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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Spring Break Infrastructure Projects and a Pleasant Surprise

Last week, like many of you, I took the week off.  It was great to spend some time away from the office and recharge.  However, Chris, Collin, and Sam were here over break.  We had discussed some possible projects for them to do while most of us were away.  Break is a great time to do infrastructure work since most of the time this type of job involves service outages.  One of the projects we talked about was the team reclaiming some switches that were not being used at Prairie Point.  Back in 2009 when Point opened, we built the network so that over 90% of the network drops would be live.  Point is a big building, and in addition to having a lot of lab spaces (over 10), there were multiple data ports in each classroom that were lit, too.  With our total commitment to wireless networking, a lot of these ports are now unnecessary.  So, I thought we might be able to consolidate and bring back five to seven switches we could use elsewhere in the district.

One of the other projects we looked at was testing and studying how to redeploy our previous core switch to Prairie Creek to give a 10 fold increase in capacity in the connection to that building.  I thought that both of these projects would keep these three guys pretty busy all week.  The team started on the core switch and Creek project.  But, they ran into a problem right out of the gate that they could not solve without assistance from me.  So, they moved on to the Point project on Tuesday.  By the end of the day, they had consolidated and reclaimed 19 switches from Point!  Chris texted me the picture above at the end of the day Tuesday to let me know how it went.  We were all really surprised that they were able to get that many devices back.

When I returned on Monday, they let me know that on their own initiative the group had taken several of these surplus switches (about 10) and used them to replace/update all the really old switches we had at Prairie Heights, Prairie View, Prairie Crest, and at the Operations building.  This was a big project — usually something we would not tackle until summer.  For the buildings in question, these updates will give a 10x increase in capacity for many of our wireless devices.  So, this should mean better performance.

The really good news is that this is one less summer project that we don’t need to fit into our very tight summer schedule.  This will give us more time to get even further during the busiest time of the year: summer.  I’m very thankful to have such a hard-working, bright, and creative team.  This was a great surprise on the Monday after break.

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Google TakeOut — Transfer Your Gmail and Drive to another Google Account

I just got the note below from Google today.  This feature would have been really handy a couple of years ago 🙂

Your domain now has access to a new tool which allows students to copy Drive and email files when they leave your domain.

Hi there,

We are writing to let you know that your domain now has access to Transfer your content, a new extension of Google Takeout. With this tool, your students can copy their Drive and email files from their G Suite for Education account to another Google account before they leave the domain. This will enable students to easily retain their email, essays, resumes, science projects and any other files stored on Google Drive if your school removes access to their old account. Learn more.


The technology team will be creating a screencast to show how to manage this process for both students and staff in the next week or two.  I’ll post them here.   I’m also planning to work with the high school team to create a protocol for all senior students to follow these steps so they can retain data from their CRPrairie.org accounts after graduation.  So, more to come.



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