Transformational Technology Update Meetings

The Northfield Public Schools invite the public to share feedback regarding the first semester of the Transformational Technology initiative during two public meetings in January. The Transformational Technology project has provided iPad tablet computers for all students in Grades 6-12 and ‘pods’ of 4-6 iPad Mini tablet computers in elementary classrooms.

The meetings will be held:

  • Thursday, January 16th | 7 pm – 8:30 pm | Northfield Middle School Media Center
  • Tuesday, January 21st | 7 pm – 8:30 pm | Northfield Middle School Media Center

The meetings will include a short presentation about the successes, challenges, and opportunities the District has encountered so far with the initiative. Participants will engage in small and large group discussions regarding the initiative as well.

In addition, a survey will be sent to families in late January as another opportunity to share feedback about the Transformational Technology initiative. Please feel free to contact Director of Administrative Services Matt Hillmann (507.645.3458 or matt.hillmann@nfld.k12.mn.us) with any questions about the meetings or the Transformational Technology Initiative.

iOS 7 – update away!

We had asked that students hold off on updating their school iPads to iOS 7. At this point, students can feel free to update their iPads to Apple’s latest operating system.

Students do not have to update their iPads if they do not want to do so. We just want you to know it is acceptable to do so at this point.

You can download a PDF ‘cheat sheet’ to help you with the update process, We recommend you review the document before updating as it contains good information about what to expect for the update. Thanks to Middle School Workstation Specialist Sandy Fjelde for creating the document. Again, you do not need to complete the update at this point. We recommend you make sure you have your Notability files backed up using Google Drive and/or iCloud before completing any updates.

Some students iPads may have already downloaded a copy but did not install it. If you receive a ‘verification’ error, turn the iPad off and on in order to download the latest version of iOS 7 (7.02).

As always, please feel free to contact Director of Administrative Services Matt Hillmann at  matt.hillmann@nfld.k12.mn.us or (507) 645-3458 with any questions about the Transformational Technology initiative.

Mayor’s Youth Council ‘Wi Fi Bookmark’, Mindfulness Campaign

The Northfield Mayor’s Youth Council (MYC) has compiled a list of locations in Northfield where students can access free WiFi. You can access the ‘bookmark’ here.myc-logo-011

I had a chance to speak with members of the MYC in August. This is an outstanding group of young people dedicated to serving their peers and supporting them in any number of ways. Their excitement about the Transformational Technology initiative has been channeled into ensuring responsible and balanced use of technology by teens. Take a moment to read the very thoughtful op-ed piece in the Northfield News by Scout Gregerson and see what I mean!

Way to go MYC!

 

iOS 7 update — hold off for now!

Apple will make the latest operating system for iPads (iOS 7) available for download sometime later tonight or tomorrow (the scheduled release date is September 18.) At this time, the District requests that students do not update their school issued iPads yet. Just tap ‘Close’ if you are prompted to update. images

While Middle School students cannot update or install their own apps, it is probable they still might be prompted by the iPad’s software update feature to upgrade. We don’t want students and parents to be confused by this message.

It looks like iOS 7 has some great tools that we will want to begin using — but we want to ensure that all apps students use on a daily basis are updated and working properly before we move to iOS 7.

We’ll provide instructions for updating at an appropriate time in the near future. As always, if you have questions about the Transformational Technology initiative, please contact Director of Administrative Services Matt Hillmann at matt.hillmann@nfld.k12.mn.us or (507) 645-3458.

Two weeks in…

We have completed two weeks of our Transformational Technology initiative with 6th-12th grade students having their own iPads for use every day at school…and we’re still upright!

I have described this process as clearing a series of hurdles — as soon as one is cleared, there is another that shows up pretty quickly. So far, we have been able to clear almost every hurdle that has been placed in front of us.

Our hurdles have included issues that have required tweaks to our wireless networks. The good photonews here is that the Xirrus system we have in place has tremendous flexibility and that has enabled our network manager to make necessary adjustments to improve service in some areas at the High School. We still have some additional improvements to make, but our overall infrastructure plan is working well.

We struggled downloading three of the digital textbooks we are using — the common theme here was the fact that these books were behemoths — two of them over 2 GB! We learned a lot in this process and I believe as of last Friday, all students had their textbooks downloaded. We have several other digital books that were a breeze to implement immediately — these books tended to be broken down for download by chapter, making it much more manageable for students to download quickly.

Our final most common issue was a normal one for the beginning of the school year — helping students with logins and passwords. We assisted many students with this right away during the first days and most have it down now. It was a great opportunity to show students that simple things – like transposing letters in your user name – can prevent you from accessing your accounts!

However, here is the good news with these problems – they provide an opportunity for us to see students problem solving skills in action. One teacher shared with me that she couldn’t believe how adaptive students were to glitches they encountered. Students often collaborated on an issue and solved it together — often before adults had even noticed it. As predicted, kids are being resourceful and solving many of their own issues as they arise.

Students are interacting with digital material – downloading assignments, annotating them, and submitting them to their teachers digitally through Schoology. They are taking notes using Notability. They are using the web to research topics right in class — without having to travel to computers labs (when they were available!) Some teachers are experimenting with online quizzing and testing in order to retrieve assessment data quickly. We have many staff have made a sprint for the ‘redefinition’ level of the SAMR model right away. While I am sure these staff probably feel they take a few steps forward and a step back, they are making great progress. We are modeling for students that it is acceptable to take risk, to encounter challenges, and to continue to push forward. I have been so proud of how so many teachers have moved forward with such gusto.

We are making good progress both in the implementation of the devices and their academic use. Our students and teachers are transitioning well. That doesn’t mean we haven’t had problems or issues (as noted above) but we are moving forward on a daily basis.

As always, if you have questions about the Transformational Technology initiative, please contact Director of Administrative Services Matt Hillmann at matt.hillmann@nfld.k12.mn.us or (507) 645-3458.

 

What apps has the District distributed?

Using our Mobile Device Management (MDM) system, we have been able to send several apps to students iPads over the past couple of weeks. Below are the apps we’ve sent to Northfield High School students to this point:

  • Destiny Questapps - HS
  • Follett Digital Reader
  • Google Drive
  • Haiku Deck
  • iBooks
  • iMovie
  • Notability
  • Overdrive
  • Pearson eText
  • Scan – QR Code Reader
  • Schoology
  • ShowMe Interactive Whiteboard

Our Middle School students have access to:

  • Google Drivemiddleschool
  • iBooks
  • Learn French
  • Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  • Notability
  • Overdrive
  • Quizlet
  • Skyward Mobile App
  • Schoology
  • Scan – QR Code Reader
  • Science Friday
  • Student Clicker (Socrative)

At this point, we’ve only purchased two apps: Notability and iMovie. We have purchased iMovie for Middle School students as well. However, we had some difficulty ‘pushing’ this app to Middle School students due to its large size. In fact, some of you may see an iMovie app icon on your Middle School iPad that didn’t complete the installation process. We’re working with our vendor to develop a resolution to this problem.

We anticipate adding many additional apps as the school year begins.

Remember, tap ‘Install’ when you see a prompt from our servers, signified by ‘lsmdm.com’ similar to the screen shot below.

lsmdm.com

Northfield High School students will need to enter their Apple ID user name and password after tapping ‘Install.’ Northfield Middle School students do not have to enter a password since they are restricted from downloading their own apps.

If you click ‘Cancel’, do not worry! The MDM will check every so often to see if you have the apps provided by the District and prompt you again.

If you have questions about apps, installing them, or other TransTech related items, please feel free to contact Director of Administrative Services Matt Hillmann at (507) 645-3458 or matt.hillmann@nfld.k12.mn.us.

A good start…for now!

The District was very pleased with the distribution process that provided more than 2,000 iPad tablet computers to students since August 15th. We had many, many positive comments about how smooth and efficient sessions ran and how surprised parents were that the entire process was completed in one hour or less.photo

Frankly, we had no idea what to expect. Months of planning and diligent analysis turned out to pay dividends. In retrospect, here are a few of the smarter things we did:

  • Decided to pre-configure all student iPads rather than having families configure them at the orientation/distribution events. We had initially thought this would be a neat part of the event and would be efficient. However, after further discussions with several individuals knowledgeable about the variety of ‘rollout’ strategies that have been used, we made the wise decision to complete that for families ahead of time. Technicians Cindy Samuelson, Sandy Fjelde, and Bruce Dybvik completed this pre-configuration with great skill and diligence.
  • Held a ‘practice’ distribution a couple of days prior to our first big events on August 15th. This session, involving 99 students — most of whom were children of District staff members, showed us where the ‘choke’ points in the process could be. Again, it made a significant difference.
  • Set up our new credit card provider so that families could complete the insurance fee online. This helped move the process along for all involved. Director of Finance Val Mertesdorf was at every distribution event to ensure families were successful with the process and fielded many calls in helping with the new system. This will pay dividends to all families who will be using the system to make deposits into their student lunch accounts.
  • Had plenty of volunteers to assist with assembling the Griffin Survivor cases. The cases are certainly robust. However, the assembly can be challenging. We had dozens of volunteers — including teachers, parents, educational assistants, board members, and administrators. Even our Superintendent, Chris Richardson, assisted with the cases. He became our ‘go to’ when it came to training new volunteers how to assemble them.
  • Using the expertise of our Media Specialists. Our secondary Media Specialists Rebecca Glassing (High School) and Amy Sieve (Middle School) are experts at many things, including tracking a large number of materials. We added all iPads to our library management system, so they are checked out to students just like any book. They did an excellent job with this part of the process.

Another decision that proved wise was beginning the distribution process prior to school starting. The District has been planning the infrastructure changes to support the mass inclusion of mobile devices for more than a year, beginning with our wireless infrastructure upgrade last summer. In addition, as we significantly increased our Internet capacity (bandwidth) and our main network (‘head end’) equipment. We noticed a few issues following students receiving their devices and were able to make some changes and software patches that cleared them up. Most of these issues have probably gone unnoticed by students, but we know that they are making a significant difference.

There have also been some learning experiences that have been more noticeable. In order for the District to utilize our content filtering system when students are outside the school walls, we need to use a global proxy server. This means that all iPads, no matter where they are connected to the Internet, travel back through the school network. We have had a few issues with the proxy server that governs that traffic. The most noticeable was an outage that lasted for about 10 minutes during our Middle School parent open house event. This was pretty poor timing! We believe that outage had to do with my ‘pushing’ of an extremely large app to Middle School students a few hours before. Most of the 10 minute outage was technology staff walking to the Media Center to restart the proxy service. We’re going to be more judicious in ‘pushing’ our largest apps. We have also found what we think are patterns in what has crashed the proxy server and shared those instances with our vendor. Nate Knutson, our Network Manager, has been excellent in keeping close tabs on a handful of data points we believe can inform us about the execution of the network planning.

On balance, we have felt successful. However, that success is fleeting in our minds. While we believe we have appropriately developed an executed a quality plan, every day is a new challenge. As staff and students get to the real work associated with this initiative — the customization of teaching and learning — there will be new boundaries that we cross, additional learning experiences, and possibly even some ‘disasters’. These boundaries and challenges will come in many forms — technical, curricular, pedagogical, and human. We will continue to work hard in addressing issues in the most expedient manner possible. The truth is that the possibilities far outweigh the challenges. We are already seeing doors that weren’t open to us educationally before. It truly has been exhilarating!

What if I don’t have my iPad yet?

While the District has distributed more than 2,000 iPad tablet computers to students since August 15th, there are some students who have not had an opportunity to secure one yet.

For High School students, 9th Graders will be able to check their iPad out on the first day of school during the LINK activity. 10th-12th graders can attend a distribution orientation and distribution session at 10:30 am in the Media Center.

Middle School students can stop into the Guidance Office to complete the checkout process.

As always, feel free to contact Director of Administrative Services Matt Hillmann with any questions (matt.hillmann@nfld.k12.mn.us or (507) 645-3458).

Middle School distribution sessions begin today

Our Transformational Technology orientation and distribution events begin today for 6th-8th Grade students at Northfield Middle School. You can view more about the schedule by clicking here. Here are some key components for today:

  • The orientation is your first stop. This presentation will be held in the auditorium, every hour on the hour, beginning at 12 pm. The last orientation session will start at 6 pm. Unfortunately, due to the volume of people coming through at the distribution sessions, we won’t be able to take questions at the end. You can either connect personally with a school administrator after the orientation or submit your question online for a response.
  • After the orientation, you will proceed to pay the iPad insurance fee (you can skip this step if you have paid your insurance fee online and bring the printed receipt.)
  • After paying the insurance fee, you can move to the Media Center to check out your iPad. You’ll receive your iPad in a cardboard box. We ask that you write your name and grade on the box and hand it to one of our volunteers after it is checked out. This is to assist with our record keeping process.
  • After checking out your iPad and giving your box back to one of of our volunteers, you’ll proceed to the cafeteria to collect and assemble your case, the Griffin Survivor. This is the most difficult part of the process, but worth it for the protection the case provides.
  • You can leave the Middle School after one of our volunteers has checked that the case is properly installed.

There are a few apps already installed on Middle School iPads:

  • Calculator
  • Google Drive – this apps allows students to connect with their Google Apps account for word processing and spreadsheet work.
  • iBooks – this app will allow students to read PDF files and other books provided by the school
  • Notability – the standard note taking app that the District has purchased for students.
  • Schoology – this app is the learning management system that students will use.
  • Skyward – an app that allows students to connect with Family Access to check their schedules (when available), grades, etc.

Other apps will be delivered wirelessly to students later this week and next week.

Again, please make sure to take time to read the iPad Loan Agreement. This is important for understanding your opportunities and responsibilities!

Orientation/distribution sessions begin today

Our Transformational Technology orientation and distribution events begin today for 9th-12th Grade students at Northfield High School. Here are some key components for today:

  • The orientation is your first stop. This presentation will be held in the auditorium, every hour on the hour, beginning at 9 am. Unfortunately, due to the volume of people coming through at the distribution sessions, we won’t be able to take questions at the end. You can either connect personally with a school administrator after the orientation or submit your question online for a response.
  • After the orientation, you will proceed to pay the iPad insurance fee (you can skip this step if you have paid your insurance fee online and bring the printed receipt.)
  • After paying the insurance fee, you can move to the Media Center to check out your iPad. You’ll receive your iPad in a cardboard box. We ask that you write your name on the box and hand it to one of our volunteers after it is checked out. This is to assist with our record keeping process.
  • After checking out your iPad and giving your box back to one of of our volunteers, you’ll collect and assemble your case, the Griffin Survivor. This is the most difficult part of the process, but worth it for the protection the case provides.
  • You can leave the media center after one of our volunteers has checked that the case is properly installed.

You’ll notice that there aren’t many apps installed on your iPad yet. We’ll begin delivering apps wirelessly to High School iPads early next week. High School students should tie their iPad to an Apple ID in order to customize their learning experience and as a method to redeem paid books and apps the school provides.

Again, please make sure to take time to read the iPad Loan Agreement. This is important for understanding your opportunities and responsibilities!