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Annville-Cleona implements technological changes
[October 10, 2012]

Annville-Cleona implements technological changes

ANNVILLE, Oct 10, 2012 (Lebanon Daily News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The Annville-Cleona School District is currently in the process of implementing several new technological initiatives that district officials hope will save teachers and students time, save the district money and increase network security.

But A-C officials are learning that trying to implement the changes at a district with more than 1,500 students, teachers and staff can be a challenge.

The most significant change, according to Superintendent Steven Houser, is new servers. Previously, all teachers had a computer with a hard drive, and they would periodically back up their information on the server.

Now, the district has several servers, and all computers and devices are merely a way to connect to the server. Information is no longer actually stored on the device, Houser said.

"The computers no longer have information on them," he said. "It is simply the vessel to connect to the server, which has it all on." The new system prevents users from losing information if their computers crash.

"We did have people under the old system that didn't back up their files, then their hard drive would die, and they lost everything," Houser said. "Now, if somebody's computer crashes, it doesn't matter. There's nothing on that computer. You just give them another computer." The district is also creating a system that will allow students, teachers and administrators to use personal devices, such as laptops, tablet or smartphones, to connect to the district's network.

"These kids already have their own device. Why don't you just provide an opportunity for them to connect to your system " Houser said of the so-called "bring-your-own-device" system.

District officials met with representatives of Lebanon Valley College, which has been using a similar model for several years.

Houser said there were two main issues with people bringing their own devices: making sure the devices are virus-free and connecting the multitudes of other devices. Devices that have a virus or do not have virus protection would be kicked off the network.

There are currently three teachers connecting with their own devices, and Houser said he hopes to have a few students connect with their devices by Christmas.

"Eventually, we want to be able to do with kids what we're doing with teachers right now," he said. "They can connect their phone, they can connect their iPad, they can connect their computer. Whatever device they want to bring in, they can connect, then they can transmit their homework." The district is also implementing several changes to reduce the amount of paper the district uses. Previously, the district ran off about 5 million copies a year and printed another 1 million pages, Houser said.

"That's pretty common that we run a lot of paper," he said. "One of our concerns is to reduce that amount of paper." One way is by using centralized high-volume printers instead of having a printer in every classroom. The teachers didn't much like that, Houser said, but it has saved the district about 30 percent in costs.

"If we can reduce our cost of printing by 30 percent, then that's a good piece," he said. "That's not counting the cost of the paper, which is another cost." In addition, the district is moving toward a paperless concept in which homework and papers can be turned in digitally by dragging and dropping them in folders on the district's server.

"Teachers will have a common folder, and then students will drop their homework in, and then teachers will be able to check their homework without them having to print it out," Houser said.

Julia Nye, the district's technology director, said paperless homework should be up and running this school year.

"It's a matter of training the staff," she said.

The initiatives were spurred by audits conducted by the state attorney general's office in 2006 and 2009, Houser said. Every school district is audited by the AG's office every three years.

Not all of the changes grew from what was specifically cited by the audits, Houser said.

"Obviously, the attorney general's audit exposed some things that we needed to work on," he said. "But there were also things that we knew we wanted to do (instructionally) moving forward."; 272-5611, ext. 145 ___ (c)2012 the Lebanon Daily News (Lebanon, Pa.) Visit the Lebanon Daily News (Lebanon, Pa.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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