Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Back to School Updates from IT for 2018-2019

Today marks the first day of the 2018-2019 school year! I hope that you have all had an enjoyable and refreshing summer.  For our team, we've spent much of the summer working to continue to improve our technology integration in BVSD. Here are a few of the projects we have been focusing on:

Student Data Privacy Course 
In addition to updating our Student Data Privacy website, all staff members who work with student information are now required to take a Data Privacy course. For more information, please see the BVSD Ed Tech blog post about this topic.

Digital Citizenship 
To prepare our students for the world they live in, we focus on teaching digital citizenship from kindergarten to 12th grade. This summer, we have reorganized and enhanced our digital citizenship resources. Among the new resources is a scope & sequence, which allows teachers at any grade level to quickly identify concepts and lessons to ensure each student is supported in an age-appropriate manner. The inclusion of digital citizenship lessons in our curriculum is also in the superintendent's 100-day plan.

Parent Engagement

My team is continually working on developing resources and avenues for parents to have conversations about technology. We opened up the District Technology Advisory Committee for another round of applications, and had nearly 200 people apply! In order to receive more input from the community, we are developing a comprehensive survey about technology to send to parents, which will be reviewed by the Board of Education and sent out this fall. Additionally, we are putting together “bundles” for schools to host P.E.P. (Parent Engagement Program) Talks - timely conversations about relevant technology topics. We look forward to continuing an open dialogue about the successes and challenges of using technology, both in the classroom and at home.

Updated Technology Policies
In December of 2017, the Board of Education approved the Student Data Privacy Policy, paving the way to update our student & staff technology policies as well. The staff policy revisions, passed on August 14th, reflect the rapidly changing nature of technology and ensure the responsible use of technology throughout the district. Work will continue on an updated student policy once information from the parent survey is available later this year.

We have now deployed a new phone system in every school & building! These phones have enhanced, modernized features, such as sending voicemails to email, to help streamline communication. Employees, be on the lookout for ideas about how to use these new features in the weekly IT Tips & Tricks emails.

Innovate@BVSD 2018
On July 30-31st, educators, administrators, and students from BVSD and other Colorado school districts joined together at Innovate@BVSD 2018. They spent time learning about and experiencing creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration in action throughout the conference. Hear what teachers and students had to say about the conference in this short video:

My team and I look forward to welcoming you back for another great school year and seeing some of these new resources in action! If you have any thoughts or input that you feel can be helpful, please chime in below.

Andrew Moore
CIO, Boulder Valley School District

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.