Shoreline School District August 2015 Technology Update

Thursday, August 27, 2015

By Marianne Deal Stephens

At the August 24, 2015 Shoreline School Board Meeting, IT Director Jim Golubich offered a review of 2014-15 and a look ahead to 2015-16. Hardware and software for the School District is funded by the 2014 Capital Levy for Technology Improvements and Support, which replaced previous Tech Levies. Funds collected for this express purpose cannot be used for other programs.

Director Golubich’s presentation described a cycle of gradual, phased acquisition of new equipment, repair and trade-in of older equipment, and redeployment of that older equipment to fill needs elsewhere in the district. Increased demand for connectivity and the swift speed of software and hardware development present continuing challenges in the technology cycles.

2014-2015 Technology Review
The High School iPad program continues. A year ago, many of the original iPad 2s were traded in for iPad 4s, which have better screen resolution and a higher processing speed. Operating updates had become problematic on the old devices, more than the actual physical wear and tear. The net cost of the trade-in was approximately half of retail.

Grades 5-8 use Chromebooks at school, with 2,000 deployed in two phases. The Chromebooks use the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) platform, which is becoming standard for 4th grade and up in Shoreline. In 2014-15, students and staff became more accustomed to the apps and tools. School to home workflow improved since students now see the same interface whether they connect in class or at home.

The District made significant Audio-Visual upgrades in elementary and middle school classrooms. This follows the high school equipment upgrades that occurred with the moves into the new buildings. 250 rooms received speaker upgrades, and more than 200 classrooms have new interactive projectors/ document cameras. Staff received introductory training with the new equipment, though Director Golubich mentioned that since the timing was not optimal, the training will continue in 2015-16.

With the implementation of the iPad and Chromebook programs, laptops from previous programs became available. The machines that could be updated have been redeployed in elementary schools and for special programs like READ180. The “new” laptops doubled the level of access to technology for grades K-4 in 2014-15.

The new Smarter Balanced Assessments presented a challenge for the district technology staff, since the testing had to work on all platforms (iPad, Chromebook, Mac). Director Golubich mentioned that, from a technological standpoint, the testing went off “very well” and the process was “better than expected.” Additional headphones and keyboards will help with the testing in upcoming years, and also be put to use outside of assessments.

2015-2016 Technology Projects
This year, the final phase of the Chromebook implementation will make devices available in all 5th and 6th grade classrooms. The continued redistribution of iPads and MacBooks will add 30-60 laptops per elementary school, and so will comprise a threefold increase in K-4 access to technology in three school years.

System upgrades will be implemented to alleviate recent network slowdowns. The slowdowns have several causes: new apps require more power, more devices mean more simultaneous users, and cloud-based technology means more drag on the network. The District has arranged for a doubling of District bandwidth on the State K-20 Network which connects Washington public schools. The Shoreline IT Department has transitioning to new servers, to accommodate increased bandwidth. Network changes will be made over a weekend in September. 

More 2015-16 Projects
• upgrade of the 2-Way Radio system, to be launched during Winter Break; 
• pilot of new gradebook/ dashboard systems;
• replacement of older printers and document cameras; 
• acquisition of new iPad-enabled science tools;
• updates to library technology;
• instruction on online safety for 5th and 6th graders;
• continuation of professional development.

Director Golubich emphasized that while professional development was listed last for 2015-16, it is the most important aspect of the programs. The District plans and upgrades technology with an emphasis on curricular and pedagogical value.

Following the presentation, Members of the Board asked questions.
--Director Ehrlichman had received a concern about technology not working well for Apex online courses. Director Golubich explained that they tried a new tool which did not work, and so switched back to the original tool. Part of the problem is that the browsers could not be updated. They are working on the problem. [Apex online courses are primarily used for credit recovery at the secondary level.]

--Director Wilson inquired about network security. Director Golubich explained that the new servers and network upgrades have a significantly better firewall and will enhance security. The new systems offer “granular control”, a new filtering service, and the ability to offer privileged status to groups (like teachers) to ensure smooth connectivity. In terms of security and phishing, the District will have more control and there should be fewer cracks.

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Anonymous,  August 28, 2015 at 10:06 AM  

Let us disabuse ourselves of the notion that this "cutting edge" venture Shoreline School District embarked upon when they distributed laptops starting eight years or so ago is applause-worthy. The disruption to family life, something more to argue about with your children, the rampant theft of these devices, and other shortcomings conspired to put this program on the wrong side of cost/benefit. When trying to discuss this issue with the District, they were always dismissive and didn't want to engage in any meaningful dialogue.

So, congratulations for all your awards, Mr. Golubich, but you will get no thanks from me.

Victor August 28, 2015 at 12:31 PM  

along with all of that technology, is anything being done to teach the kids about the "dark"side?

depending on what software is installed, intentionally or otherwise, EVERYTHING can be monitored

any device can be hacked, either thru the web OR a flashdrive

are they notified that the camera has the ability to monitor them even when they think it's turned off???

along with the device, Marc Goodman's book "Future Crimes" discussing all of the above should be required reading BEFORE acceptance of those devices!

Anonymous,  August 28, 2015 at 4:31 PM  

When my son was at Shorecrest packing a laptop it was really only useful for one semester in one class because the publication of the math book was delayed, but was available online. Even so he was expected to cart the laptop around every day "in case" it was needed in a class. Hopefully by now the technology is actually useful.
My many attempts to get numbers related to theft/loss/damage were also ignored.

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