Archive for the ‘COMPLETED’ Category

Tier 1 Group 2006 Recap

June 14, 2006

We've just wrapped up the 2005-06 school year.  This year saw the Tier 1 starting to gel as a more cohesive group.  The computer system upgrade over the last year required us all to work together on a common project, and work toward common computer standards for all of our users.  Tier 1s began to meet as a group to 1) work on our PLC project 2) discuss IT needs in the district 3) learn about web development with the District's new Accrisoft software.  I'm sure next year will see more opportunities for Tier 1s to work together as a team.

Advertisements

Web Filter Requests — A Story

April 28, 2006

We need some way to quickly process requests to have our web filter adjusted.  These can be requests to block or unblock sites.  Often the requester needs a response quickly — ideally within a day.  But blocking and unblocking can have unintented consequences, affecting other people who were depending on the site whose status is changing.  Because of these potential unintended consequences we have set up a committee to review these requests, and given them one week to make a decision on each request.  However, one week is far too slow from most requesters point of view.  What is needed is a faster way for committee members to review requests and vote up or down.

Here is how it could work.  The goal is to get a resolution, either approve or deny, within one work day of the request.

  1. the request is mailed to the filter committee mail list 
  2. committee members have one work day to review the request and vote either up or down.
  3. any committee member who does not resond within 24 hours forfeits their vote.
  4. committee members who do vote have must work out their differences and arrive at some consensus via email discussion about what course of action to take.
  5. committe decision is communicated to filter administrator within one work day of original request. 

Completed Projects

April 20, 2006

These are projects that have been worked on and have achieved all of their goals.  Any new ideas for changes or additions will be cateloged here.  The project will move to ACTIVE status when proposed changes have been formed into clear goals and adequate resources have been found to work on the goals.

Tier 1 PLC Meeting, 4/12/06

April 12, 2006

We started by having each subgroup writing a list of what their needs were for their objective:

I) Each person must have a login – Mary and Tim Macintosh: Put an alias to each server on each desktop

Steps used to set up servers for students on Macintosh (north Vista):

  1. setup a folder on local server called "nvstudent"
  2. in that folder set up sub-folder for each student
  3. on each machine change login name to "nvstudent"
  4. put alias to "nvstudent" folder on each desktop

Steps for setting up server for PC (PCA)

  1. Netrix set up folder for students on Server
  2. Setup local account "PCAStudent" on each PC
  3. Log in as "PCAStudent"
  4. Map a drive from each PC to the student server folder

Potential problems: managing accounts/folders for each student as they come and go

Variations:

  • do one folder for all students with no subfolders
  • do one folder for each subject or discipline

II) File Access on network

3 options

1 – put alias to each server on desktop – multistep

Pros:

  • easy, we can do it now

Cons:

  • need seperate alias and login for each server
  • user sees all user folders rather than their personal folder

2 – script to connect to all servers with one login – 2 step

pros:

one login for all servers

takes user directly to their personal documents folder

gives user a chance to move local files before

cons:

3 – login through active directory ahve have login script set up all server connections – 1 step

use smb: rather than afp:

issues:

what to do with large files

duplicate files

III) file access off of network

needs:

staff have to use more than one computer

options:

  • thumb drives – need to be backed up, they can fail unexpectedly
  • external hard drives
  • use local server run by local district
  • terminal services – 100 max simultanious connections

IV) no documents on hd

script to move files to server or "lost and found" folder

V) Training

develop help sheet and post it on a web server

issues:

It is hard to get staff time scheduled for computer training – all staff meetings are pretty full of other agenda items, IT is hard to get on the agenda.

Tier 1 Group, 4/5/06

April 7, 2006

We had our second Tier 1 Group meeting this past Tuesday at Vector North. Curt G, Cindy W. and Lori O. were in attendance.

We went over the current findings of what is available to make server logins easier. While it was agreed that the solution of having Macs log into the AD domain was probably the best solution, a couple drawbacks were pointed out:

1) Mac users are not accustomed to logging in with personal username and password everytime they use the computer. Changing their logins at this late in the year will be quite disruptive to many users.

2) When they do login to their own personal account, they will no longer have access to their old desktop and documents folder, where alot of their stuff is currently saved. We need some easy way for users to copy their files out of the old staff desktop and documents folders and into their personal space on the file server before we take away access to these old folders.

These are both very important points and caused me to re-consider having people log in through AD at this time. So I revisited some of the techniques described earlier and decided perhaps we could tolerate requiring people to login with their username and password to get connected to the file servers, but it would be nice if they only had to do it once for all volumes, not having to log into each volume seperately.

That definitely sounded like something AppleScript could handle so over the past few days I have put together an AppleScript to do just that. You can download it here.
Go ahead and play with it, it is fairly self-explanatory. Any documentation will have to come later.

Since Cindy and Lori are on the documentation/training part of the project, we also discussed strategies for training. The thought was that probably a simple how-to sheet that can be posted to a web server would be good enough. That will be created once we all agree upon what the final product(s) will be.

It was also pointed out that Amy Kuklock is also in our PLC so we should be sure to share notes with here. She is responsible for posting items in the blackboard system, and will also be helping Lori and Cindy out with documentation and training when we get to that point.

Other items that were discussed included:

– Compared notes on how trackit training is going. Some of use are doing real quick overviews just to get people started. Some of us are waiting for the final bugs to get worked out of trackit before we do any in-depth training.

– Compared notes on installing "Rubric Maker" software. Anyone else out there dealing with this? If so we should get together sometime to share our experiences.

– Raised the concern that one reason some staff may be reluctant to enter trouble tickets is they are not sure how the information is being used. There may be some fear that the information may get used against them in a performance review: "We see that you requested help for Microsoft Word two weeks after we did a staff training — you need to pay better attention during training sessions!" or there may be some fear that reporting problems may result in their favorite tool being taken away: "We see that you submitted 50 trouble tickets for Widget X last year, so we decided that Widget X is too expensive to maintain and we are removing it from our district."

Any sense that there may be negative consequences for submitting trouble tickets will probably result in people submitting fewer trouble tickets, which does not do anyone any good. Perhaps we need some way to clarify for people what trouble ticket data is being used for.

Welcome to Web 2.0

April 6, 2006

Well, the cat is out of the bag. The popular media is now raving about "Web 2.0". Check out Newsweek, New York Times, and Slate, among others. So we might as well talk about what Web 2.0 is.

There are hundreds of definitions for Web 2.0 floating around as people try to put all of the new tools and trends into a simple definition, but I think the most concise way to define it is: "Web 2.0 is a user-centered internet". While Web 1.0 was about users pulling data from huge data sources, such as CNN, NYTimes, and even Google, Web 2.0 is about users getting data from users. In Web 1.0 we had content providers and users, in Web 2.0 there are only users. The users provide the content to themselves.

The types of tools that are making this happen include blogs, wikis, bookmark sharing, and social networking sites. These provide easy tools for anyone to easily provide web content in a well-structured way.

While some people dislike the term "Web 2.0", there doesn't seem to be any other phrase that has captured this new internet dynamic.

Web 2.0 tools are even making their way into the workplace. Web 2.0 provides easy tools for workers to organize their own work, share insights with, and gain feedback from their colleagues. In fact, 287's own Troy Kruger has his own blog about Assistive Technology at http://techbytroy.blogspot.com. So I think you'll be seing much more of Web 2.0 soon!

DVD to powerpoint

April 5, 2006

Today I completed a project to rip a home movie from a DVD and incorporate it into a PowerPoint presentation. It was an interesting process to get the right collection of software that allows you to copy the DVD into an editable format — it seems many mainstream movie products block this feature out of concern of illegally copying Hollyword movies. But this DVD was a home-made disk of home movies — perfectly legal to copy. Still, I had to jump through a few hoops to get it done. Finally got it into quicktime format, edited it, and got it into powerpoint.

The tools I ended up using included Mac the Ripper and ffmpegX

The whole process reminded me how nit-picky movie editing can get, you can spend days and days on it if you want it to be just perfect. At some point you have to say it is "good enough" and just be done with it.

The teacher seems very happy with the results — he'll use it in a parent conference in a few weeks and thinks the parents will be very impressed.

Tier 1 Group, 4/4/06

April 4, 2006

Fritz and I had a productive meeting yesterday. Here is what we found out:

  • We tried out a few of the possible solutions to our Mac Login need. All of the solutions I listed earlier seem to require the user to log in twice — once to login to the computer and again to login to the file share. One of the main goals of our project is to require only one user login, so this was not looking good.
  • Fortunately, we did discover than when you bind a Macintosh to an Active Directory domain, the AD implementation on the Mac seems to do an okay job of trying to mount the shares that are defined on the Windows Server side. For example, if I bind my Mac to the district287.org domain and log in as cwgriesel, I get immediate access to the USERS share on the district file server, with no other login required. This is good!
  • Also, we discovered that if you connect to a server using the smb/cifs protocol rather than afp, the connection handles long file names better. For example, rather than connecting to 10.1.1.2, connect to smb://10.1.1.2. You won't get those annoying "long filename" errors when you copy files anymore.

The only problem is when a person logs in they are given access to the entire USERS folder, which contains nine-hundred odd user folders, only one of which is theirs. The mac will eventually hide all the folders they don't have access to, but this takes forever. To really make this thing useful, in addition to having the USERS volume mounted, we really need a shortcut to the user's specific user folder on the desktop.

So the task at hand is to find a way to automatically create a shortcut to the person's own user folder as well as any other shares they have permission to use. These shortcuts (aliases) should be automatically created when the user logs in.

And while we're at it, we might want to consider a few needs that may come up after a person logs in. For example:

  • if a person sits down at a computer that is already logged in, how do they know who is logged in? They can click on the apple menu and look at the last line, but it might be nice if there were some message on the screen about who is currently logged in.
  • is there something we can do when a person logs out that will help prompt them to move their files to the server rather than keeping them on the local computer? Maybe a prompt that reminds them to move their files, or maybe a script that moves them automatically, similar to the way a Windows machine will sych a user when they log out.

How to handle these needs may be something to discuss at our second meeting tonight, for those who want to attend.

Also, having people log in through AD will only work with staff. Mary has done some work with setting up a student file server at Lincoln school. It would be good to get more details about how that is working for her. We may have to tackle the staff login issue first and then work on a solution that will work for students.

Other topics that came up at our meeting yesterday were

1) The need for better meeting notes when we meet with the IT department. It seemed we are always trying to remember details about what was talked about and either couldn't remember or came up with different memories about what was said. We'll try to make a better effort of posting our IT meeting notes next time.

2) The observation that there is lots and lots of critical data floating around on random databases, spreadsheets and scraps of paper. This results in much duplication of effort — people creating duplicate student lists, people creating duplicates of duplicate student lists, attendance being taken twice by two different people, etc. All this duplicate effort cuts into people's productivity from day to day, not to mention the security and accuracy problems when information is floating around in so many different places. We talked about the various databases that people are currently using and thought out loud that there needs to be some way to tie them all together to make sure the information is accurate, secure, more easily shared, and to reduce the amount of duplicate reporting work that now takes place every day. No specific solutions were formed but a few ideas were tossed around. This is an important topic that needs to be addressed sometime.

Our second meeting is today at Vector North at 2:30. Please attend if it fits into your schedule. We can make more progress on our PLC project and discuss any other needs you may have.

Using blogs to keep users informed

April 3, 2006

I've been trying to find a way to keep people informed of the work I am doing. For now the "wordpress" blog tool seems to fill the need. With it, I can

  • Inform people of long-term projects I am working on by sorting them into categories.
  • Publish my "schooldude" workorders using a TaDa list.
  • Keep people informed of relevant bookmarks by using a del.icio.us RSS.

If I want to, I can publish a daily post of my daily schedule, but I don't know if that much detail makes sense yet.

Things I hope to add include a "tip of the day" category, but I might wait to see how much that overlaps with our new TrackIT knowledge base.

For now, it seems to be working pretty well.