Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Cloud Computing and Learning @BVSD

DSC00481.JPGToday’s teaching environment is broader and more accessible than ever before. The online environment, or “cloud”, that our educators are able to access offers a robust supply of resources, experiences, and connections for both teachers and their students.

Yet, the move to Chomebooks, and cloud computing, in BVSD is sometimes perceived as a limit to experiences and resources needed for learning or working. And while this view is not surprising, especially for those who grew up in an age of Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X and locally installed software, it no longer accurately portrays the access that Chromebooks and cloud computing provide for learning and participating in our global society.

In my role as CIO, I use the Chrome environment and have not turned on my Mac in months. I’ve learned the device does not matter--it’s what I can access through the portal of the device that really impacts my work. I can communicate, collaborate, create, learn and lead with the resources available online. I see this shift to cloud computing in education as even companies like Microsoft are developing tools like the Cloudbook, a future competitor of Chromebooks.

Birchdec16 32.jpgIn the shift to cloud devices and resources, we have a dilemma.  As a parent I want to see BVSD eliminate 40-pound backpacks and physical textbooks in favor of digital resources that are hosted in the cloud, but this shift requires devices and time. I’ve heard we don’t need devices until we have digital curriculum, and I’ve also heard that we don’t need digital curriculum until we have devices. The classic catch-22.

Like most transitions, at some point a leap is needed. In our case in BVSD, that leap is to the Chromebook, a device that allows for learning to happen anywhere and at anytime. In the move to the modern world of the cloud, BVSD has purchased an extensive set of educational technology software that is cloud-based -- powerful tools like Google Earth, WeVideo, BrainPop, Voicethread and G Suite (Google Apps) for Education to name a few.  BVSD is exploring digital content resources available from companies like Discovery Education that could potentially replace the physical textbooks that many of our courses still require. In addition, there are many free open-access resources, like Khan Academy, that can begin some of this work now.

This shift to cloud computing is evident in many classrooms in BVSD. For example, Kay Davidson, 1:Web Specialist and Biology teacher at Broomfield High School, leads the efforts to transform teaching by using cloud-based learning. This year, she’s exploring how Google Classroom helps her connect with students beyond the limits of face to face and in an online, blended environment where students can learn and collaborate in real-time. Kay has presented on these ideas in her work with the 21st Century Cohort. Her reflection on her time in the cohort illustrates how these connections impacted her students:

You can view a variety of projects designed and produced by BVSD students using cloud-based resources in our student examples collection.

BHGT 01.jpgIn the transition to education in the cloud, BVSD will continue to support many device types including PCs, Macs, iPads, and Chromebooks.  There are still a few programs in our schools (Digital Arts, Engineering, etc.) that need a device like a PC or Mac to run software for those specific courses. Even still, many of these programs are moving to the cloud and I anticipate will be available on a Chromebook soon. The latest graphics based program to move from the device to the cloud/browser is Google Earth. It runs just as well on a $180 Chromebook as it does on a $1200 Mac. The same can be said of the iMovie replacement, cloud-based WeVideo.

Regardless of where you are on the journey to using educational resources in the cloud, the transition is happening quickly. BVSD’s general move to Chromebooks and the ability to teach from resources that are always up-to-date and accessible highlights this change.

I know the full transition to the cloud will take a few more years. Be assured that IT and Ed Tech are here for you. We all can learn together in this migration to anywhere, anyplace, anytime education using the cloud.

I want to hear from you!  Please chime in below with your thoughts and questions and maybe examples of any software you rely on that requires a Mac or PC.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Audio Enhancement is Coming to your Classroom

As part of the bond program, audio enhancement will be installed in most BVSD classrooms to help teachers and students hear each other better. The need for audio enhancement was identified by the Capital Improvement Planning Committee (CIPC) for inclusion in the bond master plan.

Whittier 7.jpgAmy Lears, BVSD Audiologist, explains the vision for audio enhancement as a system that “allows for both teachers and students to amplify their voices. Students who tend to be more soft spoken and or shy will be able to use the microphone so all in the learning community can hear their voices, helping them participate and gain confidence in oracy.”

In her work, she encounters research about the meaningful impact of this technology on learning. She explains that “numerous studies have shown the benefit of classroom amplification on standardized test scores, spelling, reading fluency, phonological awareness, math skills and concept understanding, classroom behavior, attention and on task behavior, and increased classroom discussion participation.” Read more about audio enhancement research and background for additional resources.

The audio enhancement systems will be replacing and modernizing the current Calypso systems for sound in the classroom. Part of this change includes an upgrade to a single HDMI wall connection which will replace the two VGA wall connections. The advantages of HDMI (digital) over VGA (analog) include:
  • carries audio and video in a single cable
  • has flush connector pins that do not bend or break
  • has higher quality video output

This upgrade will require changes to many digital devices as well. Most old desktops and document cameras use VGA connections and require a converter in addition to the existing splitter to work with audio enhancement. This leads to a complicated setup that requires several cables and power sources that many would find daunting to use.

After research and testing, the Bond, Ed Tech, and IT teams have concluded that the best course of action moving forward is to adjust the Employee Technology Tools schedule to coincide with the audio enhancement installations. This means that your old desktop and document camera (if you currently have one) will be replaced with a new Chromebook (or an HDMI Windows laptop for CS, Engineering and Digital Arts) and USB document camera when audio enhancement is installed.

This new setup will:
  • simplify the teacher experience in connecting devices to project
  • eliminate converters/dongles/splitters
  • reduce setup and troubleshooting time
  • add a path for future connectivity to 4K TVs
BHGT 20.jpgI can't underestimate the change involved with this transition. With that in mind, IT will be working closely with the Bond office and key school staff to ensure teachers have the support and training needed for a smooth transition. More information will be available soon, as the install for audio enhancement for Phase 1 schools is going on now and will most likely begin for Phase 2 schools this summer.

The possibilities this technology provides for all of our BVSD students will continue to enhance instruction and learning opportunities in meaningful ways as it is implemented across the district.

Please chime in below with your thoughts.


Monday, February 13, 2017

District Technology Advisory Committee Update (Feb 2017)

Educational technology resources and the opportunities afforded through these tools are forever expanding and changing. In the last five years, BVSD has seen an increase in access, digital devices, and resources that provide an engaging and modern learning environment for students.

With that in mind, I understand and value the varying perspectives of our stakeholders with the implementation of these tools, including views from our students, teachers, administrators, district leaders, parents and community members. Due to the accelerated rates of change, these stakeholders often times have both collaborative and conflicting views of technology in our schools.

Because of these rapid changes, varying perspectives, and continued shifts, I felt it to be the right time to develop a sustainable organization that could provide guidance on how technology and resources are decided, deployed, and utilized in our schools and classrooms. This includes the business side of education with regards to infrastructure and security. You can read about the background in my post from December.

I sent out an email in December of 2016 to gather interest for this committee only to find that we had over 230 stakeholders interested! I worked with my team to select a representative balance of community members, parents, business leaders, BVSD teachers, administrators, and most importantly, students (view the DTAC Roster). We also formed an online forum for those not selected to continue to provide feedback and insight to the work of the committee.

The District Advisory Technology Committee (DTAC) launched on January 23rd with an overview of current and future IT services, infrastructures, programs and projects. These included updates on IT Network upgrades, expansion of 1:Web in our high schools, student data security and privacy updates, and budget information. Members were then provided an opportunity to discuss their ideas of the most critical conversations for this committee to consider in future meetings. You can review their responses here.

I will continue to share agendas and notes from each DTAC meeting on our website to maintain transparency of the work that this committee will complete and the guidance they will provide.

If you have thoughts, ideas or suggestions, please chime in below.