Making the grade

Over the summer, technology departments at area schools are working on updating machines and software.

Jon Hampshire and the technology department at Tiffin City Schools are planning on replacing several mobile laptop carts at the elementary schools along with updating technology at Columbian High School and Tiffin Middle School.

Krout and Noble elementary schools are to receive two Apple MacBook Pro carts with 30 machines for each building, Hampshire said.

“These (new machines) are replacing two 25 station iBook carts, which are 7 years old,” Hampshire said.

Three 30-station Chromebook carts will be placed at the high school and middle school, Hampshire said. The Chromebooks will be replacing three 7-year-old iBook carts, he said.

“The iBooks from these carts will be (used) somewhere else in the district,” Hampshire said. “We’ll go through the carts, keep the machines that are still usable, and recycle the rest.”

New for next year, the middle school is to begin a new technology class. The technology department has added a stand-alone lab of 30 Mac Minis.

Columbian’s business lab is also to get new machines; 8-year-old eMacs are to be replaced by a station of 30 Mac Minis, Hampshire said.

“Money is tight but we’ve made a commitment to protect the investment this community has made in educational technology,” Hampshire said. “We can only do this by replacing old equipment that no longer meets the needs of our students.”

During the summer, Hampshire and the technology department also run maintenance on their machines. Maintenance includes running updates on the system software, updating browsers and updating and upgrading specific software.

“Lab and mobile cart computers typically get re-imaged every year, which is erasing the hard drive and reinstalling the operating system and applications,” Hampshire said. “The computer labs are re-imaged over the summer because it’s hard to sign out (of) labs during the school year since they are used so often.”

Hampshire said maintenance is conducted on projectors and consists of blowing dust out of the fans and cleaning any filters on the projectors.

“We also re-align the projector’s image on the screen and take a count of the bulb hours,” he said.

With staff machines, the department tries to work on them more during the school year when there are breaks such as winter and spring breaks and if there happens to be a fog delay or snow day.

For Hopewell-Loudon Schools, the district has a whole new building plus technology to look forward to at the start of the new school year.

“The whole building is updated with interactive technologies for every classroom,” said Steve Acton, technology coordinator for Hopewell-Loudon. “We will have wireless (technology) designed for students to bring their own technology. We will (also) increase our mobile labs from four to five.”

The interactive technologies include integrated classroom sound systems, video distribution systems to tie in with the broadcasting class and Bascom Channel 14; a campus-wide network to support students who bring their own computing technologies such as smart phones, tablets and laptops; and VOIOP phone systems routed through Bascom Telephone Co., Acton said.

Acton said the district also does maintenance on its projectors. He also said the best new feature of the building is a new security system.

“Even though 52 percent of the teachers are familiar with interactive technologies, it is really a new system and the video distribution will be a challenge to use,” Acton said. “This new network infrastructure will better support and give students 24/7 access to their files at school through the use of their personal devices and Google applications for education.”

Hopewell-Loudon updates its servers and wireless access points every five or six years, projectors seven to 10 years and work stations eight to 12 years, he said.

The district uses brands such as Acer, HP and Dell, Acton said.

“Our fixed labs are student-built by my tech team,” Acton said.

New to Seneca East Local Schools is to be an upgrade to the wireless infrastructure to accommodate the addition of about 400 wireless devices.

Jacob Schaaf of Buckeye I.T. Services, said staff members are to receive new Lenovo ThinkPad T430 notebooks and students in grades 9-12 are to receive Lenovo ThinkPad x131e notebooks.

“The student devices are specially designed for the education environment with rugged frames and components and long-life batteries,” Schaaf said.

Systems are physically cleaned if necessary in the summer, Schaaf said.

“Also, we perform updates on the operating systems and any installed applications. Any components that are not performing well are replaced, like hard drives or DVD drives,” he said.

High school students and teachers are to begin working on starting the 1:1 initiative for the district, Schaaf said.

“We are hoping to follow the success of other districts around Ohio that are putting devices in students’ hands to open up and enhance the learning for students,” Schaaf said.

Technology for the district is updated as needed, he said.

“We strive to use equipment as long as it’s technically and fiscally responsible to do so,” he said. “The board of education at Seneca East had the foresight when entering this new facility five years ago to start putting money aside each year into a special technology update fund.”

With the addition of the new devices this summer, the district is to be supporting around 1,200 devices, including desktops and notebooks.

The technology team at the North Central Ohio Educational Service Center holds several technology-based classes over the summer for the public as well as teachers who want to be able to integrate technology into their classrooms.

“The tech team here has a goal to help teachers learn about technology and be able to apply what they learn into their classrooms,” said NCOESC Integration Specialist John Kramer.

Examples of classes include iPad general operations, classes on software such as Moodle, Smart Boards, Web 2.2, Google applications and more.

Much of the maintenance is the same as other schools, Kramer said, including system and network upkeep, rebooting systems and system installation.

“We also go into the districts to perform site surveys to make sure that their networks can hold up to the amount of devices their students and staff may bring in,” Kramer said.

ESC also is conducting the use of Skype in the classroom, Kramer said. Several classes at Old Fort Local Schools employed Skype with classes from Wales, Italy and across the United States.

Other schools the ESC works with include Bettsville, Mohawk, Carey, Buckeye Central, Fostoria, Calvert and charter schools.

“We really focus on going into districts with a team effort. If someone doesn’t know the answer to a question, then there will be someone that does,” Kramer said. “It is hard to know everything, and that is why we have a specialized tech team that does.”