Chris Turner's Blog
Kettering University FIRST Robotics ProgramPosted by Chris Turner on 1/10/2020
This Week In Technology
Bond construction and implementation planning is well underway, with meetings between the architects, technology consultants, construction managers, and school district personnel ongoing since November’s election. In support of those ideation efforts, technology consultants and members of the Brighton Area Schools administrative team visited Kettering University this week, with the objective of learning more about their robotics programming and facilities.
While robotics features significantly in both our current and future curriculum, the vision for Brighton Area Schools is broader, and robotics will play a role in our future STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) facilities and programs. This Kettering visit helped to both create a visual entry into what that portion of STEAM may look like for our schools, as well as provide valuable contacts for future inquiries. Our thanks is extended to the Kettering University FIRST Robotics Center staff for their informative tour and discussion.
In extracurricular news, National Public Radio has announced their annual Student Podcast Challenge, and reminders for the contest have been forwarded to each school’s librarian. The contest is open to school clubs or classes made up of students between grades 5 and 12, and the winning teams will be featured on NPR’s Morning Edition or All Things Considered. Last year, Scranton Librarian Kara Fribley led a crew of students in support of their podcast entry, and we would welcome the opportunity to feature some of our creative students again this year.
The Homework GapPosted by Chris Turner on 11/9/2018
How we teach and learn has been largely transformed in the last generation. Formerly, students were arranged in orderly rows, guided by an analog clock, lectured at by a teacher. Classroom instruments may have consisted of rulers, chalkboards, and calculators. Now, our physical spaces are transforming to flexible furniture and differentiated classroom orientations, and even non-fluorescent lighting sources. We also witness the advent of teachers serving less as orators, as the center of instruction, and more like curriculum coaches and guides to student learning. This sophistication of instruction is concurrently demonstrated in developing classroom technologies as well. Everyday we can witness students in our schools using computers and tablets, accessing internet information resources supplied via wireless networks, and engaging with other tools like scientific sensors and probes, document cameras popular in the English language arts classes for diagramming written work, and interactive displays, which allow students to manipulate math problems for immediate, summative feedback.
Classrooms and curriculum in Brighton Area Schools are beginning to reflect this positive move to a more enriched instructional environment. At present, instead of typewriters and paper and whiteout, students have chromebooks and cloud storage. In lieu of clay or wood models, we have 3-D printers. And, teachers have the option of electronically distributing content and assignments with tools like Google Classroom instead of traditional packets of worksheets.
And yet, it’s careless to assume that all students -- Brighton or otherwise -- have access to these advanced educational tools. The popular and the research literature alike discusses the notion of the homework gap, what a recent article describes as “the unequal access to digital devices and high-speed internet,” preventing “teens from completing their homework assignments.” When we enrich classroom instruction with new techniques and digital tools, we need to also ensure equity for all students, and provide for appropriate alternatives. There are programs available, though, for those without home internet access. According to statistics provided by EveryoneOn, 20% of the United States population lacks the geographic or financial access to broadband internet, so the organization acts as a clearinghouse for discovering local affordable internet connectivity and computer purchasing options. Another organization, Internet Essentials -- which is an initiative supported by Comcast -- provides direct low-cost home internet service, Wi-Fi networking, and computer purchasing options. And while it’s not a convenient home resource, here in Brighton free Wi-Fi is commonly available at fast food and coffee shop locations, and always available at the following greater Brighton area library locations:
100 Library Drive
Brighton, MI 48116
3688 North Hartland Road
Hartland, MI 48353
10411 Merrill Road
Whitmore Lake, MI 48139
125 Barker Road
Whitmore Lake, MI
To ensure that your family has classroom to home access to internet connectivity and physical tools like tablets or computers, please take the opportunity to learn more at EveryoneOn or Internet Essentials, or contact the Brighton Area Schools Technology Department for more information.
Update: Technology Advisory Committee Meeting: February 13, 2018Posted by Chris Turner on 2/5/2018
Click the link for a video update on the Technology Advisory Committee meetings of December 2017 and February 2018.
Speak Up 2017 SurveyPosted by Chris Turner on 11/17/2017
The Brighton Area Schools student, parent, and greater community has been invited to contribute to a survey on education issues, with topics like the following:
- Learning and teaching with mobile devices, digital content, gaming, videos, and virtual and augmented reality.
- Internet access at home and in school.
- Importance of math and the best ways to learn the subject.
- And, digital citizenship.
The surveys take less than 20 minutes to complete and are completely anonymous. Join more than 500,000 people from more than 10,000 schools to be sure your voice is heard this year. See the flier attached below for more information, and to participate, please follow this link: https://speakup.tomorrow.org/
Michigan Virtual University ConferencePosted by Chris Turner on 3/3/2017 8:39:00 AM
For three years beginning in 2013, Brighton Area Schools had the privilege of hosting the miGoogle Conference, a two-day event that drew educators from around the state, and grew each successive year. While a great opportunity for the employees to come together to plan and carry out such a significant event, the benefits of the miGoogle Conference really well showcased the wonderful facilities we have developed here at BAS. The value of hosting miGoogle extended to the broader community as well, considering the increased traffic at our local stores and restaurants, and the overnight stays at area hotels. Equipped with the knowledge and experience of hosting such a significant happening, and coupled with the well-furnished classrooms our students and teachers currently enjoy, we were approached last fall with a proposal to host another statewide technology conference. This week, BAS signed an agreement to host the annual Michigan Virtual University Collaborations of the Mind event at Brighton High School, and because of the early August date, there is no conflict with school activities. Hosting significant academic, athletic, or extracurricular events such as these maximizes the use of, and provides a return on our investment in our school facilities, and we are thankful for what the Brighton community has provided for their students.
Finally, thanks to everyone who has already contributed to our brightonk12.com survey, and a last mention for participating: https://goo.gl/forms/oRfA0xEuY9MI5OQI3
Community Survey: BrightonK12.com websitePosted by Chris Turner on 2/17/2017 10:56:00 AM
Mentioned in this space on multiple previous occasions, the contract for the BrightonK12.com website is expiring at the end of the fiscal year, and the district is working through a plan for its update, which could even include contracting with a new hosting service. Our multi-year website hosting agreement actually expired last year, but we chose to renew for an additional year in lieu of undergoing an entire review process. Now, in a more thoughtful and deliberate manner, we are re-examining the information and the appearance of BrightonK12.com, and seeking results that align with the needs of the greater Brighton community. Up to this point, the developments include:
As noted above, the Technology Advisory Committee has been meeting and discussing this potential transition for a year, including ideas on general functional and aesthetic objectives, as well as legal requirements.
A request for information was recently forwarded to our incumbent website hosting company, in addition to approximately two dozen others, and we continue to collect responses.
The next step is to solicit the opinions of those that matter most: the Brighton Area Schools community that relies on the information provided by the website. With that objective, a survey was authored that seeks your opinions on our current installation of BrightonK12.com, and it seeks your input on the website’s performance, appearance, and content. To participate, please follow this survey link:
We appreciate your participation in the survey, and we look forward to the creation of a fresh, informative BrightonK12.com website in the coming months.
Phishing, Edulink, and GooglePosted by Chris Turner on 1/27/2017 10:48:00 AM
As you may have noted from your own email inbox or via word-of-mouth, Brighton Area Schools experienced an internally emailed phishing incident Thursday that marshalled our attention. Phishing emails seek to have the message recipient provide account credentials or financial information, typically using innocent or benevolent measures. Thankfully, because of the ample and prompt inquiries we received, we were able to initiate steps to isolate the source, shut down further dissemination, and begin to examine our own assets and recovery. Due to this incident, some recommendations deserve a re-publishing:
Awareness: Always be acquainted with the source of an email message, and be especially attentive if it’s from someone you do not recognize.
Attachments: Be especially vigilant regarding email attachments, unless it is message that you are expecting and from someone you know. Attachments are the primary culprit in emailed virus and phishing attacks.
Credentials: Never provide your account and password credentials to an unrecognized system. This particular phishing attack requested users login to their Gmail account, which then transferred control of the account to the exploiters.
Defense: Always employ device-level protection by enabling firewalls, and virus and malware detection on your computer.
Aftermath: If you fell victim to a phishing exploitation, immediately change your password on that system, and any other system that uses the same credentials. In fact, best practice recommendations are for non-duplication of passwords between systems, and to use password managers.
Our thanks for everyone’s polite patience as we continue to work our way through the process, although the bulk of the impact has been mitigated.
In other Technology Department news, Hornung Elementary School added automated telephone notifications for their student absences, a step toward an efficiency that will allow their staff’s attention to other priorities. At the rollout, some misconfigurations were discovered and quickly re-programmed, and the feedback has been positive on the new service. Now we can add Hornung to our list of schools using the electronic notification system.
And finally, in BAS technology vendor news, we received positive notice this week that Google is providing the streamlined ability for students to transition their school assets to a personal account. Titled Takeout, Google’s step-by-step service allows for the user to self-select which portions of their digital assets to export, from email to documents. Google’s announcement:
“With this tool, your students can copy their Drive and email files from their G Suite for Education account to another Google account before they leave the domain. This will enable students to easily retain their email, essays, resumes, science projects and any other files stored on Google Drive if your school removes access to their old account.”
This may be great news for our employees that are separating from the district too, as they seek to maintain their Google history as they transition away from Brighton Area Schools.
Initial Blog About BloggingPosted by Chris Turner on 1/20/2017 10:40:00 AM
Last week there was a brief primer on the official Brighton Area Schools’ social media accounts and a link for BAS Twitter users, and this week’s contribution on professional development is loosely related. Monday’s Martin Luther King Holiday provides an opportunity for students and teachers to reflect on Dr. King’s life and legacy, but for teachers, to also enrich their professional practice. One proven beneficial endeavor for students and teachers alike is reflection on one’s own practice. For students, a quick journaling about the learning that took place in the classroom has been shown to boost retention. And while reflection is a component of the Brighton Area Schools evaluation system, the benefits for teachers extend far beyond that formal procedure. Employing social media, especially Twitter, can be both a quick reflective opportunity for the teacher, but informative for parents as well. Expanding beyond the 140-character limit, teachers could consider blogging as a means for deeper classroom practice examination, and the teacher-parent informational link is further extended. Beyond the information provided to the greater Brighton community, blogging would allow for teachers to expand their professional learning community, enabling others to comment and contribute positively or constructively to their teaching strategies. And finally, other benefits for teacher blogging could include keeping oneself current in emerging pedagogy trends, and the ability to articulate one’s goals, measuring their own achievement with those goals as a target. However these contemplations take place, whether via Twitter or some expanded blogging platform, the rewards of an ongoing reflective practice are notable.
Moving from professional development to department happenings, the new year turns the Technology Department’s focus to preparations for this spring’s standardized, online assessments. Back in October, Maltby got the district started with their NWEA testing, which will return for Maltby students again next month, and our 4th grade students will participate in April. Beginning in early February and continuing through late March, our English Language Learner (ELL) students take the WIDA assessment, so that language proficiency can be measured. The majority of BAS standardized test sessions, though, will involve the M-STEP, starting April 10 and continuing through May 26. The department’s assessment preparations are always ongoing, as we strive for more dependable testing environments. With that goal in mind, Brighton Area Schools was the fortunate recipient of a generous Technology Readiness Infrastructure Grant (TRIG) prior to the 2015-16 school year, which enabled the upgrade or supplementation of some of our networking and WiFi installations. As we round into 2017, the Technology Department has begun the backend server and client preparations, as we uninstall and deploy the updated resources. An additional point of emphasis: beginning in March, we will halt the automated and ongoing computer and Chromebook update cycles, in order to maintain a working testing environment, and to minimize intrusions. Having undergone all of the preparatory work involved in online testing last year, in addition to the tests themselves, we feel confidently prepared for the 2017 edition.