Three Minute Update: November 20, 2008

The “Three Minute Update” is designed to provide you with a snapshot of key items related to the department of instructional technology that may be of interest to you. Items are listed in random order. Please share as appropriate.

Staff Acceptable Use Policy – Please remind staff and students of the district’s acceptable use policy. The staff policy was approved by the board of education last year and governs employee use of our networks and the internet. An online “pop-up” window was deployed on our networks today as part of our efforts to ensure all staff are aware of the policy (see full policy and regulations). Of course, regardless of such a pop-up message, the board policy is in effect. The student policy is in the process of being rewritten for board of education review, and the past policy remains in effect until any change is presented and acted upon.

Open Source Software -At the November 6, 2008 technology committee meeting, John Calvert and I presented a brief and informal demonstration of Open Office word processing and presentation modules. A pilot of Open Office will be planned in two elementary schools and one secondary school/wing to examine the benefits and potential drawbacks to such an initiative. The goal is to provide our students and teachers with a consistent software package to use at school and home. The software will be freely distributed and made available for download on our district’s website.

Projects worthy of note –At the November 6, 2008 technology committee meeting, there were multiple examples given of the wonderful impact the SMART Boards are having in the kindergarten classes in a variety of our elementary schools. Students are engaged in various activities throughout the day. Special note was made that the focused professional development and opportunities for teacher collaboration (including walking across the hall when new items are posted and tried in the classroom) were instrumental in the success. Other exciting projects in the district include:

  • Middle school students are actively engaged in blogging projects and there are plans for expanding this further.
  • A group of middle school world language students are engaged in an online “voice blog” using the district’s voicethread service, in which they participate using computer, microphones, and the internet as part of an engaging and student centered learning experience.
  • Examples were given of the engaging quality and other benefits SMART Boards have on some of our autistic students, and providing a board to support student engagement will be explored in the context of school priorities.
  • Students are regularly using laptops as part of robotic and science research at North High School. Additionally, extensive use is being made of schoolweblockers by some teachers, resulting in a significantly reduced use of paper.
  • Middle school students participated in a “closed network” debate using monitored threaded discussions. The level of student engagement was so high and the student feedback so positive that Greg Montague, Bob Calotta, John Calvert, and John Krouskoff will explore how to leverage this technology to include a broader audience.
  • Math teachers at South High School are using the SMART Boards and there is a growing enthusiasm among the students and staff with regard to the multitude of uses.

School Web Lockers Update – School web lockers is fully functional and there have been several training sessions for teachers. A number of teachers throughout the district are making extensive use of this service as a way to provide their students “anytime/anywhere” access to materials, as well as to conserve a significant amount of paper. The English teachers at each school are serving as the “point persons” for the roll-out. Please note the following:

  • File size is limited to 25MB – This is due to limitations of web browsers, not the product, and we have limited the size to 25MB to minimize “unknown errors” to users. In short, a web browser will “time out” when it doesn’t finish its task within a set period of time. Loading large files through a web browser often takes longer than the browser allows, leading to “time outs” and user frustration. Note that on slower internet connections, the file size that can be uploaded may be smaller than 25MB.
  • For classes with the need to transfer large files to share at home, my office can provide portable jump drives that teachers can lend to students as necessary. Please ask your building technology liaison or Tech TA if you need several.
  • Some file types are not allowed on schoolweblockers, but this will impact very few users. The file types that are not allowed are: .3gp,.aac,.aif,.asf,.asx,..bat,.cgi,.com,.exe,.gam,.gz,.iff,.js,.jsp,.m3u,.nes,.pif,.pkg,.qt,.ra,.ram,.rar,.rm,.rom,.sav,.sea,.sit,.sitx,.,.vb,. ws,.zip,.app,.flac, .vbs

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