August 28, 2016
Dear Westborough Colleagues,
As August enters its fourth week and the days are noticeably shorter, I’m enjoying the mounting excitement and promise of all the learning that will soon be taking place throughout the district. We accomplished a lot this summer thanks to the hard work and focus of the Computer Support Technicians (Barry Jeannotte, Matthew Strumpf, Doug Lang), the Data Team (Scott Henderson, Bettiann Uhlman), and the IT Infrastructure Administrator (Edward Smreczak). We also hired a half-dozen WHS students and alums as Summer Tech Assistants and under the guidance of Steve Masciarelli they sure got things done! I hope this tech update answers any questions you may have of where we are with technology as we start the new school year.
Key points for folks in a hurry:
- PowerSchool is rolling along as building teams continue to place new students and finalize schedules
- WiFi is getting better—and there are still improvements to be made
- All of the PreK–3 schools have 2 new carts of 30 iPads
- 1:1 devices are ready for students in grades 4–9
- Students in grades 4–6 could be ready for their devices by the end of the fourth week
- Students in grades 7–9 have their 1:1 Chromebooks or can get them them by Wednesday
- Chromebook covers for 8th grade are on their way (7th grade Chromebooks won’t need covers)
- Many families with students in grades 10–12 have been contacted about BYOD; students with financial hardship will start receiving their devices on Monday
- Better tech: Several lab upgrades, more teacher laptops, and bye-bye to the worst student desktops
- Tech personnel changes in 3 schools
- New Xerox copiers can accept simple print jobs
- From least to most expensive printing; RISO ComColor, Xerox copier, HP printer
- Planning for technology curriculum PK-6 and digital citizenship PK-12
- Return any tech you checked out for the summer
- Use Tech Support email for reporting issues and problems
- Tech support team is on triage for the initial crush; basic requests first, fancy requests later
We will all be learning a lot this year as we continue our innovation cycle of identifying new opportunities (divergence) and incorporating what’s working into our practice and curriculum (convergence). It’s a lot of change and might feel overwhelming at times, but we’re all working together and I find that very exciting.
We have been making improvements to the infrastructure underpinning the WiFi and have more improvements planned once things have settled in and we can test and deploy with minimal disruption. We’re adding a few access points here and there to address coverage issues in non-classroom spots—otherwise we have full coverage for all classrooms and office spaces. We have also been working with our vendor to address the issue where mobile devices cannot connect to WiFi even though there is coverage and will continue until it’s resolved.
We’ve completed a first round of upgrades to our power infrastructure to improve the reliability and availability of our network and servers during power outages and have more planned.
Each of our (P)K-3 schools has 2 more carts of 30 iPad that will be ready to use with students as soon as we are able to load apps on them.
We are preparing 1:1 iPads for all students in grades 4-6 and have an ambitious schedule to get 6th graders squared away with digital citizenship lessons and network, Google, and AppleID accounts by the end of the 3rd week of school, and 4th and 5th graders by the end of the 4th week of school.
We held Chromebook distributions this past week where ~75% of parents in grades 7-9 got their student’s Chromebooks and the Ranger Tech Squad will be distributing to drop-ins this Monday and Tuesday. Starting Wednesday any students still needing to pick up their Chromebooks will do so at their school. The protective shells for the 8th graders weren’t available for distribution but they’re due to arrive shortly.
We’ve been contacting students and parents of students in grades 10-12 regarding the expectation that they will all bring their own device to school every day and on Monday we will start providing devices to students with financial hardship.
We converted the main floor computer lab at Mill Pond into a more flexible learning space, decommissioned the Armstrong lab, and removed teacher desktop computers that have been replaced by teacher laptops. We then redeployed them to replace the oldest and least reliable student desktops in classrooms and labs. At the high school we’ve upgraded the Engineering/CAD and MIDI labs and repurposed the Business lab for CS.
We have a new contract with ITS for Xerox copiers and managed print service to replace the Toshibas and the older RISO EZ220Us (we’re keeping the RISO ComColors). Everywhere except Gibbons and Forbes the mid-sized Xerox copiers are ready to copy, are networked, and can accept simple print jobs sent to the Toshiba that preceded them. The seven large copiers are waiting for an electrical upgrade which we’re working to have installed ASAP, so those Toshibas are still in place. The Xerox copiers have a ton of great productivity features that we’ll be rolling out through the fall and winter like print from and scan to Google Drive, and Follow-me Printing. The new contract includes all supplies except for paper and as a rule of thumb the per page cost is lowest for the RISO ComColors, Xerox Copiers are next, and the HP Printers are the highest.
At Gibbons we’re almost done re-installing printers and WiFi access points in new and newly renovated areas, and expect to be done by the end of the day on Monday, August 28.
Tech and library personnel got together and developed plans for digital citizenship PK-12 and for technology curriculum PK-6 and will be implementing them throughout the year.
We have the following personnel changes this year:
- Heather Abraham has taken over from Matthew Strumpf as Building Technology Specialist para-educator at Mill Pond.
- Alison DeFiore has taken over from Deb Boucher as Integration Specialist/Tech Teacher at Mill Pond.
- Matthew Strumpf has taken over from Dave O’Neil as Computer Support Technician for Mill Pond and Fales.
- Brandon Vandal has taken over from Dan Strickland as Building Technology Specialist para-educator at Gibbons.
If you checked out an iPad or Chromebook for the summer that isn’t permanently assigned to you then unless you’ve made other arrangements, please return it to your Building Tech Specialist ASAP so we can get them back where they belong and be ready to go when you’re ready to use them with the students.
Finally, the initial focus of our tech support team will be on the basics; access to a web browser and Google Mail, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Classroom, etc., the ability to print to a printer or copier, and the ability to perform your role-related workflows such as taking attendance and running any specialized software you require. Please make all tech support requests through our Help Desk emails but also understand that requests for tech support outside of these areas may have to wait until we’ve taken care of everybody’s basic needs.