Communicating With Your Class

Some staff have noticed the class email groups in Outlook, so I’d like to share more about them.

There is a live sync between PowerSchool and Office365. This results in groups being created for each section registered. These are automatically maintained with all students on your roster. The initial goal of these groups was to allow you to email all students in your class.

They can do that and more.

When you post to the group, all members can see it. This makes it a great tool for class discussions & announcements. Group members are ‘subscribed’ to the group by default, so they get emails when new posts are made. Each group has its own email address. Messages sent to it are visible in the group. There is also a shared calendar in each group. Outlook has a very good calendar feature that you should check out if you haven’t already.

Here’s an introduction to using these groups

These groups are also tied to Microsoft Teams. If you log in, you should see teams created for each of your classes already. Teams is notable right now for being a video meeting tool like Zoom (but with fewer privacy concerns). You can hold a virtual meeting with some (or all) of your class, share files, add websites, and collaboratively take notes with OneNote. We already subscribe to Teams, so it’s features wont go away after the closure like other services will. We are also using it more for staff meetings and such. There are good apps for all platforms as well.

Teams really excels at professional groups, like PLCs, departments, grade level teams, etc.

Teams quick start guide

OneNote is a great tool as well. A great use is taking notes on a touch screen device and sharing them live with your class. It can do much more if you dig into it.

Here’s a quick glimpse of OneNote in action 

As we are asking (hoping?) that students check their email more now, it should be noted that they can download the Outlook app on their phone as well as the full version of Office365, including Outlook, for free (staff can do this too).

Checking Your Voicemail Remotely

Here are the steps to access your voicemail from outside the school:

    1. Dial your number and wait for the greeting to play
    2. Press the * key during the greeting
    3. Enter your ID, which is your four-digit phone extension
    4. Enter your voicemail password

If you have trouble, or don’t remember your password, open a helpdesk ticket and we’ll reset it.

Adobe Changes

Adobe Warning MessageIf you use Adobe products other than Reader, you’ve likely seen notices about the license expiring at the end of February. Our subscription is still current, but changes in how Adobe licenses their products have necessitated a change on our end.

We have moved to ‘named user’ licensing. This means we have to provision an account for any person who will be using the programs. We have done this for all students and staff.

When first accessing an Adobe product (other than Reader), you will need to sign in to use it. It will remember you on that particular computer. You will need to sign in again for any new computers you use.

Emergency Paging System Status

Part of the recent phone system upgrade is the ability to page all the phones in the building from any phone in the building. The system will undergo final testing shortly, and will be ready to use after that.

To make a page, pick up a phone and dial the number for the paging system. It will answer and say “welcome…”. After that it will beep and you are talking to everyone through their phone. It will be like you are on a one-way speakerphone call. This was implemented for emergency situations, but will have use for regular communication as well.

This only works from district phones. Plans include connecting to the existing paging system so broadcasts will be heard more widely. Codes to access the system will be distributed once testing is complete.

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.

Chromebook Printing

Good news for Chromebook users. You can now print reliably!

 

The district queue is appearing offline on Chrome devices, even though it isn’t. This is an issue with the Google Cloud Print service we have been using.

To remedy this, we recently enabled a feature of our printing system called Mobility Print. This is a much more reliable method of connecting to the printers. As a bonus, it also works with Apple and Android devices.

Download this quick reference guide or follow these steps to get started:

  • Click on print
  • Click ‘Choose destination’ or similar wording
  • You should see the district queue with a green icon to the right; select it.
  • Click on the print button. The first time you do this, a login box will appear. Enter your district username (not the @harpercreek.net part) and password. It should remember these settings for next time.

Student Devices

The board approved moving forward with our device project at Monday’s meeting. Every student in grades 2,3,6, and 9 will have access to a device of some sort this year. This will expand the deployments from last year to include two-thirds of the district. Existing devices will be redistributed to accommodate grades not yet reached.

Elementary homerooms in 2nd and 3rd-grades will each have a cart of Chrome devices. Each 6th-grade core classroom at the middle school will also receive a cart of Chrome devices. We’re also providing devices for the 6th-grade special education rooms and the STEM program.

Students in 9th-grade will receive a Windows device, similar to last year. They will also receive a bag to carry the device in. As before, these students have the option of taking the device home each night.

The devices have been ordered and we’ll be prioritizing their preparation and deployment as they arrive.

Wireless Weirdness

We’ve seen more issues recently regarding the wireless network. This has affected testing as well as regular Internet usage. We had an expert looking into this last week and he found some areas of concern.

One may be an issue with a piece of hardware at the core of the network. Each building and part of a building is connected with two links for redundancy. It seems that in several cases, the two links are flip-flopping back and forth. This causes a temporary loss of traffic. The connection to the district servers is also impacted by this, which could explain other issues, such as dropping calls.

Another needs further investigation. He will be back this week to continue looking for more answers. In the mean time, we are narrowing down the specifics so we can determine which vendor to consult for a resolution.