Friday, May 11, 2018

Internet Safety, Web Filter, and Partnerships

As technology use at BVSD grows, so do the questions and concerns about internet safety. BVSD is committed to continual improvement in this area which remains a priority as the internet grows and tools to help mitigate safety concerns evolve.

Let me share some information on what BVSD does to help ensure our students are safe, starting with our web filter. BVSD’s Palo Alto firewall/web filter was purchased 3 years ago after a competitive search process. This top-rated technology is used by many school districts in Colorado and across the nation.

At the elementary level, we block 26 categories and over 300 additional websites that have been brought to our attention by teachers and parents. Some of the blocked categories include abused drugs, adult, alcohol, tobacco, copyright infringement, dating, games, gambling, hacking, malware, nudity, phishing, sex education, social media, swimsuits, intimate apparel, and weapons.

To allow for age-appropriate access and an increase in the student’s level of responsibility, the additional categories of gaming, sex education, and select social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Skype, Pinterest) are opened at the MS/HS level.

Our web filter, although powerful, is not perfect. This is true with all web filters, either at home or at school. In some cases, filtering, regardless of settings, can under-block bad sites and over-block good sites at the same time.

Current practices are in alignment with other districts and strive to strike a balance between a protected, yet real-world environment. An additional challenge is that students can and do use their phones to create “hotspots” in order to access restricted sites when the content they are looking for is blocked by our filter. We do not want our students on hotspots, as this prevents us from intervening when something unsafe is happening.

For these reasons internet safety is not viewed as just a technology issue, but something that requires a partnership between everyone involved. Teachers use engaging instructional practices and actively manage their classrooms. Students need to understand their responsibilities and practice good digital citizenship to prepare them for life. Parents can help by setting appropriate boundaries and having ongoing conversations with their students about technology use. All of us have a responsibility to continue educating ourselves and each other about the latest technology trends and research.

On Tuesday, May 15, 2018, the Board of Education will be facilitating a study session where we will share details about what we currently do to help keep our students safe and what additional steps could be taken with appropriate investments. 

Areas we will cover include classroom management software, proactive self-harm/bullying detection software, and policy updates, such as recommending a ban on the usage of hotspots and a requirement for staff and students to report harmful sites that get through our filters.

The meeting will be in the Boardroom at the Education Center from 5-7pm.  Please join us if this topic is of interest to you.

And please feel free to chime in below with your thoughts on this important topic.


Friday, April 6, 2018

Data Visualized at BVSD

What is VizLab?
BVSD has been working for the last two years to create a data warehouse with a tool called Tableau to visualize the data. We call this effort VizLab which has empowered users by bringing together many different types of data to drive instruction in a quick, real-time and easily accessible way. When looked at in isolation, it can be hard to get the full picture of how students are doing, but combined, these data points give us a comprehensive picture of student progress allowing us better support students. Multiple data sets are directly and easily accessible in a new, visually engaging way to the people who can use data to take action and better serve students.
As with all of our data, security is very important, so teachers can only view data for the students they are working with.


Who is using VizLab?
All Administrators and ~60% of teachers have been trained so far! We have a goal of 100% of teachers trained by the end of the school year.

How are teachers using this data? Educators across the district are analyzing student data to reflect on and improve their practice (BVSD Teacher Effectiveness Standard 3, Element b). VizLab supports educators in using data more efficiently.

The data from VizLab has helped teachers target specific interventions to address the achievement gap. While it is powerful to see the data, the real power comes in taking action based on this evidence. Teachers have been using VizLab to get an overview of which students are in need of extra support, look at risk factors for particular students, plan reading groups, and use the data for student support meetings. They have also found it helpful for showing data to parents at conferences and to the students themselves so they can track their progress. Here is how some ELD Teachers from Angevine shared about how VizLab has worked for them:

At the beginning of the year, we really appreciated how thorough the class overview was. Easily being able to see “Years in ELL” for every student in each class in one quick look has been extremely helpful.

As the year progressed we have begun exploring the Early Warning System to target students we need to look at as an MTSS team that may not be drawing attention in class but need extra supports. As an MTSS team, we met to look at the students in red and systematically make sure they were receiving as many supports as possible, and create action plans to further wrap our arms around them.

It has also been extremely valuable to see and share trends for our Emerging Bilinguals ACCESS scores from year to year. VizLab’s easy to understand visual for the ACCESS scores helps us quickly set language goals in mini-conferences with our students, as well as set broader school-wide focuses.

How do you get started using this great data visualization tool?
Check out our website at Teachers can receive initial training through their school or on their own through an online Schoology course.

I’ve already taken the initial VizLab training, what do I do next?
We are currently developing opportunities for “Level 2” Training in the 2018-2019 school year. Additionally, we are putting together a teacher focus group to help shape what is developed next for teachers in VizLab and to better understand ongoing professional development needs. If you are interested, please reach out to Clare Sims at or leave a comment on this blog! Finally, keep an eye on the ISE blog for weekly VizLab tips & tricks.

Will there be data beyond student data in the data warehouse, available through Vizlab? Yes. As the data warehouse matures, additional operational data will likely be added. This may include data from transportation, finance, IT, maintenance, etc.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Single Sign On (SSO)

The security of your identity and BVSD data are two areas of top concern to me, especially in light of the recent virus attack. With that in mind, I’m excited about the rollout of the next generation of password management and application access at BVSD. 

The BVSD Single Sign-On Portal,, is a tool for students and staff to access district and instructional technology resources with one login and from one location. Upon signing in at, you will see tiles that will take you to many web-based applications. Rather than needing to type in the URL for each of these applications and sign in, clicking on the tiles will take you directly to them, and in many cases, automatically log you in.

Another key benefit of is the ability to reset your password more easily and securely. Should you forget your password and need to reset it, you can do so by clicking “Forgot Password”. You will be prompted to enter your BVSD username. From there you will use the pull down menu to select your recovery option method. You can choose from one of three options:
  • Answer three security questions
  • Enter your PIN
  • Have a new password link sent to your personal email address.
Any of these options will then give you the opportunity to enter a new password.

The first time you log in, you will be prompted to set four security questions, a four-digit PIN, and a personal email address. These all can be used to verify your identity to allow you to change your BVSD password on computers both inside and outside the district. If you do enter a personal email address, please be sure to check your personal email for a message with a verification link to activate this email in the system. If at any time you need to reset your security questions, PIN, or personal email address, you can do so while logged in to the portal.

The new portal,, will be available to all students and staff beginning on February 16, 2018. We appreciate your support in proactively managing the security of your identity and BVSD data!


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Technology Tools for 2018-2019

I am excited to share details on the 2018-2019 technology tools program which will be rolling out to schools this spring. Every other year, each school receives an allocation of “technology points” based on their enrollment. Schools are then able to spend their points to upgrade technology in their school.

This year’s model is simplified to better reflect current-day needs. With IT now covering maintenance costs, employee devices, and committing to reducing student equity challenges throughout the district by allocating funds to distance learning and the 1:Web program, school-based technology points can be specifically focused on student devices, labs, and classroom innovation needs. With the 2018-2019 technology tools update, schools will have more flexibility in how to spend their technology points.

At schools that are not in the 1:Web program, there will not be significant changes in the funding model. These schools will be able to spend their technology points on student devices, computer labs, and a new category called innovation tools.

The innovation category includes tools that are available at our newly-built schools, making sure this technology is open to everyone in the district. Some of these exciting items include: TV displays with casting capability, 3D Printers, Maker Kits, video production tools, and pen tablets.

Schools participating in the 1:Web program will also receive technology points, but without the need to buy as many student devices, they will be able to allocate more of those technology points to the innovation category.

If your school is on the cycle to update their technology tools this coming school year, the IT Ed Tech and Service Delivery teams will be coming by to talk with your principal this spring. We are excited to see how the use of these new innovative technologies will enhance the learning environment! 

One last thing - the technology point allocations at the schools will look larger this year, but the dollar amount will remain the same. We have moved away from 100 points being equal to the cost of a Windows device, to 100 points being equal to the cost of a Chromebook. This reflects the shift away from Windows devices to cloud-based Chromebooks. The increased point count should not be confused with more money being allocated.

Please chime in with any comments, thoughts, or suggestions. They are appreciated.