What is Technology?
written in the Fall of 2016
The New Oxford American Dictionary defines technology as:
“the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry; machinery and equipment developed from the application of scientific knowledge.”
In the first school room organized in Konawa, sometime around 1903, there were technologies utilized: perhaps slate boards and chalk, a school bell, books and maybe a paddle. What we think of as technology today probably refers to something that uses electricity and saves us some work. This article will recognize some of the changes in technological tools since the advent of computers and the Internet. The information is accurate to the limits of my memory – I did not attempt to find purchase orders or other documentation to verify the dates or quantities of purchases.
The first computer purchased by Konawa Public School appears to have been this TRS-80 Model 1 from Radio Shack. We still have this computer and it still works. The TRS-80 used BASIC for programming, using a whopping 16 kilobytes of RAM and a cassette tape recorder for storage. It is highly unlikely that any computer you could purchase today will still be functioning 28 years from now. The operating system, TRS-DOS was one of Bill Gates Microsoft’s early projects. Students used the computer to write programs in their math classes and in independent study. There are some Konawa grads whose IT careers were launched as a result of exposure to this personal computer.
After the TRS-80, Konawa purchase a number of Apple computers from the Apple IIe and Apple IIc to an early iMac. The vocational business department and administrators went to PCs. When I joined the faculty in 1994, there were a few IBMs in the elementary using Write to Read and several Dells in the vocational business department and used by the administration. While business typically have 3 to 5 year computer life cycles, school have to stretch them out much further. We have a history of waiting until machines are from 8 to 12 years old before declaring the as surplus and recycling them. A reasonable expectation is more like 6 years before obsolesce. A more complete timeline of computer deployment follows.
“Automation” of accounting and records began in the late 80’s and early 90’s with an optimistic, but never fulfilled goal of the paperless office. It may be hard for students to believe, but there was a time when all records and documents were either hand written or typed. Ledger books were a common site of the secretary’s desk, report cards were blank forms filled in by teachers with ink pens, and written summaries were presented at board meetings. As recently as the early 90’s, checks were printed off-site by an accounting firm. Moving our accounting, treasury, and student information “in-house” required a server and computers connected with a “network”. That first sever used Novell Netware 4, mostly because Novell would provide a copy free to schools.
We moved to Windows 2003 Server when following changes at Municipal Accounting Systems, purchasing a new Dell server and adding many new clients to include principals, secretaries, and counselors. The new system required the use of Pervasive, a SQL server engine. The next server refresh enabled us to deploy Windows 2008 Server and was shortly followed by a refresh of all administrative client machines. About this time, we began to rely upon RecTec for consulting services to manage server issues and perform upgrades. Currently, the district runs one administrative server utilizing Windows Server 2012.
At the date of this writing (2017), most of the services our school uses are cloud-based and the need for local servers has diminished greatly. The advantages of this change are: generally less expensive as it eliminates local server and storage devices, less local time required for support, updates and maintenance performed by vendor, and backups performed by vendor. The disadvantage is that it requires continuous Internet connect uptime, so it becomes vital that the Internet service is reliable.
The network infrastructure of our district is a seemingly invisible piece of telecommunications that all else depends upon. It’s evolution has required much planning, effort, and support. Most users don’t even know it exists, much less what it is. Konawa’s first network was a twisted pair scheme which connected the Apple IIe and IIc computers in what is now the middle school lab. There was one dot matrix printer on this network.
When the administration “automated”, they ran coaxial cable between buildings to hubs at each end in order to connect clients used by secretaries to the admin server. This system was a nightmare. The location of our school is often referred to as being “on the hill” and this means we get lightening strikes during severe weather. Since the cables were run above ground, we had to replace the hubs frequently.
In 1996, thanks to Universal Services funding, the first viable network was installed at Konawa. This network had a fiber backbone run underground between building, which virtually ended our lightening problems. There was a “Master Connect (MC)” installed in the high school next to the ISDN telephone circuit. An “Interconnect (IC)” was built in each building the received a cable or fiber connection back to the MC. The network consisted of one external router (connecting our school to the Internet), an internal router (connecting the MC to the ICs), a huge and costly switch (controlling traffic), and enough hubs in every rack to accommodate cabling. Each classroom was wired the four Ethernet drops, one for the teacher and three for students.
Our administrators and vocational business classes have always used Windows products. In the case of administration, this is dictated by our choice of software vendor. Business classes follow the market norm. Like many other educational communities, Konawa has favored the Apple Macintosh line of computers for faculty and student use over the Windows line of products offered by Dell, Gateway, Compaq, Acer, and others. Despite controversy, reasons include:
The choice has worked out to our favor. Nearly every computer we have placed in the classroom became obsolete before it failed. We have successfully deployed over 300 computers, at times, with only one support person. The most impressive indicator, to me, is that nearly every time I see a former employee, they never fail to mention that they did not really appreciate the level of technology we have at Konawa until they went to work for another school.
Konawa began placing computers in classrooms at about the same time as our first network was installed in 1996. Prior to this there had been a CCC lab and a few reading program PCs in the elementary, a business lab and a Apple II lab in the middle school / high school building, but very few teachers had a computer for their classroom use. The first installation of classroom computers were iMac G3’s in 1998.
Deployment of iMacs to all classrooms was completed in 2000. At that time we purchased the iMac DV SE.
By 2004, some of the teacher iMacs were re-purposed as student computers in elementary and middle school classrooms and teachers were supplied with the iMac G5.
In 2008, a refresh of teacher’s classroom computers was made possible by a technology component of a local bond and we supplied all teachers with their choice of a MacBook Pro (laptop) or the aluminum cased iMac of that period. As of this writing, these computers are still being used by teachers, although the MacBook batteries are all expiring.
Printers have always been the number source of help requests among staff of the school. The “paperless office” began to be predicted in 1960’s and 70’s, but we’ve never used more paper than we do today in 2016. According the The Paperless Project:
In the last 20 years, the usage of paper products has increased from 92 million tons to 208 million, which is a growth of 126%.
Our first printers were directly connected to the computer that used them with a serial cable. There had to of been several dot matrix printers in Konawa School as there were still boxes and piles of form-feed paper around when I began to work here in 1994. All of the printers since my employ have been laser or inkjet. Peripheral cables have moved to USB, Firewire, USB2, Ethernet, and now some are WIFI and don’t need cables at all.
We began to use network printers (nearly all from HP) as soon as we had a reliable, campus-wide network (about 1995). This allowed one printer could service many users, providing the service less expensively. When copy machines began to include a network printing option, we shifted much of the printing load to them as the consumable cost was less.
The goal of paperless is perhaps a little closer now that we are using Google Apps, as a teacher could assign using Classroom, students complete and submit their work, and the teacher can grade and return it – all online. It will be hard to wean everyone away from the printer. I doubt that I see a serious reduction in paper use before the end of my career.
The first grade book software we deployed at Konawa was Easy Grade Pro. This software had the flexibility of adapting to the various grading style that teacher were accustomed to using, yet had the “look” of the spiral bound grade book we had all grown used to. Easy Grade Pro was our standard from 1996 until about 2005 when pressures to integrate grades to the Student Information System drove us to the grade book product offered by Municipal Accounting Systems: i-Student Information System. Briefly, this product was marketed as “ISIS” until the Islamic group of the same name appeared. This product change eliminated the necessity of building secretaries having to enter teacher grades into their system for report cards and transcripts. As with every other software product, the grade book is now “cloud based” and used exclusively by the teacher through the web browser. Two additional benefits were removing the task of calculating “eligibility” from the teacher each week and providing online access to parents of their children’s progress.
Productivity software has been provided to our staff for as long as we have provided them with computers. In the early days, we purchase site or volume licensing for Microsoft Office, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and a few other tools. When Apple began shipping their Mac computers with the iWork products of Pages, Keynote, Numbers we realized that upgrading Office products was an expense we could eliminate. Apple also provide the iLife suite which included iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, and iWeb.
In 2011, Microsoft shifted their marketing strategy from licensing to on-line products that provided a continuous revenue stream. Their “cloud” product, Office 365, requires an annual payment per seat. While good for Microsoft, this strategy resulted in schools looking for a less expensive or free alternative. Since Apple provided a productivity suite free, our last Microsoft product for teachers was Office 2008 for the Mac. In 2016, we became a Google Apps for Education (now G-Suite) school, which solved several problems all at once. Besides cost savings, these products simplify saving, organizing, finding, and sharing your work.
The current (2017) G-Suite includes:
Textbook Ancillary Materials
Schools used to have a budget that supported the purchase of textbooks. Textbook publishers promoted the sales of their titles by providing “free” ancillary materials including software that: provided additional reinforcement, test generators, schedulers, etc. The combination of reduced school funding and deregulation of the use of funds has resulted in greatly diminished purchase of textbooks. Vary rarely do you find working ancillary software at this time due to incompatibility and obsolescence.
Soon after our teachers had computers available, they began to see how helpful it would be if they could use resources on the computer screen in their presentations. PowerPoint, in particular, was an early presentation tool that teachers felt could make their lectures and lessons more effective. Some early adopters connected their computers to televisions using RF modulators, but soon it became cost effective to use a video projector. Sometime around 1998, our technology planning committee made installation of ceiling mounted projectors a goal which was implemented within one year in the majority of our classrooms. Most classrooms already had a projector screen mounted in the ceiling that had been used with overhead projectors. We used local electricians to install ceiling mounting plates, electrical outlets, and run VGA and audio cabling to these projectors.
Back in about 1988 or ‘89, Mr. CJ Vires was an assistant administrator / grant writer for Konawa School. Attending a conference, he was impressed with a new technology called the SMART board interactive whiteboard. Shortly after, Mr. Vires found funding to purchase a board mounted on a portable frame that could be moved from one classroom to another. This board quickly found a home in our high school math classes, but was shared somewhat. Teachers from other subjects and grades soon became enamored with this new teaching tool that used touch detection for user input. Applications on the teachers computer could be controlled from the board and it was a way to get students excited and more involved in the classroom regimen.
Early adopters in the elementary grades and in mathematics procured wall mounted boards within a few years and succeeded in placing SmartBoards as a priority on our technology plan. By 2005, we had installed the interactive whiteboard in nearly every classroom in the district. The SMART Notebook software enables teachers to compile notes, images and other media into lessons that can be saved, edited, published, and collaboratively shared.
iPads and Podcasting
New technologies immerge continuously and it takes some time to evaluate their relevance to education. A good case study might be the podcast. Apple introduced the iPod in 2001 to be a music player, but quickly added other features. Around 2004, the term podcast became a thing in education – like radio, but it could be recorded (subscribed to) and played at the listener’s convenience. We had a staff development workshop in 2005 to promoted technology integration that focused on using podcasts in the classroom and how to communicate with the community and world by creating podcasts in GarageBand. This was a fun and interesting idea that didn’t really stick. For two years, Konawa Public School published a podcast that worked like a school newspaper, but lack of subscriptions discouraged it’s continuance.
Aside from services for the administration, servers have been required to support faculty and student needs from the late 1990’s until our move to Google Apps for Education. Apple’s Open Directory services at our school have included:
We used Apple’s Network Assistant, before it was replaced by Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) to set preferences on clients, Our first file server was a PowerMac 6100 which set in the “server room” of the Master Connect in the high school. It was the same model as in the picture below:
As the number of users and size of files began to increase, we moved up to a PowerMac G3 server. We were an early adopter of Mac OS X Server when it was first released.
Sever obsolescence is accelerated by technological innovations and new services that schools wish to utilize. Our next upgrade of servers was to rack mounted OS X servers.
These servers used less energy and space than their predecessors and supported new features in the server operating system. It’s all about increase speed and storage.
The picture above shows three OS X Servers and a RAID array mounted in a self-contained fan cooled cabinet. Below are our current servers which supported all faculty and student accounts, file sharing, email, DNS, and web hosting until we adopted Google Apps for Education. Now they are really only used for random storage and DNS. You can see how much smaller and less expensive servers have become over the years.
Konawa’s first connection to the Internet was established in 1995 with, MasterMind, an internet service provider who was later ruled to be violating FCC rules. The connection utilized an ISDN line delivering 128 kbits/s service. In the photo below, the ISDN box is grey at the middle of the top.
By 1998 we had outgrown our ISDN connection and obtained a T-1 connection from OneNet, a division of the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education. OneNet has been the ISP (Internet Service Provider) for Konawa since that move in 1998. Not only is their rate better than competitors, but their service and support has been stellar and connections to colleges for concurrent courses is more direct.
Our seniors have taken remote math and English college classes from Seminole State College offered on our video conferencing equipment since 2002. The T-1 connection speed was 1.544 Mbps or roughly 12 times the speed of an ISDN connection. In 2004 we added a second T-1 circuit to keep up with our growing demand. The two T-1 circuits are the two beige boxes in the upper left of the photo above with blue cables coiled up under them.
As teachers and students began using more Internet resource, especially video resources, our bandwidth demand grew steadily. At the same time our staff and administrators began utilizing web-based products in a rapidly increasing pattern. Some of the web-based products include instructional services such as OdysseyWare, Study Island, Accelerated Reader, our yearbook vendor, and our Student Information System (SIS) from Municipal Accounting. Teachers draw upon more and more web based resources as funding for textbooks and other materials dry up from state austerity measures.
Our first fiber circuit arrived in 2012 providing the school with a 100 Mbps connection. This is nearly 800 times the bandwidth provided by that first ISDN circuit and 65 times the bandwidth of the two T-1 lines at a cost about the same as four T-1s. In September of 2016, we have upgraded our connection to 200 Mbps on a Gigabyte circuit and increased the capacity of other devices so that future increases will only require notifying OneNet to change our subscription rate. In the photo below, the first fiber circuit comes through the dark grey Cisco box on the right while the new circuit is in the light beige Ciena router on the bottom left. The box at the top is the fiber patch panel and the conduit coming through the ceiling goes out to the ATT fiber box on the right-of-way.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began assisting schools in the funding of telecommunications on or around 1997 after in a program administered by the Universal Services Administrative Company (USAC) commonly referred to as E-Rate. Our school applied for and received funding to establish our first viable internal network in 1998. This network consisted of one Internet Router, one switch, and a host of hubs placed in each building on floor or wall-mounted racks – mostly in closet or storage rooms that were never intended for heat producing electronics or security.
Distance Learning was promoted as an opportunity for small schools and rural schools to offer elective or special courses to their students that would otherwise not be possible. Barriers of travel and funding were hoped to be overcome by emerging technologies and facilitate equity between rural and urban schools. Higher mathematics courses, foreign language courses, art and advanced studies were focused on in the early days, but have since given way in recent years to college credit courses for senior students and a way to ease scheduling limitations. Alternative Education Program students, homebound and home schooled students frequently use distance courses today. Distance learning has also become an inroad to the privatization of public education due to lobbying efforts and profit opportunities.
German by Satellite
In 1984, The Oklahoma State Department of Education began promoting satellite instruction of foreign languages in public high schools in coordination with Oklahoma State University by offering a grant to schools that enabled the purchase and installation of satellite dish receivers, cabling and other equipment. The initial course offerings were German and French. Konawa opted to enroll students in “German by Satellite” taught by Dr. Harry S. Wohlert and his wife. The idea was that schools would eventually pick up other elective courses that the would not otherwise be able to offer.
Those other courses never really materialized, but concurrent enrollment of seniors in college courses did begin to become popular using the next emerging distance learning technology: the video conferencing unit.
Channel One News
Back in 1990, Channel One student news was introduced to Konawa with a satellite receiver, cable network, and classroom televisions. Paid for by advertising, it was founded by advertising and marketing executive, Christopher Whittle. Many of the televisions still adorn our classrooms, though they are no longer used and the receiver is gone. Some teachers still use Channel One News with their class by accessing the web site.
Video Conferencing (Polycom)
As with the satellite program, the Oklahoma State Department of Education began encouraging schools to adopt distance learning when the technology of a teleconference unit became viable in 2001. Most rural schools in Oklahoma partnered with Polycom and local colleges to offer senior high school students concurrent enrollment opportunities. Some of these schools were willing to waive tuition for concurrent seniors. Konawa seniors have been taking some English and mathematics classes from Seminole State College. The conferencing unit has been in use in the Dougan Conference Center every year since that date (time of this writing 2016). The technology and equipment has become problematic and is very dated, but still useful for seniors who don’t wish to travel to Seminole.
Konawa Public School has partnered with Seminole State College to offer concurrent enrollment in courses such as English and Mathematics for many years. The courses are frequently shared with other public schools and give seniors the opportunity to earn college credits before they graduate from high school.
Cloud Resources and Services
The most recent off campus opportunity for students has been the availability of online high school credit courses which we offer with OdysseyWare. These courses are totally online and self paced. Coursework can be completed from any location where a computer with an internet connection is available. Many of the courses can be done with tables or smartphones.
For a number of years we also offered tutoring programs such as Study Island. These were not complete courses offering credit, but we valuable resources that teachers could pull into their curriculum or that students could use for outside help. As the Oklahoma State Legislature began cutting school funding, these resources had to be eliminated.
In the area of Information Technology, nothing good ever happens by accident. Careful and continuous planning are required in order to assess needs of a district, assign priorities, advocate for the goals established, procure funding, request for proposals, evaluate options, coordinate deployment, and evaluate the success of projects. This is a lot of work. In 1994, Konawa Public School established their first Technology Planning Committee. Efforts have been made to have faculty, administrative, patron and student representatives on the Committee ever since that date. If you have read to this point, you may have realized that a great deal has been accomplished in our district since 1994. Those accomplishments are due, in large part, to the plans made and implemented by that Committee. Technology Plans are posted on our website.
There are presently several computer labs at Konawa Public School
Mobile Carts (laptops)
Konawa School purchase a mobile cart equipped with 25 MacBook computers in 2006 to be used in the high school and middle school. Two additional carts was purchased in 2008
Mobile Carts (iPads)
Our first iPad cart was purchase in 2011, consisting of 30 2nd generation iPads. The cart was available for teachers of middle and high school to move to their classroom. The management of software and data proved to be an issue because the iPad was conceived to be a single user device.
A second iPad cart of 20 was provided by the GearUp program administrated out of Seminole State College in 2012. This cart followed the cohort of the class of 2017. It is also used extensively by the Alternative Ed program.
Konawa Public School technology planning committee has had a goal of establishing a one-to-one initiative since 2001 when we visited Sedgewick, Kansas, to see how they funded and managed their student laptops. Unfortunately, we have never succeeded in bringing that vision to reality. We do, however, believe that it will happen, hopefully, in the near future. Back in 2001, the price point for a laptop computer for student use was about $1500. When iPads came out as a viable one-to-one tool, the price dropped to about $800. Now that ChromeBooks are available for about $200, we think a one-to-one is surely within reason. We are currently advocating presenting the community with a bond that has a significant technology component.
The early history of telephone usage at Konawa is unknown to me, but from my first days here we used a PBX phone system from Nortel. The phones were in all offices and areas where a phone was required for convenience or security.
The above picture shows a typical telephone in the old Nortel system.
The old Notel phone system was “state of the art” in the early 1990’s.
The panel of trunk lines coming into Konawa Public School.
As of September of 2017, a new VOIP phone system has been installed at Konawa Public School. The new system includes handsets in every classroom. The purpose of the system is to provide safety and communications throughout the district by replacing the Nortel phone system, the public address system, and the bell system. Our last phone system was installed in the mid 1990’s and was beyond the product’s end of life. All hope for stretching its service any further was dashed a few weeks ago by a lightning strike. After that event, the AT&T technicians pronounced the system dead. Fortunately, we had already begun the process of replacing it with a VOIP telephone system.
A typical Shortel administrative handset.
A typical Shortel classroom handset.
Components of the integrated VOIP telephone, bell, and PA system.
Voice Over Internet Protocol telephones use the school’s network and Internet service to communicate. We had, of course, known that VOIP phones were the preferred systems for many years now but had been delaying updating our phone system due to the lack of funds, the amount of work involved, and the general inconvenience of having to install and learn a new system. However, we no longer had much choice. Last spring we began the replacement process by meeting with a number of vendors and learning about available products and services. After discussing the options with other school districts, we elected to go with Shortel telephones and to include our public address and bell systems in the project.
The PA and bell systems in our school district were installed when the buildings were built. Some repairs and replacements were made over the years, but both of these systems had become increasingly problematic in recent years. In fact, a recent power outage disabled the PA system in the elementary school. On the bright side, all of the existing analog speakers in the halls and classrooms have been connected to the new system and additional speakers have been installed at three outdoor locations and in the high school gymnasium. Many of the original speakers that were not working before have been reconnected and are working properly now. The paging is one-way to the speaker systems, but by providing a handset for every classroom, we are better able to make a call for assistance than ever before.
We believe that this new phone system will serve Konawa Public School many years into the future with greater versatility than the old systems. At some point in the future, the district could include security alarms and cameras in this system. As in the past, the main number for the school is 580.925.3244 which will be answered by the auto attendant. All of the original extensions are still valid as listed below: