Information Systems

Tech Talk

  • You May Be Missing Important Messages

    Posted June 3, 2015

    There are still some folks at Lab who don't realize they have a uchicago e-mail account *in addition to* their Lab School e-mail account. As an employee of the University of Chicago, you are assigned a CNetID and associated e-mail address. This is the e-mail used by the U of C systems, including notifications about GEMS reimbursements or HR issues. If you do not regularly check your U of C e-mail, you are likely to miss important messages. We strongly recommend you forward messages sent to that address to your UCLS account

    1) Know your CNetID.
    Your CNetID is what you use to access the wireless network here. If you do not know your CNetID, you can look it up or confirm it by searching at

    2) Log in to with your CNetID and password.

    3) Select the radio button which reads User defined.

    4) Enter the address to which you want your mail forwarded.

    5) Click Submit and you're done.

    Your CNetID is managed by the U of C. To get support, contact the ITS Service Desk by phone at 773-702-5800 (2-5800), e-mail at

  • IS Personnel Changes Afoot

    Posted June 3, 2015

    IS has been blessed with an unusual level of personnel stability in the last few years, but sadly, that is about to change with the departure of two staff members.

    Colin Warren, the World Language Lab Technology Coordinator, and his family will be moving to Los Angeles in August. We will certainly miss Colin's extraordinary expertise, sense of humor, and generous, patient spirit. He started at Lab in September of 2009 and has done a terrific job of working with the World Language department in applying technology thoughtfully to achieve instructional goals and managing the operation of the heavily-used Language Lab. He also has been extremely helpful in troubleshooting a/v problems. His last day won't be until sometime in July. Be sure to wish him well!

    Phillip Thomas has been with IS for 7 1/2 years and is leaving Lab to start at U of C Law School in the fall. He assisted JK in system administration duties for a few years before moving into his current position as a Data Systems Analyst, where he manages PowerSchool, the libraries' Follett databases, and provides back up for JK as needed. He does much more than that on projects within IS as well. He writes elegant code and has strong analytical skills; his work on the Back to Lab process has been outstanding and he will be sorely missed. His last day will be June 30. Please join us in wishing him all the best in meeting the challenges of Law School!

  • As the School Year Draws to a Close

    Posted June 3, 2015

    Summer is the most active time for equipment thefts on campus, and this summer promises to be the busiest summer in school history with all sorts of people coming and going daily. The security challenges of this furious level of activity are immense. You can help.

    Please take a moment to think through how you will secure technology assets assigned to you once you depart for the summer. Cameras, iPods, iPads, headphones, and other highly portable gear should be stored under lock and key. Log out of user accounts on computers in your office or classroom. Turn off audiovisual systems. Take time to back up important files to the file server. If you are among those moving to new spaces over the summer, be sure IS gets your highly portable devices for safe storage; larger items like desktop computers and printers will be taken care of as part of the moving process. Of course, IS is happy to store items for you. Just bring items to Judd 11 and we'll label and store them in alarmed spaces.

    Summer travelers will be wise to take appropriate security precautions with school-owned laptops. NEVER place your laptop in checked baggage and never leave your laptop in a hot car. Don't conduct sensitive personal transactions on public wi-fi networks, and be mindful of your surroundings. It only takes a split second for your laptop to disappear. If you are leaving your laptop at home while you travel, find a safe, out-of-the-way place to conceal it under lock and key; historically, the highest number of school laptop thefts have occurred during home break-ins.

  • Tech Talk on Hiatus

    Posted June 3, 2015

    This is the final Tech Talk of the year. As always, your feedback on TT is welcome, as are suggestions for items you'd like to see. Thanks for reading!

  • The Year We've Had, and the Summer Ahead

    Posted June 3, 2015
    It's been a wild ride this year with continuing construction, big-time leadership changes, school growth, and multiple concurrent major projects in process. IS would like to thank all of you for your cooperation and good will during the year. We hope we have responded well to your needs even as we've wrestled with the unique challenges the year brought with it.

    This summer promises to be even more challenging. We will help move 80+ people into temporary spaces (including IS ) as renovations in Judd and the High School begin. Summer School will enroll more than 1,000 students. The opening of Gordon Parks Arts Hall includes making sure all the technology gets put where it's supposed to be and works as it should on day one. Our commitment to High Jump has expanded. Over $300,000 of replacement computers will be ordered, inventoried, configured and installed, including new computers on most of the iCarts.

    As enervating as all that sounds, we are equally excited by these challenges and relish the opportunity to partner with all our constituent groups to do something this audacious together. We hope you share our sense of adventure in this most demanding time. Best wishes to all for a memorable summer!

DIT Bits Blog

  • A Brief Reflection on the 14-15 School Year

    07/02/2015 3:49 PM

    Let me start by apologizing for not posting much in the past year, just 10 posts in all. I found it hard enough to manage the biweekly editions of Tech Talk, the IS newsletter, and just never got around to the more reflective or less Lab-focused pieces I would normally post in DITBits. 

    But as improving communication from the administrative team rises to a priority in the months ahead, it seems fitting to get back on track, so here’s my pledge: I’ll commit to posting at least every other week and seek to realize the original intent of DITBits as a place for dialogue around questions, concerns, and issues facing those who use and manage technology in education. 

    So let’s get started by reflecting a bit on the past year.  Here is a brief look at a few of the most important things we did, and what they meant for the Schools:

    Rethinking Computer Access: Our current model for providing student access to shared computers needs to change for reasons I’ve discussed in the past.  This year we ran two pilots to help us explore our options.

    In the High School, three classes did a bring-your-own laptop trial. Students who did not have access to a laptop were able to borrow one for the two quarters the pilot ran. Things went well, though it took longer than I thought to secure permission from pilot families. Students and parents were surveyed at the end of the pilot to tell us the pros and cons from their point of view; the three pilot teachers are also compiling their anecdotal reactions to the pilot along with the “measurables” we’d identified before the pilot began. I’ll be pulling that data together over the summer in a report that should help us determine next steps. 

    In the Middle School, I’d asked for help in evaluating options for a possible 1:1 device in that division. No agenda on my part—just a simple question: does the MS faculty see the iPad as a viable platform for its curricular needs? I found budget room for two iPad cars of 25 iPads each. Volunteer teachers kept the carts for anywhere between 2 weeks and a month, depending on schedules and goals. The MS tech committee is compiling its results and should be done soon. They also requested a Chromebook pilot for the fall, which I again found money for, and we’ll kick that off with teacher volunteers as school begins in the fall. 

    Construction Planning: The soon-too-open Gordon Parks Arts Hall required a great deal of infrastructure planning to accommodate its unique purposes.  The impending renovation of the Belfield towers, Judd Hall and portions of U-High also demanded careful coordination among all the contractors, UC IT services, and other stakeholders (including Lab IT) as budgets were set, surprises were encountered, equipment was spec’d, and conduit was installed. Along with System Administrator John Krug, I spent many hours in meetings of every size and shape to help move this exciting yet daunting project forward. 

    Learning Management System Consideration: Parent feedback on school communication gathered by the Technology Advisory Committee confirmed what we already knew, but in more graphic relief, which is that a kind of crazy quilt of communication strategies makes it difficult for parents to find basic information about what’s happening in classes across grade levels and divisions. Our director of web operations, Joe Kallo, and I worked closely with director of communications and marketing Catherine Braendel to move forward with adopting a single Learning Management System (LMS) that would standardize a platform for sharing such information. We had a great deal of data in hand that helped us identify the common needs and feature requirements across divisions. That data helped us eliminate several LMS options. By the end of spring quarter, we’d identified our two finalists, Schoology and Haiku. As this is more a programmatic decision than anything else, faculty members are engaged in the final selection process, now led by school principals, which should conclude at the end of October with the goal of launching midyear. 

    Change in Managed Print Services Vendor: This may seem like a small thing to some, but for many at school (including me) it was a big deal. Reliable printing and copying is critical to the Schools’ daily functioning. The vendor we had been working with was unable to provide us a level of acceptable performance, causing many lost hours of IS and faculty staff time.  When Earl Shapiro Hall was completed, we had the opportunity to work with a different vendor who not only lived up to the contract, but offered us better pricing and superior customer service. This year, we extended our contract with the new vendor to include the Historic Campus. Our direct costs have gone down with this new vendor, and so have our indirect costs as the IS group recovered many lost hours with the new vendor in place. Faculty and staff have responded well to the new hardware, user-friendly interface and improved feature set on the new multi-function devices. Led by director of tech support services Rob Koontz, we also laid the groundwork for implementing a comprehensive print management software package that should allow us to cut costs and trim superfluous printing while enabling new levels of convenience for our users. 

    Obviously, we accomplished much more than what I’ve shared above, but these, in my mind, were the most important projects of the year. 

    Next time in DITBits, we’ll take a look at what the next few months holds for us here in IT.  It’s going to be a wild ride, so be sure to check in in two weeks!