Information Systems

Tech Talk

  • Technology...It’s for the Birds

    Posted May 20, 2016
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    When working with teachers to integrate technology in meaningful ways, I always start by asking what the learning goals and expectations are before considering and recommending any kind of technology. Thinking about how technology has been used over the last couple of weeks here at ESH has had me thinking about different types of technology. Low-tech can be referred to as traditional, “unplugged” or non-digital tools – think arts and crafts materials such as pencils, crayons, etc. High-tech can be referred to as mechanical, computerized, digital tools – think iPads, computers, etc. – though one could describe a document camera, for example, as a low, high-tech tool. If low-tech and high-tech are on opposite ends of a continuum, convergence falls somewhere in between, and is a combination of the two. Describing technology in terms of low and high doesn’t imply good or bad, it’s just a way to identify it as non-digital, digital, or both. What’s more important is trying to identify ways in which technology can be used meaningfully, to facilitate learning and teaching.

    For the full article and to see why Louis thinks technology is for the birds, visit his blog at http://teshnologicallyspeaking.blogspot.com/ — Louis Coronel

  • IS Personnel Changes: Good News/Bad News

    Posted May 20, 2016

    Ok, first the good news: we’ve hired Justin Clark to fill the help desk spot created by Gerardo Galvan’s transition to the Parks Hall building manager. Justin comes to us with deep tech support experience, having been the sole help desk resource for The Onion and also worked at Apple’s Genius Bar here in Chicago. He has a degree from Columbia College in Audio Arts and Acoustics and will be starting with us shortly. He will start working on June 1.

    The bad news is that Data Systems Analyst Allen Golbig and his family will be moving to Cleveland at the end of July as his spouse has accepted a new position there. Allen manages PowerSchool and the Follett online catalog system while working closely with JK and Rob on server and Casper-related issues. Though Allen has not been with us very long, he has certainly made a significant contribution to our efforts. Please join us in wishing him and his family all the best in this next chapter of their lives. — Curt

  • Choose Wisely

    Posted May 20, 2016

    As the World Language Department has made their way through the school year, they have experimented with Socrative, Kahoot, and Quizlet to engage students and determine what they have learned using a phone or a computer. All of these programs are great and are similar in many ways. There are some things you should look for when considering an app. First, explore each one and determine which would work best for you and might also be a good fit for your department. Jumping around from program to program often means students have to download another application on their phone and remember another password. This can cause confusion in the classroom and take away from the learning opportunity. Also, if you stick with one application you and your students will become more familiar with it. This should give you more confidence in the classroom when dealing with technical issues and diminish the number of questions you get from students on how to use the program.

    Another advantage of using one application is that you can save your work for other classes or possibly even the next school year. These programs take time to set up and there is no need to reinvent the wheel every year; simply edit an existing activity or use the same one created previously. The last reason for using one application is the ability to share your activities with colleagues, students, and parents. Many of these applications allow you to share your activities with ease. This means you could post it on your Schoology page and help students review it outside of the classroom. If you adopted one application as a department, you could even share activities amongst colleagues. Improving access to well-crafted shared resources can help free up time to complete other tasks. If you have any questions about these applications or have another one you want to share, please feel free to let me know. --Eric Schmidt, eschmidt@ucls.uchicago.edu

  • What We Are Up To

    Posted May 20, 2016

    Working with Catherine Braendel and Finalsite on the new web site > meeting with Dave and Tony on the many summer moves ahead > preparing to support 1,000 students in the summer program > working on budget decisions and capital requests (yes this is going slowly) > determining software and workflow currently in use in the HS > supporting events not in Parks Hall > hiring for two positions as noted above > packing up noncritical items as the next temporary IS move approaches > took in 99 tickets in the past two weeks and resolved 96 of them > delivered iCarts 99 times> produced tech talk > working on a strategy for single sign on > sharing account closure information with those leaving Lab > seeing how fast a 5 pound box of Twizzlers can be consumed > preparing onboarding process for incoming employees (appts. for new teacher hardware pickup will begin in August) > supporting end of year projects as people bring them to our attention > managing requests for “everyone but” mailing lists > enjoying Pretzel Thursdays > figured out how to pipe to-do items from Evernote to Wunderlist using TaskClone > evaluating a demo of Asana project management tool (this in our CFT or copious free time) > and of course, plenty more.

  • Excellent Conference

    Posted April 22, 2016

    Rob and I were in Atlanta this week to attend the ATLIS conference (ATLIS is a new organization serving the needs of independent school technology directors). We enjoyed several presentations and workshops and came back with some new ideas and tools to explore; it was also good to leave feeling affirmed in areas where what we do at Lab was nicely aligned with best practices. I participated in leading two workshops and did a solo presentation on what IT leaders could expect during building projects ( I was feeling pretty knowledgeable in that area).

    Maker culture and maker spaces were by far the hottest topic, with many schools sharing their efforts in this area. As always, professional development was also high on the list. There were also a few purely geeky sessions. As at most conferences, there were a couple of duds in the mix, too, but by and large the quality of presentations was significantly higher than at other conferences. We also took advantage of the many networking opportunities and came home with excellent new contacts and “tech pals” with whom we can share ideas, questions, problems, and solutions. The smaller size of the conference and the relatively homogeneous audience made it easy to develop a special rapport that should last well beyond the conference. — Curt

DIT Bits Blog

  • Foresight Rules, Hindsight Drools

    03/28/2016 3:18 PM

    Many IT leaders have experienced the fallout that happens when their schools decide to make changes without adequately considering how those changes will affect the computing environment. 


    The beginning of spring quarter is a good time for IT leaders to be on the lookout for imminent problems other administrators may not have seen as changes for the next academic year grow closer to being etched in stone.

    A typical example is when schools, particularly multi-divisional schools, want to overhaul schedules. Often, schedule changes will alter those temporal "match points" where the schedule for one division lines up with another. Changing the length and/or frequency of instructional periods can throw these match points out of alignment, thus creating a new level of contention for computing resources -- unless, of course, proactive measures are taken to prevent it.

    Another example is when students, counselors, and department chairs are all working on scheduling students for the next academic year. Original course requests made in winter quarter are fluid in many schools, with changes taking place even right up to (and even beyond) the first weeks of school. If there are courses that require specific computing hardware, enrollment numbers in those classes must acknowledge those limitations, or, again, proactively plan to address them if enrollment is to be increased.

    As an IT leader, one cannot afford to stand on the sidelines and wait for the inevitable "aha!" moment when others realize in hindsight they've created a problem and come to you to solve it at the last minute. Even a well-resourced IT budget cannot take a large, unplanned hit because there wasn't appropriate foresight; technology has been in schools for a long time and should be part of any administrative change management strategy, regardless of the kind of change being planned. It may be up to you as an IT leader to make sure that happens until such time as others' foresight grows. Ideally, you will be invited to share input on these kinds of changes early on in the planning process. 

    If you haven't already done so, take a moment now to take a look at things at your school. If you see any upcoming changes that may affect your budget for the next fiscal year, you'd be wise to investigate them now, and thoroughly so. Otherwise you may be in for one of those surprises no one wants.