Getting Ready for Fall

The school year is not quite over yet, but we are getting ready for fall already. We were able to order student devices early this year, and all of them are now onsite. We are getting them unboxed and ready for processing. We should have them all done in the early part of the summer. This will allow 9th-grade distribution to happen before the year starts. Elementary and middle school students will receive theirs at the beginning of the year. We should have all students on the newest devices starting in the fall. This will improve the students’ experiences as well as reduce downtime.

Discovery Education Changes

Our Discovery Education subscription has been upgraded to include single sign-on (SSO). This allows you to sign in automatically if you are already signed into Office apps on your computer. No more need for codes or separate accounts.

We are also now able to import teachers, students, and classes automatically. Teachers should find their classes are already loaded and rostered when they next log in.

We have a custom URL to access the product and the old one is not expected to work moving forward.

https://hc.discoveryeducation.com

New Year, New Computers

High school teaching staff returned from break to updated computer setups in their classrooms. We were able to complete the new device deployment over break for everyone who didn’t already get one.

Part of this deployment was the addition of new microphones and wireless projection to each classroom. This brings us closer to all classrooms having the same technology setup. There are still a couple locations that need attention yet, but that should happen soon enough.

With so much new technology showing up, we expect questions to arise. We are ready to assist as needed.

Another Adventure in Tech-land

The day after a power outage always brings surprises, and today didn’t disappoint. What started as a report of no phones at Beadle Lake soon revealed itself to be a district-wide issue involving phones, connections to other buildings, and computer clocks off by over an hour and a half.

The phones are controlled by their own server. It was running happily along until the power went out. That wouldn’t normally be cause for alarm as there is a backup generator and a battery-backup to keep things running until the generator is online. At least that’s how things are supposed to work.

When the power went out, the battery backup didn’t have enough run time available to bridge the gap to generator power. This caused the server to turn off. Restarting it is straightforward; just log in and click the run button. It was the ‘log in’ part that made this much more interesting.

When we had the phone system upgraded a couple years back, someone from the company set up the server and got everything in order. Part of that setup was changing an important password that is rarely needed. Sometime during the project, that person left the company. Someone else picked up the pieces and finished the setup. That person was not aware of the password being changed previously since that part of the setup was already complete.

Fast forward to this morning, when we went to restart the phones. The password we had didn’t work. Without the password, we were unable to flip the switch to turn everything on. After some lengthy calls with the vendor, they were able to locate and reset the password. Now that we have it, we should be able to restore service in a few minutes should this happen again. We are also replacing the main battery backup device once the new one arrives.

The clocks should be getting back to normal as well. All of the computers sync their time with the server. The server gets its time from another device, which gets its time from yet anther device, which gets its time from the internet. We had to go up the chain until we found the most-upstream clock and get it corrected. The change then trickles down to everything else.

It was anything but a boring day in the technology department.

 

New Stuff for Teachers

We have ordered a lot of new technology items for teachers. Due to the supply chain weirdness going on, we aren’t sure when it will be ready to deploy.

All teachers will be receiving a new document camera if they don’t already have one. All teachers will receive a 24″ monitor to supplement their laptop screens. Also on the list is a docking station to connect all of this together.

All high school teachers will receive a new laptop. Teachers in other buildings with a desktop will be getting upgraded to a new laptop as well. High school classrooms are getting teacher microphones and wireless projection.

We are also replacing older projectors and working on many of the classroom AV systems. We also plan to expand wireless projection to all classrooms, though this is a longer-term project.

We have some materials onsite for this, but much is still on backorder. We will begin deploying the new setups once we have all of the items here. We’ll coordinate each teacher’s upgrade to happen at a convenient time and provide training along with it.

Printing Issues

Something has been wrong with the print server recently. Print jobs would disappear and reappear later, or not print at all. This was happening every 40 minutes or so, and only affected jobs sent during that time.

After working with the printer vendor over a few days, we discovered that there were corrupted drivers on some of the print queues. There were also many old phantom printers and copiers that are no longer in service or supported as well as various programs used by our previous vendor.

We tried various increasingly invasive troubleshooting steps with no success. The problem actually got worse in the process, happening every 2-3 minutes afterward. At this point the server was deemed unable to be fixed in a reasonable amount of time (before it was needed again). Thus, the decision was made to build a new one.

There is a process where the print queues on one server could be moved to another, but this also migrates the drivers and settings along with them. As the initial problems were in the queues, we decided to manually recreate the queues on the new server. This allowed for maximum smoothness as we were able to set the specific drivers and settings needed. This a time intensive process that results in a clean server running more efficiently and with plenty of free space.

The final step is to update each copier with the new server’s information. This has been completed and the district queue should be operating normally. We expect there may be some configuration updates that may be needed as a result of the manual steps to recreate the queues.

Email Scams are Back

We’re seeing more scam emails pretending to be staff members. We saw the same thing earlier in the year. The scammers in this case are trying to trick people into buying gift cards. They change the display name on the email to look like it came from an actual employee.

  • Always be suspicious of emails asking for something unusual.
  • If you think it may be legitimate, reach out to the person through a known method.
  • Look at the sender’s address – the ones we’ve received so far have been Gmail accounts.
  • Mark any messages like this as spam/junk
  • The best defense is remaining vigilant – no technology can stop every scam.

Department Restructuring

We are pleased to announce some exciting changes in the technology department. Carlos Jaime has joined us as our third support technician. His hiring allows us to reorganize our operation.

Each tech will be responsible for one part of the district. One will handle the elementary buildings, one will be at the middle school, and one will support the high school. The techs will spend a large part of each week at their assigned location.

Library staff will continue to be the first point of contact for student technology issues, including virtual students. The techs will focus on those issues that have been escalated by the library staff.

This arrangement will allow us to focus on specific areas, build stronger relationships, and increase response times. Once we catch up, it will allow us to be proactive and work on future needs as well.

Please continue to use the helpdesk to report issues. Contact the library in the rare event that you cannot access the helpdesk directly. Students should reach out to the library with tech problems, where a ticket can be opened for them. Remember to choose the best category and use separate tickets for separate issues.

Emailing Students & Parents in PowerSchool

PowerSchool now includes the ability to email students and/or parents through the gradebook. You can also copy their addresses to email separately through Outlook. A big thanks to Mr. Brinker and Ms. Warner for sharing this feature. The links below show how it works. Not all parents have an email in PowerSchool. All students should have one.

https://docs.powerschool.com/PTPH/20.11/grading/email-students-and-contacts

https://player.vimeo.com/video/463053739