• Weekly Update 11-20-20

    Posted by: Sloan Van Dam

    Good afternoon to all,

    I hope this has proven to be another smooth week of Distance Learning. Hopefully the distribution of the iPads to all sites has proven to be gainful for the purposes of instruction and for the availability of chromebooks for deployment. As there are five campuses, we will make it a point to regularly make appearances and test the viability of those devices that have come in so they are prepared for redeployment. I am keeping my eye on the failure rate of the HP machines, as they can sometimes experience a slew of issues, such as camera failure and battery failure, in addition to the device not powering on. It is therefore imperative we can ascertain that a chromebook is good to go after a thorough inspection.

    I can confirm via my inspection of the newest Apple OS, Big Sur, that it is a viable OS and can be downloaded onto your devices. There are some subtle differences but the concept remains the same as before. There are some icons that look different, but the fundamental look is pretty much similar to the other operating systems you have seen. Feel free to download and take a tour so as to become familiarized with it. As always, if there are any technical that need addressing, please reach out to us as necessary.

    If there are any issues with an existing Zoom session, the best course of action would be to restart your device when the opportunity allows for it. You can also disconnect from the Wifi then immediately reconnect to see if your connection improves. A good connection will typically show at transmission rate of 400Mbps (megabits per second). If it waivers below that, there is a connectivity problem to the radio that can be remedied with the above mentioned steps. A good check for Internet connection viability is to go to speedof.me and test download and upload speeds. Both figures should be triple digits if you are on the school's Wifi.

    All for now. Have a wonderful weekend and a gainful Thanksgiving holiday!

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  • Weekly Update 11-13-20

    Posted by: Sloan Van Dam

    Good afternoon to all,

    Finally there is some much needed rainfall coming our way. As we continue on with Distance Learning, it's good to latch on to any semblance of change that can positively affect the panorama. I for one am looking forward to hoisting up the umbrella again after a bout of seasonal dryness. I hope the report card window has so far been proven smooth, as it seems to be the case with minimal issues being reported. For data mapping issues being reported, I will be sure to contact Illuminate to align the fields accordingly, curtailing any further instances on subsequent report cards.

    This week an error has appeared when attempting to get into the Aeries portal. There are times when the browser cannot verify the certificate on the secure webpage, and the work around is to go to "Advanced" then "Proceed" to the website if you are in the Chrome environment. If the issue persists, I will reach out to SCOE, as this is where the fix can be applied. They are responsible for ensuring that the aeries.oldadobe.org certificate remains current and valid. As well, you can always go directly to https://oldadobeusd.asp.aeries.net/, which is where you will be ultimately forwarded to.

    Finally, success in obtaining the Otter Boxes necessary to deploy the remaining iPads to their respective locations. With this deployment, our district is now at 1:1 deployment with sufficient chromebooks available for redeployment. If you require a tech on site to examine the incoming chromebooks for viability, do not hesitate to reach out to itsupport@oldadobe.org. A big thanks to all site managers who have been diligently updating our mobile device inventory system, as it has proven to be vital in tracking the inbound/outbound flow of tech.

    In the near future, I will be examining the newest OS from Apple, called macOS Big Sur 11.0. There is a major redesign of the user interface which needs a thorough review so as to ensure workability with your Distance Learning. Upon a thorough look, I will advise when downloading can commence.

    All for now. Have a wonderful weekend!

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  • Weekly Update 11-6-20

    Posted by: Sloan Van Dam

    Good afternoon to all,

    I hope all continues to go smoothly during the first report card window we've seen since Distance Learning went into full swing. From my dashboard, I am gathering that for the most part, the process is smooth and seamless with a handful of tickets submitted to the IT Dept. Attendance and STAR testing results have been successfully mapped. There are some things to bear in mind when entering report cards:

    1) Save often. It is not uncommon for the connection to Illuminate to lose it's "handshake" and it is imperative that you save your progress as often as you can.

    2) Clear browsing data. If you are running into issues with data entry, clear your browsing data on your Macbook (at the top right, More Tools, Clear Browsing Data). Many times, entry issues are the result of caching issues on your machine.

    3) Reach out to IT support if standards are missing. From time to time, there are database anomalies, and from my end, I have to manually share report cards and field groups (standards) that show up when you enter data. Subsequent to this manual enabling, I will reach out directly to Illuminate to highlight this error in their database. Thankfully, this has been the exception rather than the rule.

    4) Choose the correct student group. If you are entering report card data for students rostered to other teachers, make sure you have selected the appropriate Student Group at the top right. All students associated with this group will appear if the group has been properly constructed. Be aware of a printing limitation, as from my view of Illuminate, the printing out of reports cards for another teacher can only be done one by one versus the typical bulk printing capability.

    Overall, it appears we are in good shape, and if you experience anything not of an ordinary nature during report entry, please continue to reach out to itsupport@oldadobe.org.

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  • Weekly Update 10-30-20

    Posted by: Sloan Van Dam

    Good afternoon,

    It has been an action packed week on the IT front, and thanks to instant feedback from you, I was able to abate a printing issue in a timely manner. A server that is responsible for the printing capability for the entire district needed rebooting after a shutdown. The problem was resolved in the early morning and printing quickly resumed. A heads-up that if you are using a Macbook, if there was a reboot of the print server, your printers will show as offline until you reboot your system. You should then see your printers as online and ready.

    I want to be sure this vital feature remain in tact without downtime, especially as we are approaching the end of the trimester. This means that it will soon be time to enter and print out report cards for your students. Should anybody have any issues at all with report card access or the ability to get into Illuminate, please reach out to IT Support immediately and I will be sure to prioritize this very critical access to our Data and Assessment system. In the subject of the email, be sure to put "Illuminate". Attendance days, absences and tardies are scheduled for mapping to the report card upon official conclusion of the trimester. The data will be directly mapped to the report card from an Illuminate report and is not editable. This data comes from attendance taken in Aeries. If any anomalous readings are noticed from your end, please let me know.

    In the not so distant future, our website will have a new and updated look. The changeover is slated to take place this upcoming week, so be on the lookout for that.

    Wishing you a fun and safe Halloween as we turn the corner and head into the 2nd trimester of Distance Learning!

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  • Weekly Update 10-23-20

    Posted by: Sloan Van Dam

    Good afternoon,

    Happy Friday! Another week of Distance Learning is under our belt. As we have seen a smoothing out process during these days, there is less to report, as I have already covered the “new normal” paradigm under which we are operating. The last frontier is quite literally the Otter Boxes, and I have been aggressively trying to run down shipping information, unfortunately to no avail. But I plan to offer a workaround of some kind in the wake of the COVID-19 delays we continue to witness. The gears are turning forward to some extent, but smoother and more expedient would be more welcoming.

    A few tickets have surfaced recently regarding AR logins. My theory is that the OS populates the credential fields with incomplete information, resulting in a log in error. The best means to circumvent this would be for the user to manually enter in the credentials. even though the fields may be populated with information as per the asterisks they see. Little instances like this can disrupt the learning flow, and I want to be sure I can identify and provide a fix to this issue. Chrome OS can be buggy and will result in additional steps to be taken, not unlike the need to always select Add Person and clicking on the blue link to reenter Google credentials.

    Chromebook users need to ensure that the keyboard settings are set to “US”. If there is any other setting in place, the fix is to click on the bottom right where the icons are seen and select Keyboard. From there, you ensure that “US Keyboard” has a green checkmark. Any other setting can result in an unfavorable experience when students are typing. But going into that area should be precluded as much as possible so no settings are inadvertently changed. This should help keep the ticket count to a minimum.

    Lastly, I hope the hotspots have provided some semblance of relief for family with Internet connectivity issues. I have seen major carriers not affording robust download speeds, necessitating an alternative option.

    That is all for now. Wishing you all a great weekend!

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  • Weekly Update 10-16-20

    Posted by: Sloan Van Dam

    Good afternoon,

    Happy Friday! Hope you had another gainful week of Distance Learning. From my vantage point, there appears to be a slow tapering off of the daily ticket count, so I am interpreting that as a good indicator that things are progressing well at a district-wide level. I am still addressing tickets from some time ago that deal with databasing issues and licensing, and in this day and age, that is unfortunately a slower process than what I would be hoping for. The “new normal” is a lot of waiting and shoulder poking for information. This has been my experience with the remaining number of Otter Boxes (170), which I am still in the midst of running down.

    My hope is that the new recipients of their Macbooks are finding the experience much smoother and more gainful with minimal disruptions. Your best experience from a connectivity standpoint will remain on site where you have not only a fast enterprise WiFi connection but also the ability to use the classroom TVs to provide a 2nd screen during synchronous sessions. This week I am seeing more teachers set up with this feature, so that is encouraging.  The USB-C adapter with an HDMI port is the accessory needed to allow for this hookup.

    A reminder that if you are interested in getting apps pushed onto your iPads and Macbooks, it is a matter of letting us know, as we have the capacity to do this via our mobile device management system. For paid apps, this is something that requires site approval, as this involves process different than the pushing of free ones. But we will remain the hub for app requests when approval has been handed down for the apps in question.

    I want to thank each site for their diligent work in picking up our department with the IT-related work they have been doing, as it has alleviated much of the workload I typically experience. There will remain the digging out process from the modality under which we are working, but I feel we have made great strides in finding an even keel and tailoring our systems to bring out the best possible experience for everybody.

    Take care and have a great weekend!  

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  • Weekly Update 10-9-20

    Posted by: Sloan Van Dam

    Good afternoon,

    Happy Friday and happy October! I am pleased to announce that this has been a gainful week insofar as the acquisition of technology-related products. 433 Otter Boxes have arrived and 170 are slated to arrive next week. We are fervently in the process of applying these protective cases to the iPads which will then be ready for immediate deployment to the respective sites. As well, I have in my possession the final fleet of Macbook Pros which I will also provision to users in possession of the old Macbooks, which should dramatically alter your Zoom experience in a positive way.

    Speaking of Zoom, Vickie Kubeck from Sonoma Mountain shared a very useful resource to give you an indication of Zoom’s performance based on a 24-hour time interval. The web address is downdetector.com/status/zoom, and many of the issues some users were having insofar as spotty Zoom sessions directly coincided with the timeframe in which many issues were detected by multiple users.

    Hopefully your experience with RAZ Kids is going well. A reminder that after the bulk import of the initial file to the respective classrooms, thereafter there is no rostered data sync with Clever, as the RAZ database currently does not allow for such integration. You have the ability to add and remove students from your rostered class, as you do IXL. IXL is another program that is not synced to Clever via rostering. If you do not see this feature as enabled from your end, please let me know and I can reach out to them for assistance. Ideally, all of our resources should be synced via SSO with rostering, but not every database behaves the same way. At the beginning of each school year, these non-rostered databases need to be fed with a .csv file import, reflective of a snapshot of where we are enrollment wise at that moment.   

    A heads-up that I am in possession of a boxful of HDMI cables, and if you would like to hook up your TV or an external monitor to your Macbook for the purposes of enhancing your Zoom experience, let me know and I can furnish you with a cable. The advantage of this is that the 2nd screen is part of an extended view of your Macbook screen, on which you can place the gallery view of your students without needing to lose their sight when you share your Macbook or iPad screen during presentations.

    No time to waste. I shall get cracking with the provisioning process. Wishing you as always a restful weekend with smoke-free air and mother nature cooperating.  

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  • Weekly Update 10-2-20

    Posted by: Sloan Van Dam

    Good afternoon,

    Another week in the world of Distance Learning has gone by, and it is my hope that you are all holding up as well as can be expected. Zoom was somewhat of a hit and miss ordeal this week as per the ticket count, and it speaks to the heavy traffic that is being generated as a result of it being the “go to” platform for school districts. The hope is that your issues end up fewer and further between as time goes by and newer Macbooks are deployed. Speaking of which, they are not long in coming, as the courier finally reached out to me. They were evidently waiting on Apple to provide them with the consignee information. Just yesterday, I filled out a 13-part email letting them know they have a green light for delivery.

    The Otter Box cases for the iPads are just leaving Dallas tonight per the latest update. Next week is when I expect to receive the first batch of them.

    As I was without my trusted field hand this week, who will be back this coming Monday, I made it a point to make myself more ubiquitous in the field in addition to the administrative back-end work that I can thankfully take with me to each site. In addition, I made a further dent into the iPad provisioning. As of the time of writing this to you, there are only 75 iPads left to turn on and receive apps. In general, addressing and closing tickets is always an issue when the IT Dept. is shorthanded, but hopefully you still saw that your needs were tended to.

    Here is a good rule to bear in mind when we are on the subject of student data. It is good to think of it as a train that takes off from the origin and has two stops prior to arriving at its final destination:

    1) The Student Information System (Aeries) is the primary database, the origin. From there, the data train propagates down to our...
    2) Data and Assessment system (Illuminate). From there, it heads down to…
    3) Clever, and this station can be thought of as a transit hub, as many things are synced to Clever, primarily our district programs, via Single Sign-On (SSO). Examples: Seesaw, Lexia, MiWrite, Newsela, Hapara, Renaissance. All of these services can be thought of as end databases, as data does flow out from them.
    4) From Clever, the final destination on the main data line is Google, which is where the student Gmail accounts are created. This gives the students      the primary means to log in to their chromebooks via Gmail credentials or Clever badge and access all of their available district wide programs.

    In addition, our SIS ties into our robocall platform (Aeries Communications), library database (Follett), and lunch database (Mealtime), so the “origin” actually sets off in different directions in addition to the main data line mentioned above.

    The turnaround time for a student to receive their Gmail accounts is one day from their start date in the SIS. So if a student’s official start date in the SIS is listed as 10/1, they should be expected to receive their Google credentials on 10/2. The exception to this is when I trigger a manual sync between databases, which you must request via ticket.

    Finally, please make it a point to submit any and all IT related matters to itsupport@oldadobe.org rather than my personal email as much as you can. I receive on average a total of 50 to 75 emails per day and I want to be sure your request is expediently committed to the work order system.

    This is all I have for now. I wish you a restful weekend, and I hope you are all in a good place as we continue on together.

     

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  • Weekly Update 9-25-20

    Posted by: Sloan Van Dam

    Good afternoon,

    I hope this message finds you well as we wind down another week of Distance Learning. We are hopefully trimming down the number of moving pieces as we slowly and methodically continue to get settled in to this new way of providing instruction. Fridays are always a good opportunity to run down the week in review and get caught up on some useful tidbits of info that will hopefully translate into smoother weeks to follow.

    We had a very informative Parent’s Night this past Monday hosted by the IT Dept. of Bellevue Union School District (Larry Black and Jorge Barcenas). One of the main subjects touched on was the issue of Internet connectivity. One of the important elements of device performance is the upload speed offered by the Internet Service Provider. At school, we enjoy the luxury of an enterprise grade WiFi connection that ties in directly with SCOE as the hub (802.11ac Wave 2). This allows for substantial speeds both up and down. As I am writing this to you from my PC desktop at the DO, my upload speed is 339.69Mbps (Megabits Per Second) and my download is 194.71Mbps, both excellent readings. However, the situation changes dramatically when we try to test speeds from home. The short of it, users should have an upload speed of, at a bare minimum, 1.5Mbps so as to avert the typical issues we are frequently experiencing with a resource intensive program like Zoom. It is not unheard of for speeds to dip below the 1.5Mbps threshold, causing spotty behavior with end devices (black screens, dropped sessions, ALL symptomatic of poor WiFi speeds). Some useful workarounds are as follows:

    • Keep open tabs to a minimum, as mentioned in the last missive.
    • Keep bandwidth utilization down; i.e., students will benefit if they are on Zoom when users of the home gateway are kept to a minimum and nobody else is streaming YouTube videos, listening to online music, etc.
    • Be leery of the ads trotted out by ISPs and ask for a robust home connection that will be able to absorb the traffic that will be generated
    • Use a WiFi repeater. This accessory is useful in expanding coverage space at home and can serve to eliminate “dark spots”

    On the subject of iPads, we are still awaiting the Otter Box cases for the units that have been received. The estimated delivery date puts us in the beginning of October (yes, more delays with production and procurement). Upon arrival, it is a matter of applying the cases, binning them, and distributing them. For my part, my hope was to have this wrapped up by September, but we are very close to full distribution.

    Whenever you are compelled to update your system to the latest OS or run any type of update, you are typically prompted to enter administrative credentials to perform this task. The credentials should be the exact ones you use to get into your Macbook. If those credentials are unavailing, reach out via a support ticket and we will be happy to chime in with assistance.

    You are afforded the ability to add apps to your own devices, as this is no longer a restriction. OAUSD has managed several Apple IDs in the past, but with the advent of our Volume Purchase Program with Apple, this no longer required us to assign Apple IDs. Nonetheless, if there is the need from the user’s end to download an app from the App Store and you require a district Apple ID, the best course of action would be to notify us before the fact via email or Hangouts. We would then supply you with the credentials, after which you will be prompted to enter the phone number where the verification code, generated via Two Factor Authentication, should be sent. Ben and I have distinct phone numbers, and whoever is assisting you, that is where the verification code should be sent. Upon receipt, we will relay what that code is.

    Many of you have requested iPad stands, and please know that procurement is an issue to due to the volume of activity that Distance Learning is relegating vendors to. The workaround is to seek out alternative products that would suit your immediate teaching needs.

    The student Clever portal has been recently modified to now include a link to Distance Learning Resources, currently found on our website. In addition, I’ve also included the Zoom app. Should you think of a resource that could prove to be valuable to the student’s digital learning space, you are free to contact us at any time.

    That concludes the Weekly Update. As always, I enjoy hearing your feedback about what you think our department should keep doing, start doing or stop doing. I know we are all doing our best to “meet the moment” and the learning curve will most assuredly keep curving.

    Take care,

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  • Weekly Update 9-18-20

    Posted by: Sloan Van Dam

    Hello to all OAUSD teaching staff,

     
    We've had another action packed week of support tickets, Zoom meetings and the like. My intent is to fuel this message with optimism, as I have now seen favorable activity in the department of technology finally arriving on site as ordered:
     
    1) 630 iPads are scheduled to arrive on the day of writing this message, and I am currently on DHL truck scout duty so as to accept the pieces. Upon arrival, they will be provisioned, placed in protective cases, binned and distributed. 
     
    2) 19 Macbook Pros have already arrived (1 delayed in shipping), and we are in the process of provisioning and distributing them to teachers that are in possession of the old Macbooks. This leaves us with a remainder of 31 Macbook Pros yet to arrive. 30 Macbooks remain in the processing stage. Before it is all said and done, you will all be fitted with new Macbooks.
     
    Latest Features
     
    We will soon be offering both a tech support hotline and an early morning hotline to resolve early morning attendance issues, and the numbers will both be found on the Distance Learning channel on the oldadobe.org webpage. 
     
    1) The support hotline, 707-765-4312, will direct families to a voicemail system that will allow them to state the nature of the issue they are facing. The message will be received in the form of an email that can be routed to the appropriate department for resolution.
     
    2) The early morning attendance hotline, 707-210-2602, will be available from 8am to 9am each school day and will be used if there are early morning connectivity issues that could adversely affect the attendance of the students. A live person will answer and direct the family member to a resolution.
     
    Weekly Observations
     
    In light of my experience in the field this week, I would like to point you to some pieces of preventive maintenance that can be undertaken from your end to help promote a smooth experience while logged in to your Macbook:
     
    1) Ensure that you are using the Google Drive. This not only ensures the safety of your data, but it also ensures sufficient drive space to allow your machine to run more smoothly. A typical hard drive should have, at a bare minimum, 15% of available space. So if you have a hard drive that is 120GB, it should have 18GB of free space. If your drive space is almost full, the computer will not be as responsive and hangups will occur during Zoom meetings. For more information of usage of the Drive and Google Drive File Stream, please reach out to IT Support.
     
    2) Ensure you are on the latest OS (Operating System). All Macbooks should be on MacOS Catalina 10.15. An antiquated OS will not be reliable and a variety of issues could crop up, including Zoom sessions, printing, and general performance of your machine. For any question on the procedure steps to check on your OS and upgrade your machine to the newest OS if need be, please reach out accordingly.
     
    3) Ensure you do not have too many open tabs in your Chrome browser. This can cause a memory drain on your machine and cause the system to slow down or overheat. Your old Macbooks have 4GB of memory vs 16GB of memory on the newer machines.
     
    Ongoing Issues
     
    1) iPad mirroring. I am aware of several instances via the ticketing system of the inability to share the iPad screen in a Zoom meeting via cable or AirPlay. Please know that I am actively investigating this matter with Apple, as the symptoms point to a quirk on the side of Apple. The cable option is sometimes not functional and the AirPlay option is intermittent. I have come to find that with a more robust WiFi connection, the AirPlay feature is more reliable. Your experience at home will differ from your experience at school because of the differences in connection speed. 
     
    2) Chromebook availability. Upon issuance of the new iPads to the TK-1st grade levels, there should be more chromebooks available for deployment. 
     
    As we move forward, we are certain to find bumps in the road, especially in the wake of the new Distance Learning modality, but the hope is that we are starting to see some much needed light at the end of this tunnel when it comes to familiarity of process and performance of the tech itself. I will be happy to meet with those of you on a 1 to 1 basis if there remain any lingering issues that affect your ability to conduct your daily teaching sessions. And as always, my door remains open for any questions, comments and observations from your end.
     
    Take care,
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