Friday, May 19, 2017

Technology Newsletter 5/19/17 Google Keep and Edulastic

Google Keep

Google Keep is a relatively new collaborative note taking and reminder tool that is inside our Google Accounts. I made a short video explaining it. Please reach out if I can help further.


Edulastic
I know some of you are already using Edulastic. 


Edulastic allows you to create online assessments with free teacher accounts. It offers question items that are premade that are linked to the Common Core and the ability to create your own test items. There are 30 different types of interactive test items that you can create.






Thursday, December 1, 2016

Newsletter 12/1/2016: Wireless Transition Devices Need to Shift Over, Survey for second phase of staff machines, Hour of Code

Wireless Transition Begins Please Connect to New Network

During the week before Thanksgiving Break, we let you know that the new wireless was live. We kept the old network active to allow staff time to gradually transition and to test for any bugs in the system. Thank you for all of you who have been trying it out and giving immediate feedback. Overall, most issues we have encountered are actually due to the old wireless still running at the same time. For that reason, we are beginning the transition. 

Ed is starting to shut off the old wireless

There are two options:
1)  Main network for staff computers, laptops, chromebooks and ipads for student use. 
Network ID: WestG (all 4 buildings)
Password:  wolverines (all lower case)

2) Student phones, tablets, staff casual use equipment and any guests
WestGuest – open (no password)

Please encourage students to use the guest account for any of their own personal equipment (Not school owned). We will bump their personal devices from the main wireless because we want to prioritize instructional traffic. The goal with the two networks is for us to be better able to prioritize instructional traffic from casual traffic.


TROUBLESHOOTING:

As with the wireless before, no system is perfect. We are dealing with many variables from construction materials in walls and ceilings, various versions operating systems, to other equipment in the classrooms and buildings that may cause interference. Trying the troubleshooting tips before reporting issues is a huge help. If none of these work, please fill out a trouble report. Most of the time, we do not know there is an issue until you tell us. 

1) Reboot: This works for any device from iPads and Chromebooks to Desktops and Laptops. All devices have drivers that run the various components inside them. Sometimes connectivity issues are actually related to software on the machine itself. A driver can cause repeated disconnects. Rebooting often resets this software and fixes those problems.

2) Try connecting to WestGuest. The guest network is actually it's own separate network. It also gives you another option if WestG is not working for you. 

3) Try a different website. Sometimes the issue is a website you are connecting to. If you are only trying one website, try to connect to google.com or yahoo.com. If sites like that work, the website is the problem.

If the above fail, please put in a trouble report. It lets your building supplemental holders and the tech team know that you are having an issue. It is incredibly helpful if we know what you tried because sometimes that gives us the answer to what your problem actually is. It gets you up and running faster.


Hour of Code

If you haven't heard of this, concepts of computer programming apply to all disciplines. It helps students develop skills of logic and procedures to solve problems. Next week, is the annual hour of code. Please check out the site and article before and see if it is something you can fit into your schedule. There are activities premade for grades K-12. If I can help in some way, let me know.


I know Mr. Spotts is organizing something with this at the high school that looks great. The concept applies to any age range and is very easy to try with no computer programming background needed. There are easy to follow teacher guides right on the site and the engine allows you to select grade level and even devices you would be using.

Survey for Round 2 of Staff Replacement Machines

Last year, after winter break, half of the teaching staff started receiving new machines as a part of the two year replacement program. I am ready to begin the process of ordering round 2. If you did not receive a new desktop or laptop last year, please fill out the survey so I can order an accurate amount. 

The survey will be open until next Friday, December 9. Please choose either desktop or laptop. Anyone who does not respond will have a laptop ordered. Again, this is only for staff who did not receive a replacement last year. 



Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Newsletter November 9, 2016 : Staff Computers Wave 2 ,Status of Building Needs, Network Timeline Update

Staff Computers Wave 2

Last year in November, we started gathering information from staff on preference between desktop and laptop for the first wave of teacher replacement computers. This covered half of the staff. This month, I will be distributing a new survey to the remaining members of the staff to order and address these replacements.

Computers will arrive likely over winter break and we will begin distributing them early next year. There is a certain amount of setup time so computers will be distributed in the same manner as last year. This will finish off our remaining staff who have been patiently waiting for new machines. The board was kind enough to shorten this 3 year cycle to a 2 year due to the need. 

Status of Building Needs

Thanks for your quick reporting of issues. In the case of printers, some of them are not owned by the district and Ed worked with the companies to gain access to get them up and running with new addresses. Most recently, the high school library and guidance office are back online. Make sure to use the trouble reporting tools for any other issues. It is helping us to make sure nothing is missed. Both Ed and Don have been working hard to follow up on all issues. Thanks for your support.


With regards to any HVAC issues, Navitus (the company that manages our energy controls) is currently working with the operations office to fix these. There is a solution in place to better organize these by building that will quickly resolve and prevent the cause of the original problem. Thanks for your patience and reporting of these issues. They have been relayed to Jim Russo to be addressed. 

Network Update

The team wiring all 4 buildings and placing the wireless access points is finishing up. There was Air Testing taking place this week so we didn't want to turn on the new wireless until that was done. Wednesday, November 16 and 17 are the dates that the company will be turning on the new wireless. You'll notice that devices are being put in every other classroom. This will increase our capacity and also correct problems in areas where we currently have limited or no wireless.

The new wireless access points will have the same passwords as the current wireless. Due to this, a number of devices may connect automatically. If not, a reboot may be needed. We will send specific information in a follow up email as we get closer. It will work the same as our current wireless in that you will enter the password and be able to move between access points without having to reconnect again. 

Also in the plans is a guest account. We will start having our students use this for phones and other BYOD. We want to separate them from our instructional devices so we can have better control over our bandwidth.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Newsletter 10/19/16 : Network update (including info on expanded wireless), Election Central Resource, Copyright and Intellectual Properties

Network Update (Error Reporting)

Please use the error reporting form if you are having issues. It actually sends emails to Ed, Don, and myself. I saw an email sent asking to gather issues. While this seems like a good concept and is done with the best intentions, it actually delays getting information to us which ultimately has you waiting. Ed and Don are always very responsive so please use these forms. Go to the district website under "staff" and click "technology reporting". 


If you use the reporting forms, it sends each of us an email right away and you will see that each form is building specific. It also gathers information we need to resolve your issue quickly. This is very helpful if we are already in your building because we get an immediate notification and your problem can be solved immediately.  It also populates to a spreadsheet. We often get backlogged with error reports but it makes sure that we do not miss any issues on the list. Your concerns are important. We can't help if they aren't reported.

We are in the process of fixing any final issues with the network and preparing for next week, when the expanded wireless will start to be activated. The current date of this looks to be a week from Friday. I will update you with any changes. Wiring needs to be finished and the middle school and high school. This will put devices in every other classroom and also in common areas. For those of you that notice wifi drops in certain areas because they don't have a dedicated wireless device, this will improve that issue.

EX: The high school cafeteria does not have a current wireless device in that large common area. While it is able to pull from the library and a device in another hallway, connectivity is diminished. Arrays will be added to this area to improve this longstanding problem. 

EX: There is a hallway where 4 classrooms are currently connecting to a single access point. When all 4 classes are working, staff has regularly reported connectivity slow downs and drops in connectivity. Arrays will be put in every other classroom on this area which will double connectivity and take the strain off a single device. With these now going in classrooms, there will also be less interference cutting through multiple walls and corners which also causes connectivity issues. 

Election Central Resource


If you have not checked out this resource, it is very helpful with this very interesting election year. There are links and resources that are valuable to a wide variety of grade levels. It was shared at the recent Ideastream meeting and I wanted to make sure you were aware of it.

Copyright and Intellectual Properties



Also at Ideastream was a great presentation on Copyright and Intellectual Properties. The internet has provided unprecedented accessibility to information for teachers and students. A common assumption is that we are allowed to automatically use everything because it has an educational purpose. This isn't always the case. 

This presentation shares resources useful for teachers and also has ideas that can be used with students. If you need access to more, please let me know.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Ed Tech Newsletter 8/24/2016 : New Process for Technology Reporting, Network Upgrade News, Infinite Campus Parent Portal

New Process for Technology Reporting

Ed, Don and I have been talking over the past few months on piloting a new method for technology reporting. A new page has been created called "Technology Reporting". This page links to building specific forms for reporting technology problems. It also has a section for instructional support. 

To get to the new section:

1) Go to westg.org and go to the staff section.
2) Click on "Technology Reporting" (The link is also below. Feel free to bookmark it)


The first section is for hardware and software issues. When you fill out a report, it sends and email to Ed, Don and myself. It also sends an email to the AV/Tech supplemental holder, if your building has one. This is a replacement for the old trouble reporting system.


The second section is new. It is for instructional support. This sends an email to your building instructional tech supplemental holder (If applicable) and me. This section is for help with incorporating technology into a specific lesson.


You don't need a separate log in for these forms. They are Google Forms. The point is for this to be convenient and easy. Please start to use these instead of emails. It serves the same purpose but also gives us a spreadsheet record of your request. This prevents your needs from getting lost during particularly hectic weeks. 

Network Upgrade News

I wanted to give you a quick update on our network upgrade. As you know, our wired network is aging with most equipment averaging 10 years and beyond. Also, our wireless needs have outgrown our current setup. Last school year, I applied for federal E-rate. Due to this and matching district permanent improvement funds, we have been able to move forward on ordering equipment for an over $230,000 network upgrade. 

This will completely replace the equipment running our wired network. It will also allow us to install wireless devices in every other classroom. This will more than double our current wireless coverage and help resolve the many "holes" in our current wireless connectivity. 

Beyond that, there are also a number of improvements that will allow us to better control and prioritize internet traffic during high traffic times. We can also eventually roll out student and teacher specific network log ins that will allow for greater control over which devices have the strongest access to our bandwidth. 

All of the equipment has just been ordered. Over the next few weeks, I will be giving you more specific details on what this upgrade timeline looks like.

Infinite Campus Parent Portal

If you were with us when we implemented Progress Book, you will remember that there was an initial transition period where our district worked with LGCA to fix any problems behind the scenes. Currently, we are in a similar place with Infinite Campus. 

Our data went live at the end of July and families need to be connected in "households" which is new for our district. A number of staff members have been helping out to connect students, siblings and parents into these groups. This is necessary for us to roll out the parent portal to allow parents access to student grade books and ultimately report cards.

Tomorrow, we will be posting a message letting parents know that the parent portal is coming. We will be releasing follow up information on the timeline for this and what to expect with regards to building communication. 

I know any transition to a new platform can be stressful. Thank you so much for your professionalism and teamwork at the initial trainings. Please feel free to put in an instructional support ticket if you are having any issues with Infinite Campus.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Ed Tech Newsletter 5/27/2016 : Digital Tools for Quizzes and Feedback, Google Classroom, Tips to Prepare for Summer!

Digital Tools for Quizzes and Feedback

The need for feedback on student understanding of instruction has always been an essential part of what improves educational practice. We are in an interesting era in that new and varied free tools are arriving that allow for a wide variety of ease to gathering this information. I found a great article that links to 35 different digital tools that can help with this process. As with anything that I send out, please feel free to reach out if I can help in any way with the implementation of any of these resources.


60 Smarter Ways to Use Google Classroom

I mention Google Classroom quite often. If you don't currently manage student content delivery through your website or Moodle, this a a free and ease to use tool. The attached article has some great ideas for using Google Classroom to make your life easier and to maximize your time. I try to share content that I find that is good for not only new users but more experienced staff. If you are already using Google Classroom, please share your experiences with other staff members. Especially if you have unique ideas that are not listed here.


Prepare Classroom Equipment for the Summer

As we are winding down the school year, I am sure many of you are starting to plan to organize your classroom for summer. Technology benefits the most from putting various cables and accessories away in a careful and organized fashion. Many students are able to help with this process and like the leadership role so consider using them as a resource to help with some of these:

Helpful Tips to Consider:

1) Roll up cables that dangle off the sides of tables or on the floor:

 In many cases these tables are moved around the room or into hallways as a part of the cleanup process. By rolling up the cables, you can help save any unnecessary wear and tear on the cables while keeping them from getting tangled. This saves a huge amount of time in August when it is time to set everything up again.

2) Put loose equipment away in cabinets and drawers:

Remotes, pens from smartboards, mice, and smaller equipment such as document cameras and keyboards often benefit from being put away in cabinets or drawers. It keeps the equipment from being lost but also prevents dust build up during the summer classroom cleaning.

3) Back up your files:

Google Drive has free unlimited storage. If you don't regularly back up your files, to Google Drive, you want to start. You can access the files from any computer when you log into your Google Account. While we do have district servers, the space is limited and you can't access those files from home.

To back up to drive:

1) Click on the navigation tool and choose drive:












2) Choose "new"












3) Choose "file upload" for a single file or "folder upload" for a whole folder.

Note: Uploading a folder can take some time depending on the amount of content. I highly recommend starting that early in the day when you can walk away and do something else.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Ed Tech Newsletter 5/20/2016 : Google Slides Q and A, Embed Charts from Sheets in Slides and Docs for easy editing, Rigor and Relevance Framework

Embed Charts into Slides and Docs

Eric Curts always shares useful tips. This week, he posted an article revolving around how to add a chart to Google Slides or Google Docs that can be easily modified. This is very useful if you are creating something for your students with information that needs to be changed regularly.

Google Slides Q and A

Google rolled out a free update to Google Slides. It's called Q and A. This is really nice if you want student feedback during a presentation. 

To activate it:
1) Click the arrow to the right of present to enter "presenter view"





2) You will see the audience tools section. Click "start new" to allow the audience to submit questions or comments.

















3) Students will go to the website URL displayed at the top of the presentation.



4) As questions or comments are submitted, you can see them in the pop up window.
















5) The article below addresses this further, along with the new laser pointer option. Please let me know if you need help trying any of this.


Rigor and Relevance Framework to Effectively Integrate Google Apps

At PD Day, we held a session on the SAMR Model. These frameworks to guide thinking with integrating technology are helpful because they can often guide a lesson idea towards the upper levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. It also sets up a process for gradually building to that so students are ready for it.