Cloud-Based Home Folders

The network home folders of high school students were migrated to OneDrive over the break. This means that files on the desktop, or in the downloads and pictures folders, are now stored online and can be accessed from anywhere.

When logging into their computers, there will be a slight delay the first time as the connection is set up to the cloud storage. The process should complete without any user interaction. Further instructions should appear on the desktop of affected users.

This change brings several benefits:

  • Files can be accessed from any device. There are client apps for Windows, Mac, IOS, and Android. They can also be accessed from a browser.
  • Microsoft Office documents, such as Word and Excel files, can be edited from a web browser using the Office 365 apps.
  • The storage limit on the HCCS server is 2Gb. On OneDrive, it’s presently 1000Gb.
  • Files are stored on Microsoft’s servers, which have greater uptime and reliability.
  • Some of the high school student computers were having issues trying to access the district server when it was unavailable (from home). OneDrive is available anywhere.
  • For the student-issued devices, local files are kept in sync with the cloud version. This means students can continue to work even if they do not have internet.

While we started with high school students, the plan is to include all students and staff eventually.

Student Device Update

We’ve received and deployed all of the Chromebooks ordered for 2nd, 3rd, and 6th-grades. Kindergarten and MS STEM devices are in progress.

The high school devices are expected shortly, and we will expedite their deployment at that time. The bags should be here around the same time, though we have remaining stock from last year to use if not.

Many students have completed the required training modules and paperwork, and we expect to hand out the first batch of devices as soon as they are prepared.

It’s been a winding road to get this far. We are thrilled to get these devices in the hands of students as quickly as possible.

Student Devices Coming Soon

Following recent board approval, we’ve started ordering the devices and accessories for the student device rollout. Implementation is tentatively scheduled for the start of second semester.

Classrooms in 4th-grade will be receiving a cart with Chromebooks for every student in the class. 5th-grade will see carts added to the core class rooms as well as Spanish. Student in 9th and 10th-grades will receive a device to be used exclusively by them throughout their high school career.

A group at the high school is working on curriculum for the students as they get their devices. This will include elements of proper care of devices, digital citizenship, district resources, troubleshooting, and other relevant topics.

New Teacher Computers

We’re looking to begin rolling out new computers for elementary and middle school teachers soon. We’d like to offer a choice of desktop or laptop. More information will be coming to help each staff member make their decision. For instance, we plan to have a few extra laptops available for teachers with desktops who want to go to a conference or take one home for the weekend.

We’re also looking into selling the current teacher computers and those staff would have first choice to purchase theirs for a reduced rate. We are preparing samples of the desktop and laptop to make available for demonstration as well. The new machines are very fast, powerful, and should be a nice upgrade to the current machines on their 8th year. More to come!

Streamlining Process

As we look towards 1:1 deployment, we will see the addition of hundreds or even thousands of devices to the district. We are looking to streamline our operations to maximize usage of available manpower and increase level of service provided. To this end, we are focusing on limiting the different platforms that we will support.

Student and teacher devices will be either Windows or Chrome operating systems. Macs will be phased out across the district. We will no longer be purchasing or supporting iPads or other devices outside of exceptional circumstances. We will be phasing out desktop printers in favor of more conveniently located copy machines with maintenance contracts.

With these changes, we should be able to respond faster and more effectively. We will also be able to focus more on supporting student technology as we move forward. All teachers will be running the same version of Windows, and have access to the same programs. Students will be using Chromebooks (possibly Windows at the HS), and will have the same benefits.

MACUL Madness

We have put together a team to comprised of K-12 staff to represent the district at the upcoming MACUL conference in Grand Rapids. We are coordinating our efforts to get the maximum benefit from the experience. This is especially helpful as we investigate 1:1 options for the district. The PD piece of that puzzle is perhaps the largest and most important, so anywhere we can inspire staff is welcomed. Attendees will be bringing back all sorts of ideas they will be sharing out with their colleagues.

Firewall Fiasco

We had a brief internet outage last night as an overdue update was applied to the firewall. The manufacturer will cease providing updates this summer, so while we have a little time, plans need to be made. A project request had been made through the E-Rate program for a replacement. In the mean time, we’ve made some other changes that should allow Apple updates to work once more. We’re hopeful as we haven’t been able to do so in quite some time.

Chrome Apps for Students

It seems that the Google store is wide open, and this fact has been taken advantage of. Based on staff feedback, we’re blocking new app installations by students on Chromebooks, unless the app has been preapproved.

What this means is that if you want an app to be usable by students, you will need to submit a helpdesk ticket asking for it to be whitelisted. Once this is done, the students will be able to find and install it like before. Apps that aren’t approved will be searchable, but cause an error message stating as much if installation is attempted.

Staff are still able to install any apps, so you can continue trying apps you’d like to use as you always have. Remember to plan accordingly so the requested apps can be made available before you need them.