This “Three Minute Update” is designed to provide answers to some frequently asked questions that have surfaced during the first seven days of school. Items are listed in random order, and I encourage you to share all or parts of this message as appropriate.
Elementary School Software Update – Based on last spring’s software survey, a number of programs were removed from the elementary school computers as they were re-imaged over the summer. If software that addressed a particular goal was removed, it was done so either because very few respondents used the software, there was not adequate licensing, or the software was out of date and caused errors on the computers. The question becomes what are the goals of the software and how can we support them. For example, Creative Writer 2 is a great writing tool, released in 1996. However, it is increasingly difficult to support programs of that generation, and I suspect we can provide improved tools to help reach the same goals. Of particular interest are tools that can be utilized outside the classroom (i.e. web based). I welcome the opportunity to sit down with principals and a few teachers and collaborate on a solution that works.
Power Media Plus – As you may recall, late last year PowerMedia Plus decided to become a “for fee” entity, and the cost to supply all our schools with a subscription was quite high. VITAL NY, a free video service which can be accessed at http://vital.thirteen.org, may provide some of our teachers with a good alternative. Initial reports indicate that it has a limited number of videos, but it currently the only alternative. Users may self-register during their first visit to the site, and create a unique user name and password for ongoing access.
SMART Board installations – SMART Boards that were scheduled for installation for the 2009-10 school year are being installed this week. There was a delay with regard to a backorder of the rails that are needed for certain rooms. The rails are a proprietary item, and they have arrived at our district.
Google Apps for Domains – The Google Apps for Domains service is available, and there is a series of professional development opportunities that will be promoted in the upcoming days. Staff who intend to use the system with students should participate in professional development to gain a broader understanding of the system, including items such as naming conventions and which domain (we have two) should be used for professional/teacher collaborative tasks and which should be used for collaborating with students. Proper planning in the early stages is essential.
eSchooldata – Our department has been working closely with Beth Prince-Bradbury to resolve some connectivity issues related to bandwidth and BOCES filtering. As part of a solution, we have increased our internet bandwidth by 50% and reduced the filtering categories. Note that although a site may not be filtered, the district’s acceptable use policy still governs the use of our resources. Visits to personal Webmail, Facebook and other sites not related to our district’s mission are not permitted.
Upcoming Move from LHRIC to Lightpath for Internet Service – The district is in the process of switching to Lightpath from BOCES as our internet provider. This will allow us to double our bandwidth (from 25Mb/ to 50 Mb/s) at a lower cost. Additionally, we will run our own SPAM filter, and have selected Postini (now owned by Google), an industry leader. Though fighting SPAM is comparable to pushing water, this tool will give us the granular control we need as a district, and builds on the collective global lists that update daily. We will also take ownership and control our own Internet filter. We have selected a filter that more closely aligns with our district goals and will provide us the ability to create our own rules and filters as they apply to our mission of supporting 21st century learners. This includes the ability to filter by grade level or group, a significant and necessary functionality for our district.