New bits and bytes for South computers

By Dayun Keum
Published: October 2010

In an effort to foster 21st century skills and ensure that students have access to adequate technology resources, the Information Technology (IT) Department worked on a significant technology upgrade over the summer.
This upgrade resulted, in part, from a greater discussion about equity between North and South, given the wide range of resources that North will enjoy because of new construction funding. In particular, administrators noted that North received a number of new technology-related resources, including desktop and laptop computers, interactive whiteboards, and other instructional resources.
As a result, the School Committee voted to fund approximately $200,000 to upgrade South’s aging technology resources, which were installed nearly a decade ago during the school’s renovation. These funds are surplus from the FY10 budget.
A discussion about South’s technology needs and priorities began last spring, when the school’s Technology Committee examined the existing technology at South. Out of this discussion came a list of priorities for getting South up-to-date, including replacing old computer labs and introducing new equipment like document cameras.
With the increasing use of digital tools in South teachers’ curricula, it was clear to the Technology Committee that the old computers – which frequently froze and broke down – and obsolete software was not conducive to fostering students’ 21st century skills.
Before school started, the IT Department installed all new hardware and software in the Cutler Lab, Arts Lab, and one of the library’s laptop carts. These improvements will allow each set of computers to be utilized in a way not possible with the previous technology.
The Cutler Lab is now used as a main component of computer science and statistics classes.
“The new Cutler lab has allowed me to have a computer science class in a lab instead of using an old set of laptops on a cart, calculus and computer science teacher Margery Waldron said. “Last year students were very frustrated by the slowness of the laptops and lack of internet access¦ and [were] frequently losing all their work when the laptop batteries died.  This year, students can securely save their work using their Active Directory accounts.
Music, photo, and theatre classes now use the Arts Lab, previously known as the Music Lab. This lab, in addition to having new computers, also received updated USB piano keyboards and a variety of specialty software for writing and recording music, digital photo editing, and theatre production design.
“Now I spend very little time fixing computer problems and a whole lot of time teaching students. Our software has many more sounds and [is] overall easier for students to learn and to [easily] make really authentic sounding music, said music teacher Ben Youngman. “I think the students are having a better experience and I know that I am having a better experience.
The new library laptop cart came as a huge relief to the librarians, who recognized that students were at a clear disadvantage using the old laptops that were in the two library classrooms. When students came with their classes to do research, slow and malfunctioning computers made it difficult to access online resources and create final projects.
 “The new laptops are 50 times faster and allow me not to deal with other students messing up the computers used collectively by all students and faculty, senior David Itkin said. “They allow me to make the most out of my library experience.
Instructional Technology Specialist Brian Hammel believes that these laptop carts are “useful and convenient, allowing students to use technology without leaving the classroom.
Over the next month, new computers will also be installed in the Goldrick Lab, the second library laptop cart, and the History department laptop cart. The Goldrick Lab and History cart will feature special software that complements the U.S. and world history curriculums.
In addition to upgrading computer labs and carts, a number of document cameras were purchased for math and science classrooms, and will be installed shortly. These cameras, which are modern versions of the overhead projectors used to project images and text, are capable of zooming in very close without deteriorating image quality. They can also be connected to a computer for further scanning and saving options.
Hammel noted that, with these cameras, teachers will be able to “take pictures [of course material]¦and put the pictures up on their websites.
In addition to the purchase and installation of new equipment, the IT Department has also introduced a new computer access system, allowing students to log in with their own “Active Directory usernames and passwords on all new computers.
Students now cannot change or delete other students’ work. Also, students are able to securely save their documents from one computer and then access them on any other computer in the building using “StudentHome. This eliminates the need to save files on a flash drive or in e-mails.
“I think the new [login and saving system] is¦easy to follow, junior Masha Uglova said. “[It] is a very efficient way to do schoolwork without having to worry about losing it on a computer that anyone has access to.

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