Friday, September 7, 2012

Starting off

Getting started and looking back

With a tremendous undertaking like rolling out a laptop program to 300 students, there are bound to be stories to tell, reflections on the past work, and insights on future possibilities. My blog writing has been haphazard in the past couple years, but then again the material has been lacking prior to this 1:1 laptop program.

To be clear, my role is that of volunteer to my wife, who is the technology coordinator at North Mahaska Schools. However, I do provide some skills and abilities to compliment the technology endeavors at the school. So, I am often called upon to help with professional honey do items. My goal is to try to write a blog entry once a week in a consistent manner. With Julie's help, I hope to review the week's challenges and successes.

Let's start with the last two weeks. The Macbook Pro laptops were rolled out on August 27 - 28 to 285 students in grades 7 - 12. The rollout started with the upper grades and ended with the lower grades. The presentations to the students and the initial boot up and connection to the network and JSS management server went well. One observation for people who do this 1:1 work or will be doing it soon is this: allow time for the younger student groups because they do take longer to step through the process of initial Macbook setup.

As of today, September 7th, all of the Macbook Pros have performed flawlessly. In two weeks time, only two students have had login issues. One student had a problem during the rollout process which was corrected on the spot. The other student was a non traditional older senior whom thought her password was all lowercase. The password was simply reset and the senior was happy. The Macbook Pros did sit all summer, but we arranged to have some football boys run all 285 machines through a charging cycle in mid August prior to the rollout.

Both Julie and I were able to attend JAMF Casper training in Minneapolis on August 30-31. A couple small issues unrelated to the laptop 1:1 were handled remotely through a VPN connection to the school network. If you are a technology person in a public school and you do administration tasks for machines inside a firewalled network - do yourself a favor and learn to use VPNs. I use a software product called VPN Tracker for my MacBook Air. At home we have a Sonicwall that provides a "site-to-site" VPN to the school network.

With JAMF Casper training completed, we spent a fair amount of effort putting policies in place to accomplish software pushes to student and teacher laptops. In order to do Evernote training, we pushed the latest version to teachers a couple hours prior to professional development. A couple teachers were missed because their laptops were closed. We also pushed version 3.3 of Evernote to all the students in order to upgrade the old 3.0.6 version on their laptops since April 2012. In less than 24 hours, 285 student laptops had Evernote 3.3. It is an awesome feeling to have solid software that helps make management and deployment of software work well.

One observation on JAMF Casper and management that is interesting to note. When students are sick for a couple days, you notice quickly. This is because as managers, Julie and I run inventory reports to check on how the JSS server is progressing in delivering and deploying software packages. A couple two or three days time gives us a good idea when someone is missing school.

Lastly, we are testing LanSchool for deployment to the students and teachers. The student deployment is ready for next Monday. The teachers will be rolled out as they come by with their laptops and get the Teacher program with their unique channel ID assigned. There is a planned teacher development session for learning the basics of setting up class lists and using LanSchool.

So we finish the week pretty happy overall. The list of things done by Julie in one week of work would cover two type written pages and the variety of tasks would surprise most people. Between PowerSchool work, adjustments to the school security cameras, and fulfilling technology requests, we wonder if all the work will get done.

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