Student Computer Intake — What You Might Not Know…

Today we will begin to take in the computers for 12th graders for our summer work.  I realized earlier that most people probably have no idea what this process looks like and how it needs to be structured so we don’t lose track of any computers.  I’m very proud of the fact that since 2012 we have not lost track of a single unit.  That’s not to say we haven’t had computers that are lost by students or stolen from students — that has happened.  But, all of these devices are accounted for and locked — rendered useless. The scope on this is amazing when you think about it.  Over the last five years, we will have processed over 12,000 device exchanges for Macbooks alone — distributing computers and collecting them.  That doesn’t include all of the Chromebooks and iPads we track as well.

Here’s how the process will work this year.  Students will come down to the technology office in the HS — thanks to the leadership team at the high school for being flexible on this location.  Each student computer has a barcode we’ve attached that we scan and “checks it in” to our Google Sheet.  This Sheet is amazing!  It tracks all barcodes, serial numbers, and device repair history.  Once the device is checked it, one of the techs looks it over to quickly assess if there’s any obvious damage — cracked screens, missing accessories, or other visible damage.   If there is damage, we note this on a paper form that is attached to the device.  We’ll go through all of the devices during June to get a list of fines together before registration packets go out in July.  The device is then arranged by homeroom and checked off a paper list.  At the end of each day, we re-check the paper list with each device.  Then, at the end of the main intake days, all homerooms are checked again (each device is touched) to ensure we have the right device in the right spot.  We then begin the work to track down the missing computers.  Typically, after the main intake is complete (around the last day of school) we need to track down 70-80 devices.  Some of these just have not been turned in.  But, there are a number of exceptions we deal with — students who need to keep devices to finish coursework to graduate.  Others need them for student council obligations.  Then there are special programs

We then begin the work to track down the missing computers.  Typically, after the main intake is complete (around the last day of school) we need to track down 70-80 devices.  Some of these just have not been turned in.  But, there are a number of exceptions we deal with — students who need to keep devices to finish coursework to graduate.  Others need them for student council obligations.  Then, there are special programs like super seniors.  By the middle of June, we usually have all devices accounted for in inventory.  This is when we send out the list of student fines — these must be paid before a device will be given out in the fall.  We then begin our process of re-imaging and redistribution for the fall.  This another pretty in-depth set of tasks, but the long and short of it is we touch each device to put new software on it, put a new label on each computer bag, and re-organize the entire fleet into homerooms for the 2017-18 school year.

Again, I am amazed and proud that after all of this shuffling, we have never lost track of a device.  We are blessed to have a great team doing this work.  Angela, Collin, Charlie, Chris, and Sam all contribute ideas and shape these processes and refine them each year.  We’ve significantly changed, and in most cases, improved the process each year.  This is a tribute to their hard work and talent.  I’m also very thankful for the high school staff, students, and administration’s flexibility, cooperation, and helpfulness.  This really is an endeavor that requires a full team to be successful.

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CCSD Accepted as a Google Reference District!

Google invited CCSD to apply to be a Google Reference District earlier this spring, and our application was accepted.  This is very similar to the Apple Distinguished School title we were awarded in 2013.  This is a nice recognition for all that we have done to move our digital learning plans forward.  What’s particularly validating about this program is that we were asked to apply based upon Google’s perception that we were doing really good things with their products.  Here’s a bit more info on the program from Google:

Google for Education Reference Districts are districts that demonstrate excellence and thought leadership through the innovative use of technology, including G Suite for Education (formerly known as Google Apps for Education) and Chromebooks, to drive impact and positive learning outcomes.”

In addition to the title, Google will no grant us access to some products in development and give us more insights into the direction the G Suite tools will be going.  This is a nice bit of recognition to celebrate the end of the school year.

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Why Won’t Netfilx Work Any More at School?

Late last we began to get reports about teachers having trouble with Netflix here at school.  We block Netflix for students while on the school network (it works on 1:1 devices when offsite), but it’s always been available to staff.  We started a support ticket with Securly, our internet filter.  We found out that Netflix has made some security updates and don’t allow proxy access to their service.  So, this means that Netflix will not be available for streaming on our network until they change this policy.  This change will also likely hit a lot of other larger networks that rely upon proxy services for security.

One possible workaround that’s possible, would be to download the content to your computer while offsite — at home or some other network-connected location.  I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.  Let me know if you have questions.

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Don’t Forget About Friendly Disruption

I know podcasts are not everyone’s thing, but if you find them useful, I would put in a plug for the one that Maggie Pickett and I are running — Friendly Disruption.  While we are training ugly, I do think the quality of each episode continues to improve.  Maggie and I try to find tools that are inexpensive or free to use with all kids.  We also visit with some pretty interesting and smart guests.

In April, we had a great conversation with Infinite Campus CEO and founder, Charlie Kratch about the future of education and digital tools.  Later in May, we’ll be visiting with nationally recognized digital learning consultant, Kevin Brookhauser.  Kevin is the author of the book, The 20 Time Project.  He’s an experienced classroom teacher and expert on designing highly engaging, authentic project-based learning experiences.  I encourage you all to give this a listen when you have time.

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Google Read&Write Stats

I just found out yesterday that we can run some basic utilization stats for Google Read&Write.  Below are the overall use numbers for the year to date and a pie chart of what tools within the suite are being used the most.

It’s nice to see a general upward trend in overall use.  Of course, I would love to see that number go even higher.  It also looks like most of our use comes from the screen reader feature.  While that’s a great tool, there’s so much more that Google R&W can do.  Here are a couple of quick resources if you wish to learn more about Read&Write:

Tutorial video (8 minutes)

Google Read&Write Toolbar visual guide

If you still want to learn more about Google Read&Write, drop me a line and I can connect you with even more resources. I’d also be happy to work with individuals or teams directly, too.

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Building Bridges 2017

I had the privilege to attend Building Bridges, the Grant Wood assistive technology conference on Tuesday.  I love this conference!  I know I’ve shared this idea before, but assistive technology is not just for kids with IEPs or 504s.  It needs to be a choice for all learners.  These tools are at the heart of personalized learning as described in our Strategic Plan — they are what personalized learning looks like in action.  While being essential for some learners, AT tools are good for everyone. Integrating these types of tools using Universal Design of Learning (UDL) framework removes stigmas and empowers ALL learners.  In short, AT is not just a “special ed thing” anymore.

There were so many great stories at the conference this year.  But, the one that resonated most with me was shared by the keynote speaker, Mark Coppin.  Mark is an AT advocate and related a story about a high school student, named Sady –pictured above –, who has some significant mobility and communication challenges.  For the past few years, Mark has offered an AT summer camp that gives kids a chance to try all different types of AT for a week.  During one of these camps, Sady confided in Mark that she was very interested in video production/editing after trying out some of the tools at his camp.  They worked together to get her some additional tools, and she continued to grow her skill and expertise.  Based upon this, Mark was able to get her a scholarship to Full Sail University (an online program).  That in and of itself is amazing.  Because of the UDL design of most of the Full Sail course work, most of Sady’s peers and instructors never knew that she was disabled until they needed to video chat.  Again, this reinforces one of the really great things about UDL.

However, the story gets even better.  Sady graduated with honors from Full Sail and began her career.  One of her first jobs was with Apple.  She produced the video linked on the page below.  It’s only a couple of minutes long.  I encourage you to watch it when you have time. It’s awe inspiring…


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Securly Updates

While far from being a perfect product, Securly is doing some really interesting, new things.  They are a relatively new company, and they are growing their customer base as well as their product very quickly.  There are a number of new features that we have just started using.  Here are a few highlights.

Securly monitors a wide-spectrum of student online activity.  They scan all web searches and posts to social media (Twitter, Facebook, and Google+) for students that use our network and/or our devices and uses a pretty intelligent algorithm to look for self-harm and bullying/harassment language.   If it detects something, it captures that information and “flags” it.  Starting in January, I was able to give building principals and guidance staff in our secondary schools (grades 5-12) a login that will let them monitor this type of student activity for their building.  These staff can also search browsing history for individual students as well. My hope is that Securly will continue to develop this part of their product and send an alert email to these staff when new content is flagged.  That sound likely within the next few months.

Another new feature we’ve rolled out in the last few days is Securly Auditor.  Auditor uses the same algorithm for self-harm and bullying/harassment and scans nearly all the tools in our Google Domain — Gmail, Drive, GChat, Hangouts, YouTube comments, etc…  Auditor does actually have the alert feature.  So, when it finds something, it will send an email.  Right now, we send it to an email group and it’s not targeted at a building.  It also shows a few false-positives.  But, it’s probably better to over-identify than miss this type of content.

Before the end of the school year, we will also be a launching the Securly parent portal.  This site will allow parents to see sites, searches, and social media (Twitter, Facebook, and Google+) use for their children.  It will also send them a weekly email that highlights, top sites, searches, and educational sites visited.


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Useful Approved Chrome Extensions

For safety and security reasons, we lockdown which Chrome Extensions students can use.  If the extension is not on our approved list, students can not install it.  Here is a list of the currently approved Chrome Extensions for student use.  Some of these extensions are pushed and automatically installed for all students and teachers.

There are a lot of great tools here for kids and staff.  There are a variety of writing tools like Grammarly (one of my favorites) and a number of screen capture/casting tools, too.  I would strongly encourage you to browse this list.  You might find something that will really help your students.  If you have an extension that you’d like to see added for all students to have, just drop me a note to get it added to this list.

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2016-17 Technology Department Survey Results

Thank you to everyone who took a couple of moments to fill out the survey.  This type of feedback is really important to me and my team.  We read all of the comments and do our best to make adjustments based upon what is shared.  Below is the five-year trend data for the seven Likert scale questions.

These values are the combination of everyone who answered a “4” or a “5”.  We consider “3” a neutral response — neither agree nor disagree.  We continue to see a really nice trend.  All of the percentages increased or stayed the same from last year’s results.  All but one question got above 90% agree.  We also saw a couple of nice modest gains in timeliness, notification of results, and student-centered focus.  We need to continue to think about how we communicate as this value for this question is lower than it was two years ago.

Wordle of comments for what the Technology Department is doing well.

Wordle of comments regarding areas of improvement of the Technology Department.

The comments are especially valuable.  Of course, we really enjoy reading the nice things.  And, these types of positive comments really matter and do motivate our team to keep doing good things.  So, thank you to everyone who “filled our bucket”.  I was especially proud to see the word, “students” featured so prominently in the Wordle.  That’s why we are here and do what we do — to make things better for kids.  On the flip side, the improvement comments, while not as much fun, are even more helpful.  So, again, thank you to everyone who asked a question or gave us feedback/suggestions on how to improve.  I’m also very proud that the biggest term in this Wordle is “None”.

As always, please don’t hesitate to drop me a note or give me a call if you have questions or would like additional information.

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21 Google Tools You Probably Never Heard Of…

This is basically just a repost from Eric Curts’ site.  But, this is a lot of really good information — some of it you probably know, but I bet there are a couple of nuggets that you’ll find useful.  Here’s the direct link to this post.  Enjoy!


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