To: Michael Green
From: Steve Rippl
Date: February 19, 2020
RE: Tech Dept. Executive Summary
I had an opportunity this month to work with Jason Cowley and run a short check-in and tech training with the high school staff. We’re half way through our first year of the digital learning initiative there and I wanted to give staff a chance to give their feedback, get some questions answered, and refresh/expand their knowledge of the tech tool they are using most frequently (Google Classroom). Feedback was generally positive, the main concern was students coming in with uncharged Chromebooks and we can help there by putting a couple of chargers in classrooms so students don’t have to visit the library every time for that. Otherwise, things are going well. Jason had questioned staff beforehand to find out where they were less comfortable in Google Classroom and so he and I focused on those areas with them, I’m grateful for his support!
We recently purchased a new batch of staff computers and are in the process of imaging and deploying them. While we don't have a rigid refresh cycle for our hardware we have been managing to keep up and replace computers frequently enough that our staff machines remain usable and secure. We’ve already upgraded some of the original staff Chromebooks we started giving our teachers about 5 years ago and we need to do more of that now as well. They’ve proved to be a great, inexpensive tool in the hands of our teachers, giving them mobile access to their data and teaching & collaboration tools.
Over the break, and still continuing now, we’re upgrading the software that runs our virtual server cluster. This is the means by which we can run multiple virtualized servers and services on single pieces of physical hardware. While the number of services we run ourselves has been steadily decreasing (with 3rd party applications moving to the cloud and moving from thin clients to Chrome devices), we still have a need for certain key services to maintain the network and run in-house applications. The virtualization software we use here (Xen) is free and open-source, but it’s actually what Citrix uses as the base for their commercial offerings. After this upgrade we’ll be able to consolidate things down to fewer physical machines, which will give us space to experiment with new containerization software that we’ll be able to leverage as gradually even more services go “to the cloud”.