Tech Report

Date: April 16th, 2010
To: Michael Green
From: Steve Rippl
Subject: Tech Dept. Executive Summary

This time next month we'll be half way through the on-line MSPE testing!  The early versions of the testing software that we had been given to ensure our setup was correct had all worked perfectly, then at the end of last month they released their final version for this year and both the Linux and Windows versions didn't work on our Network!  Thankfully, as I've been part of the State's "consultancy" committee for the run-up to online testing, I had direct access to the program director of the company making this software for OSPI and we got our network issues straighten out.  Then in testing en-mass in the thin-client lab with Staff we had terrible slowdown in the Math tutorial portion of the test, which Travis had resolved by the next day with a software patch on the Linux side.  Needless to say the anxiety levels of ourselves and Cari Thomson are somewhat elevated, but in putting the kids through the demos and tutorials this week everything has been going very smoothly on all the platforms we're testing, and the overall response from the students in regard to taking an on-line test is very positive.

We received a very generous donation of equipment from USNR this month, over 30 laptops, nearly 20 desktops, and over a dozen servers!  While most of the servers are of the same vintage as the ones we're currently phasing out we will be able to make use of some of them to replace older equipment we have here or to act as test platforms for our development work.  The desktops are mostly large, powerful drafting machines, and we already have some of the High School Voc machines in mind to replace with these.  Older laptops we're finding make useful student machines in places where there isn't as much room as usual, as is the case in Jan Bohrnsen's room.  Deb Kernen has already been helpful in giving us an extensive list of where she thinks the laptops could go, as she's keen to provide greater student access to teachers making use of our Apex Math program.  They'll make a valuable contribution to our technology here.

Google have been developing their "cloud-based" Apps (email, calendar, docs, etc) for sometime now, and while private businesses have to pay for it they have been giving it to Public Education institutes for free.  Now there has been a lot of talk about this in Edtech circles, both positive and negative, but now they are about to start charging new education accounts for certain features if they hadn't signed up by September I decided to sign up and see what it was all about!  I'm in the process of setting up an separate staff and student domain and trying out the various features to evaluate what might be in it for us.  There's no urgency in this now that I've signed up, we can evaluate/play with it as we see fit, but there seem to be some powerful collaborative features that I'll be bringing to our administrators soon as I think they are well worth knowing about!