Saturday, August 29, 2009

Acceptable Use Policy

and you thought you had computer problemsImage by mandyxclear via Flickr

This is sometimes an area that we K-12 CIOs don't always like to talk about, but there are times when issues have to be addressed. We all have our versions of what an Acceptable Use Policy (or AUP) looks like. (You can find the MCSD AUP here: click here)

AUPs are designed to provide guidelines on appropriate actions and behaviors, while setting the expectation for violating any of those terms. An AUP is designed to keep our users safe, while also securing our equipment is kept safe.

A few years ago we modified the terms and conditions of our AUP (we visit our AUP annually to review and make changes), specifically the consequences for violations and repeated violations. While the intent is not to detract from student learning, nor place the teacher or administration in any hardship - it is designed to keep equipment safe and secure, while teaching our users the safe and responsible use of school district owned equipment, computers and network resources.

The new terms provide a tiered approach to consequences for any AUP violations. They vary from one week's loss of Internet privileges all the way up to suspension of a network account for the remainder of the school year. The level of severity depends on previous offenses, and the severity of the current issue.

99% of the issues we deal with related to AUP terms being violated are inappropriate web use and result in the suspension of Internet rights only for one week. However, occasionally we come across a repeat offender who not only misuses the web, but attempts hacks, installs malicious software on district owned machines and shows a complete defiance for the rules set forth in the AUP. When you reach an issue at that level, inevitably you are forced to restrict total network privileges for an extended period of time. This turns into a student being unable to use a computer in their building, and if they are in a class or classes that require daily use - a burden on the teacher.

Again, I will emphasize our intent is not to burden the teacher by creating additional work for him/her. We convey the message that if the student has work that must be completed on a computer that the student either use their home computer, or if they do not have a computer at home - they go to the local public library where free computers and Internet access are available.

I don't have the golden rule for these situations - I do believe that forcing these students who are repeat offenders that there are consequences to their actions is a valuable life lesson. They must learn to live by and obey those rules - a lesson that is valuable far beyond their high school days.

Do you have similar issues in your school district or higher education environment? How do you handle habitual offenders? Do you follow / establish similar guidelines that my district does - or do you handle it differently? Please share your experiences.


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Saturday, August 22, 2009

What Makes a Good K-12 CIO?

Disclaimer: I am not proclaiming to be the expert on K-12 CIOs, nor providing the Golden Answer on how to do the job effectively. I am sharing my experiences and my opinions on what makes a Good K-12 CIO.

What makes a Good K-12 CIO? Technical background and knowledge? Having been a teacher or administrator? Having a business background?

I believe a K-12 CIO must have a good understanding of technology, be able to communicate effectively and implement projects from both a technical and instructional standpoint. The CIO must understand the technology that makes a project successful. He/she must see the "big picture" and how that investment plays a role in the classroom - particularly with student learning. The CIO must also be able to communicate the expectations, steps and results of that proejct with his/her customers. (The customers are faculty, staff, students, community, leadership and board members.)

I believe an effective K-12 CIO is one who surrounds him/herself with good people. Just like any good leader - you are only as successful as those around you. A CIO must have a quality technical team, one that is capable of implementing new projects, maintain existing equipment and understand how that equipment plays a role in the classroom. The CIO must also have the backing of the instructional team. Without the buy in at the instructional level, it will be very difficult to implement successful projects. Finally, a good CIO must have buy in from the top. His/her superintendent and board members, must see the value in projects, understand (from the CIOs communication) how those projects have a positive impact on student learning and the need to invest dollars into the various projects.

So to answer my initial questions. I believe it is important for a K-12 CIO to have some technical knowledge/background. This is essential to communicate and make good technical decisions/purchases. I believe it is equally important that the K-12 CIO have either a background or an excellent understanding of education. This does not mean they must have been a teacher or principal, but rather understand the education process and what the real objectives are in the classroom. Finally, the CIO must have a good business savvy to them. They have to be able to communicate effectively at multiple levels, to budget, plan, have a vision, all while ensuring their existing projects and equipment are satisfactory to their customers. They must be champions of technology in the schools to all stakeholders - the community, leadership, faculty/staff and students.


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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Social Networking in the Classroom

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBase

Our district just put together an agreement that will be sent out to all teachers allowing them to use social networking applications such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others with students for special projects and other initiatives in the classroom. Teachers currently have the ability to use these applications, but students do not. I believe this approach - not turning everything wide open - but providing the applications when needed and asking the teacher to agree to a few conditions is a step in the right direction.

I have blogged in the past about how teachers and students need to embrace these tools more on a daily basis. (See here for an example.) I also placed a video on my blog over a year ago that does a very good job in showing how our students today are connected via the social network. Click here to view the video. I am proud of my administration in supporting this move and I believe it will cause other teachers who are unsure of how these applications can be effective in the classroom, to begin to take a closer look. They will get to see their colleagues use them firsthand and experience the extensive communication, collaboration and sharing that takes place.

A perfect world is a full integration of these tools without having to worry about legal consiquences and social misbehvaior, but we must be realistic and understand that is a part of our society at this point in time. Right now, I firmly believe this solution is the right fit for our district and a step in the positive direction.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Backup Solution

VMware Inc.Image via Wikipedia

A little less than a year after implementing our server virtualization project (click here to read my post about that initiative), we have finally set the wheels in motion for a district-wide off-site backup solution.

We are purchasing a Dell R710 server for the storage capacity with an initial 6TB of storage. The brains behind the project is a product from Vizioncore called vRanger Pro that is specifically designed for VMWare environments.

Over the last couple of weeks my network administrator has been using the trial version to create backups of our existing virtual servers and just store them locally. He said the ease of use with this product is unlike any backup solution or server product he has worked with. The tool was very simple to install and even easier to configure. Once initialized it immediately works with VMWare to locate the virtual servers and connect.

Another cool feature of this product is the ability to create a backup of a physical server (we still have a couple that we simply are waiting for the box to die) and then restore it as a virtual server.

Once the server and solution arrive (hopefully within a few more business days) we will place the server at an off-site location - away from our main campus, which will provide safe backups should our campus ever have a catastrophic event.

It is the peace of mind knowing that "should something happen" all data and servers could be restored within minutes/hours and most users would not know there was any downtime. I strongly recommend any users out there who have already invested in VMWare to take a look at Vizioncore's suite of tools, because in addition to vRanger Pro they also offer other tools designed for the virtual environment to make a network administrator's job that much easier.

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The Paperless Classroom Continues...

Year 2 of the Paperless Classrooms. We lost one of our cutting edge teachers to TN (but I hear they are experimenting with their own Paperless Classroom - so we really know she is a true pioneer), but we replaced her with a great educator. Both teachers in the paperless classrooms this year are excited, driven and looking for the next cool tool to utilize in their classroom.

I plan to closely monitor not only the second round of fourth grade students who travel through this unique learning experience, but also how this year's fifth grade students (those who were in the paperless classroom last year) adjust their learning. It is a challenge for those fifth grade teachers to continue to engage these students at a high level using technology. I hope we can provide the necessary tools and support to make that as smooth a transition as possible.

Keep watching for more updates about the Paperless Classroom. Also - if you know of another school or classroom that has implemented a similar project - share your experiences or thoughts on how these classrooms can help transform education for the students.

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

SMART v. Promethean (or other product)

Interactive whiteboard at CeBIT 2007Image via Wikipedia

Is this a viable debate? Is there a better interactive board than another? SMART, Promethean, Interwrite, etc. - is one really superior than the other? Our district has a mix. I allowed my schools to bring in our vendors - listen to the demos, test the products and choose the board / solution that best fit their teachers. I used this method as a way to increase overall buy-in for the Interactive Classrooms, and have found it to be very successful. However - I still wander - why did they choose one over the other? Is it the software? The accessories to the board? Just a brand name thing??? If you use one board over the other in your school district -why? What criteria did you use to narrow down your choice. Cost? Was that the biggest determining factor? I am simply curious of what others have to say on this issue.

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Certainly Not The Way To Start A School Year...

Our biggest problem this summer? Not forgotten usernames / passwords, not data and phone cords plugged into the wrong port and not even the complaints from machines running their windows updates after sitting idle for 6-8 weeks. No - those are mild compared to the problem we have encountered this summer. Our biggest problem? Machines that have been idle / unplugged for those 6-8 weeks and are finally powered on and have a power supply that shoots sparks / flames out of them. Think I am joking? Watch below:

Fortunately a majority of these were caught by our tech department before our users came back. However, we did have some slip through the cracks. Guess the small form factors aren't going to cut it anymore, huh?


Thursday, August 6, 2009


It isn't often that I divulge from Ed Tech topics, but I felt the need this being an educational platform to put in a plug for one of the best motivational and educational speakers I have heard in my short lifetime.

Our school year began with our teachers (along with teachers from three other districts) filling our performing arts center to listen to Dr. Todd Whitaker, a noted educational consultant and speaker for teachers, principals and parents. Mr. Whitaker is the author of such well-known books in the educational circles as: "What Great Teachers Do Differently", "What Great Principals Do Differently" and "Dealing With Difficult Parents".

Dr. Whitaker has the ability to captivate an audience of 900 people for nearly five hours, without losing one person's interest. He is an engaging, humorous and eloquent speaker. If you have not heard Dr. Whitaker speak before I have placed links below to various You Tube videos highlighting some of his speaking engagements.

If your school district is searching for someone to engage, encourage, motivate and even entertain your faculty/staff; I highly suggest Dr. Todd Whitaker.

Home Page:

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