Monday, 20 May 2013

Digital Commitments

If you read my last post, you will know I started a digital journey last week.  I have just completed stage two of three stages.  My desk transformation is immediately apparent.  People have been asking "What's missing? Your office is looking empty."  (Grateful smile)  It's the feeling that you have when you've just completed a spring clean.  I am happy to sit down and know everything is organized and still at my fingertips.  

However, in order to make this change, I have had to make a few digital commitments.  It's tough to try and guess what type of computer files will serve me best in the future.  The closest thing I have to a crystal ball is a snow globe, and it just gets more cloudy when I shake it!

Here are the commitments I have made so far:

1)  All reference materials get converted from their original forms to PDF files.
Because PDFs are fairly universal, I believe these files will stand the test of time.  The files are relatively small and can easily be 50 pages long.  You can't really open and change these files, but records and reference materials are unlikely to be altered or updated.  I worry that MSOutlook correspondence, MSOneNote digital binders, MSPowerpoint and MSPublisher files will not be as accessible in a few years.

2)  Material placed in the cloud is only so I can use alternate devices.
I talked to some friends and co-workers who use the cloud and found out how they put it to use.  After gathering that intel, I decided to use it not as storage or back-up, but only for accessing files that I may need to view or use on other devices.  As I use it more, I will continue to add the files I need.  However, I am still leery about the safety of this storage place.  I guess I need to look into the encryption options.
Drop box gives me 2GB of free space, Chrome drive gives me 5 GB, and Skydrive gives me 25GB.  They all sync fairly nicely and can be accessed on several devices.  I have about 75 GB total files and I am not really interested in paying for the extra space at this point.
The school offers me a back-up drive and I have an external 175 GB passport that already does a nice job of giving me those safety nets.

3)  Each file will stay separate, and relative files are displayed through a "current" software program.
If MSOnenote stops operating in the future, I expect to still have my files in usable forms.  I will just change platforms for displaying them.


Or is it?  Hmmm.

In the 90s, I had to transfer my thesis from 5 1/4" floppy to 3 1/2" disk to CD.  Currently, I have no apple computer that will open that Claris program to view it.  If I had kept the thesis in paper form, I could easily go back and read it.  As it is, I probably will not have the urge to read it anytime soon, but if I did want to, I would have to do some creative juggling.
When planning for a soccer tournament recently, I went to my MSPublisher files for reference to the tournaments I used to run in the 90s.  None of them could be opened.  I couldn't find an online file converter that worked.  Thankfully, I still had the paper binder neatly organized and indexed.  There were many handwritten notes on the printed papers and notes/messages which were added bonuses.  This was one of the binders I digitized yesterday.  I have to admit, once scanned and shredded, I had a moment of concern.  It was a little too pleasant going back to the paper binder and discovering dusty treasures.

I feel good about it, but still I have a check in my spirit. I have the niggling feeling that this is less permanent than paper.  Maybe the only thing I am doing is freeing up office space from a permanent to a temporary form.

I find solace in the fact that I am living in a digital world, I am part of the digital work force and I am embracing it.  Others will meet the same concerns I have with fresh perspectives.  The younger generation that lives there will see the need for progress but also have the resourcefulness to accommodate the changing software issues.  It may not be as big a concern tomorrow as it is today.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Totally Digital, Dude.

Am I a totally integrated digital administrator?  Two weeks ago if you had asked me that, I would have answered, "Absolutely."  But after returning from a tech symposium in Vancouver, I'm not so sure. In one of the workshops, a presenter (Dr. Mosbacker) offered us a picture of his desk.  It was simple and uncluttered. That's no big deal.  I keep a pretty neat desk, also. The startling revelation was the lack of files or paperwork around his work space. I began to wonder what someone would learn about me if they had a close look at my work space? Would they think I am an "old school" paper pusher or a digitally connected administrator?

Prominently displayed on my desk, I have an eight level paper divider for miscellaneous resumes, important government publications and other quick reference papers. I have a nice collection of reference books, a felt folder full of paper notes, a leather binder that have my day-planner and daily to do lists with contacts. Beside the desk is a two drawer file cabinet stuffed full of staff records, chapel notes, bus folders and school financial papers. Behind my desk is a six foot bookshelf packed with catalogues, educational reports, professional development material and binders of administrative reference books. Spilling into that, I have two corner bookshelves specially designed for binders that organize years of meeting minutes, newsletters, teaching guides and resources for my own classes. Plastered all over my walls above the desk are school calendars, paper class schedules and monthly chapel planners.


I spend hours on the computer. Most of my work is computer generated. My computer "desktop" is neat and my digital files are also well organized. I am in and out of software programs and mess around all the time with digital 2.0 tools. Even though I have successfully and eagerly gone digital, my office is still a relic from the 90s.

I intend to change this.

Stage One: Use Online Reference Materials.
I have already completed this objective. I cleared all of the reference materials off my desk. Anything that I couldn't find online, I scanned and organized in a digital file. That was relatively painless. Many of the reference books and government publications are more up-to-date online anyway. I will now use colourful digital schedules and calendars with reminders. Though it is comforting to have a healthy variety of glossy educational catalogues to flip through, that space is now clear and I will continue to order online.

Stage Two: Scan All Binders to Compliment Online Documentation.
This one is a little more complicated. Though I have fairly good computer records, I have many well organized binders from before we went digital. There was a decade of change in the style of record keeping from the early 2000s until now. Four or five years of my transitional records are duplicated because they are both paper and digital. I have made a new "digital file cabinet" and am organizing all of the computer records along with scans of all my paper records. It helps to have a photocopier that quickly scans large amounts of paper into a single PDF file for storage. As you can see by the picture below, fourteen years of meeting minutes can take up a lot of space. I am currently working through these binders by dividing the paper into years and scanning them for my digital records. I am half way though this goal. I have tossed out more than fifteen binders of school records already. I am pleased to say that I can now display another few family pictures.When I add another plant, my office will be a little more pleasant.

This process has brought up some interesting questions:
Which type of digital file will be still accessible to me twelve years from now when I want to access them?
What backup plan do I have in case of computer failure, power outage or fire?
What is the best way to display connections between related groups of files?
How secure is the cloud and which files do I need to store there for access on all my devices?

Stage Three: Clear Out the Filing Cabinet.
Ha! That will be a doozy! This might be the subject of my next blog.

If you would like to teach a teacher, I'm listening. Any recommendations or comments would be appreciated.