EdTech Summer Roundup 2013

We’re excited to welcome teachers back for professional development and looking forward to greeting students for the 2013-2014 school year. While summer clouds rolled by, the PM IT Team has been rocking and rolling with a slew of new technology upgrades, enhancements and preparations. Let’s peek behind the curtain and look at a few of the highlights:

Welcome Dianne Bates, PM’s new Data Specialist

This summer, Dianne Bates joined my team as the district Data Specialist. A native of Philadelphia and Drexel University grad, she comes to us with several years of database experience in the corporate world. Dianne’s duties will include technical coordination of all things data, including PIMS, Sapphire, state reporting, PVAAS and student assessment data. Say hello and help us welcome her to Penn Manor.

Teacher Laptops

Elementary and Manor Middle School teaching staff are returning to new laptops as part of the district’s 4 year teacher computer refresh. In the spring, teachers were given a technology choice based on classroom needs and their teaching preference. The options were a single 13” Macbook Pro or a two-for-one-deal of a 15” Touchscreen Acer laptop plus a 10” Asus Android tablet.  Approximately 80% of the staff selected the Acer/Android combination; the remaining 20% opted for the Macbook.

This replacement cycle is more complicated than most due to a simultaneous dual-platform upgrade. However, the IT Team has been working since May to make the transition as smooth as possible. One exciting new teacher laptop feature is ownCloud, a district-hosted automatic backup and file synchronization service similar to Dropbox.

Several teachers who chose the Acer laptop opted for an optional orientation in July to help jump-start their learning. All teachers are receiving technology professional development for the new laptops during August in-service days. Those who selected the Acer/Android combination will begin receiving their new tablets in late September.

High School 1:1 Laptop Program

Preparations are well underway for the January 2014 one-to-one student laptop program. The project has progressed on multiple fronts. First, we have selected, received and configured the Acer TravelMate laptops that will be used for the fall student pilot. Second, the new 1:1 policy documents have been presented to the Board of Directors and are on target for adoption at the August 21 board meeting. Third, wireless density at Penn Manor High School has been dramatically improved in preparation for the forthcoming influx of new laptops. Finally, teacher professional development plans have been crafted and will begin with dedicated educational technology sessions during the August 20th high school teacher professional development day. Watch the PM Techblog for much more on this project as the school year unfolds.

Applied Engineering and STEM

Middle and High School Applied Engineering lab spaces are receiving significant equipment updates. Desktop technology instruction labs at both middle schools will receive upgraded hardware running Ubuntu; Applied Engineering desktop computers will be upgrades to new hardware running Windows 8. These systems were hand-assembled from scratch by IT staff, saving significant dollars over typical preassembled vendor computers.

At Penn Manor High School, Lab 200 received new graphics cards and Autodesk’s Design Academy suite. District-wide, we are also expanding our fleet of programmable Finch Robots and Lego Robotics kits.

Infrastructure and Network

Penn Manor’s backbone network was upgraded to better support the growing needs of our learning community. To help improve network and phone availability during power outages, new battery backup (UPS) units have been installed in key network closets. IT engineers finalized the installation of Meraki edge switches, which will increase network traffic flow and help provide visibility of network health. Data cabling upgrades at Letort, Eshleman, Conestoga, Pequea and Penn Manor High School were also completed as part of the capital project plan. The new cabling provides a much-needed foundation for faster classroom wireless connectivity.

The past few months have been brisk, but my tech staff makes it look so easy. A huge thank you to Alex, Chad, Dianne, Gina, Jason, Shawn, Shelby and Tom; you are all superstars!

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