Welcome Back News:
As always, there were a few changes in technology during the summer. The links below will take you to some lessons that will get you up-to-date with the latest changes and remind you of a few items from last year. If you need more information, or have questions, please contact the TSTs by creating a PD request via the HelpDesk.

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New Stuff
Computer Updates
New in 2013/14
Technology Policies
File Server & MyDublinCloud
Digital Citizenship
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The Staff Dashboard
Student Saving
FirstClass Clean-Up

ES Progress Book

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Tech Changes 2012-13


We have made several improvements to the technology infrastructure over this past year. All of our changes are intendedto create a better user experience for students and staff, and to help teachers better integrate technology in their classrooms. Below are a few facts about what has changed recently and some of the new services we will be providing.

Increased Bandwidth

Bandwidth refers to the amount of data that can be sent across a network. The lower the bandwidth, the the less data can be sent per second, and the slower networked devices will perform. Every time a student or staff member accesses the internet or any internal systems, that user's data has to be transmitted across the district. In the past, due to low bandwidth, routine tasks may have taken an abnormally long time (e.g., logging in on a computer, loading a website). In an effort to help improve the performance of networked devices we have made the following changes:
  • increased the bandwidth between every building and the Central Office from 10 Mbps (megabits per second) to 1000 Mbps (1 Gbps)
  • increased the district's external bandwidth (i.e., connection to the internet) from 100 Mbps to 250 Mbps

Also related to connectivity and accessing the internal network and internet is our wireless network. While we have district-wide, wireless access, there are limits to what the wireless system can handle. Any one wireless access point (pictured below) can only handle so many devices connected to it at any one time. The
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practical limit for any one access point is about 30 devices. So, a classroom using a laptop cart with 27 computers in it should be able to access the network with few problems or delays. However, if students or staff members also have iPads, iPods, smart phones, etc., connected to the access point, then the number of connected devices could easily rise above 40. At this point, there will be a noticeable slow down in the connectivity. Turning off or disconnecting some devices will then improve performance. We continue to monitor the wireless network, and will add more wireless access points in places that continually saturate the network.




Active Directory

Since 2009, we have been using a centralized directory to control logins for both staff and students. Directory accounts control access to multiple systems including logins and access to: computers, Moodle, Wikispaces, iChat, server files, FirstClass, and many FileMaker databases. The directory system we have been using is called Open Directory (OD); this has been the standard directory system when using Apple devices. However, this system proved inadequate for the volume of users and the amount of data we use here in Dublin. Because of the limitations of Open Directory, we experienced extreme slowness when logging in and out of district computers. So, we have been working on transitioning away from Open Directory to a more robust system called Active Directory (AD). All of our users are already entered into Active Directory and most of the computers have been set up to look to AD instead of OD. The only computers that still need to joined to AD are those that were out of the district over the summer. We will schedule times to collect and setup these computers during the first couple weeks of the 2012/2013 school year. If we want to see real improvements in login times, it is imperative we join all district computers to AD; the sooner we can shut down OD, the better we will be as a district.

Another change that was implemented in 2009 was the syncing of staff files to a building-based file server. In theory, syncing files is a good thing . . . having an exact replica of your computer desktop and documents folder accessible from multiple computers in the district could be very helpful. However, due to our limited
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bandwidth and OD, syncing created more problems than benefits. Syncing was one of the major factors contributing to the slowness of logging into and out of a computer. So, we have turned off syncing, and will be implementing a new "cloud" storage solution for users who need access to their files on multiple computers. Eventually, we will even open up cloud storage access from home. In a similar way, student data was re-directed to their server folders. Instead of making a copy of their files and placing the copy on the server (i.e., syncing), students worked directly off the server when creating and editing files. Obviously, this requires a lot of bandwidth to occur efficiently. So, we are going to stop re-directing student files, and they will also use the new cloud storage solution. In practical terms, eliminating syncing and re-direction of files just means everything created on a district computer will be saved locally on that computer. If you, or a student, needs access to the file on a different computer, then you can use your cloud folder. The "MyDublinCloud" folder will only appear on your desktop after your computer has beed joined to AD.


Web Filter

By law, schools are required to have a web filter in place. Some sites are blocked by our state Information Technology Center, MEC, and some are blocked by the district. In the
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past year, we have allowed teachers to access sites were previously blocked by the filter. Access to these sites is controlled by our directory. If a user is listed as a staff memberin the directory, then he/she is allowed to access a site like YouTube. This requires the user to first login on a computer using his/her directory account. If someone uses a local account on a computer, then the filter doesn't know if that user is allowed access to the site, so it will be blocked The same thing will occur if someone uses his/her personal computer in school. Staff can still manually authenticate to the web filter to bypass the filter, but this manual bypass is limited to a few minutes, and users will have to continually re-authenticate. So, to ensure maximum efficiency, teachers should login to their computers using their directory account and not a local account.


Filewave

We have over 7,000 computers in the district and 6 technicians on staff to manage all their settings, updates, repairs and applications. This is a monumental task, so we need to find ways to automate as much as we can. One item we are beginning to automate is the installation of applications on our computers. We are using software called Filewave to
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push out applications and some settings to all our computers based on how they are being used in the building. Several changes have been applied to computers over the summer (e.g., Microsoft 2011, FileMaker Pro 11), and more will be applied as we learn about specific needs in classrooms. In order for Filewave to update a district computer, that computer needs to on, and connect to the network. This means all the computers taken out of the district over the summer did not receive the updates. When these computers are broughtback into the district, they will receive these updates, but it may take some time. If a computer is turned on and connected to the network, it should receive all of the summer updates in about an hour. Users can still work on the computer while these updates are being applied. There may be a short time, however, when an application appears to be missing from the computer; this is caused by Filewave removing an older version and replacing it with a newer version. This will only be temporary until Filewave finishes the installation. Another side affect of Filewave adding or removing applications from computers may be the appearance of question marks on the Dock. Application icons in the Dock are just aliases to the real application on the computer. Changes to versions of applications may break the alias in the Dock. Any question mark in the Dock can be removed by simply dragging it off the Dock, and the a new icon can be added by dragging the desired application from the Applications folder onto the Dock.


Technology Support

Another major change that will take place for the 2012/2013 school year is the way staff report and technology-related issues, and request help. To help improve the time it takes to
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fix an issue or deliver professional development help, we created the "Tech Support Portal." On this site, you will be able to report any issue you are having with your computer, projector, SMART Board, etc., and a technician will address the issue as soon as possible. The technicians will use the issues submitted via the support portal as their "to-do" lists when they work in a building, so it is extremely important all staff report their issues via the website. Also on the Tech Support Portal, you will be able to request technology professional development from the TSTs, and ask questions about Progress Book, Mastery Manager and FirstClass. We want this site to become your one-stop shop for all your technology questions


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