Information Systems

Tech Talk

  • Computing/AV Capital Expenditure Update

    Posted June 4, 2014

    We're going down to the wire on notifying requestors of decisions. The total demand for capital funds, both for replacement of current equipment and requests for new equipment, is fiercely higher than any previous year, which means tough decisions are ahead. In some cases, we will need to defer scheduled replacements. The most likely candidate for extending the duty cycle is the iCart laptops, though we would replace printers and base stations on them along with doing repairs on the cart hardware.

    On the good news side, teacher laptop replacements will likely be accelerated by a half year because the current MacBooks aren't holding up as well as past MacBook models.

    Curt will be in touch with a status update on your request before school ends, even if circumstances dictate that your request is still pending, which he is working hard to avoid. It's regrettable that this process is not more cut-and-dried, but the reality is that it's a complicated balancing act of financial, technical, instructional, and operational variables all of which affect one another. The growth of our student body and employee head count adds yet another variable.

    So stay tuned and know that your patience is appreciated.

  • Apps We Like

    Posted June 4, 2014

    We've been impressed with ooVoo, an video chat app that offers many other features, including text and voice messaging for individuals and groups. It's free and it works on pretty much any network-capable device, desktop or handheld. With people traveling over the summer, it's a good way to keep in touch with family and friends. It's very easy to use.

    There are lots of To-Do apps out there, but some of us like Wunderlist a lot. Whether you're planning a party with friends, organizing a home renovation project, or just keeping track of all your tasks at work, Wunderlist offers a nice interface, intuitive navigation, and syncs data across all your devices.

    Summer is a time when folks focus on their health. Cardiio is a cool touch-free heart rate monitor that gets an accurate reading (with in 3 bpm compared with a clinical pulse oximeter) by having you look at an image on your iPhone or iPad. It tracks tiny changes your heartbeat causes in the amount of reflected light in your face. It will also store and analyze information about your heart rate over time.

    Have trouble sleeping in hotel beds? Need a soothing tone when you meditate? Baby won't sleep and you're out of lullabies? Try Relax Melodies Premium. It's $5, but it has pretty much any sonic background you like and you can mix and match them to your heart's content.

  • Tech Talk on Hiatus

    Posted June 4, 2014
    This is the last issue of Tech Talk for this year. We'll resume in late August. Thanks for reading. If you have feedback or story suggestions, feel free to e-mail them directly to Curt Lieneck since he writes most of Tech Talk with occasional help from Louis, Joe, and Rob. Thanks also to Joe for coding TT every other week when he is not coding E-News.
  • Reflecting on a Wild Year

    Posted June 4, 2014
    As we look back on this year, we are amazed by what our community can accomplish under stressful circumstances. Opening Earl Shapiro Hall, shuffling Blaine classrooms twice, firming up plans for the Gordon Parks Arts Hall, preparing for major changes in school leadership...you all know what we're talking about.

    It has been our privilege and pleasure to work alongside you in coping with all these changes and doing our level best to have things work as smoothly as possible for you in spite of it all. And there was a lot -- elevator malfunctions, funky power outages, redesigning the email system, reinventing ERB testing arrangements, moving telephones, computers, printers, prepping new AV systems, working on the Tech Advisory Committee, bringing on a new print services vendor in Earl Shapiro Hall, personnel changes in IS, reinventing the Back to Lab process online....the list goes on and on.

    Even though the work has been taxing at times, we have retained our spirit of adventure as we participate in Lab's evolution into something new and different than it has been before -- and we have enjoyed sharing that same sense of adventure with so many of you as these changes roll on. There is much more work like this ahead, and we look forward to tackling the challenges and opportunities it presents in building a stronger and better Lab community.

    For those of you who are retiring or moving on to other professional opportunities, we wish you well and are grateful for the service you have rendered to our students. For those returning next year, best wishes for a peaceful, relaxing, restorative summer. As always, IS staff will be here over the summer supporting Summer School and doing those things that are impossible to do when everyone is here. Our vacations will be staggered so we have necessary bases covered for tech support, so someone will be here if you need assistance.
  • Report from Cupertino

    Posted May 23, 2014

    Curt had the opportunity to visit Apple's mothership in Cupertino this week along with 9 other IT leaders from Illinois schools. In depth briefings on Wi-Fi network design, mobile device management, Apple Care products and services, Apple's work with schools on national testing standards and practices, Apple IT support, company culture and history, and roundtable discussions among group members were featured activities. Though not all sessions were directly applicable to Lab, many were, and will yield productive ideas and action steps to add value to IS services. The group also got a good look at the model for "AC2", the second campus being built.

    A few in the group received a pleasant surprise and were able to take a field trip to Skywalker Ranch and spend a couple of hours with Dennis Leonard, one of the top sound engineers in the entertainment industry. He walked us through a couple of scenes from films he'd done while working on "The Polar Express." The group will never again take movie sound for granted after getting a glimpse of how intricate each frame of film can be from Dennis' perspective. Thanks to Lab, Apple, and the good folks of Lucasfilms for making this trip possible.

DIT Bits Blog

  • Report from Lausanne Learning Institute

    07/15/2014 10:51 PM

    It's been a pleasure to attend the Lausanne Learning Institute this week (tonight's lovely rooftop party at the Peabody hotel on a cool Memphis night is not the only reason).

    This conference tends to feature highly-skilled tech leaders -- the in-the-trenches kind, not the kind who make a living doing conference presentations. The presentations are often not glitzy or showy, but are packed with solid information tech leaders can take home and use right away.

    A few notable items that caught my attention include:

    - a session on Google scripts that automate processes within Google forms. Doctopus and autoCrat in particular could be very helpful to teachers in managing online workflow with Google Apps.

    - a session on moving forward quickly with a 1:1 iPad implementation at a large independent school in Fort Worth. Teacher-driven and administratively supported, this school was able to go from concept to implementation in 8 months. No, they didn't solve every conceivable problem before they launched, and it's been a lot of hard work, but they are off and running.

    - a session on blended learning that was enlightening for its nuanced approach to the process of developing blended classes to best fit the course and the culture of the school

    - a good look at the LMS (Learning Management Solution) offered in Finalsite. This is of concern to us as Finalsite recently bought  our current web portal vendor, Silverpoint, so we will either need to sign on with Finalsite in time or find a new vendor for these services as we look at streamlining communication by deploying an LMS soon.

    It was also wonderful to touch base with old friends in ed tech and meet some great new folks as well. They were all eager to learn more about our aggressive expansion and building plans, and I'm sure some will visit Lab to see it for themselves. I also learned a lot about their efforts to innovate; many are transforming Library spaces into the Learning Commons kind of area. Others are adding Maker Spaces, setting a high bar for professional development programs, and diving headlong into blended or online courses.

    Many thanks to Stewart Crais and his wonderful assistant Paige Holmes for putting on an excellent conference.  I look forward to returning next year.