Tech Notes

August 2020

Just a quick reminder - please submit help requests via the help desk. E-mailing tech staff directly does not get an issue resolved more quickly.
I am taking this verbatim from Google's communications:


"Control for moderators


Over the next few months, we’re giving moderators of Education meetings more controls for managing their virtual classes. Here are new capabilities, arriving in September, that moderators will have:

  • Prohibit participants from joining meetings after they’ve been ejected or after they’ve been denied entry twice (launching later this month)
  • End meetings for all participants when class is finished
  • Manage join requests with ease by accepting or rejecting them in bulk
  • Disable in-meeting chat and set restrictions on who can present during a meeting
  • A setting that requires the teacher to join first


Interactivity in Meet


New features to increase engagement with your students virtually:


Launching in September

  • A larger tiled views with a 7x7 grid so you can see up to 49 students at once

  • A collaborative whiteboard with Jamboard in Meet so you can encourage students to share ideas and try creative approaches to lessons

Launching in October

  • Blur or replace backgrounds so everyone feels more comfortable during distance-learning classes. Note: Admins can disable custom backgrounds as needed.

Launching later this year

  • Hand-raising to help you identify students who may need help or have a question"


Enterprise (paid) Features


I am also going to list Enterprise Features also being released this school year that we would have to pay for; adding this for clarity since rumors tend to swirl about what features will be available. A final decision has not been made on purchasing Enterprise edition; factors influencing that outcome are whether such features are a "need" or "want", and whether we would be able to find a budget cut to offset the additional cost.


  • Attendance tracking to see and track which students attended virtual class (G Suite Enterprise for Education)

  • Breakout rooms so educators can split classes into simultaneous small group discussions (G Suite Enterprise for Education)

  • Q&A features to provide a way for students to ask questions without disrupting the flow of the class discussion or lesson, and polling to engage students to share their voice (G Suite Enterprise for Education)



Recordings


"Additionally, we’ll launch temporary recordings later this year, which will be available to all Education customers for free (premium recordings will still be part of G Suite Enterprise for Education). With this new feature, any meeting host can record a meeting and share the recording within their domain for up to 30 days before the video expires. Given disparities in internet access, temporary recordings are intended to help students or meeting participants replay a class or session they couldn't attend live. Temporary recordings cannot be shared outside the host’s domain or downloaded. We’re granting continued free access to premium recordings until temporary recordings are available later this year (note: this is replacing the promotion for access to premium Meet features including live streaming and meetings of up to 250 participants that will be ending on September 30th)."

Google Voice

We have been asked a few times about Google Voice accounts.


Google Voice would be a paid service for district accounts. (There was a time in the past when it was free and there may be some staff with legacy accounts). It can be obtained as a free service if you have or create a personal gmail account. That is our recommendation at this time; the district does not presently have a funding option to support all of the potential requests from staff.

Here are Google's notes on creating an account: https://support.google.com/voice/answer/115061?co=GENIE.Platform%3DDesktop&hl=en

Talking Points App

A few notes about the Talking Points App, which has been circulating as an option for home-school communication.


  • The district does not have licensure for this app. It is entirely a staff choice to install and use it.
  • Given that the district does not directly license it, we are not making it available for installation on district devices.
  • If used, communication should be taking place with parents/guardians only. The privacy and terms of service for this app do not adequately address use by minors/students, particularly without direct district oversight of the data.
  • Communicating through our usual channels - Infinite Campus, Canvas, Seesaw - should always be the first option and can also be helpful in noting any parent communications taking place outside of those systems.

To be clear - we are not saying that it cannot be used, just to be mindful of how it is used.

The chart below shows our total counts for student (and about 10 staff) hotspots for the end of the school year and distance learning. Verizon was our primary vendor prior to distance learning, with all of the T-mobile hotspots added from March-May. Prior to COVID we were already in the process of researching an alternative to Verizon in order to reduce costs; hopefully we will be able to reduce our usage with them to bring the costs down. The only drawback with T-mobile is a 2-year contract commitment; right now the quantity of hotspots we need along with some specific situations where Verizon has better coverage mean that it is in our best interests to have multiple vendors.

We will continue to monitor these numbers and balance things out to make sure all students have connectivity while maintaining reasonable expenses for the district.


For the upcoming school year, we have acquired an additional 30 hotspots. If we need to add more, we will handle as needed. Much of the information on local Internet providers who offer reduced cost access is still valid and can be shared with families as well.

Big picture

Canvas Gradebook for Secondary

As of the 2020-2021 school year, secondary staff should be using Canvas as their day to day gradebook, with final grades for each class posted to Infinite Campus at the end of the quarter or term.


We will spend time during workshop week setting up Canvas, including the gradebook, but if you want to learn more now, here are some resources that will be helpful in this transition:


We also adopted a Canvas tool called Grade Guardian that will allow us to better track and support students academically. We will provide training on how to use Grade Guardian this fall. Here’s a preview of the tool: https://vimeo.com/384248785


Please note that due to this change, we will no longer be running gradebook sync between Canvas and Infinite Campus.

Classroom Screen

Neat little collection of widgets such as timer, random name picker, stopwatch, etc.

Our Service Status Page provides a quick glance at the current status of various on-line services. For example, getting an error in Canvas? Check the status page.

Clicking on the indicator for many of the sites will take you to a more detailed status summary. In some cases, we are only reporting on whether a site is "up" at the moment.

Hopefully this helps in identifying whether an issue is affecting "just you" or is a symptom of a more widespread issue.

macOS Catalina

The latest MacBook operating system, Catalina, is available in Self Service. This is a required update.


Updating to Catalina can be helpful in resolving issues with screen recording software (Loom), Internet access and speed problems, Google Meet quality, and so on.


A few things you'll need or want in order to ensure a positive experience:


Power

Mac plugged into power.


Clean Slate
All applications should be closed before starting the upgrade.


Time

The upgrade will take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours to complete. During this time you will not be able to use your Mac. Do not close the lid. Do not move it from place to place.


Drive Space

At least 20 GB disk space free. We have identified about 90 staff devices that may be short on space and will be reaching out to staff to do some file clean-up. (See note below about checking storage space).

Big picture
To view currently used storage, click on apple icon (top left corner) and click "About this Mac". Then view the Storage menu. If you need help reducing the amount of space used, please open a help ticket.


We currently have 1300+ Macs on Catalina, which is a great start!

Summer Projects

Here are some things the tech department has been working on this summer:


Blackboard Mass Notifications: Tech is working with Communications on this project. It is a system for mass messaging. We will continue to use Infinite Campus Messenger for certain communications, but with the switch to Skyward for HR we are no longer to message all district staff via Infinite Campus. Blackboard will be used for that purpose. It will replace other software or messaging sites currently in use, such as MailChimp (Communications) and Constant Contact (High School) and any other third party system for messaging. Consolidating this type of messaging under a single platform is ultimately more cost-effective for the district, easier to support, and provides consistency for parents and the community.


Raptor Emergency Management and Reunification: Tech is assisting the Crisis Response Steering Committee with this project. This is an add-on to our existing Raptor implementation which will be helpful with managing building and district level activities for emergency response, including drills, training, and handling our response to an actual emergency.


1:1 Devices: Refresh or new deployment cycles this year are 9th grade MacBooks, 6th grade iPads, and 2nd grade iPads. We will use good condition iPad stock from this year's 5th and 8th grade device group to complete our phase-out of iPad minis; most of what remains are in Learning Commons carts. Note that we will be prioritizing Pearson ELC needs for replacements of iPad mini models.


K iPad Carts: Replacing the iPad carts for kindergarten rooms. (Delivered to buildings and will be prepped in the first week or two of school).


PLTW PC lab updates: Rather than doing full replacement of PLTW lab machines, we will be upgrading the weakest component (hard drives) in several labs to get a couple more years out of those machines. 3 labs to be done, 1 each at East, West, and High School.

Audio-Visual Updates

Before COVID-19, an audio-visual updates newsletter was prepped to go out. We'll revisit this when things calm down.