Two weeks in…

We have completed two weeks of our Transformational Technology initiative with 6th-12th grade students having their own iPads for use every day at school…and we’re still upright!

I have described this process as clearing a series of hurdles — as soon as one is cleared, there is another that shows up pretty quickly. So far, we have been able to clear almost every hurdle that has been placed in front of us.

Our hurdles have included issues that have required tweaks to our wireless networks. The good photonews here is that the Xirrus system we have in place has tremendous flexibility and that has enabled our network manager to make necessary adjustments to improve service in some areas at the High School. We still have some additional improvements to make, but our overall infrastructure plan is working well.

We struggled downloading three of the digital textbooks we are using — the common theme here was the fact that these books were behemoths — two of them over 2 GB! We learned a lot in this process and I believe as of last Friday, all students had their textbooks downloaded. We have several other digital books that were a breeze to implement immediately — these books tended to be broken down for download by chapter, making it much more manageable for students to download quickly.

Our final most common issue was a normal one for the beginning of the school year — helping students with logins and passwords. We assisted many students with this right away during the first days and most have it down now. It was a great opportunity to show students that simple things – like transposing letters in your user name – can prevent you from accessing your accounts!

However, here is the good news with these problems – they provide an opportunity for us to see students problem solving skills in action. One teacher shared with me that she couldn’t believe how adaptive students were to glitches they encountered. Students often collaborated on an issue and solved it together — often before adults had even noticed it. As predicted, kids are being resourceful and solving many of their own issues as they arise.

Students are interacting with digital material – downloading assignments, annotating them, and submitting them to their teachers digitally through Schoology. They are taking notes using Notability. They are using the web to research topics right in class — without having to travel to computers labs (when they were available!) Some teachers are experimenting with online quizzing and testing in order to retrieve assessment data quickly. We have many staff have made a sprint for the ‘redefinition’ level of the SAMR model right away. While I am sure these staff probably feel they take a few steps forward and a step back, they are making great progress. We are modeling for students that it is acceptable to take risk, to encounter challenges, and to continue to push forward. I have been so proud of how so many teachers have moved forward with such gusto.

We are making good progress both in the implementation of the devices and their academic use. Our students and teachers are transitioning well. That doesn’t mean we haven’t had problems or issues (as noted above) but we are moving forward on a daily basis.

As always, if you have questions about the Transformational Technology initiative, please contact Director of Administrative Services Matt Hillmann at matt.hillmann@northfieldschools.org or (507) 645-3458.

 

What apps has the District distributed?

Using our Mobile Device Management (MDM) system, we have been able to send several apps to students iPads over the past couple of weeks. Below are the apps we’ve sent to Northfield High School students to this point:

  • Destiny Questapps - HS
  • Follett Digital Reader
  • Google Drive
  • Haiku Deck
  • iBooks
  • iMovie
  • Notability
  • Overdrive
  • Pearson eText
  • Scan – QR Code Reader
  • Schoology
  • ShowMe Interactive Whiteboard

Our Middle School students have access to:

  • Google Drivemiddleschool
  • iBooks
  • Learn French
  • Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  • Notability
  • Overdrive
  • Quizlet
  • Skyward Mobile App
  • Schoology
  • Scan – QR Code Reader
  • Science Friday
  • Student Clicker (Socrative)

At this point, we’ve only purchased two apps: Notability and iMovie. We have purchased iMovie for Middle School students as well. However, we had some difficulty ‘pushing’ this app to Middle School students due to its large size. In fact, some of you may see an iMovie app icon on your Middle School iPad that didn’t complete the installation process. We’re working with our vendor to develop a resolution to this problem.

We anticipate adding many additional apps as the school year begins.

Remember, tap ‘Install’ when you see a prompt from our servers, signified by ‘lsmdm.com’ similar to the screen shot below.

lsmdm.com

Northfield High School students will need to enter their Apple ID user name and password after tapping ‘Install.’ Northfield Middle School students do not have to enter a password since they are restricted from downloading their own apps.

If you click ‘Cancel’, do not worry! The MDM will check every so often to see if you have the apps provided by the District and prompt you again.

If you have questions about apps, installing them, or other TransTech related items, please feel free to contact Director of Administrative Services Matt Hillmann at (507) 645-3458 or matt.hillmann@northfieldschools.org.

A good start…for now!

The District was very pleased with the distribution process that provided more than 2,000 iPad tablet computers to students since August 15th. We had many, many positive comments about how smooth and efficient sessions ran and how surprised parents were that the entire process was completed in one hour or less.photo

Frankly, we had no idea what to expect. Months of planning and diligent analysis turned out to pay dividends. In retrospect, here are a few of the smarter things we did:

  • Decided to pre-configure all student iPads rather than having families configure them at the orientation/distribution events. We had initially thought this would be a neat part of the event and would be efficient. However, after further discussions with several individuals knowledgeable about the variety of ‘rollout’ strategies that have been used, we made the wise decision to complete that for families ahead of time. Technicians Cindy Samuelson, Sandy Fjelde, and Bruce Dybvik completed this pre-configuration with great skill and diligence.
  • Held a ‘practice’ distribution a couple of days prior to our first big events on August 15th. This session, involving 99 students — most of whom were children of District staff members, showed us where the ‘choke’ points in the process could be. Again, it made a significant difference.
  • Set up our new credit card provider so that families could complete the insurance fee online. This helped move the process along for all involved. Director of Finance Val Mertesdorf was at every distribution event to ensure families were successful with the process and fielded many calls in helping with the new system. This will pay dividends to all families who will be using the system to make deposits into their student lunch accounts.
  • Had plenty of volunteers to assist with assembling the Griffin Survivor cases. The cases are certainly robust. However, the assembly can be challenging. We had dozens of volunteers — including teachers, parents, educational assistants, board members, and administrators. Even our Superintendent, Chris Richardson, assisted with the cases. He became our ‘go to’ when it came to training new volunteers how to assemble them.
  • Using the expertise of our Media Specialists. Our secondary Media Specialists Rebecca Glassing (High School) and Amy Sieve (Middle School) are experts at many things, including tracking a large number of materials. We added all iPads to our library management system, so they are checked out to students just like any book. They did an excellent job with this part of the process.

Another decision that proved wise was beginning the distribution process prior to school starting. The District has been planning the infrastructure changes to support the mass inclusion of mobile devices for more than a year, beginning with our wireless infrastructure upgrade last summer. In addition, as we significantly increased our Internet capacity (bandwidth) and our main network (‘head end’) equipment. We noticed a few issues following students receiving their devices and were able to make some changes and software patches that cleared them up. Most of these issues have probably gone unnoticed by students, but we know that they are making a significant difference.

There have also been some learning experiences that have been more noticeable. In order for the District to utilize our content filtering system when students are outside the school walls, we need to use a global proxy server. This means that all iPads, no matter where they are connected to the Internet, travel back through the school network. We have had a few issues with the proxy server that governs that traffic. The most noticeable was an outage that lasted for about 10 minutes during our Middle School parent open house event. This was pretty poor timing! We believe that outage had to do with my ‘pushing’ of an extremely large app to Middle School students a few hours before. Most of the 10 minute outage was technology staff walking to the Media Center to restart the proxy service. We’re going to be more judicious in ‘pushing’ our largest apps. We have also found what we think are patterns in what has crashed the proxy server and shared those instances with our vendor. Nate Knutson, our Network Manager, has been excellent in keeping close tabs on a handful of data points we believe can inform us about the execution of the network planning.

On balance, we have felt successful. However, that success is fleeting in our minds. While we believe we have appropriately developed an executed a quality plan, every day is a new challenge. As staff and students get to the real work associated with this initiative — the customization of teaching and learning — there will be new boundaries that we cross, additional learning experiences, and possibly even some ‘disasters’. These boundaries and challenges will come in many forms — technical, curricular, pedagogical, and human. We will continue to work hard in addressing issues in the most expedient manner possible. The truth is that the possibilities far outweigh the challenges. We are already seeing doors that weren’t open to us educationally before. It truly has been exhilarating!

What if I don’t have my iPad yet?

While the District has distributed more than 2,000 iPad tablet computers to students since August 15th, there are some students who have not had an opportunity to secure one yet.

For High School students, 9th Graders will be able to check their iPad out on the first day of school during the LINK activity. 10th-12th graders can attend a distribution orientation and distribution session at 10:30 am in the Media Center.

Middle School students can stop into the Guidance Office to complete the checkout process.

As always, feel free to contact Director of Administrative Services Matt Hillmann with any questions (mhillmann@northfieldschools.org or (507) 645-3458).

Middle School distribution sessions begin today

Our Transformational Technology orientation and distribution events begin today for 6th-8th Grade students at Northfield Middle School. You can view more about the schedule by clicking here. Here are some key components for today:

  • The orientation is your first stop. This presentation will be held in the auditorium, every hour on the hour, beginning at 12 pm. The last orientation session will start at 6 pm. Unfortunately, due to the volume of people coming through at the distribution sessions, we won’t be able to take questions at the end. You can either connect personally with a school administrator after the orientation or submit your question online for a response.
  • After the orientation, you will proceed to pay the iPad insurance fee (you can skip this step if you have paid your insurance fee online and bring the printed receipt.)
  • After paying the insurance fee, you can move to the Media Center to check out your iPad. You’ll receive your iPad in a cardboard box. We ask that you write your name and grade on the box and hand it to one of our volunteers after it is checked out. This is to assist with our record keeping process.
  • After checking out your iPad and giving your box back to one of of our volunteers, you’ll proceed to the cafeteria to collect and assemble your case, the Griffin Survivor. This is the most difficult part of the process, but worth it for the protection the case provides.
  • You can leave the Middle School after one of our volunteers has checked that the case is properly installed.

There are a few apps already installed on Middle School iPads:

  • Calculator
  • Google Drive – this apps allows students to connect with their Google Apps account for word processing and spreadsheet work.
  • iBooks – this app will allow students to read PDF files and other books provided by the school
  • Notability – the standard note taking app that the District has purchased for students.
  • Schoology – this app is the learning management system that students will use.
  • Skyward – an app that allows students to connect with Family Access to check their schedules (when available), grades, etc.

Other apps will be delivered wirelessly to students later this week and next week.

Again, please make sure to take time to read the iPad Loan Agreement. This is important for understanding your opportunities and responsibilities!

Orientation/distribution sessions begin today

Our Transformational Technology orientation and distribution events begin today for 9th-12th Grade students at Northfield High School. Here are some key components for today:

  • The orientation is your first stop. This presentation will be held in the auditorium, every hour on the hour, beginning at 9 am. Unfortunately, due to the volume of people coming through at the distribution sessions, we won’t be able to take questions at the end. You can either connect personally with a school administrator after the orientation or submit your question online for a response.
  • After the orientation, you will proceed to pay the iPad insurance fee (you can skip this step if you have paid your insurance fee online and bring the printed receipt.)
  • After paying the insurance fee, you can move to the Media Center to check out your iPad. You’ll receive your iPad in a cardboard box. We ask that you write your name on the box and hand it to one of our volunteers after it is checked out. This is to assist with our record keeping process.
  • After checking out your iPad and giving your box back to one of of our volunteers, you’ll collect and assemble your case, the Griffin Survivor. This is the most difficult part of the process, but worth it for the protection the case provides.
  • You can leave the media center after one of our volunteers has checked that the case is properly installed.

You’ll notice that there aren’t many apps installed on your iPad yet. We’ll begin delivering apps wirelessly to High School iPads early next week. High School students should tie their iPad to an Apple ID in order to customize their learning experience and as a method to redeem paid books and apps the school provides.

Again, please make sure to take time to read the iPad Loan Agreement. This is important for understanding your opportunities and responsibilities!

Insurance Pre-Payment Now Available

Families can now pay their iPad insurance fee online by using the District’s new e~Funds for Schools credit card payment site. Since this is a new vendor for the District, you will need to create a new account with e~Funds for Schools to make the payment.

Instructions for Registration:

  1. Click “Register Here” under New Users.
  2. Fill in the required information under ‘Sign Up’.
  3. Add your students by entering each student’s lunch PIN number in the ‘Student Number’ field. If you know your family ID, you can use this to enroll all of your students at once.
  4. Once you’ve added all your students, click ‘Continue to Account Overview’.

Click here to view a detailed registration guide.

Making a Payment:

  1. Since the e~Funds for Schools system is new, this will most likely be the first time you make a payment using it. The system will ask you to enter your checking account information or a debit or credit card. The system will keep this on file for you so you don’t have to enter it every time you want to make a payment in the future for other school expenses, such as depositing money in your child’s lunch account.
  2. The District encourages you to setup the payments to charge directly to your checking account due to the lesser fee structure.
  3. You can select the appropriate insurance level for each child under their tab:
  • $25 per student for those not eligible for free/reduced lunch
  • $20 per student for those eligible for reduced lunch
  • $15 per student for those eligible for free lunch

If your family’s total exceeds the $100 family cap, click the ‘General’ tab and select the ‘Add’ button next to the $100 family cap line.

Click here to enter the e~Funds for Schools system to make your iPad insurance payment.

Please note the District doesn’t not have access to see what account information you have entered. We can only see the last 4 digits as it would appear on a receipt to identify which account was used.

If you have any questions regarding e~Funds for Schools please don’t hesitate to call or email Director of Finance Val Mertesdorf at 507-663-0620, valori.mertesdorf@northfieldschools.org.

We encourage you to pay your student iPad insurance fees online as described above. Please bring a printed copy of your receipt to the iPad distribution session you attend. This will allow you to skip the payment line!

If you have any questions about the Transformational Technology project, you can complete our online question submission form by clicking here. Submitting your question through the online form allows us to collect all questions in one location and facilitates the development of ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ posts. You may also contact Director of Administrative Services Matt Hillmann directly by email at matt.hillmann@northfieldschools.org or by phone at (507) 645-3458.

Online question roundup – 07.19.13

We have been accepting questions about our iPad distribution events over the last week via an online form. The link was included in the letter emailed to families on July 12 about the distribution process. The following is a ’roundup’ of those questions:

Q. Can students use their own iPad or purchase one from the school to keep.

A. We are planning to provide each student with a school iPad. We understand that many families already have devices in their homes and some have the same model iPad that the school will issue. We have a desire to make sure that, as we begin this process, that all students have access to the same school-issued device to facilitate the beginning of our transition to digitally distributed curriculum. As we move forward, allowing students to substitute their own iPad for the school issued iPad may be an option but not at this time. In addition, we are not allowed to sell students iPads.

Q. When should ALC students come to get their iPads?

A. ALC students are scheduled to attend the High School distribution sessions. Simply attend the session that corresponds with your last name. See the letter emailed to families on July 12th to find your pre-assigned time.

Q. Can students in 9th-12th grades use their own Apple ID with their iPad?

A. Yes, students in 9th-12th grades will be able to add their own or their family’s Apple ID to the iPad to customize their learning experience. The District is using the ‘layered ownership’ approach for our 9th-12th grade students. This means that some apps will be delivered from the District’s organizational Apple ID while others can be added by students. If you don’t already have an Apple ID, it would be best to create one before you attend your distribution session.

Students in 6th-8th grades will not be able to tie their iPads to their family’s Apple ID. The District is using the ‘institutional ownership’ model with 6th-8th grade students. This means students will not be able to install their own apps.

These strategies are referenced as part of the iPad Loan Agreement.

Q. What kind of iPads are students receiving? Can they select their color?

A. The District is leasing iPad 2s. Unfortunately, students will not be able to select a color. The District is leasing black 16 GB iPad 2s and black Griffin Survivor cases.

Q. What happens if I cannot make the distribution date and time pre-assigned to me?

A. You can attend any other session that is after your pre-assigned session scheduled at your building. You could also attend one of the make-up sessions scheduled for August 27th beginning at 4 pm, 5 pm, or 6 pm. The makeup sessions will all be held at the Middle School. If none of those options work for you, contact Director of Administrative Services Matt Hillmann (matt.hillmann@northfieldschools.org or 507-645-3458) to work out an alternative. The District is doing the best it can to provide orderly distribution sessions while maintaining the flexibility that families need.

Please continue to submit your questions to our online form. We’ll provide a weekly (or so) roundup of these questions on this blog.

iPad Loan Agreement

Prior to receiving their iPad, parents and students should take time to review the iPad Loan Agreement. The iPad Loan Agreement is a document designed to outline the opportunities, expectations, and responsibilities for students. Our iPad Loan Agreement is based on the same document developed by the Farmington Public Schools and used with their permission.ipadloanagreement

iPad Loan Agreement | Acuerdo de préstamo del iPad

Our intent for this document is to serve as a guide for students and families. As always, please feel free to contact Director of Administrative Services Matt Hillmann about the Transformational Technology initiative by phone at (507) 645-3458 or by email at matt.hillmann@northfieldschools.org.

Distribution times announced

The District sent a Skylert message this afternoon to families with students going into 6th-12th grades this afternoon with assigned times for iPad distribution in August. Distribution dates will be:

  • August 15: Northfield High School  students | 9 am – 5 pm at Northfield High School
  • August 19: Northfield Middle School students  | 12 pm – 8 pm at Northfield Middle School
  • August 20: Northfield High School students | 12 pm – 8 pm at Northfield High School
  • August 21: Northfield Middle School students  12 pm – 8 pm at Northfield Middle School

Download a PDF file of the letter emailed to families that contains specific distribution session assignments:

English | Español

Each distribution session will take approximately two hours – the first hour is a required orientation session for parents and students. The orientation will cover expectations for students, software loaded on the iPad by the District, and digital citizenship.

The second hour is checkout and configuration of the iPad. The configuration process will include five stations that parents and students will progress through:

  1. Insurance payment (this can be bypassed if families have paid ahead of time online)
  2. iPad checkout
  3. iPad configuration (this entails plugging the iPad into a computer through a USB hub to download the device’s profile)
  4. Case assembly — the District has purchased the Griffin Survivor. The final step in the process will be for parents and students to put the case on the device. After this is complete and checked by a staff member or volunteer, students and parents can leave!

Our goal is to provide orderly distribution sessions for families and to provide an orientation session that promotes shared understanding/support of student opportunities and expectations. The District will also sponsor monthly parent sessions this Fall to continue the dialogue and provide additional training.

In an effort to collect questions and gather answers into one “Frequently Asked Questions” document, we are asking that questions be submitted through an online form. Click here to submit a question online.

As always, feel free to contact Matt Hillmann by phone at 507.645.3458 with questions about the Transformational Technology project.