Note: This is a continuation of Technology Management Part 1 blog entry.
Need #4 – Provide access to school resources for personal devices and encourage safe and responsible use.
In considering this shift, CTOs need to reflect on the following assertion by Lori Gracey (TCEA Executive Director) in her presentation, To Block or Not to Block and which she echoes in an email to Texas technology directors:
Remember that under CIPA, you are only required to filter/block your network. So if a student is using a cell phone tower to access the Internet, they do not fall under the requirement and you do not have to monitor their activities, nor can you be held responsible for those activities.
Then, we have to ask, what constitutes access to school resources? For students and/or staff, if they have their own way of connecting to the Internet, the school district cannot be held responsible if they access inappropriate content. CIPA, per Lori’s presentation, goes as follows:
The Children’s Internet Protection Act was signed into law on December 21, 2000:
To receive support for Internet access and internal connections services from the Universal Service Fund (not telecommunications), school authorities must certify that they are enforcing a policy of Internet safety that includes measures to block or filter Internet access for both minors and adults to certain visual depictions.
Lori goes on to point out the following:
An increasingly popular option is allowing staff- or student-owned laptops to access the Internet via the district’s wireless network. In this regard, it is reasonable to assume that CIPA’s phrase “its computers” refers to a district’s PCs, not individually-owned laptops. Officials at a federal agency have indicated off the record that they agree with this assumption.
My understanding is that if people use their own computers and Internet access, then there is no CIPA violation if people are accessing YouTube, etc. Still, is this appropriate use of instructional time? Consider the objections of this technology director:
In the case of cell phone or bluetooth tethering… this is exactly why we have a remote filter installed on the laptops so it doesn’t matter who their ISP provider is…as long as it is a school laptop, it is filtered….to not only keep students on task, but to protect our network.
Well, in the other instance of using cell phones and a student’s own laptop…this is a matter of teacher control…whether or not there are disruptions in the classroom due to unfiltered access…and whether or not students are passing unfiltered content to other students. There are a lot of considerations here.
Yes, we allow cell phones for many activities…we have to make sure students are learning the kind of curriculum we are being held accountable to teach them…so, is the personal device activity enhancing TEKS-based productivity or being a distraction to students?
Obviously, how these issues play out will be different depending on your school district/community culture, the leadership, etc. Here is one response to this issue:
If CIPA is an issue here it is not for the district unless the devices are on the district network. Our students are allowed to use the district network with any device they choose to bring in. This is a CIPA issue and we are compliant. The use of that device is determined at the campus and classroom level. As such, the only issues for IT are the usual – viruses, bandwidth, etc.
Bryan Doyle (Bastrop ISD) shares another perspective:
We created a three part BYOT agreement. One for the campus to agree to, this way we get to have a conversation with each principal about it and they get to agree to the extent with which they will allow the use (we have a direction we are strongly pushing, but we really want buy-in from them). Then we have a user agreement which is for both staff/students that covers what they have access to, and some of the basics of the program. The third is a parent agreement form that would be required when the user is a student. Both the user and the parent form speak to the fact that it is a choice to bring a personal device and our district can’t be held liable in the event that it is stolen/damaged.
and he also shares the documents:
Here are the links to my google docs:
Campus Form: http://bit.ly/cAm0pW
User Form: http://bit.ly/9woaMB
Parent Form: http://bit.ly/dihFpn
For Texas educators, it’s not sufficient to ban new technologies like social media. In fact, that may be the wrong thing to do. In light of a new ethics code, it’s critical there be a conversation about its use:
Teachers must refrain from inappropriately communicating with students through the use of social media under the requirements of an updated Educators’ Code of Ethics endorsed by the State Board of Education today.
The Code of Ethics was updated by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC), which oversees educator certification issues. Rules proposed by SBEC must come to the State Board of Education for review before they become effective.
Texas Education Agency staff requested the change to the ethics code because they said they are receiving disciplinary case referrals in which teachers were found to have sent students thousands of text messages. Sometimes the content of the messages was not inappropriate on their face but the volume of messages and time of day the messages were sent indicated that the educator was “grooming” the student for a future sexual relationship.
A school district employee commits a second-degree felony under Penal Code Section 21.12 if the employee engages in sexual contact with a student who is not their spouse.
Are you asking about how to best use new technologies in schools, modelling appropriate use to staff and students or sticking your head in the sand?
Need #5 – Dealing with obsolescence.
A colleague asked this question, “How do you handle aging, out of date hardware (specifically desktops and laptops) if they continue to work?” It can be a contentious issue but if handled right, save your district money (e.g. consider cost of energy and power for older equipment being greater than for newer equipment) and different places have different solutions. Some of the solutions include the following:
- Switching the old computers from standalone, networked machines to thin clients using Edubuntu, Citrix, or other thin client solutions available.
- Keep old computers around and cannibalize the parts to keep other machines working.
- Invest in purchasing refurbished computers from a vendor.
- Throwing it all away and starting over again with new devices (e.g. netbooks or iPads) and funding
Here’s one story to match option 1 above:
Four years ago, we standardized on a specific model PC in order to minimize the number of images we would have to handle as the fleet aged.
Two summers ago we implemented virtualization in our server farm and in the field we began installing Thin Clients as the end user device specifically for our students.
The PC’s that existed prior to standardization were a mixed breed of home made and lower end PC’s – we affectionately called them the “white boxes” since most of the chassis were white. As the older “white boxes” have died out due to motherboard or hard drive failures, we have replaced them with Thin Clients that were purchased with bond proceeds and State Tech funds (since the Thin Client hardware is exclusively for student use).
Our plan on a go forward basis is to convert the aging standardized PC’s into Thin Clients. We feel this is a practical solution since so many of them have the same image and as a result can be converted very efficiently. Although we won’t get the same energy savings as the typical Thin Client devices, the cost for a virtual desktop license and 1/32 of a server is far less than a new PC. However, as with all things, there is no “silver bullet” of end user devices. We listen to our teachers and if they need higher end functions that cannot be virtualized, then we equip their classrooms with the standardized beefed up PC’s we provide to our teachers.
We anticipate that even as the move to the cloud continues, we’ll always need some work horse PC’s for some classes and applications. As such, we estimate that about 80% of the student devices will be those that can support virtualized applications.
Our virtualization solution is Citrix (Xenapp), our end user devices consist of the Dell FX160 (primarily for wired locations) and the Netbook (2110) and carts equipped with two Wireless Access Points (for portable / ad hoc use). We’ve already tested Windows 7 on the virtualized desk tops and they work just fine. We have yet to pull the trigger on migrating our PC’s to Windows 7 as it is far more labor intensive than the effort required to convert the Thin Clients. The trend (based on input from our teachers) is pointing more toward the clustering of student end user devices in amounts large enough to serve entire classrooms as opposed to the token 3 – 4 in most of our classrooms. We have found that the HDX over ICA solution has a minimal impact on our WAN and provides an excellent end user experience even in intensive multimedia applications (and web sites).
We have successfully field tested the use of the iPod Touch and the iPad on our network, but are more hopeful that the coming “iPad me-too’s” will be at a better price point and increased adaptability to a corporate network.
Our current level of devices: approximately 1,000 Thin Clients (all deployed since summer, 2008) and approximately 2,000 PC’s serving 6,900 students and 600+ teachers and administrative staff.
A similar story is told by those who are using Citrix but also may be taking advantage of nComputing’s Solution:
Four years ago (Fall 2006), we moved to a Citrix Farm environment (all software), and at the same time added nComputing device all over the school. Teachers were happy, because as we removed two of their four computers (for example) we increased their number of workstations from 4 to 8. But without the Citrix Farm (virtualizing all of our software), this would not have been such a good solution. With it, all users at any workstation have access to any/all software that we have licensed for their group, at school AND at home. “Extra” towers were re-done, moved to storage and now we frequently replace a problematic machine is less than 30 minutes (swap, rename, reset nComputing card, install correct printers, done).
We’ve been using the X-300 and X-350 cards from nComputing. This summer, after some testing we have just finished, we are moving to the L300 card mounted on the back of a SmartVine monitor from LG. No more towers in any classroom (eventually) and total “swapability” of any workstation within minutes. I’ve found pricing as low (so far) as $385 for the 19” SmartVine LG monitor and L-300 card. The Citrix servers were NOT low-end machines ($16,000 each, installed). We have GB fiber connecting all of the Cisco-switch VLANs. Most of the time, people have said the set-up was as fast as ever, a few even said they thought it was faster. The towers [used] are Dell GX-270s (from 2004) with 2-GB of RAM.
I’m spending less money than ever and adding more workstations, while reducing the time we have to spend running around. We’re at .7 students per workstation now.
If none of those solutions work for you, consider the one offered in the latest issue of THE JOURNAL on virtualization, entitled Taking the Plunge (here’s another one to read, too). In the former, the following point is made about saving money and being accountable for what you do use:
“Teachers say they need certain pieces of software, so we buy it for them,” he says. “Without having data, you can’t know if the software they’re requesting is actually being used. Now I can run reports that tell me which applications are being used and how often. I saved $40,000 just by discontinuing the licenses for the applications that weren’t being accessed. Nobody even noticed the software was gone.”
In regards to investing in refurbished computers–an approach cash-strapped districts are embracing–consider this tale:
We have starting using CDI out of Canada too. There are other vendors out there. However, I have researched this issue thoroughly and have come to the conclusion that CDI is the way to go…CDI refurbs come with a 3 year warranty and for a few bucks, you can extend that to 5 years. When I’ve had an issue, CDI responds quickly. They’ll even preposition certain parts for larger orders.
With budgets getting a lot tighter, we can still deploy reliable computers in the numbers we need to by going this route. This is all I buy now, even for my high end computers. They have Dell, HP and others. I’m doing all this for about 40% to 50% of the cost of an equivalent new system.
For those that are reluctant, I urge you to try their computers in one of your elementary labs. Use them, kick the tires, see what they can do. You’ll be a believer too.
and, another tech director writes, Usually under $250/300 including LCD monitor and 3 year warranty. They have backed their computers as we have had to send back a couple here and there. We have dealt with them for about 5 years.
How’s that for an endorsement?
Not having heard of CDI Computers, I visited their web site and found this description…but the best part is yet to come:
CDI is North America’s largest supplier of refurbished, brand name computers to the educational market. Our mission is to provide the best quality, customer service and support possible. Over 9,000 schools have been able to dramatically increase the number of computers available to students while often reducing their technology spending.
The best part? Read the following:
Employee purchase plans are a perk that pays off for everyone. CDI can set up a custom online store for your school district in as little as 24 hours. The plans can be as simple or complex as you want. Choose a few computer models to feature—which simplifies turnaround time and support—or let buyers explore our entire inventory of over 10,000 units.
Find out more
If the idea is to make do with less cash, school districts should pay serious attention to how they deal with obsolescence.
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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure