Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 11, 2014

Technically speaking

Filed under: Alameda, School — Lauren Do @ 6:01 am

The agenda for tonight’s School Board meeting is fairly ho hum.  Nothing too exciting that should bring out the speakers like charter facilities or anything similar.   There was one interesting tidbit about the technology currently within the school district right now.   Here’s a breakdown of the number of computers/laptops by site and broken down by number of computers/laptops per child:


As you can see the Junior Jets fare the worst with only 16 laptops/computers to share among 179 students which means that each computer/laptop services about 11.2 students.

In the Technology update powerpoint there is mention of the large purchase of Chromebooks and carts which will serve to administer the new SmarterBalanced Assessment, the new Common Core test.  The district will eventually have 1620 devices in all for the testing.  They have to be mobile and therefore on carts because they will need to be used across all school sites.

It’s interesting to note that even though some people grumble about the AUSD administration being too heavy a quick look at the staffing for the technology department shows that they are seriously understaffed when it comes to the number of devices that need to be serviced and maintained.  As it is each technician at AUSD services more than 1000 devices each, and because there are different types of devices out there those technicians have to be jacks (and jills) of all trades since there’s not even the luxury of just knowing Mac vs PC.  You really have to tip your hat to those folks.

I will note that I did have my moments of frustration with AUSD technology for a while, although I wasn’t sure if my frustration was with the software company or with the tech specialists at AUSD.  AUSD has this tool that students use at the elementary school level called Successmaker.   Apparently it is supposed to work on both the Mac and PC platforms.  Our school kept reminding parents to allow students to use Successmaker from home, but honestly I could not get Successmaker to work on our Mac at home.  I had also tried using a PC as well and that wouldn’t load successfully either.   I can’t tell you the number of hours I spent trying to get that program to work.   Eventually the AUSD Spokeperson on Twitter eventually said that AUSD Tech Services was performing some upgrades to the servers and now it works after months of not working.  Oh, but it still doesn’t work on the Mac either.  Anyway, I’m no slouch at computer type things, but I can imagine parents who are less persistent getting frustrated with that process and just giving up trying to access those resources from home.  Plus, there is also the assumption that all families have computers at home with internet access to use the program in the first place.

Anyway, had AUSD Tech Services had a properly staffed department they could have solved the problem a lot quicker, but understanding how much they have to do with such few resources makes me realize that what they do accomplish is pretty awesome.

Oh, and apparently AUSD students and teachers have consumed up to 80% of the server space for email.  That’s a lot of emails being stored.   I wonder if moving students to Gmail with its free storage space might help with storage issues.



  1. The numbers are actually much worse… as this counts the teacher, secretary and staff computers…The only computers kids have access to are the ones in the media centers and labs- or a few computer carts. . Teachers have computers which are 10-15 years old. Not enough bandwidth for the District now- speeds very slow…
    Administrators each have a computer- 1:1 – crucial to do their work…Students do not. What is wrong with this picture? 21st Century or not? priority or not? The current policy contributes to the marginalization of students at risk and those from lower socio- economic groups who are unlikely to have either a computer or broadband access at home.

    Comment by commonsense — February 11, 2014 @ 6:51 am

  2. Hi commonsense,

    I asked our technology department about your comments and wanted to let you know that teachers don’t have computers that are 10-15 years old. The oldest computers in the district are 5-6 years old and, yes, should probably be replaced. Unfortunately, replacing every computer in the district every five years (as would be reasonable) would cost the district $300,000 per year.

    As I’m sure you know, the architects working on the district’s Facilities Master Plan this spring are gathering information about the current status of our technology and will be proposing ways to improve it. It will be exciting to see what they recommend in the final report, which is due later this spring. More information about the Facilities Master Plan (including the 2012 Facility Assessment Reports and the meeting schedule for each site) is here:

    Comment by Susan Davis (senior manager, community affairs, AUSD) — February 11, 2014 @ 2:07 pm

  3. Spending any money on the kids for Technology and Computers by replacing new computers every five years is so way out of line. Can you Imagine spending 300,000 out of 80,000,000 budget on kids that would actually help them learn. That works out to about .17 cents a day per student or .02 to .03 cents per class being wasted on the Students. That money can be used for new Raises. So of the 50.00 a day of the budget for each student you cant allocate .17 cents.

    Comment by Get on with it — February 11, 2014 @ 6:43 pm

  4. Very well said, Get on with It!!! Unbelievable how students are usually so far down the priority list of AUSD planning.

    Comment by WestEnder — February 12, 2014 @ 9:54 am

  5. Give the Kids the 80 Million Dollars as a Budget and see how they design classes and what their real needs are in the Classroom and all the Activities to make it a great learning experience…..Would be a fabulous real world project and everyone would learn….Who know better than the kids .

    Comment by Get on with it — February 12, 2014 @ 10:09 am

  6. Technology does support children. I recently subbed at Franklin and had the opportunity to teach several groups of students how to make a Power Point presentation. Their excitement and enthusiasm was very moving. But there were huge problems as Franklin does not have a server. theirs apparently died two years ago and so saving their work was difficult. I loaned a teacher my own flash drive, which only partially solved the problem. These students are also learning to type. I think spending so much on Chrome books for testing, while not supporting what we have is going to continue to cause problems.

    Comment by Cturner — February 12, 2014 @ 10:35 am

  7. I believe the Chrome Books are required for the Smarter Balanced testing for the Common Core curriculum. Chrome Books are some of the most affordable laptops available on the market right now (around $250 per compared with Macbook Airs at $1000 and Windows based laptops at around $330) and since the devices must be portable so that the testing equipment can be shared throughout many sites, I don’t think the cost of Chrome Books is a big deal. The District cannot opt out of the mandatory assessments and so, Chrome Books.

    Comment by Lauren Do — February 12, 2014 @ 10:44 am

  8. There was also talk during last night’s presentation about the need for more tech staff as the district transitions to Common Core, so that the district can provide maintenance and repairs in a more timely manner. Cturner’s comment reminds me of something Superintendent Vital said during the meeting — that the district tries to keep the number of staff in central office low, but in some cases (like tech service) having too few people ends up hurting teachers and children.

    You can read more about last night’s technology presentation and discussion on AUSD’s Twitter feed (@AUSDNews). Video of the presentation will also be up on the meeting agenda in the next day or two — just click on the film icon next to the agenda item here:

    Comment by Susan Davis (senior manager, community affairs, AUSD) — February 12, 2014 @ 11:06 am

  9. Zuckerberg and Gates are celebrated for their largesse, but it’s all carefully targeted to charters and similar efforts. why don’t they just dump money into buying computers for PUBLIC schools? There is a book out about the misguided philanthropy of naive cyber douche bags. I’ll find the link. Gates has funded the bad guys in various African nations because he is ignorant.

    Comment by MI — February 12, 2014 @ 11:24 am

  10. MI: While I’m not a fan of how the Gates Foundation has opted to direct its funding in the education sector, the Gates Foundation as a whole tackles a lot of different subject areas — as a lot of Foundations tend to do — and generally how it works is the Foundation hire subject matter experts in the areas they are interested in and those are the people who ultimately award grants. While the Founders, in this case Bill and Melinda Gates, have some discretion to allot a certain amount of money and awarding a number of grants most of the work is done by these Program Officers.

    As to how Mark Zuckerberg and his wife direct their money, it’s a little different because they funnel it through a community foundation (like a big bank for charitable giving for people who don’t want to have their own foundations), so they probably hand select the grantees they want to give the money to, I understand they made a huge gift to a health center in East Palo Alto.

    Comment by Lauren Do — February 12, 2014 @ 11:45 am

  11. 8. Techs cannot create what is not there. Missing servers need to be replaced, there is nothing there to repair. My understanding is that Franklin has not had a server for two years!
    As for the Chrome books, more states and individual districts across the nation have been pulling out of Common Core, and the testing. Common Core, is an untested, unresearched idea funded by Gates and Pearson among others. It will put more money in the pockets of big business, and in my opinion, and that of many others (see Mike McMahon’s comments, particularly from Diane Ravitch) Common Core is another NCLB and does not address the real issues and problems in education.

    Comment by Cturner — February 12, 2014 @ 11:56 am

  12. I haven’t read about California as a whole or a slew of California districts pulling out of Common Core and the testing. If you can point to any article, I would be happy to read it, but I don’t think AUSD is in any position to be the first of few in California to opt out of Common Core. Here is an article about how California intends to use this year to field test the Common Core test (Smarter Balanced assessment) and not produce numbers for the NCLB requirement this year.

    Comment by Lauren Do — February 12, 2014 @ 12:09 pm

  13. 10. I’m tearing my hair out trying to find the book referenced yesterday which mentioned the aid going to African war lord, but I have failed. It doesn’t matter to me if Gates hires people to deal with details, he is still responsible. I was at Books Inc trying to find the damn book and somebody there was going on about Gates wonderful work in Africa with malaria and AIDs, which are all laudable, but I’ve heard repeated criticisms like this one:

    His underlings could have read this book which came out a few years before his hi-tech toilet contest.

    Comment by MI — February 12, 2014 @ 3:01 pm

  14. ..This is not about Bill Gates or how anyone taught someone to make a powerpoint presentation….There are 90 million Web Pages that Teach students how to make power point presentations……About 90,600,000 results (0.40 seconds)

    Trying to Create difficult Questions for a Simple Answer….

    Spend some money on the Students….. and Buy them New Computers

    Technology and Computers in the Classrooms in Alameda has been here 20 + Years with internet Access.

    Comment by Get on with it — February 12, 2014 @ 5:13 pm

  15. 5 Reasons Chromebooks Make Sense for Schools
    Chromebooks are a hot commodity in K–12 for good reason. Here are a few of the device’s advantages.

    1. Cheaper Machines, Longer Life

    When you’re rolling out a one-to-one initiative to thousands of students, cost plays a huge role in the decision, notes Donna Teuber, technology ­integration coordinator for Richland School District Two in Columbia, S.C. This fall, the district is distributing Chromebooks to 22,000 students in grades three through 12, she says.

    Aside from lower hardware costs, the ability to use Google Apps — and avoid software license fees — makes them a real bargain, notes Teuber, who adds that the district is hoping to use each device for at least four years.

    “You need to look at sustainability,” she says. “You can’t always have the shiniest, newest technology every year. You’ve got to pick a device you think will be great for several years.”

    2. More Time Teaching, Less Time Troubleshooting

    With Chromebooks, teachers and students don’t waste precious classroom time troubleshooting, says Bryan Weinert, director of technology for Leyden High School District 212, just outside of Chicago. In fall 2012, Leyden rolled out Chromebooks to all 3,500 students and, in return, ­reclaimed valuable teaching time.

    “We use a traditional 50-minute period, and with Chromebooks, ­[students] can spend all 50 minutes learning,” he says. “With traditional laptops, teachers and students might spend five to 10 minutes each period battling with the technology.”

    Number of schools worldwide that use Chromebooks

    SOURCE: Google

    3. Painless Provisioning, Easy Support

    From a management standpoint, Chromebooks make provisioning ­almost painless, Ramsden notes. All he needs to do is enroll students in the school’s Google Apps for Education domain and asset tag the devices. If the hardware fails for some reason, he simply hands the student a loaner.

    “We call it NASCAR tech — we can get you in and out of here in two minutes,” he jokes. “And because we don’t have to spend so much time on tech support, it allows us to focus on other technology initiatives.”

    4. Better Security, Perfect Backups

    Because Chromebooks store everything in the Google cloud, the ­machines are less vulnerable to ­malware or data loss than traditional notebooks, says Dr. Roland J. Rios, director of technology at Fort Sam Houston Independent School District in San Antonio. Last year, all 400 students at the district’s Robert G. Cole High School transitioned from notebook PCs to Chromebooks.

    “When we had a traditional one-to-one program, students would bring us a computer that had a virus or a hard-disk crash,” he says. “I’d ask, ‘Did you back up your ­documents?’ The answer was always, ‘No.’ Now, when a machine has problems, I just grab another Chromebook and hand it to the ­student. When he logs in, all his bookmarks and documents are there. He loses nothing.”

    5. Empowering Students, Teaching Technology

    Along with its one-to-one initiative, Leyden High School District 212 launched a yearlong tech support class for students in its business ­education department, Weinert says. When something goes wrong with a Chromebook, these students provide the first tier of support. If the problem is too advanced or involves access to sensitive information, then it’s passed on to the IT department.

    “This is one of my favorite parts of going one-to-one,” he says. “It’s ­unbelievable what the students are learning. Many are getting technical certifications that will enable them to work outside the classroom. And we’re able to support 3,500 devices while adding zero people to my department. It’s been transformational.”

    Keep up with the latest tech trends in K–12:

    Comment by Get on with it — February 12, 2014 @ 5:18 pm

  16. Comment by Get on with it — February 12, 2014 @ 5:49 pm

  17. Comment by Get on with it — February 12, 2014 @ 5:51 pm

  18. Are Successmaker and Chromebooks available on Free Library computers?

    Comment by nemo — February 13, 2014 @ 8:18 am

  19. Successmaker (supposedly) can be used as long as you have a computer and an internet connection. I haven’t tried seeing if it works on the Public Library computers, but according to the AUSD Tech Dept only 5% of home users can actually successfully connect to Successmaker and Pearson, the software developer, can’t figure out why.

    Comment by Lauren Do — February 13, 2014 @ 8:31 am

  20. Just thought I’d share this from the AlamedaPatch:

    Comment by WestEnder — February 13, 2014 @ 1:26 pm

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