On April 4 & 5, 2017, the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) hosted the Spring Network Designs and TSS Workshop at the High Technology Foundation in Fairmont, WV. The agenda for the event covered some great topics from Blended Learning, Office 365, wireless network innovations, URCast, Azure & Windows Security, Meraki, Apple, and ethics & data privacy.
Edgenuity provided an overview of blended learning and the impact it can have on a classroom. They discussed the shift happening in education and how that our classrooms are beginning to look very different from the past. That teachers need to be ready to plan for these changes or the success of themselves and their classroom will be harmed tremendously. They pressed the idea that blended learning IS NOT every student on a computer or piece of technology all of the time. That blended learning is a variety of items, lessons, materials, and technologies to differentiate learning for every student so that they can have their own personalized success. They also offered up a great planning guide for teachers to help them in preparing their classroom for this new blended learning approach.
Marty Smith from Microsoft shared some new things happening with Office 365, Azure, and Windows Security. He began on day one by demonstrating new functionality available in Office 2016 (Taps and Icons in Word; Auto-Save in Office Suite; “Shared with Me” opening in the Office Suite; Find Time and @Mentions in Outlook; Click-to-Run vs. .MSI Install; Stickers in OneNote Class Notebook; etc.) Teams from Microsoft (similar to slack) was shown off and is now available to education tenants in Office 365 and looks to be a great product that can help with workloads and management in day-to-day work for schools and districts. On day two he covered some great material directed towards IT professionals. Ignite is taking place in Australia this fall but all the sessions will be posted online the day after the conference ends. He also talked about the Microsoft Rewards for using Bing (search engine) and Edge (new default browser in Windows 10). Marty talked about SharePoint and how that it can used in a lot of ways in education for organization and management (including PowerApps and Flow). One of the biggest point in day two was the Creator’s Update for Windows 10 that releases on April 14, 2017. The Creator’s Update features 3D, Mixed Reality (VR & AR), MyPeople taskbar collaboration, gaming features, and boosted security items. The Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack provides tools to virtualize (App-V, UE-V, and MED-V), manage (MBAM and AGPM), and restore (DaRT) that makes workflows work better in the IT environment.
On day one, Cisco presented on the new innovations of their Wireless AC Wave 2 Access Points. They outlined changes to their hardware that optimizes their access points for the best deployment at the enterprise level. For example, a two-radio access point from Cisco now uses a single processor and system memory for each of it’s radio so that they operate independently of each other to balance traffic and loads most effectively. They also discussed their cloud based product CMX Cloud and Mobility Express and how they can be used to make best use of their technology in enterprise deployments. Day two featured Cisco talking about their cloud-based networking products (Meraki) that will handle the entire infrastructure in an IT environment. Products that can be placed into this cloud-based system include wireless access points, voip telephones, ip security cameras, switches, security appliances, and anything else that Cisco produces for an IT environment. Everything is managed through the web-based management site making it easier to manage your infrastructure from anywhere at anytime. Cisco also spent time reviewing their new security camera products and demoed them for the conference.
Booker T. Walton III, Data Center Manager for WVNET in Morgantown, spoke to the audience about a product that WVNET is helping to implement in WV Schools called URCast. In presenting this product, he outlined some tremendous statistics to show why a product like this could be needed and an improvement to our students’ success. Here are those statistics:
- Homework Gap
- 50% of all students said they have been unable to complete their homework because they didn’t have access to the Internet or a computer
- 42% of all students said they received a lower grade on an assignment because they didn’t have Internet access
- 50% of teachers in low-income areas said their students’ lack of online access at home presents major challenges to working technology into their teaching
- 92% of these teachers say the Internet has a “major impact” on their ability to access content, resources, and materials for their teaching
- 68% say the Internet has a “major impact” on their ability to share ideas with other teachers
- 67% say the Internet has a “major impact” on their ability to interact with parents
- 57% say is has had such an impact on enabling their interaction with students
- West Virginia Broadband
- 57% of West Virginia’s population have access to wired broadband
- 28% of West Virginia’s population have access to less than two wired providers
URCast enables content to be delivered through caching servers at local sites. This negates the need for the students to need an internet connection at home to access the content, materials, and assignments. When the student returns back to the school, their work syncs automatically back to the caching server for the teacher to access. The big goal is to diminish the digital divide that exists for many students due to their lack of access to the internet or the ability to afford that access.
Mike Boylan, Senior Systems Engineer for Apple, presented on some of the updates and upcoming items from his company in relation to education. Mike reviewed new devices and products from Apple, like the new iPad (5th Generation). Software updates for MacOS, iOS, and tvOS were discussed and their impact on education. Classroom 2.0 was demoed to show how much easier it is for teachers to use in their classroom with and MDM or an Apple School Manager setup. Apple TV deployments have been re-structured with tvOS 2.0 by enabling full MDM deployment, control, and Zero Touch setup. MacOS also has new restrictions available through MDM managment (disable TouchID for example). iOS restrictions have been updated as well, such as Wi-Fi Network whitelisting, update without needing the passcode, and restart or shut-down a device. Apple Configurator now allows for documents to be inserted into the iBooks and other apps. There are also various updates to Pages, Keynote, Numbers, and other apps produced by Apple. Apple also has created some great documentation for getting started with the new updates and software that are available online.
James Agee, the Investigator for WVDE, spoke on the idea of Ethics and Mandatory Reporting. He highlighted the mandatory reporting laws of the state of WV (§ 49-2-801, 49-2-803, and others) including who is responsible for reporting and what would be required to be reported. This has a huge implication for those working in IT because they could encounter evidence in our work of crimes that meet into this criteria.
Georgia Hughes-Webb and Jeff Pitchford from the WVDE Office of Research, Accountability, and Data Governance discussed the importance of respecting and protecting education data by maintaining security and privacy through responsible access and use. They discussed the various types of data that may be encountered in the daily operations of education. They highlighted what would be considered best practices in handling the access of this information for what users are authorized to see. They also outlined what would be the best practice if you encounter data that you would not be authorized to see. They covered the laws, policies, and standards governing the various data accessible to individuals in education and what impact and consequences can come from not following those. The overall impression from their presentation was that we have to be extremely careful in how we access, share, and handle this data because of the legal and ethical standards we are held to in the field of education.