  I incorporated two off site backup options in my plan as a means for recovery.

On-Site Backup:

The On-Site backup plan still is using the Time Capsule device that I was using in 2015.  The future of this component in the backup plan is currently under review.

Off-Site Backup:

I am using the Arq Backup Software to backup my local computer and the Time Capsule device every two hours to a new piece of the backup equation.  The new piece of the equation is a Synology Box that is kept off site 90 miles away via SFTP server.  The Synology Box has 4 – 2 TB NAS drives in the box and setup in a raid through the Synology operating system.  This allows me to have a single drive failure but not loose any data in the raid.  The amount of storage though allows me to grow my data without fear of running out.  I am currently using 1.15 TB of the total space and have ample room for growth.

If the need to restore would come about for any reason I can quickly restore from the device with no wait or additional cost that you would encounter when restoring from Amazon.

It is always good to have two backup copies of the data so in case one version would become corrupted or in the case of recent news locked by a virus.  That is where the Amazon Backup option comes into the mix of the backup plan.  The same files which are backed up every 2 hours to the Synology Box are backed up every 12 hours to Amazon.  In addition to the every 12 hours backup, I have limited Amazon to a budget of $15.00/month.

In each instance of the backup task, the data is encrypted through ARQ with each backup using a different encryption key so that both backup sets could not be compromised due to an issue such as a virus.

I am looking at the possibility of replacing the time capsule device with another Synology Box that is kept at my apartment.  It provides me with increased capabilities than what I have with the time capsule device.  Additionally, it allows me to expand my storage needs as needed based on my data.



The Winged Wheel

The end of an era arrived in Detroit, Michigan and at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday April 9th 2017.  The home of the Detroit Red Wings had one final buzzer sound signaling the end of a 38 year residence and 25 straight playoff appearances.  The celebration was capped off with a final ceremony.
The names of those who have worn the Winged wheel over the years were called one last time by the public address announcer.  The only thing missing was hearing Budd Lynch call the names and hearing his voice echo through the arena just one last time.
Growing up as a Wings fan I can remember my first visit to Joe Louis Arena.  I was either in first or second grade (’93-94) and we lived in Lima, Ohio.  This was years before the city of Columbus would have the Blue Jackets.  I fell asleep at the game only to be woken by the Wings scoring a goal and that goal horn going off.  I jumped out of seat and was wide awake this time.  My dad I believe had to carry me to the car at the end of the game as it was past my bed time and we still had the drive home.  Except we parked over near what is now the Greektown Casino and it had snowed.
Over the years that followed that first trip, I began playing the game of roller hockey first in the summer and then in the winter.  This led to officiating and eventually playing ice hockey.  My passion for the game and the Winged wheel continued to grow.  The piece though that cemented it was a game on March 26th 1997 at Joe Louis Arena against the Colorado Avalanche.  Those in the hockey world know that date as it was the day that Darren McCarty of the Detroit Red Wings cemented his place in Red Wings history as he exacted revenge on Claude Lemieux for a hit the previous year on Kris Draper that left Draper with a busted jaw and more.
Just days after winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in 42 years, tragedy struck the Wings as there was an automobile accident that involved Vladimir Konstantiov, Viacheslav Fetsov and team masseur Sergei Mnatsakamov.  Konstantiov would never play the game of hockey again and Mnatsakamov would never be the a masseur again.  I recall hearing about the crash for the first time at Buffalo Wild Wings in Lima, Ohio.  The following year the Wings went on and won the Stanley Cup, the first person to receive the cup handed to them by the captain Steve Yzerman was Vladimir Konstantiov. Every time I see Konstantiov wearing the Winged jersey there is a lump that forms in my throat.  As the Wings held the farewell ceremony, Konstantiov was part of it and he was wheeled out on to the ice with chants of “Vladdy Vladdy Vladdy” with a hockey stick in hand (good form as well) not only did a lump form in my throat but a tear in my eye.  McCarty taught me how to stand up for my friends and family but Konstantiov taught me to never give up and always move forward.  The road hasn’t been easy for either of these players as the hand they were dealt played out before them but I want to think that it is the family that is generated through hockey that helped carry them along the way.
McCarty and Konstantiov both symbolize traits that helped contribute to the person I am today.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention though Steve Yzerman as a driving force in these traits.  Yzerman played his entire career with the Wings, changed his role through his career and more, but no role was bigger then serving as the team captain for 19 years.  During that time he had injuries and I will never forget him playing on one knee in the playoffs or a quote in one of the papers that basically said something to the effect that the best thing for his knee or any ones knee at this point was to not be playing but there he was night after night.  Yzerman instilled dedication, discipline and loyalty.  Yzerman who is now the General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning gave a speech at the farewell ceremony in true Yzerman fashion thanked everyone from the arena workers and fans up to the ownership.  As his speech concluded a chant of “Come Home Stevie” echoed through the arena as the fans long for him to return to the organization and lead us not on the ice as he did previously but lead us from a front office role.  I echo the statement of the fans in attendance that being of “Come Home Stevie” and say it is time for the captain to return.
The names of the Wings of my era were called out one last time.  Each of the names Osgood, McCarty, Chelios, Draper, Maltby, Holmstrom, Lidstrom, Probert, Kocur, Larionov, Kozlov, Fetisov, Konstantiov, Vernon, Shanahan, Murphy and of course Steve Yzerman brought back many memories and will forever live on not only in the storied history of Joe Louis Arena but the history of Detroit Red Wings.
At the age of 30, I said my final farewell to Joe Louis Arena on December 27th 2016.  My dad and I piled into my 2012 Chevy Cruze and headed North on Interstate 75.  We passed the nursing home where my Great Grandpa and Grandma used to reside prior to their deaths and the many other places that marked a piece of our lives just as our final destination that night marked a place in our story.  We stopped at Hockeytown Authentics in Troy, MI and as we opened the door to the store we were greeted by the voice of legendary public address announcer Budd Lynch who said “Welcome to Hockeytown, I’m Budd Lynch.”  We parked once more at the same parking lot as our first game (this time though dad refused to carry me, mentioning something about you are 30 years old and about 180 pounds more than the first time), we took the “people mover” this time around Detroit, we stopped at Cheli’s Chili for a dog and beer.  We waited in the cold for the doors to open to Joe Louis Arena and filed in.  Once there we paid tribute to the “troughs” in the restroom now steel and no longer porcelain.  We took in the smell of Joe Louis Arena, the banners high atop the rafters, the sounds of the game and one last look at the Joe, the arena that started a life long affair with the game of hockey.  As we walked out for one final time from Joe Louis Arena, I gave the door a final pat as a sign of respect and I whispered Thank You, Joe.

Hello 2016…it has been a while

It has been a while since my last post.  It has been 105 days since my last post but who is counting?  It has been a crazy 105 days.
I started a new job in July 2015 and now work from home.  Going from working in an office or school setting to working from home has been an experience.
I’m working on different ideas, reading more and working to learn new skills.  I want to refocus my energy in learning a programming languange.  I am trying out mediation along with getting healthy.  I try to record a daily thought.
In short I don’t know the direction this blog will take but that is part of the fun.

Backup and Recovery Plan – 2015

A good practice is to always review your backup plan and make changes as necessary.  There were a few unfortunate events in the last few months at my workplace that put our backup plan into action.  This caused me to reevaluate my plan for the home.  My plan also focuses around device security as I have a mobile work platform.
Device Security:
My Macbook Air has the disk encrypted using File Vault which is part of Mac OS X.  You can learn more about File Vault here.
I have also installed Prey on my Macbook Air.  Prey is a piece of software (free for up to 3 devices) that allows you to track your devices and set them to modes that would help in the recovery of a lost/stolen device.  You can read more about Prey here.
Additionally I make sure to use a strong password on the machine and for any services that will support it use two factor authentication in order to access the service.
Backup Plan:
My onsite backup plan consists of an Apple Time Capsule and Time Machine from the Mac.  This creates hourly backups to the Time Capsule.  This will allow me to quickly restore a file should I need to perform a restore.  A good backup plan doesn’t keep the data in a single place thus creating a single point of failure.  That is where Amazon S3 factors into the equation.
Just even a few years ago, the idea of a home consumer being able to afford or perform a backup to a service in the cloud was new.  Popular services such as Carbonite, Back Blaze and others accomplished this for the home consumer in a simplified manner.  I have used both of these programs in the past but they didn’t necessarily play well if at all with my Time Capsule.  It left me in the situation of having this data backed up into a single location.  I then started exploring Amazon Web Services and the S3/Glacier combination.
I did some research and came across a program called Arq from Haystack Software.  Arq allows you to backup to multiple cloud storages and even a SFTP server (this factors into another part of the backup plan).  I created an account on Amazon Web Services, purchased Arq ($39.99 or $59.98 with lifetime upgrades) and started the upload process.  Amazon S3 operates on three levels of service including Standard, Reduced Redundancy and Glacier.  You can learn more about the different options here.  The backups I have created with Arq are stored at the Glacier level.  Glacier storage costs .0100/GB/Month for the data stored and has a restore time of 3-5 hours then the time to download.  I have roughly 300 GB of data that I am backing up currently which would cost me $3.00/month to store.  A cool feature of Arq and S3 is that it does versioning of your data so if I need the truly original file I could restore that file versus only having the most recent version.  It also only uploads any new files or updated files to Amazon so it is not performing a full backup every time it runs.
I went with the Glacier option because I have access to my Time Capsule if I need a file quickly.  I also figure that if I am restoring from Glacier then there was a bigger problem.  An example of a bigger problem could be my device was stolen, a hard drive failure etc.  I am paranoid so having the files just stored in Amazon didn’t set well with me so I said what else can I do to make sure I have access to my data?  I have a computer that I built a few years ago that is currently not being used.  My plan for this device includes setting it up as a SFTP server and having Arq backup to this server.  After the initial backup has been completed, this device will be transported to my parent’s house and setup there.  It will receive a copy of any changes each night.  This is incase there is an issue with accessing the data from Amazon or the unthinkable happens and Amazon closes up shops.
There is one other issue at hand and that was how do I quickly get backup and running should I have a hard drive failure in my machine or I need a new machine?  I did some more research and came across two products which allow you to create a bootable image of your machine at that point in time.  One product is called SuperDuper! and the other is Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC).  They appear to do the same thing the only thing I am seeing that is different between the two programs is that CCC is able to copy the 650 MB recovery partition that is part of OS X and allows you to download from the Internet if you have to restore the operating system.  I am going to test both of these out and figure out which one I will include in my backup plan.

Using the Tools Around Us

I enjoy tinkering with systems.  I enjoy building a computer from the ground up.  I enjoy exploring and asking the question of “What If…”.  I enjoy making a system or systems do something that it wasn’t originally intended to do.  That is where this blog post starts.  It starts with taking a system (Illuminate Data and Assessment) and using it to fit a need we had at work.  It starts with asking that age old question of “What If…”.
Illuminate Data and Assessment is a powerful application that allows schools to track data and assessment results about their students.  You are able to tie standards to questions within a quiz and subsequently you can design instruction around the areas which need improvement and more.  The preceding two sentences does not do the system the justice it deserves.  I really enjoy this product and when I enjoy a product, I get overly excited about it and wordy trying to explain just how awesome it is!  We have supported the application and it’s implementation in 19 charter schools in Ohio over the last three years with close to 5,500 students.  The work we are doing was submitted as part of a Straight A Innovation Grant and was awarded almost $2 Million dollars as we work to bring 17 charter schools together to collaborate and use the system.
Illuminate has a feature within the Data and Assessment application called OnTrack.  The idea behind OnTrack is to combine multiple areas that you measure into a single report and set boundaries to determine if a student is on track to meet the desired goal.  The idea for using On Track outside of the box came via a conversation we had with a school leader who had a desire for the students to own their data and work.  As I was reading books on rubrics for a presentation I am giving in June, the idea to use OnTrack came together so we could assess how the 19 schools we work with in Illuminate are progressing in their implementation of Illuminate other items.  We want the schools to become owners of the implementation process and become owners of the system.  We have tracked this data previously using a simple Google Spreadsheet but we had two major flaws with this approach.  The first flaw was that our scoring of these areas was subjective.  The second flaw was that we allowed our selves to starting awarding half points.
In response to these identified flaws, I built two OnTrack configurations after discussion with my team.  We identified that in the first semester of the year, we evaluate different items than we do in the second semester which was our driving factor in creating two configurations.  We also developed a rubric so our scores could become objective instead of subjective. Our rubric goes from 0 – 4 which are then translated within On Track to a point value.  We set the On Track scale for each of the configurations to be a total of 1,000 points possible.  One of the metrics within our grant was that we would have 80% or higher of teachers at the school using Illuminate on a monthly basis.  We assigned this 300 (30%) of the 1,000 points.  The idea behind this thought process was that if the teachers are using the system, the other 700 points would come together.  We also assigned lesser point values to other areas that we deemed were important but not necessarily 100 points important.
1st Semester:
  1. Illuminate Site Setup/SFTP
  2. ITC/SIS Configuration
  3. Data Cleanup
  4. Nightly Data Loads
  5. Implementation Meeting
  6. Illuminate Training
  7. Data Team Schedule
  8. Data Teams Training
  9. Communication
  10. Admin Check-In Schedule
  11. Logins
2nd Semester:
  1. Data Cleanup
  2. Training
  3. Data Teams Schedule
  4. Admin Checkin
  5. Next Year
  6. Communication
  7. Data Binders
  8. Logins
  9. Online Testing
As we developed the summary assessments and reports that would become our OnTrack configuration, we started asking the question of how powerful of a resource would this be if we had our schools evaluate themselves on the same rubric that we evaluate them on?  Illuminate has a feature that allows you to compare two or more OnTrack configurations next to each other in a single report thus the school response configuration was born.
We selected three schools as part of the pilot for this idea.  On May 13th 2015 one of the schools provided their scores to me and the values were thrown into the reports and the configurations ran.  In quickly observing the data, we found that the school awarded themselves 775 total points out of 1,000 while we had awarded the school 725 total points out of 1,000.  The difference in 50 points though came in different areas which is interesting to us.  The score though while different places the school into the same performance band.  I personally can’t wait until next week when we have our check-in meeting with the school leader so we can really get down to the details and talk about the differences in scoring.  At this point the school hasn’t seen yet how we have ranked them so I am sure there will be discussion.
We hope to generate discussion between us and the school leader after they assess themselves on the same rubric we use.  When you start out with a project, goals and ideas which were not thought of previously come about through the work.  This is what happened in this project with adding the school assessment piece but we also had another goal that we hadn’t thought of it when we started this project.  We are now able to take this OnTrack system and show it off to a school leader which is a starting point for discussion with the school leader on how they could possibly use the OnTrack system within their school.
We plan to submit this work as a presentation topic at the Illuminate Users Conference in 2015/2016.

I Built a Desk

I recently graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Master’s of Education in Classroom Technology along with a K-12 Online Teaching and Learning Certificate.  There will be a post later summarizing this experience as I did it all online.  As a graduation gift for myself, it was decided I needed a desk and would turn my spare bedroom into a home office.  I didn’t want the regular run of the mill desk and went out searching for a standing desk.  The price points for entry into a standing desk were a bit high until I found a site that gave directions and a kit for building a standing desk that was under $200.
The materials were bought and I started building the desk.  The desk was from Ikea built with directions found via DIYStandingDeskKit.com.  The directions from IKEA are similar to the directions you would find in a Lego kit.  The directions are all in pictures with no words.  This style of learning is great for those who can process a visual but for the rest of us it is a challenge.  I am the type of learner who needs words and pictures.  I cobbled my learning style together for this project by utilizing the Internet and finding others who had done this project.  It was a reminder for me as an educator to create projects that utilize aspects of both styles.
While I enjoyed the design from DIYStandingDeskKit.com, I wasn’t satisfied with my desk at that point.  While browsing the Internet I found the site IKEAHackers.net.  The site is a great resource and led me to the hardware store so I could purchase a piece of white tile board.  I had the tile board cut so it fit the desk surface and then was left over with two additional pieces.  The white tile board has allowed for me to create a desk with a writable surface!  I can scribble down notes, ideas and more on the desk and then take a picture of the creation.  I can then take the picture and throw it into Evernote and it will become searchable.  The two pieces of white tile board that were left over after cutting the desk surface have also been put in use.  One piece is hung just off to my left and can be another surface for writing or anything else that comes to mind.  The other piece has been divided into five sections, one for each day of the week.  It is hanging on the wall across from my desk and will be used to track major projects or milestones that are do that week.
The white tile board cost a whopping $14.00 and comes in 96″ x 32″.  If I was in the classroom or had influence in a school over the design of a classroom, I would strongly recommend that the white tile board be adhered to the desk surface and a pack of dry erase markers be required.  You will also want multiple bottles of expo white board care cleaner on hand.  The ability to quickly take a note, draw an idea or diagram and capture it with a phone or camera is beyond valuable.  I quickly drew the water cycle on my desk and threw it into Evernote.
Pictures of the setup are below:

Education 3.0 – @teskeci and @halleykimberly

Edcamp for Kids –  Two staffs came together to build the board.  Created the course catalog for students based on the board.
Why can’t we do this everyday?  The vision is for Fall 15 would be a 6 week offering of these sessions.
Liberty Benton has a program called STRIDES which is 100% student led.  Seniors are the team leaders but the groups are random.
The teams organize around doing academic things but also charity things within the community.  Students are driven by competition to become leaders of the group each year.
GPA’s are factored into this competition and pushes the students to help each other academically.
In another situation, the students were tired because they weren’t being told what to do and they had to think without direction.
Science Learning Academy said it takes 6-8 weeks to get the students settled into this new mindset.
Garth Holman is another example of where it takes time to build trust with students but then they can be self directed learners.
Parent of a Hilliard student said that her daughter likes the 20% time that the students are given to explore ideas that interest them.  The thought and process that the student goes through is an example of the student teaching themselves.
We teach the process of point A to point B but forget to teach the fun within a topic.
Many of the buildings in Hilliard and Dublin do 20% time.
<a href=” http://www.amazon.com/Non-Designers-Design-Book-4th/dp/0133966151/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1426342784&sr=1-5&keywords=Robin+williams”> The non designer handbook</a>
The actual experience of learning is what the student will remember.  If we can get them to engage in that experience and make it meaniful…that is when we win.
Jobs didn’t patient the hardware but he patented the user experience.

It’s The End of the World

[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0GFRcFm-aY” width=“100%” height=“400”]
This is a song released by R.E.M. almost a year after I was born on November 16, 1987 but the title fits well into what I am talking about today.  The first line of the song is “That’s great, it starts with an earthquake.”  That is exactly what Sling a service from Dish Networks did when it announced this product at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2015.  The concept behind Sling is they will offer a base package of channels at an affordable price that can be streamed over the Internet.  Their market for this new product was people like me who cut the cable cord.  While this announcement was an earthquake, the aftershock of realizing that I could have access to ESPN as part of the base package was certainly not a small aftershock.
Sling had just done something that previously was unheard of in the television industry.  They offered an attractive package of channels (at least for me with ESPN, ESPN2, TBS, TNT, Food Network and Adult Swim) at an affordable price.  This is exactly what we as cable/cord cutters had been craving for years.  It is not truly the end all goal of having an al a carte channel selection but there was enough there for me to justify the $20 a month expense.
I always try to bring my posts on this blog back to education.  As I thought more and more about the disruption Dish Networks had just caused with this new service it got me thinking about education.  If we have now reached a point where we can have our television streaming over the Internet, at an affordable price with channels that we actually watch…how can we do this in education?
Could we create a curriculum where the students get to choose a field or multiple fields of study?  Could we incorporate into the curriculum and the field of study the same skills that we are teaching today?  Could we disrupt education in a way that doesn’t look like any thing we know today?
I think the answer is yes but it will take time but more importantly it will take people to stand up and demand that we look for new ways to educate our children that may look drastically different from the way we learned as students.  We recognize that for some the current system is an acceptable means of education but we are not addressing the students who are dropping out of school, why they are dropping out of school, those that may be bored with the curriculum or those that may be different from what we determine as the “standard”.  We all learn differently and have different interests so why do we insist on teaching everyone in the same manner?
Food for thought.