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that’s how you do that…

I support various software system, its my job.  I am the gatekeeper.  If questions arise, I am generally the one to answer them.  Or, when requests are made, I’m the one to do them.

One of the systems I support is a security camera system.  We have a new user, who needs credentials to the system.  The permissions in this system are mainly with the groups, not the accounts.  I create the account, then add the account to a group.  The group has cameras or doorways in this case.

I was able to that, sent email to the user with simple directions.  I then discovered that one of the *tasks that was created in the system has been modified.  The task is a view of certain doorways and cameras.  I could open the task easy enough and make changes to its content, but I could not find an open to save the changes.  Poor software design (IMHO).  The interface looks like it were designed by engineers, not designers.  Yes, a common enough mistake.  Companies figure the same people who write the logic and build the software functionality should be the same people who design the interfaces (UI).  Nope, bad idea.  But, I digress.

Eventually, i discovered how to save the changes I made to the task by right clicking on one of the menu bars – no kidding.  There I saw an option that said Save workspace – with a keyboard short cut.

No kidding.  Not a single object, button, word or otherwise that says *save this or that.  You had to happen to right click on the menubar to happen across it.

Anyway, now I can save changes to tasks (sets of doors and cameras) that people make for others.



Oh for heavens sake…

I was technically wrong about RSS feeds pushing content to readers that the user chooses.  Technically, I am wrong.  Conceptually, I am on the $$$ mula.

Meaning, when you explain that RSS’s or feeds are web sites that want to push or em *ensure that you are getting the latest information about their product or service, that concept it still very true.

I have blogged previously about RSS, feeds, readers, aggregators and why they are so

What I was incorrect about is the specific pull that the news reader / aggregator is doing.  The site providing the information does not actually push it.  It is pulled by the reader.  The users reader, news reader or aggregator has a setting of how often it goes out and pulls from the site specified – subscribed too.

To summarize:

user – reader – pulls from – Site (provider)

A user updates or posts info to the feed, another user has a reader that has subscribed to the feed.  periodically, the reader says to the provider “yo yo, you got anything new?”  If it does, the reader displays or lists the new info in the reader for the user.

You dig?

If you really want to…

Artificially increase a grade, you know, make the teachers look better?  Sadly this is the outcome when the state pushes hard for accountability in the form of certain student averages that must be maintained in order for this or that…..The tail is wagging the dog.

I was looking at a course syllabus today and noticed the breakdown of the grade, which does not look terrible.  It is smart and gives the student changes to get better grades.  That is all good.  But then I thought this.

If a grade is to be inflated, the grader only need increase the total value of a gradable item, that the student did well on.  And, de-value or lower the points avail. in a gradable item, that the student did poorly on.



Emphasize the quizzes, labs and Test (CST) and d emphasize the more challenging exams, finals.



Feeds – what you need to know

Well – at least some of what you should now.  A feed is a mechanism used to share something.  Information on the internet is made to be shared.  People contributing information to the internet want their information to be shared.  Sharing is a big deal, really more so for the purveyor of the information than the consumer.

Think about where you work.  Your school or business has news or events or announcements.  Your school or employer want that information to get to people.  It is a common for people to say things like “we push information to thousands of people”.  Or “Our communications reach hundreds”.

On the World Wide Web, a web feed (or news feed) is a data format used for providing users with frequently updated content.

What is really happening is a web site or a web page has the concept of a feed associated with it.   A feed is a way to register yourself to get notified when something changes, is announced or is new.  Posted, shared, tweeted, emailed.  Shouted from the roof top, ok, scratch the last one.

This thing jumped out at me today.  I was on a web site, reading about a change to some open source software and boom, up it came.  It wants me to subscribe to its feed!  Via email, rather than a feed reader.


And wait, just another 50 minutes later, while browsing another website about interesting things, I am greeted by a solicitation.    Along with a requirement of activating a message that will be pushed to the email address provided.  This is smart, since you do not want just any jackwagon using your email and signing you up for all kinds of pushes.  You need to say “yes, its me” by clicking the link sent to you from the feed generator.


Our new vendor has asked us, *what pages should have feeds?  In other words, what information, when posted, should be pushed out?  If the page has a feed on it, then you, the consumer of the page, have an option to say “hey, i was lucky this time to come across this amazing information, I may not be so lucky next time – if only there was a way to let me know this is here, that is was posted, tweeted or shared.  Alas – there is!  Register your the feed with your favorite feed reader – AKA news reader or simply reader.  I like Google News, for example, as a reader that I can customize and specify how the information should be displayed when it gets pushed to the reader.

A typical scenario of web-feed use might involve the following: a content provider publishes a feed link on its site which end users can register with an aggregator program (also called a feed reader or a news reader) running on their own machines

Another example is a software company like say Moodle, wants to push out its news to its users.  Every few days, I get information pushed to my email address.  I must have registered my email with moodle news once upon a time.

I was talking with my wife the other day about what their school is doing.  She said something like “the departments are using google docs to create stuff and the google cloud to store it and are announcing this arrangement to all the faculty from their web site.  I asked if there was a feed available for the staff to subscribe to, so they could have that info. pushed to them, rather than depending on the staff to *come to the site to get the content, and she said she though so.  Then she said they would send out email to everyone or text alerts.  Ah, progress – technological progress – information sharing progress, cloud progress, and a general understanding of the progress.

Web feeds have some advantages compared to receiving frequently published content via an email:

  • Users do not disclose their email address when subscribing to a feed and so are not increasing their exposure to threats associated with email: spam, viruses, phishing, and identity theft.
  • Users do not have to send an unsubscribe request to stop receiving news. They simply remove the feed from their aggregator.
  • The feed items are automatically sorted in that each feed URL has its own sets of entries (unlike an email box where messages must be sorted by user-defined rules and pattern matching).
  1. It makes it easier for users to keep track of our content…This is a very convenient way of staying up to date with the content of a large number of sites.
  2. It makes it easier for other websites to link to our content. Because RSS feeds can easily be read by computers, it’s also easy for webmasters to configure their sites so that the latest headlines from another site’s RSS feed are embedded into their own pages, and updated automatically.[1

I love that.  A good differentiation of using your email or a reader to subscribe to something.  Clearly the reader is a better choice for the reasons mentioned above.  And finally.  Software wants to connect to each other too.  Information and software want to connect and share, its how they get smarter and more relevant.  In our Moodle sphere, we have both sites and courses that have RSS blocks activated.  This allows the information from the provider to push into the moodle space.  Like in a block.


LMS overload

I am overloading on lms lingo, lms language, lms intention, lms infiltration.

What is a lms?  that is even in flux.  an lms is a leaning management system.  A place where people can take their courses on-line.  On-line?  yes, where they log into a device and access their courses.  A course has content, activity and lots of information to help the student, and confuse the student for that matter.  There are a brain numbing number of lms’s out there.  Some are open source (free), think Moodle, others are not, you have to pay to just simply have a presence in the lms.  Think Blackboard.  Lms’s are changing the way traditional brick and mortar schools approach well schooling.  At their minimum, they provide a place for teachers to put things for their classes.  Homework assignments, readings, expectations, general information that people can read.  Beyond that hopefully are some things to do, some activities that the learners engage in.  Quizzes, forums and assignments are typical types of activities that lms’s provide.  When I think of Moodle, I think the big three (assignment, quiz, forum).  These are activities that the students engage in, participate with, are active in.  You get the idea.  We hear so much about engagement and involvement.  Creating an active, not passive experience for our students.  I see this as a continual change in the learning space.  An attempt buy school administrators to continue to push the envelop of blended learning.  Blended learning is the hybrid of a traditional classroom, where the teacher stands in front of the students and teaches and a online space where activities and content and engagement also takes place.

Another trend that I see in LMS dome and blended learning is in how the experience is organized in the on-line space.  There is a real emphasis on making things simpler, more clear, less cluttered.  Schoology, for example, emphasizes the teacher and information that is most pertinent to the teacher.  Information is stream lined and make accessible to the teacher.  The teacher does not have to poke around and go looking for things.  Things like student progress or students in trouble, falling behind, not logged in, not engaging in the learning space.  This information pushes its way to the front of the lms so teachers and coaches and others who have a vested interest in the students performance can see students when they are in trouble.  Support the little precious.  To be very specific, when the teacher logs in for example, messages, forum posts, submitted assignments that may need grading or quiz submissions are *pushed to the teacher.  The teacher, from their home page or portal space can see this information in a concise manner.  This helps the teacher to stay on top of the students and their progress.

Define blended learning

me:  an online class that supplements a traditional classroom.  Teachers and students meet in the traditional way, with the on-line portion of the class to enhance the learning.


learning systems that combine face-to-face instruction with computer mediated instruction

I am going to do a little brain dump of terms that relate to the lms in different ways

Words that describe an LMS

system, notification, quiz, forum, collaboration, blended, comprehensive, data driven, push, message, public facing, private facing, open source, upgrading, coach, teacher, roles, activity, measurement, scores, survey, test, upload, contribution, protocol, download, assess, contributed, scorm – compliance, shared, ownership, content, packaging, exchange, compliant, share space,  talking, sharing, spark, ownership, heart – collaboration, sharing, learning from each other,  teachers, students, coaches, parents, administrators, stake holders, e-learning, tools, flipped classroom, comprehensive, assessment, testing.

Sentences that describe what an LMS does

  • provides a place for teachers to put their content.
  • a place where student and teachers can log into and access learning content.
  • Allows learners to access materials remotely, on their own, at their own pace.
  • Include assessment tools like quizzes and tests.
  • Allows learners to upload assignments, like documents as homework, where teachers can grade and provide feedback.
  • Provides collaborative activities for learners to work together, like forums or wikis.

Define a flipped classroom

Let me talk about the flipped classroom for a moment – my understanding is its a concept, not a tool.  Flipping the classroom means that classroom time is spend on *homework while lecture is consumed outside of class.  Flip the concept.  Have the student consume, watch video lectures or assignment readings or whatever OUTSIDE of class.  When the students come to class, the time is spend on implementing or practicing or doing.  Good habits are reinforced, bad habits or understandings are corrected and the time is best spent.

The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions.

How about outcome based or performance based learning.  This is a huge concept that basically says I will assess your understanding of something with this tool or method.  It has a lot of merit, because it provides data that can be used in reporting and support or denial of certain approaches or techniques.  It provides a consistent method of test and assessment of the concepts.

How about assessment based learning

I know – that is a little vague.  Let me say it another way.  Where I live, in NY – there is a big emphasis on standards and assessment of those standards.  For example – the state school commission says “you must do this and achieve these results”.  Schools across the state then adopt their teaching and curriculum to that end and give assessment in a way that can be measured and reported to support that state wide edict.  Still too vague?  I know.  Let me try once more.  Someone important in the state educational hierarchy says “students need to score a 90% on this test for your district to get this $ from the state taxpayer”.  Now the district, since there is $ attached, and that effects jobs and positions at their school, are falsely motivated to teach to a certain test of standard.  Teachers focus on how to take a test, students focus on how to respond to the type of test, strategies are created around how to best perform on this test with teachers, students and parents around the state getting very nervous about it.

A dedicated space to share ideas.  A fun collaborative place for students to hang out and be creative.


Sharing data between Access form and report – programatically

Sounds good right?  I have this old legacy MS Access DB that I have been supporting for a few years.  I make updates to the code from time to time, clean up the DB, and explain how things work to my customers who use it.

Recently, I added some new functionality.  Typical stuff, a form with a listbox and sort buttons.  I threw in a report with a preview option.  Where things got a little interesting is when you realize that the SQL pulling the data is the same for both the form listbox and the report.  The only difference in the SQL is the district chosen and the sort option.  So, If I could figure out programatically how to share the selected district and the sort button clicked, then I could reuse the SQL and NOT HAVE TO CREATE SEPARATE QUERY’S AND REPORTS for 5 different times. If I was not willing to solve this programatically, then I would wind up with something like this.  Its the same report! over and over.

  • report 1 – with its own saved query1
  • report 2 – with its own saved query2
  • report 3 – with its own saved query3
  • report 4- with its own saved query 4
  • report 5 – with its own saved query 5

Trust me, it happens all the time.  Too many reports and queries that are almost identical, the only difference is an option used to filter the SQL.

Got it?

First, a look at the form.  Nice right?  Notice the Sort by buttons, that are not available at the moment – but when they are, they simply tell the data in the form how to be ordered.  If the user chooses to order the recs by teacher name in the form, then that needs to be *passed along to the report.  If the user chooses to sort the data in the form by Send date, then that needs to be passed along to the report.  If the user has choosen district a, then that needs to be passed along to the report.

Got it?


When the user selects a district, the sort buttons activate.  When the user clicks on a sort button, the selection is  *remembered, but use of a public variable declared in the form. The state of the application is maintained.

When the Preview Report button is clicked – the values are passed to the report, using the this command

 DoCmd.OpenReport “rpt_district_building_kits_dates_specific_district”, acViewPreview, , , , sorttype ”sorttype passed as arg to report

Using this technique, we avoid duplicating the report and the query.  This technique allows us to *pass data between different objects in access.  From the form object to the report object.

Here is a picture of the form and resulting report, a single report, responsively to the district and sort option.


So this is what I did programatically to share both the sort and select options with one report.  Its true, you have to understand events and how they relate to things you do in the form. Look under the hood!  Notice the SQL statement in the *global area of the form – all the functions in the form can see the code.  Notice too the use of the public variable type.

In the General declaration of the form

Option Compare Database
Option Explicit
Public strsql As String
Public sorttype As String
Public districtID As Integer
Const strSQL1 = “SELECT tblDistricts.DISTRICT, tblKits.Kit_Number, tblKits.Kit_Title, tblTeachers.Teacher_FN + ‘ ‘ + tblTeachers.Teacher_LN AS Teacher_name,

… rest of long SQL join statement ”

Const strSQL2 = ” WHERE tblBookings.SchoolYearID = 19″

Const buildingSort = ” ORDER BY tblBuildings.Building_Name;”
Const weekStartSort = ” ORDER BY tblSchoolWeeks.Week_Start”
Const weekEndSort = ” ORDER BY tblSchoolWeeks_1.Week_End”
Const teacherSort = ” ORDER BY tblTeachers.Teacher_LN”
Const districtName = ” ORDER BY tblDistricts.DISTRICT”
Const kitSort = ” ORDER BY tblKits.Kit_Title”

On the district select event

Private Sub select_district_Click()

If Me!select_district.Value = 82 Then ”82 = all – show all the districts
strsql = strSQL1 & strSQL2 & districtName
strsql = strSQL1 & strSQL2 & ” AND tblDistricts.DISTRICTID = ” &           Me!select_district.Value
End If

Me!teachersList.RowSource = strsql
Call check_sortButtons

End Sub

On one of the sort buttons – setting sortype in other click events for buttons…

Private Sub sort_returnDate_Click()
sorttype = “return” ”update global variable used in report
Call sortlist
End Sub

on the sortlist function

Private Sub sortlist()
Dim lsort As String

”depending on which sort button clicked, update the lsort value using the constrant

If (sorttype = “return”) Then
lsort = weekEndSort
ElseIf sorttype = (“send”) Then
lsort = weekStartSort
ElseIf sorttype = (“building”) Then
lsort = buildingSort
ElseIf sorttype = (“teacher”) Then
lsort = teacherSort
ElseIf sorttype = (“kit”) Then
lsort = kitSort
lsort = weekStartSort ” default
End If

”MsgBox (lsort)

strsql = strSQL1 & strSQL2 & ” AND tblDistricts.DISTRICTID = ” & Me!select_district.Value & lsort

Me!teachersList.RowSource = strsql
End Sub

On the preview report click

Private Sub btnPreviewReport_Click()

”MsgBox (sorttype)

” need to close report explicitly before call open – or else!
DoCmd.Close acReport, “rpt_district_building_kits_dates_specific_district”
DoCmd.OpenReport “rpt_district_building_kits_dates_specific_district”, acViewPreview, , , , sorttype ”sorttype passed as arg to report

End Sub

On form activate

Private Sub Form_Activate()
sorttype = “start”

Call check_sortButtons
Call FillList
End Sub

Filllist function – used to populate the listbox on form

Private Sub FillList()

If Me!select_district.Value = 82 Then ”value for option all
strsql = strSQL1 & strSQL2 ” when viewing all districts sort by district name
strsql = strSQL1 & strSQL2 & Me!select_district.Value & weekStartSort
End If

”MsgBox (strsql)

Me!teachersList.RowSource = strsql

End Sub

and finally, the check sort buttons – to determine if they should be enabled

Private Sub check_sortButtons()
” if the selected district is all – then the sort options are disabled, since they dont make sense in context
” of all the districts and all the kits included in a report.
” james 9/2016

If Me!select_district.Value = 82 Then ”82 = all – show all the districts
Me!sort_sendDate.Enabled = False
Me!sort_returnDate.Enabled = False
Me!sort_building.Enabled = False
Me!sort_teacher.Enabled = False
Me!sort_kit.Enabled = False
Me!sort_sendDate.Enabled = True
Me!sort_returnDate.Enabled = True
Me!sort_building.Enabled = True
Me!sort_teacher.Enabled = True
Me!sort_kit.Enabled = True
End If
End Sub

This is the code in the report – actually, it is all in the report open event

Private Sub Report_Open(Cancel As Integer)

Dim local_strsql As String
Dim local_district As String

local_district = [Forms]![frm_districts_building_kits_dates]![select_district]
”MsgBox (local_district)

”arg sent by command below in form opening this report
” DoCmd.OpenReport “rpt_district_building_kits_dates_specific_district”, acViewPreview, , , , sorttype ”sorttype passed as arg to report
Dim argsort As String
argsort = Me.OpenArgs

”MsgBox (argsort)

”evaluate the sort arg to build the SQL and assign to sort statement
Dim sort As String

If argsort = “send” Then
sort = “ORDER BY tblSchoolWeeks.Week_Start”
ElseIf argsort = “return” Then
sort = “ORDER BY tblSchoolWeeks_1.Week_End”
ElseIf argsort = “teacher” Then
sort = “ORDER BY tblTeachers.Teacher_LN”
ElseIf argsort = “kit” Then
sort = “ORDER BY tblKits.Kit_Title”
sort = “ORDER BY tblBuildings.Building_Name”
End If

Dim districtSTR As String
districtSTR = ” AND tblDistricts.DISTRICTID = ” & local_district & “”

Dim SchoolYearID As Integer
SchoolYearID = 19
Dim schoolyearSTR As String
schoolyearSTR = “WHERE tblBookings.SchoolYearID = ” & SchoolYearID

If local_district = 82 Then
local_strsql = “SELECT tblDistricts.DISTRICT, tblKits.Kit_Number, tblKits.Kit_Title,    tblTeachers.Teacher_FN+’ ‘+tblTeachers.Teacher_LN AS Teachername,    tblBuildings.Building_Name, tblSchoolWeeks.Week_Start,    tblSchoolWeeks_1.Week_End” & _
“…long join statement” & _
” WHERE tblBookings.SchoolYearID = ” & SchoolYearID & ” ORDER BY    tblDistricts.DISTRICT, tblKits.Kit_Title”

local_strsql = “SELECT tblDistricts.DISTRICT, tblKits.Kit_Number, tblKits.Kit_Title, tblTeachers.Teacher_FN+’ ‘+tblTeachers.Teacher_LN AS Teachername, tblBuildings.Building_Name, tblSchoolWeeks.Week_Start, tblSchoolWeeks_1.Week_End” & _
” …long join statement ” & _
” ” & _
” WHERE tblBookings.SchoolYearID = ” & SchoolYearID & districtSTR & ” ” & sort
End If

Rem MsgBox (local_strsql)
Rem MsgBox (local_district)
Me.RecordSource = local_strsql

End Sub

The SQL in the report is repeated because I struggled with building the statement, so I repeated it.  If I spent more time on this, I could probably figure out how to build the statements and include in a single SQL statement – but, I got tired of messing with it.

Still, the technique is good because I avoided replicating the report and create a query for each version of the report.  Plus its good brain development to figure out how to do things like this.

FinalSite -website upgrade notes

12/13/16 – almost ready to get going again.

I think we almost ready to get back in the saddle here.  The vendor has been added to the *purchasing list.  Interesting side note, another vendor that wanted to submit a bid for one of our districts decided they did not want to *hassle with getting on a state purchasing contract.  They must not have liked the notion of replying to an RFP or at least did not think the bus. side of things worth it.  Anyway, they are out and  Finalsite Academy and BlackBoard Schoolwires were both added to the bidding contract, but im about 95% certain that we are going with Finalsite.  My boss left the other day and made a passing comment to me to get ready for the FS contract.  Good!  A couple high level concepts before descending back into regular meeting and getting the project actually underway.

Migrate content

  • vendor will move some content,
  • our users will move some content

Training for Mike Smith and I, as administrators.  Training for our teachers – they is probably different from training for our content editors


  • admin
  • teachers
  • content editors

Teacher boards are the replacement to teacher pages.

Portals for private facing content.  Like our Intranet.  Portals will house all collaborative spaces.  Groups are the spaces and users will belong to groups.

10 to 1 – we will be *migrating 10 separate websites to 1 – conceptually speaking.

Current BB Schoolworld sites: WFL, Con. Ed, WTCC, FLTCC, NEC, MEC, WED, RJEC, FLEC, PTECH – these 10 sites into 1 maintains its autonomy- but also gets migrated to Finalsite.

Finalsite will set up two things for us

1 – Project management software – where things will be delivered

2 – a new space where we will build the site slowly  – until it is complete and then it will go live.  People will use it.  Then, a few months later, we will shut down the BB sites.  Since the names will be slightly different, we can do this.

I need to help S. Balshmitter with request around scheduling people for training events.  The current system allows users who are registering for things, to duplicate their accounts.  Need to help ensure this not happen.


Well, its now 9/26… and waiting

Our project in help up a bit with need to go to public offer for the purchasing of new website.  we are a state organization.  we answer to the tax payers.   ;), but I digress, before even starting.

The posts module is the *replacement of our teacher pages.  My customer is the teacher, in this instance.  Our teachers have used this concept of a *teacher page for many years.  There are probably 50 teachers from our two tech centers that use this software.  They come into it a couple – few times a year and update its content with information about their classes.  nothing new here.  Except, I should frame my discussion with people this way.  “The posts module is the new teacher page(s)”.  For the teachers who did use the *teacher pages software, we will migrate their content to the new space.  I think.  Although, asking them to move their content after showing them how, does have merit.

The Posts module should only be called the posts module by me and mike and the techies.  The teachers should call it their *teacher space.  We want the old users and the new users, teachers, to use their new *teacher space.  Frame it that way.

Yes, we want our tech center teachers to use the *teacher space to engage their audience, the students and parents.  That’s the ticket.  We support the teachers, they support the students and parents.

Check out this nice video Finalsite did on its Post module.

Then look at the nice video Finalsite did on its Learn space.  I agree with a main point raised at start of video that districts, people are not faced with not enough technology, but rather are inundated with too much.  Like when the state grants computers, laptops, Chromebooks to every student in the high school.  In principle a good idea, but reality is different.  Teachers need  leadership, direction, training and simplification.  They need more commonality between systems, more sharing and less silo-ing.  Teachers need tools that are easy-ish to use, allow them to share information without being burdened by the techi-ness of it.  I used to say to people when they ask me about IDEs or databases, I would say something like *I don’t really notice it, which is great, it just does its job.  The tool should not be in the way, it should not be a difficulty or a sticky point.  It should do its job quietly without fanfare.  In other words, teachers or admins should simply use it to help them in their sharing of information for there students, parents, whoever.  They should focus on what they want to share, how they want to share it, what they want to say, not focus on *how do I do this?  Did it work?  Am I doing it right?

These are lofty goals, I know.  I sound a little like the Utopian left, but I get it.

To bring it back in.  The Learn space is where my customers, teachers and admins across different schools and programs can set up shop and share and collaborate.  My customers are not really the students and parents, those are my customers customers….So, I want the teachers and admins to think of the website, and specifically the Learn spaces and teacher pages to be an ally,  a friend, a companion, someone when they think about elicits a *oh yea good response.

Meeting 8/30 with Mike and Shannon

Spend most of the time talking about the latest contract proposal from Finalsite.  We are trying to ensure that we

1) have everything we need

2) not getting things we don’t need

Seems simple enough.  We also want to ensure that we can do what we want 6 months later.  In other words, we cant really be expected to know everything we may need right out of the gate.  That is not realistic.  We want to ensure that we can add and remove things to the site after its creation.  Specifically, we have this need for private space on the site for groups to collaborate and share things.  The tools from the vendor are portals and spaces.  We spent a lot of time talking about our understanding of portals and spaces.  On a high level, a portal is a private facing entity or part of the web site.  Users authenticate or sign in to access the portal.  The portal has group spaces with groups assigned to the spaces.  Users accounts are added to groups.  So, A user logs into a portal and sees the group spaces that they are members of.  I’m pretty sure that’s correct.  We need to figure out

1 how many portals do we really need 

2 people signing into a portal only see the groups that they are members of

3 if we can add additional portals and group spaces.  

  • I think most likely yes to adding group spaces to a portal, but not so sure we can create new portals ourselves.

We also discussed the roll out/time-frame.  That we dictate that.  Shannon will take the contract to the big cheese who may share with his cheeses and then give us feedback.  At some point that feedback with be a launch date.  A go live date.  We need to ensure two things around that

1 – that we get to choose the amount of time, number of weeks we want from start to finish for this project, not the vendor

2 – when we sign the contract, the process starts – and we work toward that go live date.  The project will be managed by a FS provided project manager who will work with a point person, Shannon, ensuring project milestones are meet.  Mike and I ‘s job is to ensure Shannon has what she needs and understands what is going on during the project.

Leadership is helping others do their best!  Not insisting on your own way or a certain way, real leaders listen and empower others – help others see that you see.

and finally…we mentioned three other vendor solutions for tasks

1 – MyLearning plan – (registration software) which is championed by Staff Development in our org.

2 – QCenter – Event – conference room management software

3 – BBConnect – Notifications software.

Each of these software programs is championed by people or departments in our organization.  While there are features or modules or portals that would do something similar, we would not at this point look to replace that functionality – those tasks performed by the software.  That would become a political hot potato.  Ya know what I mean?

Meeting on 8/22 with vendor – shannon and mike

Meeting was to cover contract specifics, clarify what we needed.  We discussed the migration of some of the content.  We want out content editors, that is people with editing privilege in current system, to take ownership of their content.  We want them to be responsible to move *some of their content.  I know, that is a reach for black and white in a grey nebulous situation.   The content in the current system that could be migrated is old, some of it very old.  We assume a position of “if its on the site it moves over”, another reach for black and white in a grey area.   Perhaps we, shannon, will issue an edict for example like this “during the month of November is opportunity for you to *freshen up your content on the website.  As you know we are changing to FinalSite and will be moving content to the new site… bla bla bla”.  We are paying the vendor $20 a page for the first 400 pages, then $10 a page after that.  That deals is like banks and interest – steepest up front, so they get their money first.  Anyway, we estimate about 1200 live html pages between our 11 sites that being updated.  I am guessing after the *freshening up, we will have between 800 – 1000 pages to migrate.  Some of the pages will be migrated by Edutech staff, as maybe 400 of the pages belong to their site,    Migrate = Move.  That process will look like create new page in FinalSite site, copy content from existing schoolworld site, paste into new FinalSite page.

We discusses the main three build options, theme, theme + and theme + advanced.  In a nutshell, the theme option means they build our site using an existing theme just the way it is, no changes to the theme.  That option seemed a bit restrictive.  Theme + allows us to make a couple (2?) changes to a theme – with the added provision that it, the *custom theme, will become part of their avail. templates for future customers.  clever – they get us to pay them to build themes for their future customers…..

Training.  Finalsite has good training content, including *live webinars that they like to advertise as their best options.  My colleague Shannon wants 2 training dates, where they come on site for a good old traditional classroom training.  We pay the trainer $3000 plus travel expenses.  We, WFLBOCES, not Edutech, may want someone from our staff development ranks to become the staff trainer for any future needs.  I am extrapolating here, my other colleague Mike said “I would be happy to do 1 on 1 type training”.  It is my opinion, that I did state to him and Shannon, that training would be handled by Staff Development, probably.  More to follow….

We also discussed the concept of a Portal, which is the Vendors *private facing area.  He actually called it a site, but I think its a space on the same site, but whatever.  The Portal is a space where we would host our intranet – where staff could authenticate to access.  Our current Intranet is used robustly by a few, lots of documents, AR’s – policy – job postings internal – things like that.  Most of our site is and will continue to be *public facing, but the Portal will require a level of authentication.   Additionally, the portal can have groups or group spaces which include collaborative apps like, forums, blogs.  Our vendor described it this way

You can have a portal without using Group Spaces.  So a portal is just a private site, by role, that allows those people to get access to content, information, documents that you don’t want the general public to access or, alternatively to make things easier for your stakeholders by serving up content for their role rather than having it in various places on the public facing site.  Group Spaces makes this experience richer by including collaboration tools.  Without it a teacher would log into the portal and see information on professional development, job openings, employee news, documents etc but with it they could also collaborate on specific projects, committees, tasks, or special groups.

How would they collaborate?  in the private space – they could take surveys, use forums, , post or comment on a blog  or even contribute to a wiki– standard types of asynchronous stuff – may even use a synchronous tool, like a chat – that’s me extrapolating again.

The vendor provided an updated proposal after the meeting that specified this and a bit more for the following first year cost

  • Site build – theme + – 20000
  • on site training (2 days) 3000
  • content migration 600 pages – 10000
  • total first year 33,000
  • Annual fees of 20000, second year and beyond

Meeting on 8/17/16 – shannon, mike and james.

Content – we will not be paying the vendor 10 per page to move content.  We will do that.  We, edutech, says to shannon, public relations – that we will ensure content is moved, not by the vendor – that makes little sense, but by us – and by us, I mean Mike and I and the content editors who’s content it is to begin with.  my customer shannon says “we told them we would migrate their content – they will not and or are not able to do that themselves” – fine, a point taken.  But, we also know that a key component of learning the new system is using it, sooner than later.  Content editors could/should be involved in that process.  Mike said “ok, they don’t have to move the content, but we want them to, we encourage them to be involved, but they don’t have to”.

Two good perspectives and points.  Also, when we move to a new website vendor, its a change for all 10 of our *schools to put things out to the curb.  Take our the trash – put things in boxes for removal.  Its a prime opportunity to *freshen content, and by freshen, we mean get ride of.

 Especially since there is not a concept of a sweeping simultaneous process moving 1200 html pages from sites A – J to site K., instead, it is an iterative process of creating a page in the new site and copying content (text-images – links) from the old site.

It really does not make a lot of sense for the vendor to do this – since A) its expensive and B) we miss out on the *freshening up opportunity.

The vendor will work with us to set up the site, its infrastructure AKA sitemap – creating the skeleton for the site, but we will create and populate most of the pages on the new site.  We will iterate through the process of create new page in the site, copy content (text and images) from old page into new one.

Training – while we see lots of good training options spelled out in the 25 page a new website a-z, provided by FS, it does not include traditional classroom training.  My customer shannon *knows that some people, content editors we call them, will need hand holding and traditional classroom training.  We, Mike and I balked and said stuff like “its all right here, avail on line whenever people want it, we could even to a live training webinar”…but, shannon makes a point.  If our customers, lets say we have 40 content editors, want traditional classroom training, then we should provide that.  Maybe even a couple times.  We will pay the vendor to come here and do a traditional session, a couple times – then, we will suppliment that traditional training with what FS provides.  The bottom line here is we do what we can to empower our content managers.  We want them to take ownership of their content – whatever we need to do to facilitate that, we do.

Got it?  Get it? Good. 😉

First thoughts: 8/14/16

We are using FinalSite as our new web site CMS.  We currently have 10 different websites that will be mashed together into one.  Probably not actually mashed, but something like that.  These are my thoughts as as look through the 25 page deployment file that FS sent us.

The document is intended to serve as a general guide to help through the phases to deploy new FS website.  Boiled up over 1o years.

Pick a client side lead – someone on our side to be focal point of communication – coordinate collection of assets, content materials from members of our team – be responsible for delivering materials to FS in timeline set up, replay communications as needed.

We will be paired up with a deployment team.  Team consist of Project manager, Web designer front end web developer.  PM reviews project scope, budget, SOW.  PM will call weekly meetings.  Our FS software will be enables and modules activated.  PM creates project in Mavenlink software.

Kick off – client project lead and others on our side  (stakeholders)join the kick off call.  Initial kick off review

contract deliverables – SOW, modules purchased, data imports.  main phases dis. Discovery, Design, production, training – review timeline – milestones, mavenlink overview, project site – messages, uploading files, launch date goal, establish weekly meeting time, status reports, assign first tasks to get things started.  Project space is where this happens.

Discovery phase  – FS discovers what we need – we provide a sitemap – , we complete a marketing and design survey  and provide graphic assets, branding guidelines, logos and photography.  the draft sitemap – provides outline for the navigation structure – PM will review and provide feedback.  This will require a sign off, once agree upon, as it effects the rest of the navigation (anchors the creative theme).  PM can assist with questions about how do organize site content.  Consider now making things more succinct.  If we have sections with lots of lengthy pages – consider making this more succinct.   We will sign off on that top level navigation.  I think we will have a lot of flex.  within that top level navigation – but that does impact the design of the site.

We will provide feedback to the project designer by completing a survey that help provide design direction.  What is our message – what do we do, offer, what makes us unique, things like that.  We also gather and share our graphic assets – logos, colors, brand guidelines, fonts, photos of our business – at least 10 – 15, slogans like “making success possible: or “students are the heart and sole of what we do”.  We also come up with our DNSing, like and …. and so on for each of the tech and ed centers.