Sunday, August 28, 2016

Fall 2016 Tech Update

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.


-Jon Green

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.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tech Update - November 10, 2015

Dear Westborough Colleagues,

It’s been a busy and exciting fall for us and with some big student deployments wrapping up it feels like a big chunk of new student technology is transitioning from deployment to management, presenting a natural break-point to catch our breath, reflect back, and look forward.

Looking back we’ve made significant progress over the last 10 weeks:
  • Teacher laptop deployments had been ongoing but slowed considerably over the past 4 weeks due to the focus on student tech. Back in August I said that new teachers would be a priority for getting laptops so as to avoid future migrations from desktops. However when school started we had to focus our efforts on new teachers who didn’t have a desktop, and those that did were directed to use it while they waited for a laptop. At this point there are no efficiency gains to prioritizing new teachers over their colleagues so we will no longer do so. I apologize for the miscommunication on this and I’m sorry for any disappointment that results, but remember that this is an ongoing project and we will get to all teachers and professional staff 0.5 FTE and greater.
  • Teachers throughout the district are driving the innovation cycle by going out and seeking new ideas and tools, bringing them back to their teams to evaluate and design effective uses, and incorporating them into our practices through workshops.
  • At the high school, the new Chromebooks have been in use since late September and the BYOD pilot is underway. Several teachers have had those students with a qualifying device bring it in and use it successfully in class, and participating students are enthusiastic about using their owns devices.
  • At Gibbons, the 8th graders have been using their 1:1 chromebooks for a couple of weeks and are on track to start taking them home in early December.
  • At Mill Pond, the students have been working on digital citizenship so they can receive their iPad licenses. We’ve completed the parent orientations and device distribution sessions and are doing the final cleanup required to get all of our grade 6 students up and running with their iPads. We expect that teachers and students can start trying them out by mid November. The iPad carts for the 4th and 5th grade teams are mostly ready but still need apps and should be ready by December.
  • In the PK-3 schools, the iPad carts are ready and have installed on them the foundational creation and workflow apps teachers and students will need to get started. Students have been learning about and with the iPads as they work towards getting their licenses. There have been iPad workshops going on after school, during our early release/extended time, and during the PD day on Tuesday. We’re seeing more excitement about the possibilities and opportunities and teachers are asking about checking out the carts outside of their normally scheduled times.
  • We’re continuing to learn our pieces of Powerschool and getting more fluent and able to dive deeper into its features as we work through grades, report cards, transcripts, and state reporting. We have successfully certified our first SIMS and are starting to tackle EPIMS and SCS.

Looking ahead we see much to do, much to learn, and much to be excited about as these initiatives unlock opportunities in our classrooms. Here are some important points as we start taking advantage of our new classroom technology opportunities:
  • Teacher innovation, collaboration, and leadership will continue to play a critical role in growing how our students use technology to learn.
  • In our parent orientation sessions at Mill Pond we’ve been stressing the need for patience as we learn together, and patience will be in order for students, staff, teachers, and administrators as well.
  • As we transition from deployment to management, those of us on the tech team will need a little time to catch our breath and catch up on things that we’ve had to put aside such as teacher laptops and tech projects for specific programs.
  • As the newly deployed student tech ramps up we’re expecting to see an increase in requests for iPad apps, Chrome apps, and Chrome extensions. We’ll need time to scale up our app selection and deployment processes and since we can’t do everything at once we’ll need to focus our efforts strategically as follows:
    • Organization and workflow apps for grade 6 1:1 iPads (November)
    • Apps and extensions for grade 8 chromebooks for when they go home (November)
    • Creation and workflow apps for grade 4 & 5 iPads (November/December)
    • Additional apps for PK-3 iPad carts (January)

We’re just getting started on this new chapter and it’s exciting to see the possibilities. While there may have a natural desire to race ahead at full speed, there’s a lot to do and a lot to learn, so let’s take it slowly and make sure we learn to crawl and then walk before we start running.


-Jon Green

Monday, September 22, 2014

What to look for this school year

A new school year is here with all of its excitement, anticipation, and promise. With this new year we're debuting a new website at! (You'll want to visit the new website and replace any bookmarks pointing to the old site.) The new site has more photos, social media links, and an improved calendar. We're continuously working to organize our large collection of existing material into the new site, add new material, and train teachers, administrators, and support staff how to use the new system. We appreciate your patience as we work through this and your flexibility as you adapt to the new site.

In the tech department our mission is one of empowerment and as we work with the students, faculty, staff, and administration on technology issues we'll be focusing on creating a culture, infrastructure, and platform that empowers us all. To help understand the needs, prioritize the resources, and coordinate the actions we're bringing back the School Technology Councils, volunteer bodies at each school that represent the range of stakeholder groups. The STCs will be charged with identifying new opportunities to improve teacher practice, student learning, and administrative efficiency, coordinating logistics, training, and professional development, communicating internally and externally, and assessing the results. Our work process will be based on the principles of Design Thinking where we move from proof-of-concept to pilot to small, medium, then full scale build-out, iterating quickly through cycles of divergent thinking to generate ideas, prototyping and testing to see how they work, and then converging to focus on advancing those that work best. The idea is that we learn to crawl, then walk, then run.

As we work we will be looking for opportunities to change how we do things that will save money, improve service, or both. For example:
  • Improving mobility, quality, and productivity of teacher computers by moving teachers to laptops, expanding the selection of operating systems, and repurposing former teacher desktops as student desktops
  • Switching from slow and expensive desktop inkjet printers to faster laser printers and multi-function copiers with significantly lower per page costs
  • Reducing the total cost of ownership of our devices by re-assessing the balance between quality and quantity.
The following opportunities have already come to our attention as being high impact/high priority:
  • Google Apps for Education - making more of the tools available to more of our students and expanding how we use them
  • Google Classroom - has been enabled for teachers so we can try and play and learn, but hasn't yet been made available to students on anything more than a pilot basis. We'll be making it available to students as we learn more of the implications and become satisfied that there are no negative, unintended consequences.
  • Increasing WiFi coverage and density for better individual and whole-class performance
  • Making our web filter smarter and more flexible so it blocks fewer useful sites
  • Increasing students' awareness of how to project their best online selves to their community and the world
  • Behind-the-scenes infrastructure updates, upgrades, and reconfigurations that will help us to expand and improve our service offerings
we've already started the following:
  • We've already been able to greatly increase our Internet bandwidth and Gibbons is scheduled to have it's WiFi fully built out by the end of September
  • We're launching our proof-of-concept pilot for Google Classrooms
  • We're piloting workgroup printers in some schools
  • We're offering a range of trainings and PD using Google and other tools
Finally, in the next week or two, we will:
  • reconvene the committee that is evaluating replacements for iPass and resume that project
  • resume the work of planning the district-wide telephone upgrade that we paused in late August to minimize disruptions to the start of the school year
There are a lot of great opportunities for us to pursue and the work we do this fall and winter will help move us forward in the moment, inform the budget for next year, and will also help us develop our plans for the next 3 to 5 years.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Opportunities and hard, rewarding work ahead

In the short amount of time I’ve spent so far in the Westborough schools listening and observing, there is a theme to what I see and hear; opportunities and hard, rewarding work ahead.

Opportunities because throughout every school and every role our people dedicate their considerable talents and enthusiasm to helping kids develop into their best, world-ready selves.

Opportunities because technology amplifies our capabilities and accelerates our accomplishments by reducing barriers to information, people, ideas, means of action, and creative processes. As Jim Collins observed in Good to Great, technology amplifies and accelerates what organizations already do so we have the opportunity to amplify and accelerate our current successes and demonstrate student-centered, inquiry-driven, challenge-based learning that’s proudly shared with the world and contributes to the global knowledge-base. I see learning as a social activity, and technology that reduces the barriers to communication and collaboration can increase learning opportunities by enhancing existing social interactions and creating new ones.

Opportunities because we are so fortunate to have the community’s trust, backing, and encouragement to undertake challenges. We’ll be asking questions, taking risks, and trying new things. We’ll be reflecting on failure and learning in public, and we’ll be modeling to our students the skills and traits we hope to foster in them; perseverance and grit, a growth mindset, reflection and metacognition, creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration, inquiry and problem solving, digital citizenship and media literacy, leadership, and courage.

Technology amplifies our capabilities and accelerates our accomplishments but it is indiscriminate so it is up to us to make sure that it amplifies and accelerates the best of who we are and what we do. This is our chance to model to our students the skills and traits that turn our knowledge and experience into meaningful action. We’re already on the right track and as we see more and more learning and producing with technology and when technology is no longer an event but is woven seamlessly and invisibly into everyday practices and routines, we’ll know we’re making progress. When we all have the ability to quickly, easily, and reliably access the resources we need from where ever we are and when we’re including students in the process of recognizing and harnessing the technology opportunities to the service of learning, we’ll know we’re making progress. When all students are confidently choosing and using the most appropriate tools for them, both technology-based and traditional, for organizing their work, demonstrating their understandings, meeting their personal goals, connecting with the world, and accomplishing great things, we’ll know we’re making progress. When teachers and instructional leaders are working together across schools and grade levels and connecting and collaborating with educators across the state, the nation, and around the world to identify, implement, assess, and refine high-value practices that better meet our students’ learning goals, and when we are writing articles for respected publications and presenting our work at regional, state, and national conferences, we’ll know we’re making progress.

Getting there won’t be easy and will take lots of hard and rewarding work. Hard because we will all be challenged to step outside our comfort zone and to do so in public, and rewarding because we will grow and help our student grow. Hard because it will take a lot of sustained effort and energy to initiate and build momentum and it will seem to be slow going at first, and rewarding because we’ll start seeing returns as we invest our time and effort. Hard because as we learn there will be plenty of uncertainty, ambiguity, and challenges that don’t come with neat, simple answers, and rewarding because we’ll be proud of what we’re accomplishing.

The success of our efforts won’t be measured by narrow test results or calculated rankings. It will be seen in our individual and collective growth as we ask questions, identify challenges, expand our understandings and capabilities, and design, pilot, test, and improve new solutions and practices. It will be seen in what our students accomplish in the community and the world; during their school career and beyond. It will be felt in our pride and sense of accomplishment for what we’re creating and how we’re preparing our students, strengthening our community, and making our marks in the world.

I have a tremendous respect for the students, teachers, paraprofessionals, and administrators and I want us all to have the tools we need to do the work we know is important the way we think it should be done. That’s why our first goal is to create an infrastructure of empowerment focusing first on teachers, administrators, and staff and leveraging mobile devices for anytime, anyplace access and cloud services for communication and collaboration while working to design a user experience that’s smooth and seamless. Teachers should have the option to use laptops instead of desktops, the WiFi network needs to have the coverage to support them and the density to support the students, and the firewall/content filtering policies need to be able to recognize the users and allow access appropriate to their roles and developmental levels. It will mean making available to our faculty a range of inquiry-driven, challenge-based learning opportunities that will include sustained, graduate level professional development, teacher-led workshops, collaboration time, tech trainings, and self-directed research, all with opportunities to share what we’re learning with each other, our community, and the world. As we achieve these goals and deepen our understandings of the opportunities they offer, we’ll be able to include our students in the process of empowering their learning.

To get these done we must have both patience and urgency. Patience because it will take time to try new things, time to learn and grow, and time to be thoughtful and deliberate about how we examine and update our practices in the light of new opportunities rather than just jumping on a bandwagon. It will take patience with ourselves and each other as we work to continuously improve, iteration by iteration, by identifying issues and opportunities, prioritizing actions, and designing, testing, and implementing solutions. Urgency because we cannot delay. Time and opportunity are like a river flowing by, oblivious to our actions. We can sit on the bank and watch and wait or we can launch our boats and begin our journey. It is a learning journey of many years and we will need empathy as we support and challenge each other and work together through the research and development, design and testing, successes and failures, and disappointments and triumphs. We’re all experts on learning, we learn together, we take risks as we try new things, and we think in terms of growth and learning. 

These are exciting times with so many opportunities and I’m honored that we’re on this journey together.

Additional reading & resources:

Disagree? Agree? Not sure? Have questions or comments? Please join the conversation.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Welcomed in Westborough

I've now completed the five transition days in the Westborough schools in June and three official days in July and I'm feeling very welcomed and excited to be here. Everybody I've met has been warm and welcoming and ready to help me on this crash course to learn as much as I can about the people and culture of the Westborough schools and how to best meet our technology needs.

I've met with the technology team as well as some teachers and administrators and had great conversations about the role of technology in teaching and learning, where we are now, and the opportunities that lie ahead of us. I'll talk about those in a future post, but for folks who I haven't met yet here are a few things about me:
  • I grew up about 30 minutes away in house my dad build in far corner of an old apple orchard in Sherborn 
  • I now live about 30 minutes away in Harvard, a town very much like Sherborn, with apple orchards, farm stands, and wooded conservation land with trails.
  • My father was a junior high/middle school shop teacher for 36 years and for 2 of those years he had to deal with me in his class, an opportunity for which I am forever grateful for I was lucky enough to get a glimpse into his professional life.
  • I played goalie with various Natick Comets youth hockey teams as a squirt, peewee, and bantam and played many games at Westborough's Northstar rinks.
  • My first computer was a TRS-80 with 16K of memory and a cassette tape drive
  • I attended UMass Amherst for 2 years as a computer engineer but left to try my hand at Aerospace Engineering at UT Austin. It wasn't for me and I only stayed for 1 semester. 
  • I left college and worked for 15 years for a small, electrical engineering consulting firm doing programming, test and measurement, tech support, and IT.
  • I returned to school to get a BS in Computer Science at UMass Lowell followed by a Masters in Educational Technology at Harvard Extension School.
  • I was the Technology Coordinator for the Maynard Public Schools for five years and the Director of Instructional Technology and Media Services for the Shrewsbury Public Schools for four years.
  • I love to cook and eat fresh, local foods purchased from farmer's markets and CSAs and grown at home. (I'm looking forward to checking out the Westborough Farmer's Market on Thursday afternoons)
  • In the summer I grow tomatoes from sets that I start in the spring and I love working in the garden in the early summer mornings.
  • I have two boys, aged 7 and 10, who love to read, play computer games, and make things
  • We love to cross-country ski in the winter, preferring to skate-ski when conditions are good
  • We have two cats and four hens
  • I enjoy listening to most kinds of music
Throughout the summer and fall I'm looking forward to meeting more of the folks who work in the schools, learning more about what makes this a special place to work, and having conversations on the opportunities we see available through technology and how we can best seize them for the benefit of our students.

Thank you all for the opportunity to work with you and for welcoming me so warmly, I'm really looking forward to our time together.