Friday, May 18, 2012
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LCHS tech committee discusses pros and cons of software and security filters

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[May 18, 2012]  The tech committee of Lincoln Community High School met on Tuesday to discuss the current and future state of the computer systems. The meeting primarily concerned speculations as to the next school year, but there were updates on a few current operations as well.

The new wireless Internet connection is live, and the teachers' machines are all connected with the exception of the band room and the library. There are also a few small bugs here and there concerning a couple of individual devices, but that is to be expected with such a large upgrade.

On the subject of upgrades, there is expected to be an upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 over the summer. This is necessary because Windows XP does not support all of the wireless options the school wishes to implement.

Kathy Stoyak explained the results of a survey she gave to her students concerning the changes to the computers. Stoyak, who teaches Spanish, said that while the students appreciate being able to take tests online, they are a little frustrated by difficulties accessing their work at home. "The website is a little picky when it comes to grading," says Stoyak.

The students also expressed a desire for more time working with the laptops overall and more time to practice with the new software. "With practice, it [working with the software] got easier," says Stoyak. She also said she looks forward to trying out other aspects of the new software next fall that teachers and students were not able to try out previously.

Jackie Meyer, a committee member and girls soccer coach at LCHS, expressed a concern with the new security filter. The problem is the new filter was blocking Meyer's blog because all blogs are blocked by default, and Meyer works on her blog from time to time while using school machines. This could present a problem for any staff member who has a website outside of the school. Such a security measure is in place to keep communication between teachers and students restricted to official channels.

According to Sandra Bronson, committee member and computer science teacher, one of the best features of this filter is the ability to block students from certain websites, yet still allow teachers to have access.

Aside from a few small issues with blocking certain websites, the new security filter has been well received by the staff. The 90-day trial of this filter is soon coming to an end, and the school will have to choose whether or not to purchase the filter permanently.

LCHS recently received a grant from the Woods Foundation for $20,000. Robert Bagby, committee member and superintendent of LCHS, says the money will be used primarily for the purchasing of new Smart Boards. "I sent the foundation a thank-you on behalf of LCHS and all school districts, really," said Bagby.

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Barb Coffey, committee member and District 27 board member, explained that District 27 is looking into a projector that essentially turns a whiteboard into a Smart Board with special software. District 27 has also been working with Kuno tablets. Kuno is a company that works with schools to provide tablet devices to students and teachers. The software included is very flexible in what the teachers can give students access to.

The new LCHS website from Edline should be up in July, just as the old website expires. Work on it will start in June. The school year will start with a training session for the staff on how to use the new website. An idea was brought up to try creating a tutorial video for parents and teachers on how to work this new website.

During the summer, the tech committee would like to upgrade the school computer server, as there is upgrade coming in October that requires newer equipment. The upgrade will include the latest version of Microsoft Office on the school computers, as well as access to the program at home for teachers. "This is nice because we don't have to buy Office 2010 for every single machine," says Bronson. This is a cheaper alternative.

The auditorium will also be worked on this summer, specifically, the lights and sound. That work follows a recent change in seating in the auditorium.

A final concern was raised as to the efficiency of parent-teacher conferences. While no new plans are set in stone, it was suggested that LCHS try switching to a more open-house-oriented way of communicating with parents, as some teachers feel they are not getting enough of an opportunity to show parents what the students are doing in class.

As Jim Vipond, committee member and chemistry teacher put it, "there's quite a few things going on at the beginning of next year, it sounds like."

Members of the tech committee present were Barb Coffey, Jackie Meyer, Jim Vipond, Kathy Stoyak, Sarah Benner, Sandra Bronson, Kenneth Golden, Robert Bagby and Jill Awe.


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