2012 Technology News Recap

orangeclockWith 2012 drawing to a close, it is time to reflect on Penn Manor technology accomplishments. Let’s recount major IT highlights from the past 12 months:

Nine school buildings received a much needed communications upgrade during the spring. The new phone system, powered by open source sipXecs software, replaced our nearly decade-old, proprietary 3COM NBX platform. Penn Manor High School is scheduled to receive the same phone upgrade during the summer of 2013.

Our largest project of 2012 was, by far, an elementary laptop refresh for all classrooms in grades 1 through 6. Each teacher received 6 new Lenovo laptops running our custom Ubuntu Linux image. The project brings our total Ubuntu fleet to over 1,600 laptops and has helped us achieve the goal of providing students with increased access to technology.

During the summer of 2012, we upgraded district servers to Moodle 2. Hundreds of classroom and group courses were migrated over the course of several days. Moodle version 2 is a big step; the lastest version is a significant upgrade to the popular learning management system. While I was admittedly concerned about bugs and issues with the new version, we experienced relatively few problems.

With the the Moodle 2 migration behind us, our middle and high school teachers participated in the district’s first 100% virtual professional development workshop. The 3-hour workshop covered Moodle 2 basics for teachers, introduced a menu of Open Educational Resources and provided a selection of online instructional tools. Feedback was generally positive; most staff appreciated the opportunity to work at their own pace, on their own time and at a comfortable location!

After nearly a year of planning and preparation with our partner districts, Open Campus virtual courses launched. Over 100 vanguard students from Penn Manor, Hempfield and Manheim Township began taking online classes during the inaugural semester. While students were busy with their new virtual courses, development teams began constructing new courses for the 2013-2014 school year. For me, the most rewarding aspect of the project has been the opportunity to create and collaborate with PM teachers and teachers from each partner district. The future of education is virtual, and I’m thrilled to help construct that new reality.

An Android advent dominated our autumn agenda. Thanks to a series of grants, Google’s incredible Nexus 7 found its way into several classrooms. The initial successful Nexus 7 pilots demonstrated that Android tablets offer considerable educational potential. I’m looking forward to expanding Nexus 7 into more classrooms as the school year progresses.

Finally, a special shout-out to my team. They have collectively accomplished an incredible number of goals this past year. I’m so very lucky to work with an amazingly resourceful and passionate band of merry communicators, educators, problem-solvers and technicians:

My astounding team
Small, yet so very mighty
I’m proud of you all.

Happy New Year!

Photo credit:  ToniVC via Flickr