Three Minute Update: October 10, 2009

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 all or parts of this message as appropriate.

New SPAM Filter – The district has successfully transitioned to Postini, our new SPAM filter. Because this filter is completely controlled by our district, we will have more flexibility with regard to what mail and content may reach those staff members we serve. It is our goal to minimize SPAM and viruses that are delivered via email messages, and also reduce the number of “false alerts” which block legitimate email. SPAM is an ongoing challenge for all organizations, but we are optimistic that we can deliver a service more aligned with the needs of those we serve.

Wireless at North High School– As part of our district’s ongoing commitment to provide our students and teachers with the 21st century tools they need, the planned and budgeted installation of wireless access points to support wireless laptops and other devices at North High School is well under way. The vendor, selected via competitive bid, has done a site visit and will likely begin the work in the next two weeks. The Wireless N protocol was ratified earlier this month, so we are evaluating the products that will provide us the best possible service with the lowest total cost of ownership.

NYSED Community Forums on the Statewide Educational Technology Plan – On October 8, 2009, I was fortunate to participate in one of the NYSED Community Forums on the Statewide Educational Technology Plan. These forums are designed to gather input in order to create a Statewide Educational Technology Plan that adequately supports student learning and places a focus on the skills necessary to compete in the 21st century. Of the six goals that were presented to ten tables of experts, our table focused on item 4; “USNY Institutions are united in realizing the vision.” After rather extensive conversations, our table agreed that the best actionable idea we could suggest, which would be brought back to the state, is the need for the state to recognize that the current method of assessments does not align with 21st Century Learning Goals, and that 21st Century teachers and students need ubiquitous access to a global information network, as well as the hardware devices necessary to access and contribute to this body of knowledge. I know that is a run-on sentence, but we could only provide one statement, and we figured we would squeeze in our thoughts as much as possible. Additional ideas or suggestions may be sent to edtech@mail.nysed.gov and I encourage you to do so.

Google Apps Update – Google Apps, which has become the cornerstone of our district’s electronic toolbox (a mixed metaphor indeed), continues to be used in new and exciting ways. Last week, there were two school-led professional development workshops in which secondary teachers learned the basics of using the CCSD Google Applications for Domains system. At North High School, science teacher Heidi Lappi led a group of teachers in an interactive, hands on workshop for approximately 20 teachers. There was a great deal of enthusiasm among the teachers, and follow up sessions are already being scheduled. At South High School, math teacher George Engel led a similar workshop as part of South’s “Viking Workshop” offerings of professional development. Mr. Engel’s workshop is the second one held at South this year. Earlier, the English department participated in a two hour session, exploring various tools and instructional strategies.

Blogs Server Update – We are nearly completed with our migration to a new server/domain with the latest blogging software, themes, and plug-ins. We anticipate being fully functional with this system by October 23rd, including having it connected to our single sign-on server (so username and password will always be the same as network/email username and password). We had isolated the problem with our blogs as being caused directly by our recent upgrade; specifically the product was updated, but the themes and plug-ins were not.

Software for Elementary Schools – I will be meeting with Dr. Leh and a representative group of elementary school principals to review the software needs for grades K-5. Over the summer we removed titles that were out of date (no longer stable on the XP environment), out of license, or used in very isolated situations. In the meeting with principals, we will determine the software that should be on all K-5 computers and work with teachers to have the use of these software programs aligned with the appropriate curricula.

SchoolWebLockers – There are NO plans to discontinue SchoolWebLockers.  Some teachers have questioned whether or not we will be keeping this system, and the answer is an emphatic yes!  There are absolutely NO plans to discontinue this service. Students who do not have their password may obtain it from the school library media specialist.  Note that users can change their passwords, and for students the initial log-in password is their student id number.

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