Saturday, August 18, 2018

Start of the Year 2018/2019 Technology and Operations Updates

Welcome Back!

I'm receiving a number of questions so I wanted to compile the answers in one post to hopefully make it easy for everyone to have the same information.

Staff Intranet: Important insurance and staff forms are located on the staff intranet. The log in is the same as you would have used in previous years or to update your website, if you use Eschoolview. If you have lost that username and password, please let me know. I will be sending this info our to new staff this week.

Work Orders

Please make sure that you are using work orders for any classroom requests. 

Technology Reporting and Support Tickets: These are located under the "staff" tab on the district site and should be used for any technology needs. These are broken up by building and send emails to everyone in the technology department and any related supplemental holders. You do not need a special account. It is the same Google Forms as used in previous years. Please use this for all requests as they are searchable by Ed and Don based on building and gives us a history of repair needs in your room.

Maintenance and Classroom Work Orders: If you go to the "staff" tab under work orders, you will see a link labeled "work orders". Your user name is your email address. The password will be the same as last year. If you have forgotten it, the system allows you to reset it. Please let me know if you have any issues logging in. These should be used for any work requests for your classroom. It sends the request to your principal, and Mark Richardson, our facilities manager. Work is then assigned to maintenance or custodial team members based on need.

Staff Emergency Contact and Snow Calling Information 

Please use the link and access info below to approve and update your info. Information you entered from last year is already in the system. You can log in and verify it. It will also allow you to change any new phone numbers/email addresses.



Please note that new staff will be receiving a separate email when you are entered into the system this week.

Security projects, Safety Plans, and Propping Doors

This year, each building will be working to develop new safety plans. The new plans are due to the state by the end of February. More information will be rolled out by building principals, as work begins on these plans. Mark Rich, our new School Resource Officer and our local police and fire departments will be key resources. Not only are we looking to develop the larger state document, but we will be working to put together a simple one page reference for all staff and substitutes to help. Feedback opportunities will be provided at the building level. More information to follow.

The high school entryway modifications are almost complete. This will allow for greater control of how visitors enter the building. A similar project is going to begin at the middle school. Four firms are being evaluated for the next board meeting. This is a more extensive project because of the needs of the entryway. The original main entrance will be converted into a visitor's entrance.

We are also in the process of doing major upgrades to our security card entry system behind the scenes and beginning a multiphase upgrade to our security camera systems. The security of our students and staff are a major priority this year.

On a side note, please do not prop open any doors without adult supervision. We have had multiple instances of doors being left open for many hours an in numerous cases being forgotten. We can't leave our building open to this security risk. If you prop open the door, you have to monitor it and make sure it is closed immediately, if you have to walk away. This isn't about inconveniencing anyone, we have to be consistent in how we control access to our buildings.

Outside Furniture/ Stacking Items

Please make sure to put in a work order for approval before bringing in any new outside furniture. While many home furniture items may seem perfectly safe for classrooms, there is a liability issue based on construction and warranty. We do not want anyone having to unnecessarily take home furniture that was brought in because it wasn't approved. A work order sends the request to your principal and Mark Richardson and protects you and your students. In most cases, the items you are bringing in to enhance your classroom are just fine. Things to avoid: Pointed corners, loose or wobbly chairs or tables, furniture that is top heavy, etc. 

There are a few classrooms that have plastic items such as milk crates or modular storage that are stacked higher than student level or even rating for the weight requirements. The big problem is that you can see the lower items actually buckling. We do not want these falling on students or staff. If this applies to your room, please decrease the height of the stack. Your building custodians or principals are an excellent resource, if you need advice.

The goal here is to protect you and your students. No one wants to prevent you enhancing your classroom or instruction, it's just a safety and liability question. When in doubt, please ask.

1:1 Devices

This year, the board approved additional funding to increase our rollout of Chromebooks to classrooms.

The week after labor day, every 9th grade student will be receiving a HP G6 Chromebook and a case. The device will be able to be taken home and will have GoGuardian installed for filtering. This is a pilot group. If the program is successful, it will be continued next year. Parents are charged a fee and students will keep the device upon graduation. More information will be coming about this rollout.

Middle school carts that still have the old silver Samsung Chromebooks will have those devices replaced in September.  We are also adding additional carts to that building.

5th Grade Chromebooks will be replaced. Their previous Chromebooks are still in good shape and will be used to replace second grade iPads in September. We ordered additional units to make sure that there are full class sets.

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.