Technology Committee for School Improvement
Tuesday, September 20, 2011 4:00-5:30pm
District Office Board Room
The Niles Township High Schools District 219’s Technology Committee for School Improvement met on Tuesday, September 20, 2011 in the District 219 Board Room at the District Office. In attendance were:Matt Fahrenbacher, Josef Neumayer, Mike Beeftink, Kubrat Vrachinski, Jourf Baghdisar, Joseph Edwards, Phil Lacey, Angie Condon, Chris Powell, Sheri Doniger, Florence Yun, Carol Rahim, Keith Shaffer, and Guy Ballard. Absent were: Liz Shay, Dave Ruth, Chris Achim, Judy Duesenberg, and Toby Greenwalt
All materials are posted at https://sites.google.com/a/d219.org/tcsi/
Meeting Facilitator: Matt Fahrenbacher
TECH CONFERENCE PLANNING
The District 219 2nd annual Technology Conference will focus on 1:1 experiences in the classroom, Web 2.0 apps, and Google. The conference will be held at Niles West on Saturday, April 21, 2012 and will run from 9am to 3pm and is laid out in five-45 minute sessions with time built in for networking in between each session.
At the Google Midwest Summit last month Mr. Ballard and Dr. Lacey attended sessions which featured Google Certified presenters. Mr. Ballard has asked some of them to present at the April 21, 2012 Tech Conference as Featured Speakers. As a Featured Speaker, they would be excluded from the presentation selection process. A call for presenters has been made to District 219. The presentation selection will take place at TCSI at a future meeting.
Mr. Ballard decided to take a different approach with the conference by having the keynote over lunch. Jeff Havens, a non-traditional, humorous motivational speaker. has been booked as the Keynote and is presenting “How to Uncrapify Your Life.”
Dr. Lacey added that the feedback from last year’s conference was overwhelmingly positive and Mr. Ballard was encouraged to make this an annual event. Many attendees stated that they were hoping to see more District 219 teachers in attendance and presenting. More districts are looking to implementing their own one-to-one program and have come to District 219 to gain first-hand knowledge from faculty and staff, to better help refine their own one-to-one programs.
Although this conference is geared towards middle and high school faculty, staff, and administration there are opportunities for student to participate. Last year a group of student Tech Leaders presented a session. This was a great opportunity for the students to share their experiences and other districts to find out how a one-to-one works.
It is expected that there will be 300 people in attendance based on the number of concurrent sessions and that each room can hold close to 30 adults. Once registration approaches 250, then the venue and presenters may need to be expanded.
END-USER SOFTWARE INVENTORY AND INSTALLATION
It was asked how the Technology Department manages the software on individual computers. Mr. Ballard answered that each summer all computers in the District are “blasted” to wipe the hard drive clean. A standard inventory of software is installed which includes a productivity suite, multiple web browsers, Adobe software, a PDF creator, and many other useful tools. In addition to the standard titles, there are a number of department-specific programs that are installed.
If a teacher finds that they are in need of a particular program, they can review the titles in their “Programs” list and begin the installation process from there. Each user is a “Local Administrator” so in most cases, they are able to install and update software and drivers without the assistance from the Help Desk. This model allows the Tech Dept to recoup unused licences so software is available where needed and not installed where it will not be used. A list of base software will be posted in the next Technology newsletter.
Mr. Fahrenbacher asked how the installation of Libre Office would be handled. Mr. Ballard answered that it would be installed along side Open Office for the next school year. Mr. Fahrenbacher suggested to make a generic “Office” shortcut, which points to Libre Office and that OpenOffice be removed from computers, to avoid confusion. Both programs work the same and look nearly identical.
Mr. Ballard passed around an evaluation model of an Asus netbook and informed the group that Dell has stopped making netbooks and he has been exploring the Asus. Mr. Shaffer added that District 69 has been using Asus for three years, in grades 3 and up, for classrooms and carts and is very pleased with their performance.
Mr. Fahrenbacher asked if any other alternative devices have been investigated. Mr. Ballard answered that he has looked at tablets, but their cost points are higher than the netbooks and do not include an affordable extended warranty option. The Asus netbook is $279, with a three-year warranty, the price rises to $325. Mr. Shaffer stated that he too has been exploring tablets, but has found that they are not as robust for his students needs as consumers and producers of information. Additional components are needed, such as a keyboard, which become a price-barrier.
District 219 is a Google-heavy district and students are encouraged to use Google Docs on a regular basis. Performing this same work on most tablets does not provide the same end-user experience. Editing is done one line at a time and is not very efficient.
Mr. Beeftink asked if the current freshmen and sophomores would get blasted with the new classes’ image. Mr. Ballard answered that the image is class and device specific. Each class has a unique netbook image that works best for their specifically issued device. There are approximately 1300 netbooks purchased each year, with 10% of that set aside as loaners, replacements, and for transfer students. The largest challenge Mr. Ballard perceives is how to get support from a new vendor.
When considering a new netbook, there is a standard set of requirements. CDWg was contacted because they have the largest selection. Acer, HP, Lenovo, and Asus were viable options. The Asus netbooks that are being considered have an eight-hour battery life, the same as the Dell models the District currently uses.
The netbook batteries aren’t expected to perform the same from year one to year four. Replacement batteries are currently available at the Student Help Desk. It is anticipated that before the class of 2014 graduates, there will a Bring Your Own Device policy in effect along with the possibility of extending our K-12 pricing to students, the same as what is available to faculty and staff purchases.
Mr. Fahrenbacher suggested that feedback be gathered from teachers as to what software should be pre-installed on the netbooks before they are distributed to students; Skype would be a useful addition.
DOCUMENT CAMERA EVALUATIONS
A number of different document camera models were available for evaluation in the Niles West PDC through the week of December 5 and at Niles North the following week. Anyone testing the devices has been encouraged to put them through their paces, just as they would use them in their classrooms. Each person who requested a document camera as a part of their TCSI Technology Innovation grant was encouraged to evaluate them. A survey was developed to help determine the most popular model. Price was not included in the evaluation.
As of the meeting date the IPEVO was the most popular based solely on ratings. It has a simple design and interface and is priced remarkably lower than the others at less than $80. The reason for the low price is because the camera has no controls, buttons, or lights. Operation is done through a USB connection; zoom and other actions can be completed through the computer or with a wireless remote.
Mr. Ballard suggested that the IPEVO be purchased for check-out in the PDCs as on-demand web and document cameras. The decision-making process will be weighted with TCSI requester preference first, then evaluation results weighted second.
Mobile video conferencing equipment labs have been set up as part of the ICCP (Illinois Cloud Computing Project) grant. They will be available for check-out in the PDCs after the first of the year. Dr. Lacey and his team are evaluating them to create simple, user-friendly instructions.
A vendor has been selected to increase bandwidth throughout the district. RCN was selected because of the quick turn-around and price. Installation will take place in the next few weeks.
Website caching engines are being explored to store popular sites in order to improve the end-user’s experience. This was not budgeted for and Mr. Ballard is investigating where monies can be moved to complete this purchase.
The way a caching engine works is if someone clicks on a link to open a file or video - the first one who looks at it will have to endure the download, but the next person who clicks on that same link will retrieve the file from a local server and will load much faster.
OPEN OFFICE FOR ADMINISTRATORS
Dr. Gatta gave Mr. Ballard permission to inform all administrators that they have to move from Microsoft Office to Open Office by the end of the school year; this includes their secretaries.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:45pm.
Secretary for the Committee