Thursday, December 27, 2012

CIO Blog Moves to Google Blogger

Over winter break I updated the CIO blog with a new name and location. The renamed BVSD Technology Blog is in Blogger, a Google tool. Older posts (2010-2012) will still be available on the legacy blog site.

The Blogger platform makes it easy for you to chime in with your comments, which I encourage you to do. Here are some recent projects and programs that started as ideas from our BVSD customers (that's you!):
The new BVSD Technology Blog also makes it easy for you to receive the most current posts. Simply subscribe to this blog in Google Reader. Watch this short video tutorial to learn how.

I hope you enjoy this new format, and I encourage you to explore all the tools that Google has to offer.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ed Tech Launches 21st Century Cohort

BVSD Ed Tech recently completed a year of strategic visioning and planning. Through this process, a group of teachers, students, administrators, and community members created a new path for BVSD teachers to gain professional development (PD) for the integration of technology in the teaching environment.

As part of this new direction, the Ed Tech team will be creating expertise within the schools through a cohort model. We call this the 21st Century Cohort.

After a rigorous selection process, over 40 teachers and their school teacher-librarians where chosen to be part of the first 21st Century Cohort.

Those going through the program will be able to choose new technology for their classroom and receive PD to support the effective usage of that technology in the classroom.

The 21st Century Cohort from this year will broaden Ed Tech's capabilities by helping to train the teachers in next year's cohort. This will allow the program to grow exponentially over the next 2-5 years.

I'm excited about this fundamental change in delivering training and PD, and I welcome the following schools into year 1 of the program:

Angevine MS, Arapahoe Campus, Aspen Creek K-8​, Boulder HS, Broomfield HS, Broomfield Heights MS, Casey MS, Centaurus HS, Centennial MS, Fairview HS, Louisville MS, Manhattan​ MS, Monarch, New Vista, HS Nederland HS/MS, Platt MS, Southern Hills MS, and Summit MS.

You can read more about the 21st Century Cohort program on the Ed Tech Blog.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Wireless Reality at BVSD

​We have come to expect and rely on wireless access, especially now that smartphones and other mobile technologies have become ubiquitous. Unfortunately, the demand of these devices regularly exceeds the capabilities of the BVSD wireless networks in schools and at the Ed Center.

BVSD’s wireless network is over 6 years old and was designed before iPads and smartphones existed. It was designed for wide coverage, meaning that most areas in a building have access. However, it was not designed for density, which restricts the number of devices that can be connected at the same time.

This situation is the cause of widespread frustration with our wireless network capability, especially as we continue to add iPads, netbooks, and other mobile devices to classrooms.

There is no comprehensive short-term solution to this problem. The cost to upgrade the entire wireless infrastructure at BVSD is estimated at over 2.5 million dollars, with over 1 million needed just for high schools. In the long term, we are looking for one-time money or a temporary technology mill levy override, which would need voter approval, to provide the needed funds.  

Depending on how much money can be raised, one potential fix would be to upgrade the high schools and redistribute their older wireless access points to the middle and elementary schools to fill gaps in coverage and density. However, this would be a short-term fix for the middle and elementary schools due to the age of the devices.

Despite the known issues with wireless coverage, we are not limiting the number of mobile devices that your school can purchase. However, we do want you to be aware of the limitations that may exist in your school or building before you invest. IT would be happy to survey specific areas of your school if you are planning to purchase more mobile equipment. Knowing our wireless capabilities up front may save you time, money, and frustration.

Please chime in with your thoughts.  Be sure to sign in first in the upper right-hand corner.


Monday, October 8, 2012

The BVSD Move to the Cloud

The phrase “cloud computing” is everywhere these days, but what does it mean?

Cloud computing means that we access hardware (like servers) and software over the internet rather than from a server hosted at our location. Cloud computing is everywhere -- you use it every time you perform an online search, login to your bank account, or check your email. There is a great explanation of how cloud computing works in this video from Common Craft.

One analogy for cloud computing is the electric company. In the early 1900s, companies used to generate their own electricity. But these generators became cumbersome and difficult to manage as their energy needs increased, so companies began buying their electricity from large entities with the capacity to provide electricity quickly and in large quantities. Today it seems silly that an individual company would generate its own power, outside of supplemental solar power. In 5-10 years, having large data centers filled with computer servers will be a thing of the past, too.

BVSD has already started moving to cloud computing. When we moved our email and calendars to Google last year, we moved those services from a locally hosted server into “the cloud”. In this case, the cloud simply means that the servers are located in a Google facility somewhere. Large companies like Google and Amazon have huge facilities called server farms, and they employ experts whose only job is to make the servers run smoothly. Instead of individual companies and organizations maintaining their own servers, they now leverage the size, security, and scalability of server farms.

You may have noticed that your email storage space increased significantly when we transitioned to Google. This is a great example of the size and scalability of cloud computing: if your data needs increase, there will always be plenty of server space to meet your needs immediately.

Another advantage of cloud computing is that you can access your data from anywhere. Before we transitioned to Google, your email was stored on a local server. You could only access your email if you were on the BVSD network or if you used a web application that didn’t provide all the functionality of our regular email client. Now, your Google mail is accessible from anywhere, on any device.

We are moving other applications into the cloud, too. In January we will move Lawson (HR/Payroll, Finance). Eventually we will also move Infinite Campus and SharePoint into the cloud.

So the next time you hear about the cloud, you’ll know that it refers to a service that you access over the internet, from any device, anytime, anywhere.

Please chime in with your thoughts.  Be sure to sign in first in the upper right-hand corner.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

iPad Resources at BVSD

I’m pleased to see that many BVSD teachers are starting to integrate iPads into their classrooms. iPads and other tablets are intuitive and easy to learn, especially for our students, but they also need to be managed and supported when they are used in an educational setting. If you have more than one in your classroom, you already know that there are considerations beyond what the personal user might encounter, such as setting up accounts and syncing apps across multiple devices.
Ed Tech iPad Site
The BVSD Ed Tech team has collected and created resources on their iPad site to help support iPad users at BVSD. Check out their website if you want more information about:

iPad Basics

Learn about the basic hardware features of your new iPad, and how to start using your iPad from the moment you turn it on. Also, find out how to sync apps between your iPad and your computer.

Volume Purchase Program (VPP)

Get information about VPP, the Apple program that allows educational institutions to purchase apps in volume and distribute them to their users. This is a great program if you need to purchase the same apps for a classroom set of iPads. Todd Shahan, our Apple Coordinator, can help your school get set up to use VPP. 

iPad User Group

Looking for next steps in using iPads to enrich student learning? Join the iPad User Group, a professional learning community dedicated to exploring how to integrate iPads to create a 21st Century learning environment. The first meeting is October 3, 4:00-6:00 p.m. at the Arapahoe Campus Computer Lab 121. 

iPad Articles & Websites

Connect with the growing community of educators around the world who are using iPads. Many excellent online resources are posted on the Articles & Websites page. You can also subscribe to this list of resources as an RSS feed(What is RSS?)

I hope you take a few moments to browse Ed Tech’s iPad Site. This is a very exciting time for teaching with technology, and this team has made sure that you are getting the best, most timely information and support.

Please chime in with your thoughts.  Be sure to sign in first in the upper right-hand corner.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Google Groups Go Live at BVSD!

One of the great collaborative features of Google is Google Groups. A Google Group is an online environment for discussing items related to a specific subject, such as high school football, or related to a group of people, such as principals or all BVSD staff (which I’m using to communicate this blog). 

Last week the ability to create Google Groups was enabled for everyone at BVSD. With this ability comes an assumed level of responsibility in regard to naming your groups. 

Naming Conventions
  1. Names should be descriptive and specific, not generic like “Football Team” (think of how many football teams we have in BVSD).
  2. Names should follow this format: of group
    1. Some examples: A chess club at Monarch High would be MOH.Chess Club. A lacrosse team at Emerald Elementary would be EME.Lacrosse.

Below is a list of descriptors for each school or function. Most school name descriptors are constructed from the first two letters of the school’s name, with the third letter designating the level.

If the appropriate descriptor is not in the name of your Google Group, the Group will be automatically removed. With that in mind, if you have a Group that does not conform to this critical naming standard, please update it no later than Sept 7, 2012. 

You can find more information on BVSD usage/creation of Groups by clicking here. You can find more information about Google Groups from Google by clicking here.

If you would like to comment on this blog, don’t forget to login to the blog site in the upper right hand corner.   


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Passwords and Account Security

The start of a new school year is a great time to think about BVSD account security. Everyone plays a part in keeping data safe. We in IT manage the servers that store your data and the networks that transmit your data. But the most powerful and effective way to protect BVSD data is for everyone to have a strong password. Like locking your front door, a strong password will deter thieves, especially those looking for an easy way into your account.

During the past year we had several issues with spammers, who were able to send millions of spam/phishing emails via hacked BVSD accounts. Unfortunately, one of these attacks rendered all BVSD email addresses blocked (blacklisted) for several days. Not only were the individual accounts affected, but all BVSD accounts were unable to send or receive messages outside of BVSD.

Incidents like these can be avoided if we all follow a few simple guidelines. 

Create a Strong Password (now required)
  1. Create a strong password with at least eight characters and a minimum of three of the four characteristics below (this is a new BVSD requirement):
    1. Must have at least one capital letter
    2. Must have at least one lowercase letter
    3. Must have at least one number
    4. Must have at least one symbol
    5. Click Here to change your password now
  2. Change your password every 90 days (planned implementation in January).
  3. Don’t reuse the same passwords.
  4. Don't use repeating digits like 1111, 7777.

Keep Your Password Safe
  1. Don’t share your password with anyone.
  2. Don’t use the same password for multiple services.
  3. Don't send your password in an email or instant message. IT will never ask for your password. Be suspicious of anyone who asks for your password.

Consider Using a Passphrase
An even better way to create a strong password is to create what is called a passphrase. A passphrase can be an entire phrase or an abbreviation of a phrase. For instance, The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog! becomes Tqbfjotld! A passphrase should be:
  1. Known only to you   
  2. A minimum of eight characters    
  3. Hard to guess -- even by someone who knows you well
  4. Easy for you to remember       
  5. Easy for you to type accurately   

Security is a shared responsibility. We need your help to keep BVSD accounts safe and to keep email running smoothly. 

Please chime in on what you think by first logging into this blog (upper right corner) and then responding. 


Monday, May 21, 2012

End of School Year Thoughts

As we wind down the school year, I want to thank each of you for supporting and working through the initiatives that IT implemented this year. It was a year of much-needed maintenance on systems that had been aging for too long. I’m pleased with the progress we made and look forward to next school year, when the number of IT initiatives will be greatly reduced and we can focus on customer service as our number one priority.

We completed 10 major projects this year:
  1. Transitioned email and calendars to Google, resulting in access to a suite of collaborative tools
  2. Upgraded Sharepoint (hardware and software) to provide stability and new features to our websites
  3. Upgraded Infinite Campus (IC) database (hardware and software) for better functionality and speed
  4. Implemented a new Integrated Library System (ILS) and centralized cataloging, which allows sharing of BVSD resources and shifts time for teacher librarians from data management to instruction
  5. Final completion of the Projector Initiative project that began more than 3 years ago
  6. Upgraded the wireless infrastructure at Monarch HS to support their 1:1 initiative
  7. Worked in partnership with the Ed Tech Leadership Council (teachers, librarians, parents principals, and administration) to develop a new vision and mission of the BVSD Ed Tech department
  8. Completed the IT portion of numerous Bond funded projects at a variety of schools
  9. Implemented Password Manager, which is the first in a number of security enhancements
  10. Upgraded roughly 50% of our systems to Windows 7

Next year our 5 key projects include:
  1. Implement a new IEP (Individualized Education Programs) system hosted by CDE
  2. Complete the Windows 7 upgrade
  3. Implement the new Ed Tech vision that was developed by the Ed Tech Leadership Council
  4. Continue to update our processes for network security
  5. Move our finance, payroll, and some HR systems to the cloud with Lawson

All of the new programs we rolled out over the last two years will continue. These include:

As this school year comes to a close and we move to a new one, look for a focused IT/Ed Tech organization, one that is working on fewer projects and focusing more on customer satisfaction. We will be systematically solving the issues that our customers experience on a regular basis.  In addition, we will be increasing our customer focus by finding new and better ways to connect and communicate. Watch for the new IT Newsletter, coming 3 times a year, and weekly IT Tips and Tricks.

Enjoy your summer! I hope you get the opportunity to rest and recharge. We’ll will be working hard to prepare for your return in August. To chime in, please sign in to the blog by clicking here. I personally read all of your comments and suggestions, which helps guide our team. Thank you again for a productive year. 


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Strong Passwords with Required 90 Day Change are Coming

Passwords are one of the strongest proactive measures that individuals can take to keep BVSD data safe and in the right hands. Passwords must never be shared, and IT will never ask for your password.
As we move to the Google environment on April 23, new password requirements will also be implemented.
At first, this type of change can seem daunting.  I know it was for me.

What we'll get from this change is acceptable security as required by our last security audit. The likelihood will also decrease that spam will take over your computer without you even knowing it.

What will change?

After April 23...

  1. Passwords will have to be at least 8 characters long.
  2. To make them "strong" they must have 3 of the following 4 items:
    1. Upper Case
    2. Lower Case
    3. Number
    4. Special Character (a special character is anything but a letter or a number)
  3. You'll be required to change your password every 90 days.  This will fix compromised accounts that you may not even know about. (k-5 accounts without email will have a 180 day change period)
  4. There will be a new web-based tool that will allow you to change your password from any computer with an internet connection.

Hints for creating strong passwords

One way to remember strong passwords is to create sentences as passwords. For example, "BVSD is a cool place to work in 2012!" meets all 4 criteria and is easy to remember. Don't feel constrained by 8 characters -- sentences as passwords work well, too. 

Give it a try!

I encourage you to create a strong password before April 23.

Password Tools

Password Reset Tool
Password Change Tools
  • Currently you can change your password on a Windows PC while on the BVSD network. Click here for instructions.
  • By April 23 we will also have a new password change tool that will work from any computer with an internet connection.

Please chime in below after you log in. I want to know what you think about BVSD taking security seriously. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Email and Spam - Putting BVSD at Risk

Spam is something that most would agree is a nuisance, but it can also be very damaging to the entire district. Clicking on a malicious link can shut down BVSD email services for days.

Today, we had BVSD employees receive spam messages related to cleaning up their computers. These emails looked real enough for two people to click the link. The result was that their PCs became spam generators, sending thousands of emails without their knowledge from their BVSD accounts.

When email providers receive emails en mass, they blacklist the district so that no email from any address can get through. It can take IT hours or days to convince the email companies to take us off their blacklist.  

Being blacklisted by a major email provider can severely limit or shut down the business operation that supports education.

Many times the offending PCs need to be reimaged to ensure the issue is resolved, causing further loss of productivity for the individual and for IT service staff.

What does IT do to help?

Approximately 95% of all emails sent to BVSD are discarded before they reach anyone’s mailbox. The remaining 5% are scrutinized by our email filter to determine if they are legitimate. Most times the filters get it right, but sometimes the filter believes a message is legitimate when it is actually spam. It is in this case that we need your help. 

What can you do to help?

Think Before You Link - Never click on email links or attachments unless you are absolutely sure they are from a trusted sender.  When email arrives from outside the district, beware. Look closely at the subject and sender without opening the email. Some spam looks legitimate because it appears similar to an email you might get from a reputable company. If you are in doubt, it is probably spam - delete it!

Official institutions, including BVSD, will never ask for your username, password, credit card number, or other personal information via email. 

If you do inadvertently click any links or attachments in or reply to the spam email, please change your password immediately. That will stop the spammers from using your system and will help protect district assets. 

If you have immediate concerns, please call the IT Service Desk at x5065 or place an IT Service Request. If you have suggestions or comments please chime in here. Just remember you need to be logged in to comment (upper right corner).  


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The BVSD Transition to Google Collaborative Tools

On April 23, 2012, BVSD will be transitioning to the Google collaborative tools known as Google Apps. I'm happy to be communicating the details of this transition since many of you have been requesting these very same tools for a long time.
The Basic Google Apps
Over the last few months IT and Monarch HS (staff and students) have piloted the transition to the basic suite of Google Apps: Gmail, calendar, and instant messaging. These tools have some immediate benefits.
You will have immediate online access at any time and on any device (PC, Mac, iPad, Droid, etc.). 
Your inbox will increase from 200 MB to 25 GB, which is over 10 times your current storage space. You also get the power of the Google search engine to find archived emails. 
Instant Messaging (IM)
IM allows you to instantly communicate (or "chat") with any BVSD employee, student, or Gmail user who is available to start an online chat session. The IT staff and I use this feature all the time to quickly communicate in lieu of email or phone. Please IM me with you questions or thoughts anytime you see I'm online. (Google will show you when I'm available.)
Google Apps for Document Collaboration
As Google becomes part of the BVSD culture, I anticipate a steady transition to collaboration at new levels. Google has several Apps that allow multiple people to collaborate on documents at the same time. We've already experienced the benefits of document sharing and collaboration in IT and Curriculum.  
In the schools, teachers will be able to have students submit assignments within Google and provide feedback online when appropriate. Peer collaboration within the classroom becomes an easier experience when teachers can easily see who is collaborating and to what level on any assignment. 
Administrators will also be able to collaborate with their staff members in new, fluid ways. Surveys can be easily created in an App called Google Forms.
These Google Apps are just a portion of the entire suite of Apps that are available to BVSD Google users. You can find a complete list of BVSD-accessible Google Apps at the end of this blog.
Google Ninjas: Your School's Experts
The list of benefits in using Google is long, but a transition of this scale is rarely without some bumps in the road. To help with the rollout, Kelly Sain (Ed Tech Manager) has created a program that will put Google experts in each school. The experts, known as Google Ninjas, will be trained over the next couple of months in preparation for the April 23 rollout. Principals have provided Kelly with a list of the experts for each school who will become your resident Google Ninjas.
Your First Days in Google
You probably have a lot of questions about what to expect in the transition to Google Apps. I recommend taking a look at the Google Transition Site, which is specifically designed to address your first days as a Google Apps user in BVSD. If you are a Gmail user in your personal life, then you already know how to use some of these tools.
Please chime in on this blog and let me know what you are looking forward to with the move to Google Apps and what concerns you most about the transition.
Thank you for your time!
Initial Google Apps Available at BVSD    
AviaryAviary is a powerful suite of browser-based design tools for people who create.
Google ContactsAddress Book
Google GmailEmail
Google CalendarCalendar
Google DocsWord processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations
Google SitesWebsites
Google TalkChatting
BloggerShare your life online with a blog - it's quick, easy and free
BookmarksAccess your Bookmarks on any computer, and use Lists to share them with friends
BooksSearch the full text of books
FinanceBusiness info, news and interactive charts
Google GroupsCreate and participate in public discussion groups
iGoogleAdd news, games and more to your Google homepage
MapsView maps and directions
Picasa Web AlbumsShare photos with friends and family, or explore public photos
ReaderGet all your blogs and news feeds fast
Translator ToolkitGet tools for translators to translate your pages and documents faster
YouTubeWatch, upload and share videos