Friday, March 16, 2012
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Increased Internet security filter in place at LCHS; laptops, more Smart Boards may be in future

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[March 16, 2012]  The tech committee for Lincoln Community High School met on Monday to discuss the current situation regarding technological needs and what is now available to the teachers and students of the school. While the majority of the meeting concerned the technology budget for the next fiscal year, the meeting began with a look at recent updates.

The first update discussed was the installation of a new wireless Internet connection for the school's computers. The updated hardware came with a new security filter for browsing websites deemed appropriate by the administration, but it is not yet updated to the full potential of its programming. When the programming is finished, the software will allow for the tracking of Web history on the school's computers.

"I can tell exactly who is streaming and when," said Sandra Bronson, committee member and computer science teacher.

In addition to these security measures, the school is working on updating the virus protection software that is already in place.

A second hardware update was the installation of electrical outlets on the various carts that are used to carry laptops from classroom to classroom. These plugs remove the potential problem of low battery life in the machines.

A new school website is also on the way for LCHS. The new website will be constructed in June and should be finished in July. It is being built by Edline, a Web-based company that works with grade schools and high schools that use the Internet as part of the teaching process, such as for turning in assignments or taking tests online. This teaching method has become more prevalent, due to the vast majority of high school students having Internet access at home.

With the current business discussion completed, the meeting turned to the future and what new equipment will be purchased for the next school year.

One of the major concerns facing the tech committee is the purchasing of new computers. While traditionally the school purchases desktops for the classrooms and computer labs, there are certain aspects of laptops that are more appealing.

Laptops are more easily capable of using the new wireless connections, and they do not require as much maintenance today as previous models required. Price is also a factor, and laptops are becoming cheaper, according to committee member Kenneth Golden.

"The biggest problem is that they easily walk away," he said.

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Theft, while unlikely, is a potential problem with a more portable machine. A teacher is not likely to steal a laptop, but the laptops would have to remain under close supervision to prevent student theft. In this regard, a desktop seems more desirable, as they would be much more likely to remain in the school.

While on the topic of portability, Jim Vipond and Kathy Stoyak, both teachers and committee members, expressed a desire to be allowed to take laptops home with them if the machines are ordered.

"If we're allowed to take them home and use them, the hard drive and our documents are on there, then I would go with the laptop," Vipond said. Furthermore, there are programs that can only be accessed via the new machines, and teachers may want to take them home to finish their work.

The next equipment to be purchased is the Promethean electronic whiteboard or Smart Board. These boards function as a dry-erase board, except a virtual marker is used rather than a real one, and lessons can be programmed for display on the board ahead of time. The school is working toward an eventual goal of having one of these boards in every classroom. At the moment, there are only a few added every year, and so teachers have to sign up to use them.

Purchasing these boards also brings about the need for new training. Currently, a teacher may use an electronic whiteboard only three or four times in a year, and so they have to relearn how to use one every time. Upon purchasing the new boards, a date will be established for retraining.

The meeting concluded with setting the next meeting date, which will be April 23.

Those present at the meeting were Kenneth Golden, Kathy Stoyak, Jim Vipond, Sarah Benner, Todd Poelker, Robert Bagby and Sandra Bronson.


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