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 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

  • Sharpening the Saw: the Benefits of Travel

    07/25/2014 11:07 AM

    As I complete my 16th year in this position, there have been many opportunities to reflect on all that's happened since I shifted my role as an educator from classroom teaching to directing our school's technology efforts. 

    As I was flying home from Memphis the other day, looking at the landscape below reminded me of the many opportunities I've had to travel for this job, whether representing the Schools doing presentations, attending conferences, or  taking classes or workshops.  If I were to take time to list them all, I'm sure it would be at least 30 trips or so including most major cities in the US, Vancouver,  and a few smaller cities as well. 

    Whether it is NAIS, InfoComm, ISTE, Lausanne, or other events, I am always grateful to have the support of my school in sending me to these events. Travel is costly these days, and I know some peers in other schools who are not able to travel as often as I am. I appreciate these opportunities and strive to make the best of them. The learning curve in this job never flattens; in fact, it seems to get steeper with each passing year, so what I learn has been critically important to what I do. As Covey says, "sharpening the saw" is a habit of the highly effective. There is no doubt, however, that these journeys have more benefits than the learning that takes place in the course of the event itself.

    • Getting out of town and away from the immediacy of the daily grind also allows time and mental space for reflection, regrouping, and resetting priorities.
    • Organizing a new presentation also forces me to focus intently on delivering a meaningful session with a level of clarity and brevity that sometimes eludes me as the demand to juggle many projects at once affects my daily work.
    • Networking with peers at other schools gives me a good reality check on where Lab is compared to other schools in the public, parochial, and independent sectors. I always come away amazed at how similar our challenges are and how hard-working, caring, and talented school IT leaders can be. Schools don't change very quickly, but being in a field that does makes for a lot of heavy lifting for IT leaders that cause them to either adapt or move on to something else. The added perspective helps rekindle my idealism and energy to bring the best thinking of IT leaders everywhere to what we do at Lab.
    • Developing better relationships with vendors is also of real value. Whether I am happy with a vendor or not, there is nothing like face-to-face time to engage them in frank conversations about their products or services and the future directions they may be taking. The best vendor relationships become true partnerships, and that is not something that can happen over the phone or in a webinar. 
    What professional travel plans do you have in the year ahead? What goals do you hope to accomplish by investing time and money to make these trips happen? I'm not quite ready yet to formulate my travel plans for the year, but if history is any indication, I'll almost certainly be headed wherever best fits the goals I have for the year.