3 educational technology resources to help any new teacher

educationYour millennial teachers are important assets. They love collaborating and sharing ideas. They’re masters of technology. They’re flexible, authentic, and always seeking new ways to engage students.

But they fall prey to the same challenges facing every new teacher: classroom management, lesson planning, and one-on-one interaction with students, among others.

As technology drives new teaching strategies and learning opportunities, it also gives new teachers better tools to save time, spark student interest, and measure their progress. Let’s look at three tech resources designed to help any young teacher. Continue Reading…

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How one school’s simple hardware upgrade helped improve its entire IT infrastructure

educationEven the simplest IT environments can harbor complex challenges. And for some organizations, one simple fix only uncovers a new need. A public charter school in Washington, D.C. had exactly that kind of environment.

The school has a fairly simple IT environment to support its more than 320 students from grades 6 to 12. An HP shop, it had two servers and a SAN, and virtualization through VMware.

Upgrading that environment by replacing a few components seemed simple on the surface, but some network constraints and unexpected challenges made the job a search-and-rescue operation of installations and fixes. These challenges were more than the IT department could handle in house with a school of students, teachers, and staff to keep up and running.

A seemingly easy hardware upgrade? Maybe not.

With a few hardware components approaching end-of-life, the school aimed to expand its processing capability by adding two next generation (Gen9) servers to its environment and decommissioning one of the older (Gen5) servers, increasing the number of production servers from two to three. It also needed to replace its one storage array, an HP MSA 2212. The school was satisfied with its HP hardware, and budgeted to replace its soon-to-be-obsolete server and storage unit with the newest models.

Of course, a storage replacement would also entail some data migration, which posed a challenge. Nearly every school-related IT task, from email to VoIP to management applications to students’ personal information, was stored and run on this simple architecture. Any downtime, as a result of the migration, had to occur during non-school hours or weekends, or threatened to effectively shut down teaching for a school day.

But the school’s IT department was lean, and needed a helping hand in installing the servers and storage, and migrating the data, without disrupting teachers and students and while attending to the day-to-day IT workload. What the school needed was a plan, and an expert that could help carry it out.

Solving one problem, followed by solving a few more

The school purchased the new hardware through SHI, which had provided virtualization software support for the past year and a half.

And although it was only increasing its net server capacity by one, the school’s IT department needed help to install and configure the new hardware, two HP DL360 Gen9 servers and one HP MSA 2040 array, while also providing in-classroom support to students and staff. SHI’s technical expertise would mean the new hardware was installed quickly and properly.

But when it started replacing the hardware, the IT team and SHI saw this was a bigger job than anticipated. Working together, the parties were able to rack, cable, and initialize the hardware without a hiccup, but as they did so, they discovered that the school’s VMware needed proper configuration and was behind in the upgrade cycle. It was another wrinkle to the project, but one that could be solved by cleaning up improperly defined rules within VMware, in addition to upgrading the software to version 6.0.

Still, the biggest part of this hardware upgrade was yet to come – data migration. Transferring the data to the new MSA wasn’t the most complex job, but it needed to be carefully executed to minimize work disruptions. SHI’s experts teamed up with the school’s IT team to take the system down during night and weekend hours to complete the migration, which redistributed 19 VMware virtual machines and migrated approximately 3 terabytes of data.

But while they were at it, they discovered another issue that needed to be fixed – two storage network switches needed proper configuration. Finding the right tools and establishing the right credentials took time and expertise to sort through, even for a relatively simple task like this one. Finally, the school’s data migration was completed, its minor problems patched up, and its network enhanced.

The slow and steady approach to a set of problems

The school’s hardware upgrade wasn’t as simple as plug in and go – it learned its network switches could be better utilized and its virtualization needed a proper configuration. Its data migration had to avoid disrupting students learning in the classroom.

The school’s hardware upgrade ballooned into a bigger project that, once carried out, improved the IT setup of the entire school through new storage and enhanced virtualization. But in a busy IT environment central to the school’s operation, an expert’s help not only accelerated the project, but set the entire IT house in order.

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Technology in the classroom, part 3: Making your new initiatives work

digtal learningThe best teacher you ever had didn’t simply read the textbook better than the teacher in the next classroom. Great educators use out-of-the-box methods and subtle strategies to teach students — without the class even realizing it.

A mature technology plan, developed by a school’s IT staff, will include goals for devices, software, security, and back-end support. The technology used in the classroom may be static from one year to the next, but a strong technology plan that encompasses multiple school years will give teachers and students the resources to succeed every year. Continue Reading…

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Technology in the classroom, part 2: Improving infrastructure and security

digtal learningAs the school year progresses, so does student achievement. And so must your school network and its security. After all, security threats to your network and mission-critical data don’t leave for the summer. We’re again looking at our digital learning checklist to guide analysis of your school’s current IT environment, see where improvements can be made, and help you begin investing for the future.

Let’s continue, focusing on network infrastructure and security. Continue Reading…

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Technology in the classroom, part 1: Learning about your school’s IT needs

digtal learningMore than 50 million students throughout the U.S. returned to school this fall. Across the nation, results-driven curriculums and Common Core standards, though controversial, measure student progress, track teacher success, administer computer testing, and push digital learning initiatives to a higher threshold in 98,500 public schools.

IT should take a similar results-driven approach. How is your school’s IT environment performing this year? Does your school or district have enough laptops, desktops, or tablets? Does it have the bandwidth and wireless network capabilities to add more devices? What’s on the IT plan for next year? Continue Reading…

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The deadline for E-Rate is approaching — are you on schedule to get funding?

classroomWant to lose a classroom’s attention in less than 15 seconds? Open a video on a poor wireless connection.

It doesn’t have to be this way, but for many schools it happens daily. E-Rate funding, which comes from the biggest grant program for K-12 school districts and public libraries, provides Internet access and infrastructure for schools and libraries throughout the country. Run by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), E-Rate helps schools and libraries improve their Internet access and wireless connectivity by providing money for technology upgrades and improved access. The pot of E-Rate funding is now above $2 billion. Continue Reading…

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