Monday, February 21, 2011

Visiting another school

Yesterday several members of our tech department including myself, went to Dubai to visit their school to see how they manage their tech infrastructure, tech integration, and to see how their new facility was coming along. We are preparing for a possible 1-1 laptop program, and a future new campus so were doing a bit of homework. It was definitely well worth the time as we spent all day visiting with their tech integration specialists. I have always felt that networking with peers is the most valuable part of any conference and this was well worth the time and drive to Dubai. We went with a list of questions to help guide our discussions that we sent ahead so they could be prepared for our "onslaught of questions".

We focused on how they managed their tech resources and laptop program. We asked what they would do differently in the implementation, what they would do the same, what integration techniques they used, and saw several examples of how they use their systems.

From this we learned some infrastructure tips such as:
  • Put the projector and speaker ports off to the side of screens (rather than below in the middle), and one in the back of the room and one in the front
  • Put electrical outlets into lockers if possible
  • Have outlets around the classrooms and hallways for charging
Some other neat software and hardware they use:
  • Insight from Faronics to manage laptops
  • Casper management software
  • Document cameras in every classroom
  • Put speakers in the ceiling
  • Inklet- a mac trackpad drawing program
  • Gpanel to manage Gmail accounts
  • xroads internet load balancers/aggregators (like the Mushrooms)
  • Palo Alto network security firewalls
  • Power-Over-Ethernet cameras that are motion activated, and one can speak through them
  • A VoIP system that has a component that can work with Skype to call outside of the UAE.
  • They had developed a home-grown database system for report cards in elementary, and it also pulled grades out of PowerSchool for MS/HS. They called it "hafeel school" named after the gentleman from Sri Lanka who developed this system. It was very interesting how he pulled demographic information from PowerSchool into this system, that is web based and created using Microsoft .net. It then generates object reports. It also uses a Filemaker system to create a system that pulls grades into the object reports, then Filemaker emails them all out to parents.
Laptop Tips:
  • Train teachers early and get them on board
  • Train parents and
  • Get the AUP up to date
  • Make them school-owned, and then issue them to the students.

Integration Ideas:
  • Create teacher/staff proficiency skills checklist to let them see where they are
  • Create a survey for staff to take to help guide our tech integration with individuals and departments
  • Develop a student survey that lets them rate their tech skills based on our standards (or have them do a tech assessment)
  • Let the MS be in charge of making their own yearbook section (Viper Vision)
  • Elementary subscription to a typing website
  • Require one transformational tech integration project per semester
I am sure there will be more I remember later, but this should work for now :-)