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Articles: Networks

As Bailey Mitchell, chief technology and information officer in the 36,000-student Forsyth County (Ga.) School District, describes it, the way in which the school system made decisions about technology in years past was inefficient and pretty dysfunctional. "We'd go out and buy something, but if we didn't ask anyone if it was instructionally relevant, it might not be used," he says. "On the other hand, administrators in the academic and accountability departments would make a decision about something that might work for them and then lay it on the technology people to figure it out.

There is a fine line between making student data available to influence data-driven decisions and still respecting student privacy. For this reason, the U.S. Department of Education has launched a new initiative to elevate the importance of safeguarding the collection, use and disclosure of student records. With this new initiative comes a new position, chief privacy officer, and Kathleen Styles is the first.

The Connect All Schools Initiative has an ambitious goal: To lInk all schools internationally by 2016. The campaign has been months in the making, although it officially launched March 19 at the Celebration of Teaching and Learning, a professional development conference that brought together nearly 10,000 educators. The overarching objective is for schools to reach out to students in other countries to collaborate on projects, discuss global issues, and learn with each other—not simply about each other.

Departments of education at the state level with high-quality longitudinal data systems in place have doubled within the last year, according to the sixth annual data for action report released by the Data Quality Campaign, an organization that encourages policymakers to use high-quality education data to improve student achievement. The report shows "unprecedented" progress, with 24 states having implemented the 10 state actions to ensure effective data use standards set by the data Quality campaign. The organization predicts all states will have complete systems by September 2011.

The physical infrastructure and capabilities of K12 information technology have undergone a transformation over the years, according to "The Future of Information Technology." This white paper, released by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) on Nov. 12, explains how K12 IT departments have evolved and where they will be a decade from now.

The paper notes four major trends changing the role of the CTO:

Until this year, the Oregon Department of Education was running a central portal of thousands of learning resources that required all teachers and students in the state to have an e-mail address as authentication for security purposes. Because many districts didn't offer student e-mail, however, the learning materials were not available to everyone.

The popularity of thin clients may soon diminish as districts catch wind of zero clients, the latest computer technology that is even thinner and lower maintenance. Zero clients, small silver portals the size of a Big Mac box, differ from thin clients in that they have no internal processing at all. "It is more or less a portal between the user and the keyboard," says Mark Lamson, director of technology for the Westerly (R.I.) Public Schools (WPS ). "It records key strokes back to a virtual machine which is running securely in the data center."

The release of the highly anticipated National Broadband Plan, scheduled for February 17, has been delayed, leaving advocates for broadband reform in suspense. In a letter to Congress on January 7, Chairman Julius Genachowski of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requested an extension of one month to process the information the organization has gathered and to receive additional input from stakeholders. The FCC is creating the National Broadband Plan as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Administrators and information technology staff at Hudson Falls Central School District in Kingsbury, N.Y., found that individually managed computers were costing them an inordinate amount of time and money. This small suburban school district uses 1,400 desktop computers and its IT staff needs to continually update software, fix problems and keep settings consistent. According to Brian Becker, director of education for Hewlett- Packard, who works with the Hudson Falls district, IT support needs were "overwhelming" the staff.

For the Tangipahoa Parish School System, federal stimulus funds provided a unique opportunity to get some new computers for its classrooms. But for the district, located about 40 miles northwest of New Orleans, upgrading systems wasn’t a simple matter of buying new, previously unaffordable machines.


Stephen White, solutions manager for cloud computing at HP, describes the company’s vision of cloud computing as a future with “everything as a service,” not just software programs. Here are some district management technology tools that are already heading into the cloud.

Among the many effects of the U.S. economic crisis is one that may not immediately come to mind: an increase in computer virus attacks. As economic conditions have worsened, cybercriminals have become increasingly aggressive and have explored new tactics for accessing or damaging information, or simply wreaking havoc. The last three months of 2008 saw a boom in various types of cyberthreats, which include viruses, spam and other forms of disruptive or damaging programs.

Most school districts face more mandates and less funding each year, so many search for solutions to save across the board. The Alvarado (Texas) Independent School District turned to technology to save money. The district, which has 500 staff members, 11 of whom are IT, sought to find a way to leverage technology to help bridge the gap in business processes that can in part lead to high overhead operational costs. And the district wanted to streamline the business process of paperwork when a student enrolls and fills out paperwork to get network accounts.