Tech Report

Date: October 19th, 2011
To: Michael Green
From: Steve Rippl
Subject: Tech Dept. Executive Summary

We got the 5 extra netbooks in place for the Primary School cart so that they now have enough to run an entire class on them at once.  It turned out the new $200 versions had one or two features missing that likely would have made them a little too difficult to image, so we ended up going for the more "expensive" $300 versions! 

The State has plowed quite a bit of money into an initiative with Microsoft to make it easier for Staff and Students to acquire Microsoft application use accreditation, which Joan Huston with her Business Applications class is very excited about.  We should be able to upgrade her lab to the latest 2010 version of Office through the program, and then she plans to steer her students through it and offer it to Staff that are interested.  We're meeting and planning around it currently.

On a slightly different Microsoft tack we're experimenting (just in the office) with their latest version of Terminal services as a means to provide certain Adobe and Microsoft applications that teachers like Joan make heavy use of.  As these applications advance there's the never ending battle to make sure that the computers themselves keep up, and this is a potential way to run applications where the student computers connect centrally to a server which is actually the one running the app.  This means students can be sitting at slightly older/slower computers and still run the software properly, and it also gives the options of connecting to the software from any student computer, so if a class moves we don't need to physically move specific computers with them.  It's still very much in the testing phase, but early signs are promising.

Another experiment we're just trying out is tablets.  Administrators have expressed a great deal of interest in the iPads and training offered by the ESD, and our Lenovo vendor just offered us 2 of their new Thinkpad tablets at 60% off, so we bought them to see what can be done with them.  The Lenovos hold the promise of being more enterprise friendly in terms of network logons, file server shares/printing and setup/configuration/security etc, but it's still been too early in the year for us to be able to devote much time to them.  My plan is to ask one or two of our admins that don't have iPads yet to try them out for us (once we have our part together) and give us their feedback.  I struggle a little their use in our environment as I don't see them as a device that can actually replace an existing computer, so it's an additional device to pay for and manage (and they are twice as expensive as netbooks) but I guess I need a wider diversity of users and their needs to weigh in.

We're on the verge of transitioning what wireless networking we have in place over to a more enterprise friendly certificate based infrastructure.  We now have a Cisco controller unit that allows us to centrally configure all our existing access points (and new ones going forwards) so that as long as one of our staff or student computers has the correct certificate it will automatically connect to the wireless.  We don't plan to expand our wireless dramatically in the near future, but this puts us in a better position to utilize what we have and to easily and cleanly add new access point as we decide to.  We will be providing better staff wireless in the meeting room and library in the near future.