Three Minute Update: August 13, 2009

As we enter the “not-so-dog days of August,” there are some key items that have taken place this summer which are worth highlighting.  Below are items worthy of a quick read, as they will likely have a significant impact on instruction, student learning, and engagement. Enjoy the rest of the summer.  I look forward to a productive and invigorating 2009/10 school year!

Electronic textbooks – The district’s technology committee spent some time last year discussing the value of electronic textbooks, whether online or downloaded to a Kindle or Sony Reader. There have been some rapid developments in this area. Specifically, in California, “the Free Digital Textbook Initiative began in response to the state’s budget crisis and as a way to promote interactive learning” and has identified “10 digital textbooks that meet California academic standards for high school math and science.” (Read article here). On the hardware side of the picture, Sony announced that it would move to selling only eBooks that follow an established open standard (as opposed to Kindle’s proprietary standard). You can read the interesting developments in this arena here. There seems to be a lot of movement and possible convergence in this market, and Texas has also been active in this move. With Texas and California both on board, we may see a large scale shift in the textbook arena in the not too distant future. The Department of Instructional Technology is monitoring these advancements and evaluating what impact they may have on our district.

Enhancements to various CCSD systems – The Department of Instructional Technology has been working on several projects which should improve the services we deliver to the community we serve. Some of these key changes include:

  • 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.
  • Taking control of our SPAM filter. We are moving to 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.
  • Taking control of our Internet filter. We have selected a filter that more closely aligns with our district goals and will provide us the ability to truly own the 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.
  • Extending the programs that will be tied into our Single Sign-On server (SSO). Though not all programs are technologically advanced enough yet, our goal is to connect as many programs to our SSO as possible. Currently we have the entire Google Applications for Domains on the SSO, and anticipate bringing our CCSD Blogs on before school begins. Other systems we are working with (though not yet integrated) include My Learning Plan, Eval Pro, and Postini.
  • Implementing an advanced user management tool that will automate the process of network account creation/modification/deletion based directly on the information that is in the human resources data base (WinCap). Additionally, this will largely automate the process of maintaining our global email list, ensuring they are up-to-date based on the information provided from WinCap.
  • Installing OS Tube so that it will be available for district stakeholders during the first semester. OS Tube is, in essence, our district’s own YouTube, and teachers can determine if a video should be private, public to all registered users, or publicly accessible on the internet. In speaking with one teacher earlier this week, such access will be invaluable for his speech class, in which speeches can be recorded and uploaded, with students viewing the video at a later pointing and providing feedback and comments electronically. In this scenario, it would be a private group using the system, as might be the case in capturing an experiment in a science lab. A public use of the system might include student created public service announcements, while a semi public use might be daily announcements at the school level.
  • Reviewing social network platforms to tie together the various components of our district’s digital toolbox. Currently we are evaluating Elgg and BuddyPress.
  • Re-imaging all student computers in the district so that the image and software is consistent throughout the district.
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