2002-2003 AATE Meeting Archives

May 2003 - Trinity School

The discussion of the May 2003 AATE meeting at Trinity School focussed on the issue of integrating a school's library with its technology department.

The degree of integration between media and technology departments varied from school to school. Some schools totally integrated their media and technology departments. In these schools, the librarians and technology specialists worked in a single department, and their job duties often overlapped (i.e. the librarian would be responsible for computer maintenance in addition to helping students with research). In other schools, the librarians and technology specialists were in separate departments in separate areas of the campus. In other schools, there was significant collaboration between the librarians and technology specialists even though they were in different departments.

The consensus reached was that the degree of interaction between a school's media and technology departments should be totally dependent on the what appears to work for that particular school. Factors such as the locations of the libraries and computer labs, the expertise and goals of the librarians and technology specialists, and the nature of students' projects will determine the amount of interaction between departments.

April 2003 - Mount Vernon Presbyterian School

The April 2003 AATE Meeting at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School focussed on the role of MISBO as a resource that enables schools to get good deals on technology equipment and facilitates the buying process for schools. Martha Perry and Sara Ishaqui gave an overview of how MISBO works. A variety of additional topics were also discussed.

The Role of MISBO as a Purchasing Consortium
MISBO (Mid-South Independent School Business Officers) has two divisions. The first division emphasizes professional development for schools in the northeast. The second division is a purchasing consortium for Georgia and one additional neighboring state (which varies). MISBO began as a group that sold school supplies (paper, scissors, cutting equipment, etc.) to schools but has evolved into a group that helps schools in purchasing technology equipment and obtaining contracts with technology suppliers. MISBO recently added online subscription database suppliers to list of contacts.

Using MISBO as a resource can help schools in a number of ways. First, MISBO can often provide a school with a better deal than if the school had contracted with the supplier directly. Second, MISBO works through the "red tape" involved in putting together purchasing agreements, thus freeing the teacher/administrator to concentrate on other aspects of his/her job. Third, MISBO has contacts with several suppliers. If a teacher/administrator wants to buy equipment from five or six diffrent suppliers, he/she can call MISBO and put in the appropriate orders. MISBO will contact each supplier, deal with any "red tape", and provide the teacher/administrator with an excellent deal.

Suppliers that can be contacted through MISBO include:
  • CDW-G
  • Micro Warehouse
  • Hewlett Packard/Compaq
  • Insight Public Sector (audio-visual, hardware, software, security)
  • Polyvision
  • Tweeter Corporation (for TV's)
  • Smarter Kids' Foundation
  • Winnebago

Note to Apple users: Although MISBO has not had much contact with Apple in the past, they can work out a plan with you if you wish to but Apple equipment through MISBO.

Membership Charges: The charge for business offices is $200 per year, while the charge for Consortium membership is $200 per student per year.

Holy Innocents' Episcopal School and Galloway School both highly recommend MISBO.
For more information about MISBO, contact Martha Perry at marthaperry@westminster.net or Sara Ishaqui at saraishaqui@westminster.net.

Technology Fairs and Awards
One topic discussed was how schools awarded students' achievements in technology-based projects. Below is a summary of what some of the schools had to say:
  • Providence: Providence Christian Academy recently finished an extremely successful technology fair. Judges were selected from both inside and outside the school. Highlights of the fair are available on CD. The competition has a number of levels in different categories; the winner of one level automatically advances to the next level.
  • Lakeview: Lakeview Academy's most recent technology fair included projects involving Flash, animation, and robotics. A 12 minute video is available illustrating some of the projects. Lakeview had its technology fair immediately after school to maximize attendance by students and parents. Prizes were offered from OfficeMax and Best Buy.
  • Holy Innocents': Holy Innocents' Episcopal School will soon be offering technology awards to their students at their Honors Day.

School Web Pages and Electronic Textbooks
The discussion from the January meeting about developing and maintaining school web pages continued during the April meeting. The following resources were mentioned:
Schoolyard.com: Recommended by Marist. Schoolyard.com is a design and development company specializing in school web pages. Initial setup fee is usually between $7000 and $13000. An additional monthly maintenance fee is also required.
Macromedia Contribute: Recommended by St. Pius X. Macromedia Contribute allows teachers and coaches to edit web pages in the same way they edit a Word document. The teacher/coach can then upload the page to the school website by clicking the Publish button. The teacher/coach must have FTP access for Contribute to work.
Electronic Textbooks: Several benefits of electronic textbooks over traditional texxtbooks were mentioned:
  • Laptops are generally lighter than most textbooks. Also, students can carry multiple textbooks on a single laptop, thus lightening the physical load that the students carry home.
  • Unlike traditional textbooks, electronic textbooks can pronounce words and show animated demonstrations.
One problem that was mentioned was when teachers or students extract pieces of textbooks to create their own textbooks or distribute the pieces to others. Performing such actions violates copyright laws. It was also mentioned that several textbooks will soon be available via online subscription databases.

March 2003 - Paideia School

The March 2003 AATE Meeting at The Paideia School focussed on two items. First, members of the Paideia technology department discussed some new uses of technology that they are investigating for ease of school-wide communication and for the enhancement of educational opportunities. Second, members discussed the current use of multimedia in their schools' curricula and issues involving the integration of multimedia into the curricula.

Paideia's Use of the Palm for School Communication
Farah Jetha discussed the use of the Palm pilot as a tool for ease of communication within a school community. The key to the effectiveness of a Palm pilot is its ability to "sync", in the other words, access the output on a teacher's computer and display it on the Palm pilot.

Teachers currently have access to databases such as students' health forms, emergency release forms, attendance lists, and other non-classified records. The ability for the teachers' computer to access databases combined with the ability of the Palm to sync with the teachers' computer will be the key to more flexible communication around campus.

A coach, for example, can access an emergency form on his computer and sync the data with his Palm before a practice. Suppose one of the players gets stung by a bee during practice. He can look up the player's health form on his Palm and find out whether or not the he is allergic to bee stings. Suppose the player is allergic. He can now look up the player's emergency release form on his Palm to find out if the parents have authorized treatment. These checks can be done on the soccer field in a couple of seconds. Without the Palm, the coach would have to run to the phone and call the school office. The school office would then have to check the forms and tell the coach. Thus, the Palm can reduce the amount of time for the authorization check by several minutes.

Quickmind.net as an Integrated Education Tool
Paideia is currently investigating quickmind.net (http://www.quickmind.net) for use as a comprehensive educational tool for elementary and junior high students. Quickmind.net includes the following on their site:
  • Project Generators for activities such as web quests, scavenger hunts, and puzzles.
  • A built in word processor and web page generator that includes clip art.
  • Lessons on how to integrate commonly used applications into a curriculum.
  • References for research including local and world newspapers, museums, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and maps/globes.
  • Activities in math, science, and reading with built-in progress tracking capability.

Authentication can be established so that students at different levels have access to activities appropriate to their age level. Additional information, including subscription pricing plans, is available on the quickmind.net website (http://www.quickmind.net).
Paideia is currently seeking references of people who have used quickmind.net in their schools. Another issue being investigated is the issue of site uptime. Since web-based instructional sites can be slow (or sometimes brought offline) during heavy traffic times, Paideia wants to be sure that the site will always be up and running at a good speed at any time of day.

Multimedia in the Academic Curriculum
The second part of the March AATE meeting focussed on the emerging role of multimedia in the school curriculum. The discussion focussed on both how academic curricula (course requirements, syllabi, etc.) can be adjusted to include the use of multimedia and on new multimedia resources that are available. The following issues were discussed:

Use of Multimedia in Art Classes
With the advent of digital cameras and Adobe Photoshop, multimedia is becoming a large part of the art curricula at most schools. While "computer art" has been seen as an important tool in the art curriculum, art teachers have wanted to keep the traditional drawing, painting, and sculpture as the focus. In spite of this desire, art teachers are now becoming dependent on multimedia to enhance the traditional art experience. For example, a students can scan his drawing into a computer and use Photoshop to "figure out" how adding effects or altering the drawing will affect how it looks. He can test his work in Photoshop without "messing up" the original, then transfer his work to the original once he is satisfied with how it looks on the computer.
At Paideia, computer graphics is taught in both long term (semester long) classes and short term (month long special interest classes in January and May). In the long term, computer graphics is integrated into the regular art classes. Students come to the computer lab for two weeks to get an introduction to Photoshop, then use Photoshop to test their scanned drawings in the manner described above. In the short term, an Introduction to Photoshop class is offered. In the past two years, both the long term and short term classes have been taught by students under the supervision of a faculty member.
Those from other schools mentioned that Photoshop and other graphic arts tools are being used more widely as both part of their art curriculum and in special computer graphics classes. Many schools purchase Photoshop Elements instead of Photoshop, since it is much less expensive and has all of the features that the students need to do their work. One issue raised was whether or not schools should offer fine arts credit for computer graphics classes. The consensus among the school was that school administrations are becoming more open to this idea.

Emerging Multimedia Tools

"Silent" Musical Instruments: "Silent Musical Instruments" are musical instruments that can be plugged into a computer; the computer creates the sound when a note is played on the instrument. The computer uses MIDI technology to simulate the sound and pitch of each note. Thus, someone playing the "silent" instrument produces the same sound that he would produce if he were playing a real instrument, but the sound of the silent instrument will be clearer. The Galloway School is currently in the process of building a theater which will have technology capable of supporting silent musical instruments. For more information, contact Mark Gerl at Galloway at mgerl@gallowayschool.org.
Maya: Maya is a movie making program capable of producing professional-quality movies. Maya is more comprehensive than other movie-making programs (such as Final Cut Pro). The professional version of Maya is extremely expensive, but there is a free version which displays a watermark on every clip. Even with the watermark, the free version shows students the capabilities of the program and can be an effective teaching tool for movie making.
Apple iLife Suite: iLife is a collection of Apple products that work together seamlessly: iTunes (for importing/exporting and playing digital music), iPhoto (for importing/exporting and editing photos), iMovie (for importing/exporting and manipulating digital movies), and iDVD (for creating DVD's). For more information (including pricing), go to http://www.apple.com/ilife.

January 2003 - Marist School

The January 2003 AATE Meeting at Marist School focussed on two items. First, representatives from several schools discussed what is involved in the development of their school websites. Second, Steve Hoecker, Manager of Information Systems at Marist, discussed Marist's Sun network setup.

How Does Your School Develop Its Website?
Trinity School (http://www.trinityatl.org):
  • Trinity School is in the process of revamping its website.
  • Trinity currently uses a Windows 2000 server.
  • The major cost involved in developing the website was purchasing the server itself ($1500).

Atlanta Girls' School (http://www.atlantagirlsschool.org):
The Atlanta Girls' School site is hosted by Earthlink.
  • The site contains a virtual tour.
  • Kathy Cranmer, Director of Technology at the Atlanta Girls' School, is responsible for the final evaluation of the design and material.
  • All Athletics calendars are updated by the Athletic Director using First Class (http://www.firstclass.com).
  • All test calendars are updated by the individual teachers using First Class (http://www.firstclass.com).
  • Atlanta Girls' School is currently investigating a product called Final Site, a Web management package that offers different permission levels for different parts of a school's website.

St. Pius X Catholic High School (http://www.spx.org):
  • St. Pius subscribes to Calendar Script (http://www.calendarscript.com), which is a $50 subscription fee (one time only), CGI-based scripting tool.
  • Calendar Script allows you to set up different workgroups (i.e., teachers, coaches, parents, students) and allow different calendar privileges for each workgroup.
  • Calendar Script has an "administrator" login available which allows an administrator unlimited access to each calendar and the ability to override information put in under the other logins.
  • One can set Calendar Script to require administrative approval before something is posted.

Holy Innocents' Episcopal School (http://www.hies.org):
  • Holy Innocents' is currently in the process of revamping their website.
  • Plans for the website are to have online donation forms available by June.
  • All items requiring security (credit card numbers, accounting, etc.) are outsourced.

Pinecrest Academy (http://www.pinecrestacademy.org):
  • Pinecrest uses Share Point Team Services, an all-in-one intranet Web solution that integrates seamlessly with Office XP.
  • The only license required to use Share Point is the license required for Microsoft Office Professional.
  • Share Point enables one to convert a Word document to a webpage and post the page on the Share Point server, all with a single click.
  • A free version of Share Point comes with Microsoft Office; a more comprehensive Portal Version is available but expensive.
  • One can use Share Point to display results from surveys on the school's website.
  • One can integrate Access databases easily with the Share Point system.
  • Works well with the Microsoft's emerging dotNet technology and is an excellent Web alternative to SQL (Structured Query Language) based systems.
  • For more details on Pinecrest's use of Microsoft Share Point, contact Jason Podhorez at jpodhorez@pinecrestacademy.org.

Providence Christian Academy (http://www.providencechristianacademy.net):
  • The webmaster is responsible for all aspects regarding the school website, including content review, updating pages, and graphics.
  • Office staff update the school website from time to time; the webmaster is notified when these updates occur.
  • Teachers create and maintain pages through Nicenet, a free Web hosting service.

Sun-Based Ultra-Thin Client Setup at Marist
While Marist's campus-wide system is mostly networked PC's, Marist does expand the capabilities of its network in its library via a Sun-based ultra-thin client setup. The setup has two major parts, Sun Rays and Sun Blades.
Sun Rays: Sun Rays are ultra-thin client terminals which display a Solaris (Sun's operating system) desktop running from a main computer. Sun Rays terminals are extremely thin, require very little maintenance, can be mounted on the wall, and have card-read capability (i.e. a student's work can be saved on a card that the student plugs into the terminal; the student can move the card to another terminal and bring up the saved work). The Sun Rays setup saves Marist's 425-computer network maintenance time equivalent to 60 fewer computers.
Sun Blades: Sun Blades are computers that boot in Solaris but provide access to Windows and Linux environments. Sun Blades provides the ability to run Windows-based programs (such as Microsoft Office) on Sun computers.
For more information about the Sun setup at Marist, contact Steve Hoecker, Manager of Information Systems at Marist, at hoeckers@marist.com.

December 2002 - Atlanta Girls' School

The Atlanta Girls' School currently has 165 students and recently moved into a new facility. They operate an Apple-based wireless network of 201 laptops connected by 15 Apple AirPorts. The discussion focussed on issues involved in making a school's technology infrastructure as efficient and inexpensive as possible. Specific issues included installing software, ghosting computers, communicating with projectors, and cheaper alternatives to Microsoft Office. Kevin Dunn from Apple talked about new technology that Apple is currently developing to help address some of these issues.

Software Organization and Ghosting
  • Atlanta Girls' School: Atlanta Girls' School operates an Apple-based wireless network of 201 laptops connected by 15 Apple AirPorts. All students in grades 6-12 receive laptops which include a standard software load: Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), Photoshop Elements, Inspiration (a concept mapping program), Geometer's Sketchpad, HyperStudio (a presentation program), FirstClass (a mail/conferencing/communications program), and Winnebago (a card catalog program). Additional software related to specific classes (i.e. French in Action for French students) can be added at the teacher's request if necessary. Hard drives are ghosted from a master hard drive via FireWire.
  • Galloway School: Galloway has one Apple AirPort base station serving eleven computers. Because of the small number of computers on the Apple network, software has been added on an "as needed" basis. Their technology department is starting to move toward ghosting.
  • Lakeview Academy: Lakeview Academy has Windows-based laptops with a standard software load. If additional software or materials are needed for a particular class, Lakeview uses a program called NetOp to deliver the needed materials need to the laptops of the students in that class.

New Technology for Easy Software Updates
Technology that provides automatic ghosting of client computers and automatic updates of software is being developed and perfected. At this point, Apple is exploring a setup which enables a separate server (provided by Apple) to check a database (which includes several brands of registered software) periodically for updates. Once the server discovers that an updated version of a particular software package is available, the server will perform an automatic update to each client computer once it is turned on. Apple is currently working on technical issues to make this setup more efficient, and the setup will probably be available within the next few years.
Another Apple product for software upgrades which is currently available is Apple Net Install, which is part of Apple NetBoot. In this setup, an Apple NetBoot server (a remote server) takes a picture of the hard drive of the client computer and determines what software updates/replacements need to be performed based on this image. With the current Apple technology, NetInstall works only on hard drives of less than 2 GB. The NetBoot/NetInstall infrastructure is currently being rebuilt to accommodate drives over 2 GB, and Apple hopes to have the new infrastructure ready with the release of Mac OS 10.2.3.

Alternatives to Microsoft Office
With Microsoft Office having become very expensive, a number of AATE members have been investigating programs that are "identical" to Microsoft Office but at much lower prices (and in some cases, free). Here are some alternatives that were suggested:
  • Sun Microsystems' StarOffice: One of the original Microsoft Office alternatives, Sun Microsystems' StarOffice is designed for the Windows platform only. Sun is offering StarOffice to schools for free. Greater Atlanta Christian School is in the process of installing StarOffice on its network; details about their implementation plan can be found at http://www.geocities.com/aategroup/news.htm. If you have any questions about StarOffice, please contact Jim MacAmis, Director of Technology at Greater Atlanta Christian School, at jimmc@gacs.pvt.k12.ga.us
  • Open Office: Open Office is an updated version of StarOffice that works on Linux and Mac platforms as well as Windows.
  • Think Office: Think Office is a cross-platform Microsoft Office alternative that costs about $49 per copy. Multiple-copy site licenses are available.
If a project is created in one of the substitute programs and is used only in that program (in other words, not moved to or from Microsoft Office), there are generally no problems. If a project is created in Microsoft Office and moved to one of the substitutes, there is a risk of freezing and/or memory problems, especially with PowerPoint presentations (since they contain heavy graphics). The Microsoft Office substitute software is generally seen as an excellent investment if a school has a laptop program in which students will be using the substitute software both at school and at home.

Mounting of Projectors in Classrooms
A common issue mentioned when using projectors in classrooms is laying out wires so that students cannot trip over them. Possible solutions mentioned were the use of projectors with retractable cords or training the school maintenance crews in proper setup procedures.

Eventually, projectors will have the capability of receiving wireless signals from computers (hence becoming part of a school's wireless network). Apple has a module called Bluetooth which enables computers to communicate "wirelessly" with projectors at different frequencies than they use to communicate with other computers. This "frequency hopping" enables wireless projectors to read and display outputs from computer screens without interference from computer-to-computer communications on the school network.

November 2002 - Mill Springs Academy

Mill Springs as a Laptop School
Mill Springs Academy is a K-12 school which provides small classes and individualized instruction for students with distinctive learning styles. Laptops are provided to all students in 4th grade through 12th grade. The families of the students (not the school) buy the laptops. The rationale behind Mill Springs' becoming a "laptop school" is as follows:
  • When homework is done on laptops, students and teachers can more easily read it. Also, the software on the laptops provides the means for checking spelling and grammar.
  • In science classes, students often hook microscopes to the laptops to view the microscope displays electronically. Thus, the laptops help to create an "outdoor environmental classroom" at the school.
  • Teachers often e-mail assignment sheets to students as they come into class. Thus, the students have their assignments already on their laptops and can view them both from school and from home.
  • A program entitled Open Book is used often by students at Mill Springs. The program will scan portions of textbooks and read them to the students. This program is especially helpful for those who comprehend passages more easily by listening than by reading.
  • Most importantly, laptops empower students to do quality work. The technology offered by laptops enables the students to put together professional looking and sounding presentations despite problems with handwriting and visual-spatial perception.

Laptop Maintenance
  • Staffing: Two technology faculty at Mill Springs maintain the laptops. In addition, an outside service representative comes in once per week.
  • Network Educational Resource Department Services (NERDS): NERDS are students who help with technology around the school. They wear a name badge and are available to help students and faculty throughout the school day. The NERDS also schedule once-per-week meetings to "talk tech".
  • Outside Service and Warranties: Mill Springs uses a Toshiba authorized repair shop 20 minutes away from the campus. A liberal warranty policy allows compensation for several kinds of damage including one screen replacement per computer. When families buy the laptops for the students, they are strongly encouraged to purchase an additional warranty which covers theft.

Network/System Infrastructure
  • Servers: Mill Springs has three on-campus servers, a Microsoft Exchange server, a domain name server, and a file print server.
  • Laptop Specs: Student laptops run Windows 2000, while teacher laptops run Windows XP. This setup allows for the use of a wide variety of versions of software, thus greatly reducing the need to upgrade and/or purchase new software. The laptops have recently moved from using Celeron to Pentium 4 processors, which allow for animation and games.

Monitoring of Electronic Communications
Mill Springs use a website, http://lists.gpick.com/portlist/lookup.asp, which looks at Mill Springs' firewall to see which ports are active and for what purpose they are being used (Internet, e-mail, etc.). If a laptop is caught involved in undesirable communication (i.e. using controversial file-sharing programs, downloading excessively large movies, etc.), the technology department takes the IP address of the laptop and matches it with the owner's name via a DHCP lease database. The violator is put on a list entitled "Users and Abusers", which identifies each "abuser" and lists the nature of the abuse. The "Users and Abusers" list is posted campus-wide so other students can see who is abusing the school's network space. The "abusers" are also subject to immediate cutoff of Internet/e-mail privileges if the technology department deems it necessary.

Online Records Databases
Mill Springs uses two online databases to manage school records: Win School (http://www.winschool.com) and K-12 Planet (http://www.k12planet.com). Both are products of Chancery Student Management Solutions. Win School provides an online repository for student data such as grades and attendance. Information about an individual student can be looked up via a query. K-12 Planet imports the information from Win School and provides the ability to print grade reports, letters to parents, etc.

Resources on the Mill Springs Website

October 2002 - Pace Academy

The meeting featured several breakout sessions based on topics of special interest. The topics and leaders were as follows:
  • Lisa Dubernard (ACTIVBoard) - Demonstrated the features of the ACTIVBoard and provided group members the opportunity to experiment with the board's capabilities.
  • Gary Falcon (FirstClass) - Demonstrated the uses of the FirstClass communications program beyond e-mail and discussion group hosting.
  • Kevin Dunn (Apple) - Discussed Apple's commitment to the educational field, the debut of Mac OS 10.2, and Apple's new certification programs.
  • Artie Ioannides (Emerald Data) - Discussed Emerald Data's products for school management.
  • Jim Wingate (Lovett) - Lead a discussion about computer curricula at the high school level.

The ACTIVBoard is an advanced version of the "smart-board" which allows for maximum interaction between the students and the teacher in the classroom. Special features of the board include:
  • Ability to display a computer screen on the board.
  • A pen which allows the teacher to determine where the cursor is located by touching on the screen and to highlight information by drawing. The pen has a special button which allows the teacher to click/draw from wherever he/she is located.
  • A special icon which allows the teacher to turn the computer into a whiteboard.
  • An electronic "voting system" which allows teachers to check students' understanding by entering answers to the teacher's question via a box at his/her desk. The answers in the class are displayed on the screen, so a teacher can "gauge" whether he/she can move on or needs to provide extra practice/explanation.
For more information about the ACTIVBoard, visit the ACTIVBoard website at http://www.activboard.com.

FirstClass is a comprehensive communications program. The program provides e-mail, discussion group capability, and web hosting ability. Gary Falcon demonstrated some more advanced capabilities of FirstClass, including:

  • The use of FirstClass as a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) web page editor, including the use of pre-made FirstClass templates.
  • The use of FirstClass for creating and maintaining student records (attendance, etc.).
  • The use of FirstClass for parent discussion groups. Members of the group mentioned that if FirstClass is used for parent discussions, the school should provide parent accounts which allow conference access only (no e-mail), and that all posts on the parent discussion groups must be approved by a moderator.
  • The seamless incorporation of FirstClass discussion threads, records lists, and databases into web pages.For more information, visit the FirstClass website at http://www.firstclass.com.

Emerald Data
Emerald Data provides general technical solutions for schools, such as multi-platform server support and security. They also provide a unique program designed for boards of schools which includes paperless communication tools, conferencing ability, and organizational features. For more information, visit Emerald Data's website at http://www.emgrp.com.

High School Computer Science Curricula
Jim Wingate from Lovett mentioned that several high school students at Lovett take Programming I, which teaches basic programming skills and techniques. Students who do really well are then allowed to take AP Computer Science as an elective. The programming language of choice at Lovett (and most other schools) is transitioning from C++ to Java. The AP exams will soon be given only in Java.
The discussion then moved from programming classes to other types of classes. One school mentioned the installation of an advanced computer graphics course into its curriculum. As the discussion shifted, the distinction was made between pure computer science courses (programming languages, data structures, etc.) to courses which involve computer applications (i.e. graphics, music, movie editors). It was mentioned that many computer applications courses were in non-mathematical/non-scientific areas (i.e. art, music, film, etc.). The point was made that knowledge of such computer applications was crucial to the survival of teachers in these areas.

Individual Workstations vs. Thin Client: Where's Everything Moving?
After the individual sessions ended, an informal group stayed around to discuss the direction in which computer infrastructures in schools was headed. One key idea which was discussed was the "thin client" paradigm: using individual computers as "dumb terminals" hooked into a central server which contains all of the necessary applications for the student logged on. Previous technology made thin client setups appear impractical because the networks at that time had less bandwidth and slower switches (causing the problem of latency - packets of information constantly colliding with one another). In addition, many organizations that employed the thin-client paradigm had all programs on one central server.

According to a number of the guests at the meeting, new technology makes higher-bandwidth and lower latency connections more available at a reasonable cost. Schools (and other organizations) that employ the thin-client paradigm now run their network of multiple identical servers (usually 4 to 5 per school). If one server goes down, the part of the network that is affected can be easily re-routed to another server while the down server is being fixed. Having multiple servers also divides the school network into multiple "sub-networks" (one for each server), thus greatly reducing the problem of slow connections and disconnections.

September 2002 - Wesleyan School

At the September 2002 AATE Meeting, Jim Edgar, Director of Instructional Technology at Wesleyan School, provided an overview of Wesleyan's technology infrastructure, technology curriculum, and staff development program.

Technology Infrastructure
In addition to the computers in the classrooms, both the elementary school and the middle school each have a computer lab. The high school has two computer labs, one for research and one for Microsoft Office and programming classes.

A team of three on the staff is responsible for behind the scenes maintenance (i.e., server maintenance, setting up/switching out computers, troubleshooting, etc.). The school has a webmaster in the Communications Department who teaches a publications class and works closely with the Technology Department. Each level (elementary, middle, and high school) has one technology teacher.
Technology at Wesleyan is powered by a 40 GB server ("the H: Drive") which contains student folders in which students save their work.
Each classroom at Wesleyan has at least one computer; the main computer in each classroom is hooked up to a ceiling projector. This setup enables all teachers to display their computer screens on their whiteboards.

Technology Curriculum
  • Elementary (Grades K-4):: Each elementary class meets once per week, every week to work on technology projects. The projects are portfolios which are based on a topic they are studying in class, such as a historical person or event. Each project provides exposure to basic computer skills (such as cut and paste) and provides opportunities for hands-on creativity.
  • Middle School (Grades 5-8): Classes meet in 9-week blocks as part of a "rotating curriculum wheel", in which each group of students has computer projects for 9 weeks followed by another subject for the next 9 weeks, and so forth until the end of the semester.
  • High School (Grades 9-12): A Microsoft Office elective is available to all ninth graders. Students new to Wesleyan in the ninth grade take a computer skills test at the beginning of the school year. If a student does not do well on the test, he/she is strongly recommended to take the Microsoft Office elective. Additional electives are offered in computer programming, including Advanced Placement courses. This year the AP Computer Science A course is offered, and next year both the AP Computer Science A and AP Computer Science B courses will be available.
  • School-Wide Skills Outline: Wesleyan is in the process of developing a formal curriculum outline as part of their SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) accreditation procedure. A skills inventory is being developed in which I (Skill Introduced), E (Skill Expanded On), or M (Skill Mastered) is assigned to a given skill at each level. Click here to download the first draft of the Wesleyan technology curriculum outline (Microsoft Excel spreadsheet: ~ 600 KB).

Staff Development Program
Wesleyan has an in-house staff development program in which staff members can select courses from a catalog available on the school server. Outlines for the courses are available as PowerPoint documents, and staff members can register for the courses via an Access database. All courses without prerequisites are available to all staff members; courses with prerequisites are available to all who have the prerequisite skills.

Classes meet for three hours in the morning during the school day. Courses are scheduled in advance so that a minimum number of substitute teachers will be required on a given day. Courses are taught by both technology and non-technology faculty. A wide cross-section of staff members (including office staff and maintenance staff) take the courses.

Since there is not enough time in the school day to offer ten hour courses, the courses offered cannot count for State of Georgia Staff Development Units (SDU's). They can, however, count for SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) staff development credit.
In addition to the staff development courses, Wesleyan offers a "test out" option which enables staff members to satisfy the State of Georgia InTech requirement.