Technology Blog
Tech Update November 2010 PDF Print E-mail

Preparing students and staff members for the 21st Century

ArtShow2010.jpg The high school art department provides many opportunities for students to create digital products used for district needs. According to department chair, Christine Smith, "Art students are creating the District Holiday Card - digitally." Ms. Smith added that students created a slide show of 2010 art projects for the high school and district websites. Students are also creating the district calendar and working on the Spring Musical poster. For all of these projects students are using the software program, PhotoshopTM, digital cameras, scanners, and the Apple software tool, iMovie.TM

At Dorseyville Middle School students were busy at all levels. Here are the highlights shared by Kristy Patterson, the computer resource teacher for DMS:

  • 8th Grade Math teacher - students choose between PagesTM & Comic LifeTM to create a flyer of their survey question that was used to gather and analyze data;
  • Quest - students select appropriate software solutions such as GlogsterTM, iMovie, KeynoteTM, and PowerPointTM in order to enhance their speeches on various subjects;
  • French - using the Online textbooks to practice hearing and speaking the language;
  • 6th Grade Social Studies - Used YouTubeTM to finish up a their current unit (teacher had certain videos that they were to watch);
  • 8th Grade Science - using Pages to make planet brochures - kids have to create a travel brochure that tries to convince people to come to their planet on vacation;
  • 6th Grade Spanish - using Powerpoint/Keynote to create a presentation on a Spanish-speaking country of their choice;
  • 7th Grade Social Studies - Using Comic Life to create two political cartoons/ads that 1) makes you want to vote for a candidate and 2) makes you want to not vote for a candidate;
  • 7th Grade Language Arts - students choose to create a poster or presentation about their choice of story from their literature book;
  • 6th Grade Social Studies - students using InspirationTM to map out their outline before beginning to write their research paper.
Joe Eisel, the seventh grade technology education teacher at DMS reports, "7th grade technology education students are using the iPod touch/ iPad and the air mouse app to present multimedia projects to their classmates. The students are required to locate the computer's IP address, sync the devices, manage directories and launch applications from the computer, and ultimately present their project."

The district moves forward with the FV Virtual project. The Fox Chapel Area School District model envisions a blended approach to learning where students still have classroom instruction combined with online learning opportunities. In October the high school planning team conducted a survey of around 500 tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade students. Here is a summary of the results:

  • 1/3 of the students expressed an interest in taking a virtual class;
  • Over 60% viewed the FC Virtual opportunity as a chance to "double up" and fit more classes into their schedule;
  • Top choices were: SAT Prep , Business Essentials, Introduction to Philosophy, Computer Programming, Astronomy, Health, and Game Design;
  • Students had no definitive preference for when they would take the class - first, fourth, or fifth period;
  • 2/3 of the students want to take the courses during the school year versus the summer;
  • 2/3 of the students prefer the classroom instruction during the day versus after school or in the evening.
FC_Virtual_Chart1.png

Using Data to Make More Informed Decisions

In the second month of operation of the new Help Desk software from SchoolDude staff members submitted over 200 tickets with over 80% of the tickets closed in the first 48 hours.

Safety Nets

Unversal Design for LearningNorton Gusky, the coordinator of educational technology, and Cheryl Beckas, the lead technician at the high school, conducted a workshop for paraprofessionals working with special needs students. The workshop focused on using technology to overcome learning barriers. Participants learned about Universal Design for Learning , an approach to learning that combines differentiated instruction and technology. The participants also discovered ways to use the Universal Access tools found in the Macintosh Operating System to make visual and audio accommodations for students. In the last part of the workshop participants investigated how to use the web browser, Safari, to read on-line text aloud and how to use features in Pages, the word processing tool part of the iTools suite for the Apple platform.

Improving Communications

On October 26 four vendors gave presentations at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU) to outline how they could provide a hosted Voice over Internet Protocol (VoiP) communications solution for the region using AlleghenyCONNECT , the high speed network linking most of the school districts and career centers in Allegheny County. There are now twenty school districts/career centers interested in participating in the project. Here's an anticipated time-table that Tim Devlin from the AIU has assembled:

  • November 10, 2010 - Jim Seibert, an engineer who will help to define project specifications, to meet with interested district technology directors at Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference
  • November 15-24 - Jim Seibert/Tim Devlin to follow up with details related to district building requirements
  • November 30, 2010 - District "letters of participation" due to Tim Devlin

Proposed:

  • December 8, 2010 - RFP issue date / 470 window opens
  • December 16, 2010 - Bidder's Conference
  • January 5, 2011 - Bid Responses Due

Tentative:

  • January 11, 2011 - Vendor Presentations
  • January 24, 2011 - Vendor Selection Process completed
  • February 1, 2011 - Contract Information circulated to districts
  • February 28, 2011- Consolidation of district board votes, post E-rate 471
  • March - June, 2011 - Prepare for installation

Questeq , a regional technology company that will support the rollout of SafariMontage in Western Pennsylvania, and SafariMontage , a national digital media and management company, gave a presentation for the district technology committee. Through the AlleghenyCONNECT network the school district has access to content that is part of the SafariMontage system. The content includes video from Schlesinger, Disney and other digital media publishers. The team from SafariMontage and Questeq explained how the solution could be expanded to provide home accesss, on-site storage of digital video, and distribution of streaming video. At the present time the West Allegheny School District is testing out this expanded set of services. The Fox Chapel Area School District plans to send a team of students, teachers, and administrators to West Allegheny after the new year to investigate how the solution is meeting the learning and teaching needs for West Allegheny. In the meantime Questeq offered to share any network reports on the bandwidth use for West Allgheny's data network with the addition of the video services.

After several months the district cable television line-up in back in place. Here are the channels that are available throughout all district buildings:
2   KDKA
3   WPXI
4   WTAE
5   History Channel
6   Weather Channel
7   CNN
8   WQED
9   Turner Learning Channel (TLC)
10  Discovery
11  Travel
12  Food Network
13  ESPN
14  C-SPAN
15  Community channel (shared with Shaler)

Last Updated ( Tuesday, November 09, 2010 )
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Tech Update October 2010 PDF Print E-mail

Preparing students and staff members for the 21st Century

Baker_Wife2.jpg Students in Heath Asbury's fourth grade class at Kerr Elementary are sharing their dramatic interpretation of literature using podcasting. Students created a podcast based on the book, "The Baker's Neighbor."

At Fairview students are tapping into a new Web 2.0 tool, Glogster. According to Lisa Lang, the computer resource teacher at Fairview, "4th and 5th grade students have been introduced to Glogster - inserting text, images, videos on a topic of interest. So exciting that many of them have been creating glogs at home on their own topics. (Even had a parent contact me to let me know how excited her son was.) 4th will use this tool as part of their Pennsylvania project too."

The district sees a strong fit with student needs and the new iPadTM devices from Apple. The special education department has ordered an additional thirty units for teachers to pilot with special needs students. Stephanie Abriatis, the elementary educational support department chair, has seen great success with special needs students. One of the students calls the device her "Magic Pad. On November 10 a district team led by high school students, John Marino and Hunter Berk, and teachers Rose Cipolone and Joe Eisel, will present their findings at the Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference.

Teachers and students started to evaluate a new digital tool available from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, SafariMontage. The digital management package includes video, graphics, and audio that is aligned with Pennsylvania standards. SafariMontage takes advantage of the increased bandwidth available through the AlleghenyCONNECT Project. Representative from SafariMontage and the local vendor supporting the product, Questeq, demonstrated the product to the district technology committee. The committee gave the solution a thumbs up.

FC-Virtual.jpg

The district moves forward with FC Virtual. The district model uses a blended or hybrid approach. Students will take coursework online, but there would be classroom time that will depend on the course and teacher. For the second semester of this school year there will be two high school courses delivered virtually - Business Essentials and Physics I. For Business Essentials students will meet with the instructor, Randi Leonard, at the start of each of the six units. For each unit students will work on a weekly pace that Randi Leonard will monitor. For Physics I Tom Moul will bring students together for lab investigations. The students will do a series of learning activities online that may include practice problems using a computer-based tutoring model developed by the University of Pittsburgh.

The high school planning team conducted a survey of tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade students. Here is a summary of the results:

  • 1/3 of the students expressed an interest in taking a virtual class;
  • Top choices: SAT Prep , Business Essentials, Introduction to Philosophy, Health;
  • 2/3 of the students want to take the courses during the school year versus the summer;
  • Nearly half of the students prefer the first period option giving them a later starting time;
  • Over 60% of the students prefer the classroom instruction during the day.

Safety Nets

IEP_Edinsight.jpg

Teachers now have access to student IEPs through the EdInight Data Portal. OnHand Schools, the developer of EdInsight, and Leader, the publisher of IEPWriter, have developed a strategic partnership. Teachers who have access to a particular student will now see in the tab, "Special Info", PDF copies of student IEPS, GIEPs, or behavior plans.

Improving Communications

Over the past month the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU) has surveyed school districts in Allegheny County to how many are interested in participating in a Request for Proposal (RFP) for shared communication services. Eight school districts expressed an interest. On October 26 vendors interested in participating in the project will join a meeting of AIU technology leaders. In November the AIU hopes to have the plan ready for the RFP that will be submitted for eRate funding for 2011-2012. Norton Gusky, the coordinator of educational technology for the Fox Chapel Area School District, joined the AIU in a conference call with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) to identify key elements that should be incorporated into the RFP and to assess the effectiveness of the shared solution linking together all of the institutions included in the UPMC strategy for Connected Medicine .

The morning news on FCTV, the high school's television station, sports a new opening created by students in the Advanced Video course.

Using Data 

The new help desk system, SchoolDude, became a highly used tool for the staff. In September staff members submitted over 500 tickets. The majority of the tickets were for setting up computer accounts.

Last Updated ( Monday, October 18, 2010 )
 
Tech Update September 2010 PDF Print E-mail

Preparing students and staff members for the 21st Century

Google EarthStudents at Kerr Elementary are becoming World Travelers using Google Earth and library researchers using FoxCat , the district's online public access catalog. Students are visiting famous places, taking photos, and adding descriptions using Google Earth as their tool. The final project challenges students to put their writing and images together as a presentation using the software program, Keynote. In the library/media center students are addressing the essential question: How are resources organized? Students work in pairs playing a game, OPACO, created by Kristen Moller, the library/media specialist at Hartwood Elementary.

As part of the August in-service time a pilot team of teachers at DMS trained their peers how to use the equipment purchased through the DMS Challenge project and more importantly how to develop more engaged and interactive learning in the classroom. Dorseyville plans to continue to provide training during the year as other opportunities for staff development arise.

The district sees a strong fit with student needs and the new iPadTM devices from Apple. The special education department has ordered thirty units for teachers to pilot with special needs stu-dents. Rose Cippolone, a special education teacher at Hartwood, has successfully used an iPod Touch as part of her intervention strategies with special needs children. Rose will share with her colleagues some of the "apps" that will also work on the iPad. The district also ordered iPads for the building libraries and the English as a Second Language (ESL) program. In addition, the dis-trict purchased a cart with twenty iPads for Title I services at the middle school. The district in-tends to have the building library/media specialists become the gatekeepers for the purchase and distribution of apps.. The district team will share their findings at the 2010 Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference in November.

In August all elementary, middle, and high school teachers received a short orientation in the use of percentages with the electronic grade book from Easy Grade Pro. Teachers in grades 3-12 will share with parents both letter and numeric grades at the end of the first nine weeks.

During the 2010-2011 school year the district provide learning opportunities for students, par-ents, and teachers in Internet Safety. In August a small group of trainers met with Norton Gusky to develop the focus for the program. The group decided to pursue an opportunity for virtual teacher training through the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU) and use the materials developed for the Pittsburgh Supercomputer site, SAFE-Net: A Cyber Safety Awareness Program. At Dorseyville Middle School the Attorney General's office will provide a program for seventh and eighth grade students.

Using Data to Make More Informed Decisions

The district purchased a new Help Desk system from SchoolDudeTM In August Cheryl Beckas, one of the district technicians, trained all teachers to use the new Help Desk application that was incorporated into Edline. In the first week of operation over one hundred tickets were submitted with over 80% of the tickets closed in the first 24 hours.

Safety Nets

Teachers will have access to student IEPs through the EdInight Data Portal. OnHand Schools, the developer of EdInsight, and Leader, the publisher of IEPWriter, have developed a strategic partnership. Teachers who have access to a particular student will now see in the tab, "Special Info", PDF copies of student IEPS, GIEPs, ER or RR forms.

As part of the August in-service training, Norton Gusky worked with K-12 educational support teachers to learn how to use the existing laptops as tools for Universal Access . Teachers discov-ered strategies, such as text-to-speech and screen adaptations.

Improving Communications

At the end of August the McKinley Group and Advanced 2000, an Alcatel-Lucent dealer, hosted an evening seminar at the UPMC headquarters (the former USX Tower) to outline how the UPMC may be a model for shared services for school districts in Allegheny County. Eight school districts expressed an interest in pursuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) that the Alle-gheny Intermediate Unit will coordinate. The goal is to have a proposal in place so all of the school districts can qualify for eRate funding for the 2011-2012 school year. For the Fox Chapel Area School District this would mean that 40% of the cost for a hosted solution would be cov-ered through the eRate program.

The district also examined several options to upgrade its video communications network. The Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU) purchased with the other IUs in the state a media solution from SafariMontageTM. The district will receive content and some management tools from Sa-fariMontage as part of the AllegenyCONNECT project. In October SafariMontage will provide a webinar for the district technology committee. In the meantime the district will use the existing infrastructure and services provided by Comcast, Verizon FiOS, and RPC Video.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, September 14, 2010 )
 
Tech Update August 2010 PDF Print E-mail

Preparing students and staff members for the 21st Century

Mimio TeachOver the summer the district moved forward with the purchase of multimedia equipment as part of the Dorseyville (DMS) Challenge. The district equipped fifty-three classrooms. The targeted classrooms include Mimio Interactive units, overhead multimedia projectors, speakers in the ceiling, and a multimedia cart with a document camera and DVD player. As part of the August in-service time the pilot team of teachers at DMS will train their peers how to use the equipment and more importantly how to develop more engaged and interactive learning in the classroom.

The district sees a strong fit with student needs and the new iPadTM devices from Apple. Over the summer the special education department ordered twenty units. Educational support teachers will pilot assistive and communication technologies that will better meet the need for special learners. The district also ordered iPads for the building libraries and the English as a Second Language (ESL) program. In addition, the district purchased a cart with twenty iPads for Title I services at the middle school. Several students and teachers worked this summer to identify possible "apps." The district intends to have the building library/media specialists become the gatekeepers for the purchase and distribution of apps. A pilot team of students, teachers, and administrators reported their findings using a new social networking tool that is part of the FirstClassTM suite of communication and collaboration tools. The district team will share their findings at the 2010 Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference in November. Here's a comment from this summer's activity:

Neil Shah (high school student): There is an app called iBrainstorm that would come in handy for making webs or brainstorming for anything. This app lets you make virtual sticky notes and arrange them on the screen however you like and then you can draw lines connecting them or making arrows showing where the notes go. I think this app will be great because it allows the user to touch everything and get a really nice visual of what's going on. Also, by using this app for making webs or brainstorming is more bene-ficial because it allows the child to brainstorm however they feel most comfortable....Since every child learns differently, this app will help every individual brainstorm their way.

SurveyMonkey chartAs part of the June in-service days teachers updated and created curriculum maps for courses at both the elementary and secondary levels. Season Gigliotti, a DMS teacher, and Jill Tabis, a high school teacher, refined a set of training materials originally designed by Norton Gusky, the Coordinator of Educational Technology, for the June in-service sessions. Over the summer Season and Jill refined the training materials in order to have resources ready for August sessions. Over two hundred teachers have participated in the curriculum mapping process since June. Based on an online survey of teachers using the curriculum mapping tool 97% of the teachers found the system supports the ability to think innovatively about course development. In addition, 97% of the teachers found the system "user friendly." Here are some teacher comments:

It is very easy to edit. That's the part that will be encouraging because it will enable every teacher to continue to hone the elements of a unit (and unit sequence) on a macro AND micro level.

It is user friendly and something that will finally pertain directly to my classroom teaching.

In June Scott Hand, a high school teacher, and Kevin Conner from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit trained eight high school teachers in developing courses for a virtual learning environment. During the second semester of the 2010-2011 school year the Fox Chapel Area High School will offer two virtual learning courses based on existing courses at the high school - Physics and Business Essentials.

During the summer months administrators and teachers prepared materials for the roll out of the new grading scale with percentages. In August all elementary, middle, and high school teachers will receive a short orientation in the use of percentages with the electronic grade book from Easy Grade Pro.

Safe-Net logo During the 2010-2011 school year the district will train all teachers in Internet Safety. In August a small group of trainers will meet with Norton Gusky to develop the focus for the program. The school district will work with Wiam Younes from Carnegie Mellon University and use the materials she developed for the Pittsburgh Supercomputer site, SAFE-Net: A Cyber Safety Awareness Program.

Using Data to Make More Informed Decisions

Alicia Hutchings, the data analyst for the district, added GMADE, GRADE, and CoGAT data to the EdInsight Data Portal. Teachers will receive training in August to use this resource as well as other resources to make better decisions about student learning.

In August OnHand Schools will update the EdInsight system to provide easier use of the online tools to help teachers and students make better decisions.

SchoolDude The district purchased a new Help Desk system from SchoolDude TM in June. Cheryl Beckas, the high school technology support technician, worked over the summer to transfer all of the inventory data from the district's existing system. SchoolDude announced earlier in 2010 a strategic partnership with Edline. According to SchoolDude the partnership will allow "Deep linking of MySchoolBuilding, inside of the Edline solution, allowing teachers/staff/faculty to submit [help desk] requests without a separate password." In August Cheryl will train all teachers to use the new Help Desk application that will be incorporated into Edline.

Safety Nets

Teachers will have access to student IEPs through the EdInight Data Portal. OnHand Schools, the developer of EdInsight, and Leader, the publisher of IEPWriter, have developed a strategic partnership. Teachers who have access to a particular student will now see in the tab, "Special Info", PDF copies of student IEPS, GIEPs, ER or RR forms.

Universal Access logo As part of the August in-service training, Norton Gusky will work with K-12 educational support teachers to learn how to use the existing laptops as tools for Universal Access. Teachers will discover strategies such as text-to-speech and screen adaptations.

Improving Communications

Over the summer the district evaluated the Request for Information (RFI) proposals received from seven vendors for an upgrade to the district's communication network. The vendors who participated submitted a range of possible strategies to provide the next round of telephony services. The district, working with Linda Fischer from the McKinley Group, decided to investigate further a regionally hosted Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solution using the Allegheny-CONNECT broadband network. At the end of August the McKinley Group, Advanced 2000, an Alcatel-Lucent dealer, and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) will host an evening seminar to outline how the existing UPMC solution may be a model for shared services for school districts in Allegheny County.

SafariMontageThe district also examined several options for an upgrade for the video communications network. The Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU) has purchased with the other IUs in the state a digital media and management solution from SafariMontage TM. The district will receive content and some management tools from SafariMontage as part of the AllegenyCONNECT project. The West Allegheny School District has enlisted Questeq, a local vendor, to expand on the AlleghenyCONNECT package in order to provide additional services, such as: classroom distribution of digital content (including television broadcasting), digital signage, and the management of media resources. The district plans to monitor the West Allegheny solution and make a decision for the 2011-2012 school year regarding the best course for a video network upgrade. In the meantime the district will use the existing infrastructure and services provided by Comcast and RPC Video.

Last Updated ( Monday, August 09, 2010 )
 
Tech Update June 2010 PDF Print E-mail

Preparing students and staff members for the 21st Century

DMS_Mimio.jpgDuring the school year the district moved forward with the purchase of multimedia equipment as part of the Dorseyville Challenge . For the pilot project the district equipped seven classrooms. Over the summer the district will set up an additional forty-three classrooms. The interactive classrooms will include Mimio Interactive units, overhead multimedia projectors, speakers in the ceiling, and a multimedia cart with a document camera and DVD player.

One of the hottest items in the country the last two months was Apple's new iPadTM. A pilot team of students, teachers, and administrators reported their findings using a new social networking tool that is part of the FirstClass suite of communication and collaboration tools. The district team will share their findings at the 2010 Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference in November. Here's a sample set of comments from the discussion group:

Matt Harris (administrator): The keyboard dock rocks. I used it with the iPad for a couple of observations. Worked great. I put the student pictures from the picture company cd into the dropbox folder so I can access student pictures anytime. Helpful for meetings where students are being discussed and you can't immediately picture him/her.

Dave Snyder (library/media specialist): Dragon Dictate works amazingly well as a speech recognition program that may be able to be used for students with either the in-ability to type or physical/learning disabilities that make typing difficult.

Joe Eisel (teacher): dropbox app - works really well on the ipad; vnc app - works ok, great tool, but a bit glitchy, some lag; air mouse - works great on the iPod and the iPad; hp iPrint app - works well - you can print any photo 4" x 6". if you want to print a document you need to take a screen shot of it

The high school updated a former computer lab, Room 175. The new project-based space now provides an interactive environment using a new wireless technology from Polyvision, the Eno Board . In addition, the space offers video-conferencing capabilities. On June 15, Perry Dougherty, from Polyvision, will conduct a series of workshops to train high school staff members to use the new interactive tool.

As part of the June in-service days teachers will work on updating and creating new curriculum maps for courses at both the elementary and secondary levels. Season Gigliotti, a DMS teacher, and Jill Tabis, a high school teacher, refined a set of training materials originally designed by Norton Gusky for the June in-service sessions. The training materials guide teachers on the use of the EdInsight Curriculum Mapping tool that the district will use.

SummerSchool2010.jpgThe Fox Chapel Area High School will offer English 9, English 10, Health 9, U.S. History, World Civilization, Algebra I, and Algebra II as part of a Summer School credit recovery program using the Apex Learning system this summer. The courses will be facilitated by Fox Chapel Area High School teachers. Although the majority of the work will be completed online, students taking the virtual classes will also be required to report to the high school for two hours one day per week for assessments and group activities. 

Scott Hand will lead a team of eight high school teachers as they begin to develop virtual learning courses. Joining Scott for the initial training will be Kevin Conner from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. For the 2010-2010 school year the Fox Chapel Area High School will offer two virtual learning courses based on existing courses at the high school - Physics and Business Essentials. In addition, the Virtual Learning committee will meet in August to look at several new options for virtual learning proposed by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit as part of their new Waterfront Learning initiative.

At Kerr students completed their end of year podcast .

Safety Nets

Special education staff members will receive training on the new IEPWriter system beginning in the second week in June.

Improving Communications

The district used SurveyMonkey an online survey tool to gather input on Grading. Over 900 parents and over 240 teachers shared their input.

The district has been investigating options for the upgrade of the voice and video networks. The district submitted a Request for Information (RFI) that will provide a picture of the options and cost for an upgrade to the voice system. Linda Fischer, a consultant with the McKinley Group, developed the RFI. For the video system RPC Video has been working on an engineering study that will become the basis for a Request for Proposal (RFP). The district plans to start work on the initial phase of the video upgrade this summer in conjunction with the Dorseyville Challenge upgrade of classroom technology.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, June 08, 2010 )
 
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