Tech Report

Date: February 22, 2011
To: Michael Green
From: Steve Rippl
Subject: Tech Dept. Executive Summary

Classroom response systems, or "Clickers", have proved to be pretty popular with Staff in the secondary grades.  They enable teachers to give short quizzes and get very immediate feedback on where in general their class is, with the potential to take it down to the individual student level in terms of responses.  After an equipment shuffle in the Middle school (to allow them to standardize on one manufacturer) we have a couple of sets that will be going into the Primary School.  Sandy Austin has already been using a set for a while (through an ESD training grant she's been involved with), but I'm happy to see it expand as I believe they are of great potential value to the elementary grades too.  James Doty is the Tech in our department who's been learning how to use the various clickers we have in the District so he'll be training Kristi Olson and Danielle Flanagan in their use. 

Our server virtualization technology is now pretty well established.  We currently have 3 physical servers running 14 virtual server instances with some room to still grow, so you could say that we've saved buying and running up to 11 actual servers (less in reality as we would consolidate services, but the principle holds).  We're just beginning to investigate application virtualization, the potential to "stream" application from a central server to individual client computers.  This holds the promise of reduced management complication and the ability to get key applications to all clients machines no matter their type, location, set up.  There are very expensive enterprise products out there but as usual we're investigating the open source solutions first to see what can be done, our server virtualization has all been done with free, open source software.

I'm conscious of the software that runs our website beginning to show it's age, not in terms of how it looks to end users but how it runs on the servers.  Our heavily modified version of Drupal is 5 years old now and as we update our web server software the old version of PHP this was written in is beginning to produce more background errors and warnings.  It's not an immediate problem by any means, but it makes me begin to contemplate where to upgrade to from here.  Our two main options are to upgrade to the latest version of Drupal (not trivial as some re-writing of our custom modules would need to be done), or moving over to a similar (Perl based) platform that Sips is running on.  The latter option may lead to a more stable long term solution, we'll have to see.

Speaking of our various web based customizations this month we have the High School Local Scholarships starting up again for this year, which is a purely web based application process for our students, and parents have been once again registering their new Kindergartner's through another set of online forms we have in Sips.  The latest Moodle has now undergone a major upgrade to version 2, so in anticipation of upgrading our site to that in the summer I'll be putting up a test version of Moodle 2 for our Staff to play with before then.  There are enough changes promised in this new version that I think it will pay for our "star" Moodle users to get up to speed with it first and then be able to help others out later.