February Update

Over the last month, the tech team has been working on building a resource site for WordPress tutorials and how-to documentation. We expect to release this site as a resource for students and staff in a couple of weeks. We have also been working on developing a replacement directory service to address the student profile permissions issue that is forcing us to clear the /Users/Shared folder so students can log in, as well as deploy Mac Store software to student machines. At present we have to perform a time intensive work around to deploy standard Apple apps like iMovie and GarageBand.

Over the course of the next month, we will be working on converting as much of our AWS infrastructure to scripts that will allow us to treat them as code stacks, which will enable us to hastily redeploy our infrastructure to a new region if that becomes necessary.

We are also developing ISI reports using the business intelligence tool, which will allow us greater flexibility in extracting student grade data that what is currently available in the reports feature.

We continue to support teachers who wish to implement student portfolios via WordPress grade level sites, and are working on improvements to the student web server for better responsiveness.

We are also exploring replacements for our help desk application in an effort to improve reporting and streamline the ticketing and feedback process.

As always, thank your for your support!

BCCHS PD Session 12/4

Technology integrated, project based, service learning

  • Critical / Computational Thinking
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Communication

Freedom vs Privacy

Learning Objectives:

  • Discover and analyze the tools available for student portfolio creation, and the pros and cons of each
  • Discuss the use of collaborative planning tools in project based learning


Google Keep Demo: collaborative notes, share with me

Activity #1: Pair up, discuss and record your answers in a Keep note:
What tools can students use to create learning artifacts?

Activity #2: Review tools, add at least two pros and two cons to at least one of the tools on this document:
Group Document

Current Available Tools

Activity #3: What tools can teachers and students use to guide the creation of a learning artifact? Use Google Keep  and share with me.


December Update

The technology team continues to check the fine details of our hardware deployments, making sure all of the machines are identified and properly configured.

New issue: We are seeing a problem where when a student logs in onto a station, the login is stalled and the machine becomes unusable. This has something to do with the way our LDAP service is structured and how the Mac handles initializing an account and setting permissions on the folders in the /Users/Shared account. The immediate solution is to clear the /Users/Shared folder, which has the potential of causing other students to lose work saved in their accounts on that specific computer. This issue is being researched and we hope to have a solution soon.

New issue: The Ripple Effects software not working with student accounts, but does work with a specific ldap account or a local account. The culture and client team has implemented a workaround where students can log into that specific account and use the software, instead of their student account. We are exploring alternatives with the vendor and will let you know if we find a better solution.

New issue: The BCCS site techs will begin working on cleaning up the power and network cabling to the workstations in each class.

Follow ups:

  • The classroom speakers at BCCS have been received and are being distributed to those who need them.
  • The CAASPP browser works with our new individual student account system, however we are not yet able to disable the keyboard shortcuts that cause the browser to throw a security warning. We are researching the problem and expect to have a solution by the end of January.All other tasks have been completed.

I wish you all Happy Holidays and hope you enjoy your winter break.

October Update

The technology team had a rough start to the year. We received and deployed more than 200 MacAirs and 16 refurbished MacBook Pros for student use, as well as 21 new MacBook Pros for staff use. We also implemented a new wifi authentication protocol for the staff network, and reimaged all 1100 student machines to work with the directory service, which required all students to set a password and log in with their student accounts, retiring the generic bccs & morcs local accounts. We also deployed new Chromebooks for incoming high school students. Personnel changes at BCCS interrupted this process, as well as delays in receiving the new equipment, so all school sites started the year playing catch up. In addition, all iMacs and MacBookPros with less than 4GBs of memory were physically upgraded to support the modern Mac operating systems. Unfortunately, this process took several weeks and we were playing catch up once instruction started, which led to a lack of confidence in student hardware readiness. At this point, the technicians are in the process of verifying that all 1100 student machines are individually correctly configured. They have completed about 75% of this process and expect to complete the project by the end of October. We also had a network configuration issue that caused significant latency at MORCS and BCCHS, which was resolved. Finally, during the reimaging of all student machines we missed the reinstallation of certain software such as Chrome and Flash, which we are in the process of redeploying.

The technicians will continue to leverage slack to confirm that each user that their help desk tickets have resolved to the user’s satisfaction. If you submit a ticket and it is resolved without the technician contacting you directly, or the solution did not solve the problem, please send me a slack direct message at @charvey and I will follow up.

In October we will focus on the following:

  • purchasing sundry supplies such as projector bulbs and laptop chargers.
  • piloting a solution for classroom sound systems using bluetooth speakers.
  • testing the new CAASPP browser for deployment
  • LanSchool deployment for all teachers for the OS X 10.x machines (not for iPads or Chromebooks)
  • onboarding process and training for the new site technicians
  • mobile device management training
  • Amazon web services disaster recovery and management training
  • iPad project for student home use at MORCS
  • ensuring all lab rooms are configured with the correct design software.

I apologize for the delay in getting the classrooms ready for instruction; we simply bit off more than we could chew, and have had to scramble to catch up. We will work to make sure that we are better prepared for next year’s first day of school. I appreciate all the hard work and patience that you have displayed and I am proud to be a part of the YPICS team. Your dedication to our students is appreciated. I am also proud of the hard work and resilience that the site technicians have shown in trying to get the classrooms ready for instruction. We will do better.

End of Illuminate Year One, on to Year Two!

As the school year draws to a close, I would like to take a moment to appreciate everyone who participated in the successful transition from Powerschool to the Illuminate ISI system. We have had to adapt our student / parent data management and attendance processes, learn new grade book and standards based grading practices, create all new report cards, new transcripts, and use benchmark and formative assessment data in helping our students learn. Barring any hiccups at the last minute, we can say that we made it! Again, thank you for your flexibility and can do attitudes; teamwork definitely made this dream work 🙂

I also want to thank our implementation team at Illuminate as well as the  fabulous help desk, who were always available to help us answer our questions and show us ways to improve.

Now we are ready to look ahead and see how we can more fully use the Illuminate tools to enhance how we use data to drive instruction. These are some tentative goals for next year:

  • Integrate Sped data to make profiles available to teachers via Illuminate
  • Use ISI visualizations to measure metrics and goals
  • Develop student literacy of standards and mastery
  • Develop admin use of student groups
  • Develop a common set of teacher “tiles”
  • Transition to Lightning Grader (replaces GradeCam 2.0)
  • Help teachers to more fully leverage online standards assessments
  • Develop parent engagement
  • Create standards mastery reports
  • Enhance the use of prebuilt & custom reports
  • Create and share the Accountability Dashboard
  • Leverage the Olweus Bullying Survey via summary assessments

If you have ideas on how we can meet these goals, or have ideas that you want to try, please let me or your site instructional leaders know. Thanks again for making this transition a successful one!

Student Accounts beta testing

The tech team is working on implementing student accounts for Mac workstations. At present, all students log into a computer using a generic username and password. The main issue with this process is that all users have access to all files in the account, which allows students to delete files other than their own.

The solution is to use a separate directory service that has all user accounts, adult and student, and use this service for authentication. We used to do this using Apple’s Open Directory service and it worked pretty well for several years. However, Apple stopped supporting enterprise applications such as directory service, asking their users to use other tools such as ActiveDirectory or OpenLDAP. In addition, serving student home folders over the wifi was more than the Apple file servers could handle, and there was a limit of 100 users we routinely exceeded. However, we still use the Apple Open Directory service for our staff wifi access.

Over the last year, we have been experimenting with a Linux based, cloud served OpenLDAP server. This server currently manages our print accounts. The tech team is experimenting at the high school with implementing this authentication server for our student Macs.

The new system will allow a student to log in on any Mac, at any connected campus, using the same password. However, any files created on that Mac will stay on that device, unless manually moved to the student’s Drive account or to an external device, such as a USB. We do not expect to support student remote home folders any time soon.

In addition, we will need to set up an email based password change system so students can manage their directory account passwords.

Therefore, students will need to use the same computer each time if they want to use the file stored on that computer. This will require students adhere to seating charts and to manually back up their files. The advantage is that students can work on large files, such as videos, without worry of other students damaging their files using a common log in. In addition, students will have access to classroom printing with a managed quota and print logging.

Password security and logging in and out of one’s account will also be critical for this process to be successful.

We hope to migrate our wifi authentication to this directory service by the end of summer.

The long term goal will be to authenticate our Google accounts to this directory service, so that students will need one fewer password to remember, and can keep their accounts secure.

Man GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Planned changes in April

We will be spending the next month ensuring that as many student machines are ready for state testing, by spot checking each classroom. Please test the CaSecureBrowser on your student machines. The software should say “Version 9.0” when it opens. Please also review the steps to disable Mission Control / Launchpad (System Preferences / Keyboard Shortcuts< uncheck all Mission Control and Launchpad shortcuts).

The student websites server configuration has been further improved, allowing unlimited uploads (10mb at a time) and reduce costs by dynamically creating the server at 6am each school day and destroying it at 6pm each school evening. This eliminates the server and hard drives costs when the server is not in use. The two school site servers have been combined into one server, which further reduces costs. The school server is also in a load balancing and autoscaling group that will spin up and destroy additional servers as necessary. This morning’s load test was very satisfactory, as the site handled 600 concurrent connections without breaking a sweat. I look forward to more student presentations of learning.

We are also beginning the budgeting process for next year, with an eye towards replacing the remaining white Macbooks, and MacBook Pros older than 5 years.

We are also working to develop the use of Slack as the preferred communication method, in order to increase transparency and speed of the organization’s decision making processes.

The tech team has implemented a “bug bounty” to encourage students to report issues with the content filter, as well as any “hacks” that allow them to defeat the filter, so we can fix them. I really appreciate that students are taking steps to “be safe” and “be responsible” using technology by helping us identify and solve problems. The form is available here, please feel free to publicize it in your classroom.

Enjoy your spring break!

Added Slider WD and increased image upload limit

In preparation for WordPress training, I realized the sites didn’t have a decent image gallery tool and where constrained by a rather small file size upload limit. While I do not want students to put a lot of large files on the server (such things should be accessed from Google Drive), students can now upload files as large as 10MB. They also have access to the Slider WD menu, which allows the easy creation of image sliders, which are useful as galleries.