80/20 and Squirrels

- CC-by-SA-3.0 - by Cephas - hover over or click on image for attribution. - CC-by-SA-3.0 – by Cephas – hover over or click on image for attribution.

Technology Services is a service department. We aim to help the teachers, students, and staff in School District 60 with technology and educational technology. I’ve told my staff frequently that we have a captive audience. Our staff and students don’t have another choice when it comes to who services their tech/systems etc that are district owned, so we need to provide great service.

As of last week we’ve never had so many active tickets since I’ve tracked them. This can often lead us to enact the “Good Enough” solution and move on. The “Good Enough” solution gets the job done but as our Safety Officer, Chad Cushway, told me once, “Good Enough, is seldom good and often not enough.”

I’ve likened this to getting 80% of the job done before we run off to the next task, the next squirrel (distractions or shiny things), or off to put out an inferno. There are many squirrels, very many tasks, and the occasional inferno. The fires need to be put out of course, but some tasks and squirrels can wait if we make it important to make the time for the 20%.

Communication between parties and in depth understanding of both tech and education sometimes makes the difference in understanding whether an issue is a squirrel, task, or inferno. While squirrels are interesting (or distracting) we might need to stop feeding them so often!

The 20% for us can often be people time, documentation, research, thorough testing, and consultation. It isn’t always at the beginning or the ending of the task. It can be both and throughout.

The challenge of making the time is it needs to be both our time and yours. It is difficult to ask a teacher to take time out at 10:42 to show them what we’ve done. Or to ask an administrator for time when they have their own fires ongoing which many of us as technical staff don’t necessarily recognize. Either way if we want to do things well, do them right the first time, we all need to spend the time. I’d hope this would lead to more successful completion of tasks, more collaboration between our department and schools, and less returns to fix a job that was thought to be complete.

There might be many places where this is more than appropriate. Two come to mind immediately.

The first that comes to mind is “Images” of computers. We image computers (wipe, build new, refresh) frequently through the year. We prefer to do them once a year as they are time consuming to build images and to put them on computers. Going back to do it again is an unfortunate loss of time for everyone. Where the 20% comes in on these is getting the desires of the school for their image (what programs are on it etc) as well as testing of the image. While we can test that programs work, printers print etc, we really do require the help of school teaching staff to let us know if we’ve got it right for educational uses. There is also the considerations of old software not working on new tech/OS’s and licensing issues that need discussing.

The second would be new projects. I’d define new projects as an addition on to the norm. A cart of chromebooks, a bunch of ipads, a new 3D printer, etc. These can be very time consuming especially if they are new or the assigned staff member is new to them. The learning piece can be front-end loaded for our staff so that it can be successful. We know however that the learning piece can be time consuming. Clear understanding of the desire of the school/department for use of their project is key. For that we need to take the time to communicate what are the wants of the school, and ask what are the capabilities of Tech Services to meet the needs. Also on new projects that are to be tech for students we have a department policy that requires schools to communicate their digital citizenship plan for students around the project. That’s important to us that the work we do will provide students with educational opportunities in a safe environment.

The long and the short of this is I will work with my staff to take the time around the two items above and consider other places to do so as well. To do that we will need some time from you as well. If you are able to carve the time out for us, thank you.

If you aren’t able to provide the time then I’d ask if your task is a squirrel that we should ignore?

5 Year old Unibody Macbooks – Ideas?

Technology has completed assignment of older 5 year old macbooks into carts for grade 5s in 5/6 splits, and provided for grade 7s in the district. If somehow we’ve missed you please contact me.

We have 156 remaining along with some others we will hold back for spares for parts.

These will receive end-of-life designation in the next year which means TS won’t be servicing them afterwards. We don’t have a budget to currently service these so anything that can’t be repaired or replaced for free would be up to the school/department to cover.

These 5 year old macbooks will have an OS X 10.6.8 image with software that is licensed from WWP and it will not be updated beyond as the hardware does not support well 10.9 and beyond. There are no printers on the image by default.

At this point we are seeking ideas, suggestions, requests, from schools and staff  about how to deploy these devices. Please use the public commenting function below for your suggestion. If any of the suggestions below would have a cost associated that would be up to the school to cover.

A plan will be formulated from these comments and published on the blog around November 14th so comments before then will be taken into consideration.

Planned Outage @ Clearview

RFC# 118257

Location(s):                

SD60 - Clearview Elementary & Junior Secondary School

Window:                     2014-10-17 00:01:00 2014-10-17 06:00:00

Impact:                       2 hour outage due to vendor maintenance

Beware of the shiny things

A very smart man passed the following thought and quote to me today.

A pitfall to avoid is the seductive power of shiny digital services and wares that prompt many companies to pursue technology for its own sake. “Technology can be a siren song. Without a focused approach, it’s easy to be led astray,”

 

It is something we should keep in the forefront of our thinking when looking at technology in education. Keeping a learning focus is key. Otherwise it becomes a tool that you don’t have a use for and it will sit and collect dust.

Wireless writing has been successful because of the focus on writing and learning with the technology as a tool.

Begin with the end in mind.

Macbook Exchange – teachers at BB and DK

We have a surplus of spares this year due to decrease in grade 6/7 enrolments and there is no need to pull out a computer lab and replace it with a mobile lab in one of the elementary schools due to space needs. Because of this we plan on replacing teacher laptops at Bowes and Kearney for those who are currently using 7-8 year old macbooks with the 4 year old WWP spares. The surplus is very tight so any extra WWP laptops from students leaving the district must be returned immediately by schools.

This will be the last time we do a swap like this from the surplus or off lease WWP laptops for teachers at Bert Bowes and Dr. Kearney.

Over the next couple of years we will begin to put in desktop computers into each classroom at the middle schools and any WWP classroom where a desktop is currently not available. When that is complete we will only support the desktop computers in those rooms. At that time the unibody teacher macbooks will be set to end of life on our list and very limited support provided to them. Going forward and lacking any injection of new funds to Technology Services, desktop computers will be the most sustainable option for us.

We will provide a freshly imaged machine. If teachers can perform their own transfers of their files they can get them quickly. Your Local Area Network specialist will get in touch.

Timeline – October.

Service Degradation

One of our three ESX servers that share work would not reboot last night after the power outage. We have migrated services to the other two so that services are available.

We will work today to rebuild the server and get back to 100% capacity.

Account related tickets will have to wait for a bit.

If you have any issues related to an unavailable service (ie Insignia is not working) please call the Helpdesk and let them know. 250-263-6442

Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.

Planned Network Maintenance

RFC# 102107

Location(s):      Burns Lake, Fort St John, Hazelton, Houston, Kitimat, Queen Charlotte City, Stewart, and Terrance RNCs – All Users

SD60 -  Baldonnel Elementary School

            Charlie Lake Elementary School

            Hudson’s Hope School

Prespatou Elementary & Secondary School

Upper Pine Elementary & Junior Secondary School

Window:           2013-09-04  22:00 through 2013-09-05  06:00  PDT

Impact:             Multiple outages during this Vendor requested network maintenance window

Microsoft Office via Home Use Program

I’m pleased to announce that school district staff can access Microsoft Office at a low low cost of $11 for their personally owned computer! This is due to our participation in the BCERAC Microsoft agreement.

For more information on how please view the PDF linked below.

ERAC – Home Use Program (Education Desktop) 2013

You do not need to contact Technology Services for this program, just read the PDF linked above on how to get a copy of Microsoft Office!

This program is only available for personally owned computers.

Schools can choose to purchase a license via technology services for $25 per seat for district owned computers.

 

 

Planned Internet Outage – April 28th

Please note that there is a planned service interruption for this Sunday morning (April 28th) for an hour between 6am-9am. 
RFC# 96296 and # 96297
Location(s):     Fort St. John and Surrey RNCs All Users
Window:  2013-04-28  06:01 through 2013-04-28  09:00  PDT
Impact:  1 hour outage for this network maintenance

 

SMART Tech at Taylor

From Mr Gill at Taylor Elementary

SMART Technology: Taylor Elementary School’s use of SMART Technology has assisted students’ learning needs!  Mrs. McDonell has been using her smart board to help her grade 3 students discover new strategies for numeracy.  Most  classrooms are equipped with interactive SMART Boards and Document Cameras to enhance the learning experiences for students.

 

Students using smartboard at Taylor Elementary

Students using smartboard at Taylor Elementary

PaperCut at NPSS! Bowes and Kearney next?

papercut

We are excited that NPSS has decided to join us with credited printing for students in September of 2013. We are optimistic that Dr. Kearney and Bert Bowes will decide to join us as well! The use of our PaperCut software to limit student printing is a measure to

  • promote conservation
  • reduce paper use
  • reduce power use
  • reduce toner use
  • reduce frequency of replacement of printers
  • reduce staff time maintaining printers
  • report on district carbon reduction
  • reduce associated costs

 

ELC – Check!

NPSS – Check! – Starting September 2013

Dr. Kearney – Presented to Staff Meeting – waiting for decision

Bert Bowes – Presented to Staff Team – waiting for decision

ELC Survey

In the fall of 2011 I did a social media presentation and survey with the Grade 10s at the Energetic Learning Campus. In September of 2012 students from the ELC (Grade 10 and 11 now) responded online using a Google Form. Here are questions and affirmative results from the two years.

Fall Survey 2011 2012
n 107 130
Do you have high speed internet at home? Yes 71% Yes 81%
Do you have a mobile phone? Yes 85% Yes 85%
Is your mobile a smartphone? Yes 46% Yes 63%
Have you used your phone in a sanctioned instructional activity in the past? Yes 44% Yes 78%
Do you have a facebook account? Yes 85% Yes 82%
Do you have a twitter account? Yes 22% Yes 45%
Have you used social media in a sanctioned instructional activity in the past? Yes 18% Yes 59%
If you have a facebook account, are you friends with either of your parents? Yes 38% Yes 57%

Some questions for discussion…

What jumps out at you?
How do you think they might change next year?
Why do you think they are different from year to year?
What inferences can you make about one or more of these results?
Does socio-economic status of respondents make a difference in these results?
Are you influenced in one way or another to adopt or change a behaviour due to these results?

Please add some more questions that come to mind in the comments!

Purchasing of iPads

For schools and departments purchasing ipads there are many things to consider and discuss with Technology Services prior to your purchase. Decisions will need to be made and listed in the work order for the purchase of the iPads so we can best serve you. Let us know how they are to be used and we can set them up as best as possible.

To consider

  • iPads (and Android devices for that matter) are meant to be individual devices
  • The device will generally need an email account, or other accounts attached to apps to be able to share anything made on the ipad. There are some ways to sync the ipads and get content off of them, but email is often the easiest way to share something made on the iPad to someone.
  • If the device is to be shared, it cannot use a personal email. We can create a device email though for it, or for a group of devices in your school/department. Anyone using these devices will have access to this email account.
  • iPad programs are called Apps and are not loaded like traditional software. Purchasing of apps is through an online iTunes store and requires an account, gift cards / credit card attached.
  • Reimbursement to staff for apps they are purchasing and loading onto a district iPad but through their personal  iTunes account is not recommended as the purchase is attached to the account, not the device.
  • We can create district iTunes accounts. You can provide us with iTunes gift cards and we can redeem to the account so that staff can purchase apps. This way the apps are owned by the district iTunes account and will be available after a staff change over.
  • iPad is not a computer. It is a different class of device.
  • It can print with specific printers. If you require this it would be up to you to purchase the new types of printers. We recommend against this as there are better ways to share content created from the iPads which often wouldn’t be appropriate to print anyway.
  • iPads are new for the staff at Technology Services and represent additional responsibilities without additional time available to us.
  • Where are you going to charge the iPads?
  • Who will be maintaining them in your school or department?
  • Would a cart and a syncing laptop be appropriate for your purchase? If you are buying many of them a cart for 30 and a laptop can make the secure storage, charging, and syncing much easier. We recommend the Bretford Powersync Carts
  • Are you getting cases and styluses?
  • Will these go home? Are you providing an extra power adapter?
  • Purchasing must go through Technology Services via work order with a purchase order number
  • How are you providing professional development to staff regarding their pedagogical use of the iPads?
  • Do you have a sustainable replacement plan? As these are still a new class of device, we are not certain on their average lifespan of the device or the battery. We do suggest you consider a three or four year replacement plan.
  • We are not suggesting the additional warranty on top of the 1 year default warranty, although you are free to purchase if you require.
  • There are numerous options for setup and “locking down” of the device. Can students or teachers add or delete apps? Should they have access to the internet on them? etc.

Other considerations or questions? Please add them in the comments below.

WordPress 3.4 and Twitter Integration

Jury is still out – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The WordPress and Twitter permalink native embedding is neat, but doesn’t seem to work all the time. Not sure if that is a twitter server issue, a my server issue, or a wordpress issue. Either way. If you can see an embedded tweet below, cool. If not, meh.

Clearview Internet

SD60 along with possible partners are working towards expanding internet connectivity not only to Clearview School but the surrounding areas. Internet has become a critical infrastructure for schools, companies, and many residents.

Below is a map with some possible partners and significant locations in the Clearview/Flat Rock/Goodlow area. If you are interested in joining the discussion please email jbell@prn.bc.ca

View Clearview Internet in a larger map

Planned Outages

Here are two planned outages that will affect schools; however we hope will have no impact as they are scheduled for late in the night.
RFC# 84786
Location(s):    
Fort St. John RNC – All TELUS MAN services

SD60 -  Alwin Holland Elementary School
Bert Ambrose Elementary School
Bert Bowes Middle School
C M Finch Elementary School
Robert Ogilvie Elementary School
Window:  2012-05-23  23:00 through 2012-05-24  05:00  PDT
Impact:  Multiple outages during Part 1 for this Vendor requested network maintenance
RFC# 84792
Location(s):     
Fort St. John RNC – All TELUS MAN services

SD60 -  Alwin Holland Elementary
Bert Ambrose Elementary
Bert Bowes Junior Secondary
C M Finch Elementary
École Central Elementary
Robert Ogilvie Elementary
Window:  2012-05-24  23:00 through 2012-05-25  05:00  PDT
Impact:  Multiple outages during Part 2 of this Vendor requested network maintenance

Wonowon Internet Upgrade

I’m happy to say that the Wonowon Elementary School’s internet has been upgraded to a 4Mbps ADSL line via Northwestel! We expect this to provide much better reliability, download and upload speeds than the previous satellite connections.

For Discussion – New Printer Moratorium

Originally posted March 12, 2012

In light of a cost report done at the Vancouver School Board which referenced printers and printing costs along with our requirement to have various printing reduction strategies in place for Provincial carbon reporting I would suggest the following change to the Printer Purchasing Policy which is currently at http://www.prn.bc.ca/ts/?p=284.

Suggested addition:

New Printer Moratorium

Technology Services will no longer support the addition of new printers to the school district unless they have a specific educational purpose (ie adding a drafting class and need a plotter, a new fine arts class needs a color printer etc)

This does not apply to replacement of current printers however but does apply to an expansion of the number of printers already in schools.

Replacement of current printers should consider the cost and volume of use for the printer to be replaced to determine if the printer should be decommissioned or be replaced with a different volume capacity.

3D printers are not included in this moratorium.

As usual your public comments help to guide our practice. Private comments can be sent via email.