Thursday, November 13, 2014

Join the Hour of Code

On December 8-14, 2014, millions of students will participate in a global learning event called the Hour of Code. This growing movement celebrates, encourages, and supports people of every age and ability to learn programming and other parts of computer science. 

We are living in a time that requires us to speak the language of technology, and yet only ten percent of schools in the United States offer computer science classes, there are fewer computer science graduates today than a decade ago, and women and minorities make up a very small fraction of technology professionals. Yet, the career opportunities in coding professions are vast. The Hour of Code was started as a way to reach more people and start them down a path to becoming technology creators. All it takes is an hour!

What does it look like to participate in the Hour of Code?
There are many ways to participate in the Hour of Code, from self-directed learning to structured events and classroom lessons., the organization behind Hour of Code, provides many online tutorials and resources that anyone can use. 

Teachers, librarians, and parents can organize Hour of Code events using the materials on the event website, or they can develop their own materials. There is even a how-to guide to starting an event from scratch. The important thing is to participate!

If you are planning an Hour of Code event, consider registering it on the website—you will be counted among the many worldwide participants, and you will be entered to win some amazing prizes, including $10,000 in technology for your school.

I’m not a technology teacher. Does this apply to me?
Absolutely! Technology is a language that everyone needs to speak. Even if you have no background in computer science, technology, or programming, you can (and should) participate in the Hour of Code. You are modeling an important behavior for your students by showing them that programming is accessible to everyone. has tutorials for all age levels and abilities, and some require only paper and pencil. 

How can my school participate?
There are a number of events planned at several of our schools. Check out the Hour of Code 2014 BVSD Events document to see what’s happening around the district. (We’ll update this list as we hear from schools.)

To expand the participation we encourage every school to plan Hour of Code events and to promote those events to parents and community members. has free marketing materials, everything from printable posters to images and videos to share on social media. By promoting your events you are starting a conversation in your community about the importance of computer science education.

One more thing...
Let us know what you are planning and what support you need by by filling out this linked form. We are excited to see this movement grow in BVSD.

And please chime in with your thoughts below.  

Jackie Weber (Director of Mathematics and Computer Science)
Joan Bludorn (Principal & BVSD Director of Career and Technical Education)
Andrew Moore (CIO)

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Shift to Android Tablets

Google has recently released a suite of products that make managing your classroom easier. It includes:

  • Google Play for Education (GP4E), a subset of the Google Play Store interface designed specifically for the K-12 environment. It contains thousands of Chrome and Android apps vetted by CUE educators.
  • Google Classroom, a management interface that helps teachers organize assignments within their students' Google Drive.
  • Chromebooks, the laptop-style device that we have already started deploying in our schools. Chromebooks are integrated with GP4E for easy teacher management.
  • Android Tablets—in our case, the Nexus 7 tablet, a device designed to work seamlessly with GP4E. Nexus7image.png
Those of you who attended the recent Google Apps for Education Summit saw a preview of what this integrated suite of products can do to make the learning environment more productive. While there are many layers of functionality and features that you will hear more about in the upcoming weeks and months, today I will focus on the shift to Android tablets.

You might be wondering why we decided to offer the Nexus 7 as an option since we already have iPads in our district. One factor is the cost: a Nexus 7 purchased through TPP is $282, while an iPad Mini is $335. But more than just cost is the simplicity and customized user interface that these devices offer. Google designed the experience between GP4E and the Nexus 7 specifically with the education market in mind. Please note that some applications may not yet be available through Google Play for Education store, but the repertoire is growing daily.

As wonderful as iPads are, they are, first and foremost, a single-user consumer device, which means that managing them is complicated and time consuming in a school environment. 

Those of you who have a classroom set of iPads know what I mean. It takes a lot of time to set up the devices, purchase apps, and push them using a separate Mac laptop. That's a lot of work to make a consumer device work in a shared education environment. 

The Google Play for Education management console, on the other hand, makes it easier for teachers to purchase content with POs and push apps, books, and videos directly to the Nexus 7 tablets or Chromebooks—it's similar to sharing a Google Doc. 

Plus, each Nexus 7 can be shared with up to five students, who get a unique, personalized experience.

The Nexus 7 is available today through the BVSD Technology Purchase Program (TPP) and will be the preferred classroom tablet in the upcoming Tech Refresh catalog, which means that it will start being deployed en masse within 6 months. 

What does this mean for the iPads currently in our district? We will continue supporting them, just as we currently do. We recognize that schools have invested a lot of time and training in these devices. 

Stay tuned for more information about GP4E and Nexus 7 as spring approaches. Please chime in with your thoughts below about the Nexus 7 tablet and Google Play for Education.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Streaming Audio and iBoss

By now, many of you have encountered our new web filter, iBoss, which I introduced in the May Technology Blog. If you are frustrated because your favorite site is newly blocked, please read on.

BVSD uses a web filter to comply with the federal Child Internet Protection Act (CIPA). While our previous filter was marginally adequate, it didn’t provide the level of service that we required. 
Our filtering is most restrictive at the elementary level and more open in grades 6-12. Staff members have the option to temporarily override iBoss using their BVSD credentials. If you feel that a website should be permanently unblocked for all staff and students, please submit an IT Service Request and the site will be reviewed. To date, approximately 25 websites have been unblocked. It is important that you submit IT Service Requests so we can tailor iBoss for our district’s needs while meeting the requirements of CIPA.

The elephant in the room - why did we block streaming audio such as Spotify, Pandora, and iTunes radio?

The district has limited resources to procure Internet services. During the last school year we paid to increase district bandwidth from 750 MB to a maximum of 1 GB. At the end of last school year, roughly one-third of our Internet bandwidth was being used by streaming audio services. Now that many of our educational tools and assessments are online, it is critical that our bandwidth is available for these services.

I realize that many of you use streaming audio sites throughout the day, and while it is inconvenient to find work-arounds, doing so benefits everyone. Staff members can override the block on streaming audio sites for two hours at a time. This prevents “runaway streaming”. If you need uninterrupted streaming for longer than two hours, you can use your personal data plan or download music to an mp3 player and connect it to your classroom’s audio-visual (projector) system.

The long-term solution to our streaming audio issue is to upgrade the equipment, thereby allowing us to increase our bandwidth. The barrier is a 6-figure price tag. Funding to make this improvement is included in the facilities masterplan that will go to the voters in November. Once we can upgrade our equipment and increase the bandwidth, we will revisit the streaming audio block.

I hope this sheds some light on the current state of the iBoss web filter, its challenges, and our expectations for the future. Please log in to chime in with your comments below.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

iBoss - New Web Filter this Summer

A modern, reliable web filter is a necessity for all school districts, especially as more learning is done online. As technology changes, we continue to enhance our tools to ensure a safe computing environment for our students. To that end, over the summer we are installing a new web filter called iBoss that will replace and improve upon our existing web filter. iBoss is widely used in school districts across our state.

When you return in August, you will notice a few differences in your web filter experience:

  • You will see a different block page, similar to the example below.

iBoss block page
  • There will be a simpler way for staff to override the filter. Instead of entering a district-wide username and password, you will enter your BVSD username and password.
    • Students will never have the option to override a blocked page.
    • Staff will not have the ability to override certain categories, like Pornography and Malware.
  • Web sites categorization is a vendor-specific process, which means that sites may be placed in a different category in the iBoss filter than they were in the previous solution. This may result in some pages being blocked that currently aren’t, and vice-versa. Through our testing this summer we hope to identify and resolve many of those issues before you return.

The process for requesting that a site be blocked or unblocked will remain the same. Submit an IT Service Request and include the URL (web address) and the reason why you want the site blocked or unblocked. The Ed Tech team will review your request and notify you of a resolution. Remember that during the first few months the iBoss web filter is in place, you may notice a difference in which sites are blocked/unblocked. Please submit an IT Service Request when you notice these discrepancies.

It’s important to remember that any web filter, no matter how sophisticated, is only one part of keeping kids safe online. Digital citizenship skills are more effective than any web filter, but they require education, evaluation, and effort. I encourage everyone—teachers, students, staff, and parents—to learn how to be good digital citizens. You can learn more by visiting Ed Tech’s Digital Citizenship website, as well as the Digital Citizenship resources from Common Sense Media.

Please chime in below with your thoughts on web filters and digital citizenship.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Chromebooks @ BVSD

One of the most frequent requests I get is for more student devices, and it makes sense: it’s becoming increasingly important for our students to have access to technology since many of our educational tools and assessments are going online. That’s why I am excited to announce that we have purchased over 70 Chromebook carts, each containing 30 Chromebooks, that will be distributed to schools in April.  Click Here for a video of the rollout.

This Chromebook rollout is not just a matter of ordering and delivering equipment. Teachers using Chromebooks also require professional development and support to ensure that they are integrated effectively into the classroom. That’s why I’m pleased that our Ed Tech team has been offering Chromebook professional development throughout this year, with more opportunities continuing throughout next year.

In particular, I would like to encourage all interested staff members to attend the Digital Innovative Learning Day (formerly iPad Learning Day) on Saturday, May 3 at Angevine Middle. This all-day event will feature workshops led by BVSD educators and Ed Tech specialists with a special focus on Chromebooks and iPads in the classroom. For additional events and trainings, please the Ed Tech Professional Development Opportunities page.
Cloud 32 Chromebook Cart1.jpg
While I know that many of these Chromebooks will be used for standardized testing, I also want to emphasize that they are primarily for enhancing the educational experience for students. I’m excited to see how classrooms will transform as a result of these and other digital devices.

Do you have any thoughts or comments about Chromebooks or carts? Leave a comment below.


Friday, February 21, 2014

eBooks @ BVSD

Have you ever read an eBook? If you have, you’re in the rapidly growing minority. In 2013, 28% of adults read an eBook, up from 22% in 2012 [eReading Rises as Device Ownership Jumps]. An even greater percentage of kids, 46% in 2012, have read an eBook [Kids & Family Reading Report]. So while print books remain the preferred format at the moment, eBooks are making a significant impact on readership. Increasingly, library patrons of all ages expect their libraries to carry eBooks.

What is an eBook?

On the surface, it seems like a simple question. An eBook is simply a digital book. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that because they are digital, eBooks are more complex. The digital licensing restrictions added by publishers can affect:
  • how many people can read or download the eBook
  • what types of devices are compatible with the eBook
  • whether the eBook can be shared or circulated
  • whether a library can own a copy or just lease it
Keeping track of digital licenses from several publishers can quickly become complicated. As the eBook market evolves, the complexity should eventually settle down. But for now it feels a bit like the Wild West out there!

BVSD eBook Pilot

When the Ed Tech team began exploring eBooks in our district, they wanted to make sure that we were not just implementing technology for its own sake, but rather as a tool that will positively impact student reading. They decided to use a pilot to gather data that would help guide future decisions.

The pilot will run from March 3 through May 31 at 4 schools: Casey Middle, Centennial Middle, Summit Middle, and Bear Creek Elementary. Using the data collected from this pilot, the Ed Tech team will make recommendations about eBook adoption strategies. Of course, any kind of district-level eBook program would require additional, ongoing resources.

Several BVSD school libraries are already exploring various eBook models outside of the pilot. Platt Middle and Monarch High are circulating pre-loaded Nook eReaders to students. Many other schools have purchased subscriptions to web-based eBooks that students can read online. These teacher librarians are sharing their experiences and data to help us make better district-wide decisions about implementing eBooks.

What about technology?

Access to technology is always the elephant in the room when we talk about digital content. Without technology in our students’ hands, that content might as well not exist. But the great thing about e-reading is that it’s a very flexible activity: it can be done on a wide variety of devices, not just Nooks and Kindles. Survey results indicate that kids are reading equally across all kinds of devices, including iPads and tablets, smartphones, laptops, and desktops [Kids & Family Reading Report]. BVSD students will have increasingly more ways to access digital content like eBooks as we continue to add Chromebooks into the district and as more schools support BYOD initiatives.

Please chime in with your thoughts about eBooks in BVSD.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Insurance for your Google Data

It’s a terrible feeling to lose important emails or documents. We’ve all done it at some point, and the results can range from mildly inconvenient to truly devastating. I want to make sure that you are armed with the necessary information to keep your Google data safe. Here are some tips that you can start using immediately.

Protect your account

  • Never share your password with anyone. Ever.
  • Always log out or lock your computer if you need to step away. By keeping your account safe you help protect your data.

Delete + Empty Trash = Gone forever

In Google, it takes two steps to permanently delete a document or an email.
  • First, you must click the Delete button or the trashcan icon. Your data is now in the trashcan, but you can still recover it for 30 days.
  • The second step is to empty the trash. This action is permanent and cannot be reversed, even by IT.

It’s your choice whether to permanently delete emails and documents.
  • Some users choose not to permanently delete because our Google Accounts have an incredible amount of storage—30 GB shared between Gmail and Drive. Most of us will only ever use a tiny fraction of that space.
  • Other users like to keep things tidy by periodically clearing out the clutter. Remember that any documents or emails that go out with the trash are gone forever. IT cannot recover them.

Backup your Google data using the Takeout tool

Google Takeout lets you create a custom archive of of your Google data. The Takeout tool is very intuitive and easy to use, but if you need more information please visit Google’s support page.

Google Takeout is optional, but I encourage you to try it. The time it takes now may save you lots of anguish later on.

Do you have any thoughts on preventing data loss? Please chime in below.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Extending the Learning Day

Kids have been doing homework around the kitchen table for generations without the internet, but times are changing. Now they can work on a Google doc from their laptop in the basement or watch a video lecture from their tablet in the car. Internet access makes it possible for students to extend their learning day—they can access online educational tools anytime, anywhere.

But students without internet access at home can’t take advantage of these opportunities; this situation creates what is known as the digital divide and contributes to a general opportunity gap. As more teaching and learning is done online, this gap grows.

To mitigate the digital divide within its student population, BVSD has formed a partnership with Boulder Housing Partners (BHP), Impact on Education, and the City of Boulder to pilot a program that provides free wireless internet service to students in one of BHP’s housing developments.

"Extending learning time and opportunity through home BVSD internet access is a key way to increase student success. BVSD appreciates community partnerships like this, which are needed to expand capacity and enhance educational opportunities for all students.”  Dr. Bruce Messinger, Superintendent, BVSD.

Here’s how the program will work: BVSD will provide access to the fiber network and internet that it already pays for; BHP will install wireless infrastructure in the buildings. Since students will be accessing BVSD’s network, the connection will be filtered and authenticated (meaning that students must use a password to get online).

The pilot will run from Feb - May. Based on our learnings from this pilot, we hope to extend the program to other housing developments both in Boulder and east county.

I’d like to hear your comments about this partnership with BHP to bring wireless internet to BVSD students extending their school day. Please chime in below. (remember to login first)