Exploring computing in Indiana classrooms. How can we best use technology dollars to promote achievement?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Regional Tech Contact meeting

(This post is a break form the series. The purpose of the first few posts was intended to establish a foundation – a logical path that was followed – in the development of the pilot project goals. The meeting today was informative in many ways. Perhaps sharing this may be out of sequence, but is important.)

I attended the Region IV Tech Contact Meeting today at the East Central Education Service Center. There were three (3) schools there who are involved in the INaccess pilot program. Several other schools were represented as well. In addition to hearing some feedback about how program implementation was going, the Tech Directors in attendance described in detail what they had been involved with over the summer and so far this school year. The Student Test Number (STN) was a major topic of discussion.

There was curiosity about the INaccess pilots from all of the schools. The biggest concern was staffing, and the ability to manage large numbers of computers that may end up in schools. With budgets already strained to the limit, most everyone agreed that it was unlikely to see adequate numbers of new “tech” staff in the near future.

Several school technology directors have raised this issue over the past 24 months. How can schools manage a larger network than they currently manage and continue to provide the expected level of service to teachers and others? Thanks to these questions, the most recent groups of pilot projects are helping to explore three (3) different management tools that we hope can help us to answer these questions.

1) Novell Zenworks Linux Management (ZLM)

Schools using NLD as a desktop OS will also use ZLM as a management tool. A “Master” ZLM server will be accessible to all participants. The Master server will aggregate all patches, new products and product updates, and core OS updates. Once downloaded to the local school, ZLM can be used locally to apply the patches, updates and new programs from a central console. When these patches are applied and How they are applied remains in the hands of the local technology department.

2) Linspire Click ‘n Run/ Admin Tools/ Enterprise edition

Schools using Linspire will be testing the automated update/patch system called Click ‘n Run. When each computer is turned on it checks to make certain it has the latest patches and automatically downloads and installs patches/updates/new programs as a background process while students go on with their work. Linspire will soon be releasing additional tools for administration and management that will be coupled with enterprise level OS functionality.

3) Thin Client

Two (2) schools are testing a thin client system with a company called Ardence. The diskless workstations are similar to the other low cost units in use in schools with the exception that they do not need hard disks. The idea is to be able to manage large numbers of systems from a central point. One update on the server and all clients automatically are using the latest version of the software. This is just now being rolled out. We are interested in cost, functionality, and scalability in this scenario. More information will be available soon.

Tech Contact meetings are a wonderful way to share information. A lot of information was shared today. We’ll get more information to you soon on the progress we see in the management scenarios we are testing.


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