Thursday, December 26, 2013

IT Communication Strategy - Survey Says...

We all strive to communicate productively in our personal and professional lives. In IT, we want to communicate the right amount of relevant information so that you know what’s going on without feeling overwhelmed.

Recently, BVSD conducted a survey to better understand your communication preferences and habits. Based on your feedback, we in IT have created a new communication strategy that I will outline below.

When IT now communicates to all BVSD Staff, we will follow this model:


We all prefer a tidy inbox. However, the survey results show that BVSD staff overwhelmingly prefers email to other forms of communication—provided those emails are relevant and written for easy scanning. Here are the types of emails that you can expect from IT:
  • IT Alerts and time-sensitive communications that affect the majority of BVSD staff; sent as needed 
  • IT Tips and Tricks; sent weekly 
Hint: Google offers several tools to help you manage an overwhelming inbox. Try using filters to sort your mail when it arrives. Also, try the Priority Inbox to put the really important stuff at the top.

Service Manager Portal

We will post alerts and outages that don’t affect the majority of BVSD staff on the Service Manager Portal, which you will see when you submit an IT Service Request. Check here first for status updates of your favorite apps.
Hint: Check the Google Apps Dashboard if you suspect an outage of a Google service such as Gmail, Google Drive, Sites, etc.

Monthly IT Newsletter

Every month we will send an IT Newsletter, which will contain the BVSD Technology Blog (see below), upcoming Ed Tech professional development opportunities, short surveys, and other timely topics from the IT Department. We hope you will enjoy this consolidated version of the information that you used to receive in separate emails.

BVSD Technology Blog

You’re reading the BVSD Technology Blog right now! This is where I share information about the technology that affects the business of education at BVSD. Some topics are very specific, such as changes to passwords, and some are broader discussions about the direction of technology. I’ll include the link to my newest blog post in the IT Monthly Newsletter.

Hint: You can add the RSS feed of this blog to your favorite RSS reader. (Not sure what RSS is? Watch this short video.)

Do you have thoughts about our new IT communication strategy? Leave your comments below. Don't forget you have to log in first.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Progress Toward One Password

How many usernames and passwords do you have to remember? If you’re like me, you have dozens of online accounts (probably more), and each requires a unique username and password.

Until recently, you also had a different username and password for almost every application you used at BVSD. But now, due to some key changes, that situation is reversing: you are able to use the same information to sign in to multiple BVSD applications.

So what has changed to make this possible?

Password Manager

You should all be familiar with Password Manager by now. This tool changes your password in two places—BVSD’s database (called Active Directory) and Google—which means that you use the same password to sign in to your computer, email, calendar, docs, etc. But you may not know that you can use this same password to sign in to other key BVSD applications:
  • Avatar
  • Infinite Campus
  • Insignia (Library software)
  • Lawson
  • MediaCAST

Windows — Ctrl-Alt-Delete

We recently introduced the ability to change your password in both Google and Active Directory by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Delete and then following the change password option. You must be on a Windows PC for this option to work.

Google Authentication

Many online applications use Google authentication, which is a process that signs you in using your Google account instead of requiring you to create a new username and password. If you come across an app with the option to “Sign in with Google”, do it! We are working with our vendors to enable Google Authentication whenever possible.

App Launcher

The App Launcher appears at the top right corner of the browser when you are in your email or calendar. Any apps that you find in the App Launcher will automatically log you in when you click them. Click on “More” in the App Launcher to see apps like BrainPOP and VoiceThread.

With a move toward one password I’m hopeful your technology world will get easier to navigate.   

Please chime in with your comments below.


Fax Machines - A Relic of the 1980s?

80s nostalgia is all the rage these days in fashion, music, and pop culture. How many of us, when we saw kids starting to wear neon sunglasses and ripped jeans, rolled our eyes and groaned, “Oh no, that’s coming back? I wore that the first time around!”

But how many of those leg-warmer-wearing young people are toting around Sony Walkmans or watching their favorite flicks on VHS? Not many. Technology is usually exempt from the nostalgia cycle once it is replaced by something newer and more efficient. But one relic from the 1980s—the fax machine—didn’t get the memo, “maybe because,” says Dan Tynan on the NBC Tech and Gadgets blog, “someone wrote it on a typewriter and faxed it.” Ouch.

I realize that it can be hard to give up a technology that you are comfortable using, and to be fair, the fax machine was a great technology for its time. But it has been replaced by technologies that are faster, higher quality, and just plain easier. 

Here are a few options.

Scan to email
Most of the new Ricoh multi-function devices have a feature that scans a document, creates a PDF, then emails it to you. This is a great feature if you need to sign a paper document and send it to someone; unlike a fax, the document isn't distorted, cut off, or faded. Think you need to fax important paperwork such as refinance documents? Think again—most mortgage lenders now accept (and prefer!) PDFs.

Save as PDF
Many programs, including MS Word, give you the option to save a document as a PDF. This is an entirely paperless workflow, perfect for documents that don’t need a signature.

Web forms
If you require people to print, fill out, and fax paper forms to you, consider switching to web forms. Both SharePoint and Google have web forms that you can add to your website or send via email as a survey. And because the form data is collected automatically in a spreadsheet, you spend less time hand-entering data. If you're interested in creating web forms, consider attending a SharePoint or Google Open Lab (check Avatar for upcoming dates).

With better, more reliable alternatives available, I’m confident that we’ll start moving away from faxing.

Have you moved away from faxing? What worked best for you? Please chime in with your comments below.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wireless Upgrades Approved

IT knows that most of the existing BVSD wireless environment does not reliably meet the needs of our schools. This is a challenge we've been working to resolve for some time.

That’s why I’m pleased to announce that on Tuesday night (5/28/13), the Board of Education approved the upgrade of wireless technology at all high schools, middle schools, and K-8s this calendar year; elementary schools will receive supplementary wireless equipment.

High Schools, Middle Schools, and K-8s
All high schools and many, if not all, middle schools and K-8s will be updated over this summer. Those schools not updated over the summer will be completed by the end of the 2013 calendar year. The new wireless system will allow approximately two simultaneous devices per user.  

Elementary Schools
As a temporary fix, the equipment pulled from the highs, middles, and K-8s will be offered to supplement the existing wireless systems at elementary schools. In the meantime, I will continue to work to find funding for a long-term fix.

I’m excited to see how the improved wireless technology will transform the learning environment for BVSD students, especially by opening the door to 1:1 and BYOD initiatives. 

What excites you about the upcoming wireless upgrades? Please chime in with your comments below.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Green Printing @BVSD

Over the last year, BVSD has transitioned to a new model for supporting our printing, faxing, and copying needs. We moved away from workgroup printers to Ricoh multifunction devices.

This change was made in order to
  • reduce costs by reducing paper consumption and printing costs
  • simplify our processes
  • eliminate excess waste as part of a “greenBVSD” initiative.
Since spring 2012, over 155 Ricoh multifunction devices have been installed. This centralized printing model will eventually eliminate the need for over 1800 printers in our buildings. The new Ricoh devices provide faster, less expensive, and double-sided printing. In addition, schools now have a single source for purchasing toner and requesting repairs, which further reduces cost, energy use, and complexity.
To further our “greenBVSD” initiative, many staff and students are taking advantage of the digital collaboration opportunities within Google Docs and other online tools—in fact, some teachers have even created paperless classrooms. 
Go to to find more information about this sustainable printing initiative and other BVSD sustainability programs.

Please chime with your thoughts on printing after logging in above.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Wireless Names @ BVSD

What’s in a name? Quite a bit, it turns out, when it comes to choosing your BVSD wireless network.

The next time you use a wireless device at school, check out the networks available to you. Some may look familiar, some are new, and some of the old networks are gone. Each network has its own features. Here’s a short guide to choosing a network.

BVSD - This is the secure network that you can join using your BVSD username and password. It allows you to access district resources, such as your network folders.
BVSD Guest - This network is for guests. It does not require a username and password, and it does not allow access to secure district resources.
BVSD Guest Fast - This network is just like BVSD Guest except that (you guessed it) it’s faster. Only devices that are compatible with BVSD Guest Fast will see it.

Public Wi-Fi Networks
Stay safe when you use the free Wi-Fi offered by many restaurants, hotels, and retailers. Make sure you know and trust the name of their wireless network. A malicious person can set up their own network with a similar-sounding name in hopes that you will join it. Once you join a bogus network your data is compromised. When in doubt, ask someone who works there to verify the network name. Also, use appropriate privacy and sharing settings whenever you join a public Wi-Fi network. Read more about staying safe online on our Information Security @ BVSD website and in the most recent BVSD CIO blog.

Please chime in about wireless networks after logging in above. I want to hear your thoughts on this topic.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Information Security @ BVSD Campaign

Why is Information Security important?

As our lives move increasingly into the digital realm, we must expand what we think of as security.

Security is no longer just installing a home alarm system or locking the car door. An incredible amount of data about us is stored digitally, on a variety of devices and on servers both locally and around the world. Someone who breaches your digital security can cause just as much damage as a burglar: they can get into your bank account, your email, and other personal data.

And because data is interconnected, especially in a networked environment like ours, hackers can enter our network through one person’s account and cause problems for everyone.

Information security is not just an “IT thing”. We all play a role in maintaining the information security of the BVSD community.

Information Security is more than just passwords

Strong passwords are very important, but they are just one piece of a larger information security strategy. Our new Information Security @ BVSD website outlines each of these areas in greater detail. Here are some highlights from the website, which I encourage you to visit.

Protect Your Data

  • Backup the data you need
  • Review permissions for documents, email, and websites
  • Comply with FERPA and Board Policies about technology use and student data

Secure Your Devices

  • Protect against viruses and malware
  • Control access to your devices using the Three Ls: Log out and Lock it up when you Leave
  • Update your Windows laptop regularly
  • Secure remote access to your device when you are on public wi-fi

Guard Your Privacy

  • Avoid phishing scams and identity theft
  • Use strong passwords
  • Protect your account security

Get Help

  • Know your information security resources
  • Know how to report a suspected security breach or a stolen BVSD device

Information Security @ BVSD: The Campaign Begins

Information security has become a necessary part of our lives as digital citizens. Our Information Security @ BVSD campaign is designed to give you strategies for staying safe online, whether you are at work or at home.

Look for more campaign communications over the next few months, including a poster that you can post in your breakroom.

Chime in below with your thoughts about Information Security @ BVSD.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

IT Service Request System Upgrade this Summer

Over the last few years, IT has implemented numerous changes to proactively serve our customers better.

You may recognize some of the more visible changes now in place:

  • Answering most calls that come into our service desk immediately
  • Grouping schools into zones with an accountable IT zone leader
  • Upgrading our software to the more reliable Windows 7
  • Reintroducing Apple products into the District
  • Supporting iPads, Droids, and Chromebooks
  • Allowing schools to supplement the Tech Refresh process with additional technology purchases
  • Increasing communications on outages, tips, and future directions

Over the summer we will make another transition by upgrading to a more robust IT Service Request system. The new system will be called Service Manager, a Microsoft product. It will replace HEAT, the system we currently use.

The IT Service Request icon on the desktop will remain the same, however, the interface will look different—watch for a sneak peak coming later this spring!

Service Manager will be fast and easy to use: it will automatically populate information about your computer and your location, and you will be able to enter a new ticket in 60 seconds or less.

I’m excited about this upcoming change. Besides being easier to use, Service Manager will give us more reliable data to help us locate and resolve pesky lingering issues that can be hard to track down. It will also have professional asset tracking capabilities, which will help us keep track of district devices.

When you come back in the fall, be ready for a new way to enter IT Service Requests. I think you’ll find it even easier than our current system.

Please chime in below after you log in above.   


Friday, February 22, 2013

PARCC and Pearson Assessments Are Coming

Goodbye, #2 pencils: the days of filling in bubbles will be coming to an end. Soon, BVSD students will take standardized assessments online.

Colorado is adopting two new kinds of assessments:
  1. PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) will test English Language Arts and Math
  2. Pearson exams will measure Science and Social Studies
Pearson exams are being piloted this spring and will be implemented during the 2013-14 school year. PARCC will follow in the 2014-15 school year.

IT is working with Curriculum, Assessment & Instruction to make the transition to online assessments as smooth as possible. If you have any question about assessments, I encourage you to contact Jonathan Dings or Brigitte Mutter in the Office of Planning and Assessment or via email at

Jonathan Wright and Angel Stobaugh are happy to address questions related to the English Language Arts section of the future PARCC assessments.

Here are some other resources you might find helpful:

What do the new assessments mean for technology at BVSD?

I know that many teachers and principals have concerns about whether we will be ready for online assessments from a technology perspective. I want you to know that IT is proactively working towards making sure that we are ready for this brave new world.

Here is what IT, in partnership with CAI, has done so far:
  • We have submitted the Information Technology Readiness Tool data to the CDE. 
  • As part of gathering these data, we have inventoried every computer lab in the district. 
  • We have attended a Site Readiness Technical Training in person and online. 
  • We have made sure that all BVSD desktop computers currently meet the minimum computer hardware specifications designated by the CDE. 
Many of you are also concerned that there is not enough technology in your buildings to administer these tests. We are working to make more refurbished computers available to schools, provided that school principals are willing to do the following:
  • Purchase flat screen monitors.
  • Ensure there are enough network drops.
  • Provide an adequate number of switches to support the drops.
CDE is still working out many details of the transition to online assessments, which may be causing you some concern. This transition is important; I want you to know that we'll continue to put resources into its successful implementation at BVSD.

Please chime in with your thoughts by leaving a comment at the bottom of this post.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Dual Internet Connections Come to BVSD

Having a backup plan is always part of life: we buy insurance to guard our assets; we use GPS to find detours; we carry jumper cables in the car. Having a backup plan is even more important when the cost of failure is high. Until now, BVSD has not had a backup connection to the internet, and the cost of an outage—in terms of lost productivity and instructional time—is significant.

Many of you may be wondering, "What about the big fiber network upgrade that BVSD did a few years ago—didn't that create the backup we need?" That's a great question that requires some clarification. The internet connection is not the same as the BVSD network. The BVSD network consists of the fiber that connects the schools within the district. It’s basically a closed circuit with its own backup plan (called “redundancy”). Even though we had redundancy within the BVSD network, this network had only one connection to the internet. 

Our internet connection is the pipe that links the BVSD network to the internet. In January 2013, the Board of Education approved a second pipe to the internet that will provide redundancy.

Creating a backup plan simply means that we create a second internet connection. The diagram below represents this concept.

Why is it important that we maintain a connection to the internet? Simply put, BVSD staff and students rely more and more on the internet to be successful. Within the last year, BVSD moved email, calendars, payroll, finance, HR systems, and several educational tools to the cloud; next year we plan to move even more applications to the cloud. Cloud-based tools have many advantages (such as mobile access) but they require a reliable internet connection. (Not clear on what “the cloud” is? Read my post: The BVSD Move to the Cloud.) When our internet connection fails we can’t access our essential, district-wide tools: this is a high-cost failure.

Most of the time you don’t need to think about IT infrastructure-level projects like this one. In fact, if our infrastructure works seamlessly then you shouldn't notice it at all. 

If you have any feedback about the dual internet connection coming to BVSD, please comment at the bottom of this post.