FDCSD Tech Blog - Fort Dodge Community School District - Fort Dodge Iowa

FDCSD Tech Blog

All things in and around the Dodger IT Department!  Feel free to use the "RSS Feed" or "Subscribe by E-mail" links below to be notified about updates to our blog.

If you've got something you'd like to hear about, email me at jpearson@fdschools.org!

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2015 Summer IT Projects

Posted on 05/19/2015 at 4:31 PM

May seems to be the calm before the storm here in the IT department.  We have most of our summer projects planned, and equipment ordered.  We just have to wait until summer break starts and then we jump in with both feet.  I wanted to give everyone a summary of what our plans for the summer are around the district.

Our major project that every district employee will notice is our email conversion to Google.  Our current email software is 5 years old, and starting to not function inside of the newest web browsers.  All of our nearly 700 mailboxes will be converted to Gmail starting in June.  The conversion process will happen over the whole month of June, yet most users will have no idea it is happening.  All messages, contacts and calendar items will be converted into the Gmail system.  Once the conversion is done, our email addresses will use @fdschools.org instead of the old @fort-dodge.k12.ia.us.  We are planning on allowing both email domains to work, but the @fdschools.org will be the main address.  This also means the program Outlook will be going away and staff will need to use the web version of Outlook to access their email.  Everyone will be using the web interface.  Our list serves will be converted to google groups, so those addresses will change as well.  Staff who sync their phones with their email accounts, will need to reconfigure that as well.  I will do my best to keep everyone informed as this change happens, so please stay tuned.  It will take a little getting used to, but will be a great thing once we are all converted over and get going in the Gmail system.

Over 500 Chromebooks and 100 tablets have been approved and purchased for installation over the summer.  Almost all of those devices are a part of accepted technology proposals that were approved.  We are also upgrading two computer labs because of new system requirements for Project Lead The Way.  Delivery should take place in the next couple of weeks, and installation will be complete by the time those teachers return to their classrooms in the fall.

We do have a couple of wiring projects that need to be completed.  We have started to rewire Central Office.  The wire has been pulled and just needs to be completed.  We are also upgrading all of the wireless equipment at Fort Dodge Senior High.  About half of that equipment has been installed, and the other half needs to have wire pulled to new locations in the building.  We will be working with the Maintenance Department to make sure we get our wire concealed as much as possible.  It's always a challenge to pull wire in some of our older buildings.  Luckily our Maintenance Department knows all of the tricks and is always willing to lend a hand.  We couldn't do these projects without them.

And, to go with all of these projects, any work orders for miscellaneous repairs and installations that are turned in before the end of the school year will be tackled as well.  This school year the IT department has worked on over 1100 work orders.  Most of those were looked at within 24 hours of being entered into the system.  Our goal is the get to work orders the same day they are entered.  That happens a lot of the time, but we are always striving to do better.  We are asking staff who know of anything that isn't working, or needs to be looked at, to please submit a work order before summer vacation.  Once August rolls around, we are always behind and what would normally be looked at the same day, takes two or three days to get to.  We'd love to have the summer to get your tech issues resolved.

That's most everything we are aware of right now.  Things always pop up throughout the summer, and we will get those addressed when they do.  That why we love our jobs.  Staff should make sure you check your email over the summer to keep up on our many changes.  Should you have any questions, you know where to find us!  Enjoy your summer!

District-wide printing and copying...

Posted on 12/02/2014 at 1:16 PM

Brandon Hansel and I have been working on a request for proposal (RFP) for the district's printing and copying contracts for about a year now.  We currently have three different vendors in the district providing equipment and services:

  • Marco (fomerly Fort Dodge Business Systems) provides and services the 20 district copy machines.
  • Access Systems services all of the 105 printers in the district.
  • Premiere (Xerox appointed) provides and services the big copy machine in the district copy center.


Our new RFP will roll these three different contracts into 1 big contract.  Our goal is to have one vendor provide the equipment, do the service, provide the supplies and be a single contact point for the district for all three of these areas.  This is a big contract, and carries significant dollars with it.  These three contracts cost the district almost $125,000 per year, and that doesn't yet include the paper that these devices use!  We've had several vendors walk through the entire district to look at our current environment, and make suggestions for how to make us more efficient, yet provide cost savings to the district.  Here's a highlight of what we will be asking for in our RFP:

  • New devices across the district, including both copy machines and printers.
  • A change from copier codes, to swiping your id badge for using the copiers.  This will allow for less waste and allow for better confidentiality of your printing to those devices.
  • Some devices will be relocated in the buildings to maximize efficiency but still provide access to everyone.
  • Some existing devices will be consolidated into a larger, more efficient device in the same, general area.
  • A new web submission tool to electronically submit jobs to the copy center, that can be electronically routed for approval and allow tracking of where the job is at in the process.


We are slated to open the RFP's on December 12th.  From there, Brandon and I will evaluate the bids and select the "best value vendor."  That vendor will then be required to provide some demo equipment for the district to test for 30 days.  We are currently planning to take a recommendation to the Board of Education on February 9th, 2015.  Should all go as planned, new equipment will start being installed and delivered the week of March 16th.

Print usage and volume was a key factor in creating this RFP.  Some of the numbers are pretty amazing, so I wanted to share those with you.  Here is a breakdown of all printing in the district, since July 1, 2014.

  Building Color Laser Building B&W Laser Building Total Laser Building Copy Machines District Copy Center Total Pages
Butler Elementary 8,230 56,067 64,297 346,946 161,957 573,218
Cooper Elementary 881 35,897 36,778 200,469 132,653 369,900
Duncombe Elementary 6,790 55,762 62,552 231,089 164,334 457,975
Feelhaver Elementary 4,089 31,507 35,596 184,727 69,861 290,184
Riverside Early Learning Center 4,559 31,528 36,087 102,138 94,570 232,795
             
Fort Dodge Middle School 649 126,925 127,574 366,486 380,927 874,987
             
Fort Dodge Senior High 5,339 206,921 212,260 1,251,396 127,672 1,591,328
             
Central Administration 1,133 88,336 89,469 242,301 340,998 672,768
             
Totals 31,670 632,943 664,613 2,925,570 1,472,972 5,063,155
             

As we move forward, we will begin to working with buildings to shift volumes to different locations.  As you look at the cost to print at each of these locations, copies made at the copy center are by far the most affordable.  Next would be the larger copy machines, followed by b&w laser.  Obviously the most expensive page to print is color.  As we walked through the buildings, thoughts on the District's expectations of people to use the Copy Center were different, so that is something that we, as administrators, need to communicate better.  It will take EVERYONE, students and staff, to help keep printing and copying both manageable and affordable.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, so let me know!  Otherwise, stay warm out there, and have a great holiday season!

Mrs. Reisner's 2nd Grade Tablets

Posted on 11/13/2014 at 12:31 PM

Late last year, the FDCSD Board of Education increased our allotment of Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) dollars for technology.  With these new dollars, I worked with Stacey Cole, our Director of Educational Services, on how to best get these into the hands of students and teachers who would make the most of them.  While these additional dollars were a great addition, it was not enough money to solve all of our device access issues at one time.  In order to find the best use for these dollars, we created a "technology proposal" project in which groups of teachers could apply to receive new devices from these funds.  We had 29 proposals submitted that included 52 teachers.  Along with Stacey and myself, we took advantage of Aaron Schmidt and Kirsten Doebel, our new technology integration coordinators, to score and award the proposals.  We were able to fund 12 proposals that included 30 teachers.  

Mrs. Reisner is a 2nd grade teacher at Butler Elementary.  She received 15 android tablets to be used in her classroom.  The tablets have been in her classroom for two months now, and she has always allowed me to sneak in to check on how things are going.  She was kind enough to share this information below with me, to celebrate a great success we've had.

What are your top apps used in your classroom?

Cal Master Free is one of the best mathematic, logic puzzles and mind games available! It is a great brain exercise, Cal Master, IQ test, logic games, mental workout, brain puzzle, mathematics game, brain teaser, educational puzzle, party game, game for adults, game for children and family game. If you love to play card games, or tile games like scrabble, mahjong, dominoes; or strategy games like checkers and chess, you will love to play this fun math puzzle game.

 
Whack A Sum has been developed for children of primary schools but it's also fun if you're a bit older. It has four categories of exercises:
- Addition and subtraction (normal)
- Addition and subtraction (hard)
- Multiplication (normal)
- Multiplication (hard)

 
A Way With Words, the REVERSE Word Search Game” takes that oh-so-familiar puzzle and turns it all backwards. You don’t find words, you create them - forwards and backwards, vertically, horizontally and diagonally - all while using only one letter! Create words with(in) words, words that are different words spelled backwards or words in multiple directions and see your points pile up.

 
In CrazyMachines GoldenGears Lite "Rube Goldberg" style puzzle game, experiment and build your wacky contraptions with physics action like never before on the mobile platform! Dazzling visuals of explosives, fire, and true to life physics behavior when you put the experiment into motion!


 
Google Earth enables you to explore the globe with a swipe of your finger.
* Fly through 3D cities like London, Tokyo and Rome
* Dive in to view the world at street level with integrated Street View
* Use the Tour Guide to discover exciting new places to explore
* Browse layers like Wikipedia or Photos to learn more about a place
* Visit the Maps Gallery to find interesting maps, e.g. plot real-time earthquakes, planes in flight, view hiking trails and more
 

You have more kids in your classroom than you have tablets, how do you possibly make that work?
Sometimes the students have a partner, and at the most there are two students working on one tablet.  I partner them by ability, sometimes high and low.  It's amazing how they learn together!

How much money have you spent on apps so far?
I've only used the free apps so far, and they're working!   A couple times one or two tablets are slower, but no biggie!  They move to work with someone else on their own.

How the tablets are making a difference in your classroom?
The students LOVED researching our spider unit on the tablets!   They love to video themselves reading too, listening to fluency!

Mrs. Reisner has been great in dealing with these new pieces of technology, and her kids really enjoy using them.  Contact Mrs. Reisner should you have any specific questions for her.  Otherwise, please use the comments below for general questions.

 
To all of our Dodger teachers, please contact me with any technology success stories you've been having in your classroom, so we can highlight those things going on around the district!  Also, if there are other things regarding technology you'd like to hear about, just let me know.  I'll write about anything you'd like to hear about, just let me know!  Contact me directly!
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