Category Archives: K–12 Practice Group

Cut through the Confusion with our new NYS K12 Technology Planning Resources web page

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If you’re confused by all the technology planning required by your New York State K12 School District, you’re not alone. If keeping track of ever-changing technology systems wasn’t enough, NYS school districts are confronted by additional challenges for technology planning including that needed to apply for the district’s Smart Schools Bond Act allocation.

Archi-Technology, an independent technology consulting firm, is helping more than a dozen NYS school districts cut through the clutter to develop Comprehensive Technology Plans, Instructional Technology Plans, and Smart Schools Investment Plans that take a holistic, integrated approach towards goals, gaps and funding sources.

Over the past year, we have developed a number of educational pieces and enablement tools to help our K12 district clients grasp key technical concepts and approach the planning process with efficiency and collaboration. These include:

  • Infographics that convey key concepts relating to technology systems within a district with an emphasis on the “hidden” technology infrastructure you don’t see that is responsible for moving data within and between buildings.
  • Enablement tools including technology meeting checklists and SSIP timelines and sample calendars.

This material is available to your district on our new NYS K12 Technology Planning webpage at no charge and with no required registration.

We hope you find the information helpful and welcome the opportunity to discuss your district’s technology planning challenges.

In the News: Comprehensive Technology Plan presented to Central Valley School Board

cvcsd-logo-lgOur thanks to the Times Telegram of Herkimer (NY) for their news coverage of Archi-Technology’s presentation of Central Valley School District’s Comprehensive Technology Plan to the Board of Education on Oct. 20.

Read the article, then visit our website for more information about our Comprehensive Technology Plans for NYS K12 School District.

Wireless Infrastructure Systems

Elmhurst (Ill.) Memorial Healthcare telecommunication rooms house switches and equipment that deliver Ethernet-based applications throughout the hospital. Image courtesy of Panduit

This article from Health Facilities Management was recently shared with me and while it’s focus is on Healthcare Facilities, it’s strategic perspective on the value of a Cable Infrastructure is applicable to all facilities.

Over the past 20 years we have seen first hand how strategically and proactively designed spaces, pathways and cabling systems can help organizations establish an effective foundation on which they can reliably support the variety of systems that now require IP connections.

In recent years, we have been working with a number of school districts throughout New York State as they establish just such a foundation to facilitate the delivery of education using 21st century hardware and software.

http://www.hfmmagazine.com/articles/2374-wireless-infrastructure-systems

 

NYS K12 Schools in need of Comprehensive Technology Plans (CTPs)

Like just about every other facet of contemporary life, technology has woven itself into the fabric of today’s New York State public school districts from instruction and courseware to daily operations including safety and security.

As such, we must recognize the need for a more strategic approach to the design and implementation of technology systems and related infrastructure in today’s K12 educational facilities.

Failure to do so will result in wasted resources and disappointing attempts to integrate technology into modern day classes and curriculum.

One primary issue of concern is the lack of understanding regarding the “infrastructure” needed to reliably support technology. Without a sound and robust underlying infrastructure of structured cabling, pathways and spaces, attempts to incorporate technology into today’s schools  are destined for failure. This is as applicable to design teams that simply throw some cables and conduits on a drawing and call it a “technology design” as it is to service providers that “upgrade” the network without first considering the necessary supporting infrastructure.

The issue is based on poor communications, not bad intentions; the IT and Construction/Facilities industries speak different languages.

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This graphic shows the relationship between a K12 School District’s Comprehensive Technology Plan (top), supporting material such as ITPs and Technology Conditions Surveys (middle), and resultant Funding-specific plans (bottom).

An important step towards a solution is to develop a Comprehensive Technology Plan (CTP) that takes a holistic view of how to bridge the gap between the district’s current technology conditions and its longer range goals. Some of the items that need to be addressed in a CTP include:

  • All district planning activities including Instructional Technology Plans (ITPs), mission statement and goals, BOCES contracts, and capital projects.
  • Instructional (student computing devices, whiteboards, projectors) and non-instructional (security, data communications, PA, etc.) technology systems.
  • Cable plant and network infrastructure needs to support today’s technology systems.
  • Funding Sources over a 10 year timeframe.
  • Technology refresh rates and related budgets.
  • Professional development of the teachers who will use the technology in the classroom and the IT staff supporting it.
  • Actions Plans by both academic year and district goal.

The graphic above shows the relationship between a district’s CTP and related elements including ITPs, Technology Conditions Surveys, and Funding plans.

Has your district developed a Comprehensive Technology Plan?

If so, please share your comments and experience. If not, here are some resources that might help you get started.

What items should be included in a Technology Condition Survey?

If you agree that a Technology Condition Survey (TCS) is a good idea and that the existing NYS Building Condition Survey (BCS) format is not inclusive enough, then what items should be included in a TCS?

TCS-checklistAt Archi-Technology, we have put together a TCS Checklist form to help our consultants assess Technology infrastructure and systems. Our checklist was developed by experienced vendor-independent technology consultants and is designed to look at the most important aspects of your facility’s Information-based Infrastructure and systems.

We like to use checklists because they help keep the results organized and prevent any important items from slipping through the cracks.

The draft checklist we are currently working with is six-pages long and includes a minimum of 75 items related to technology infrastructure and systems (versus the one paragraph provided in the BCS). A passing mark in all of these categories is an indicator that your facilities are in good shape to keep your information flowing. Information flow ensures that critical business functions can take place, students can receive technology-based instruction, and that their safety can be ensured by the operation of networked security and communications systems.

The following is an outline of categories we selected to include in our TCS survey:

  1. Telecommunication Infrastructure
    • Horizontal Cabling
    • Backbone Cabling
    • Communications Pathways
    • Rooms/Spaces
  2. Data Network
    • Network Hardware
    • Wireless Network
    • Network Security
    • Telecommunications Services
  3. Instructional Technology
    • Integrated AV Systems
    • PCs, Laptops, Tablets
    • Servers
  4. Communication Systems
    • PA System
    • Telephone System
    • Local Pa/Sound reinforcement systems
    • Master Clock System
  5. Safety and Security Systems
    • Access Control System
    • Intrusion Alarm System
    • Visitor Entry System
    • Video Surveillance System

Do you agree passing TCS grades in these categories will ensure information flow? Do you think this format is better than the single category as per the NYS BCS form?

DonBrownThanks for reading and let me know what you think.

— Don Brown, P.E., CLA Consultant

Form Follows Function…Unless It’s An Existing BCS Form

The existing Building Condition Survey (BCS) Form lumps lots of different system types into one category which makes it difficult to access these vital building components, and easy to omit or miss critical systems that should be assessed.

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School Facility Reports Cards, five-year Capital Improvement Plans, and Building Condition Surveys all mention the need to keep major systems upgraded. The attached communications section taken from the 2010 BCS is the only place to document the condition of all of a school’s Communications and information-based systems, and related infrastructure.

If you look at the list of all these building systems (as many as 20), they would all likely have different:

  • Conditions
  • Dates for year of last major Reconstruction/Replacement
  • Estimate years of expected remaining life.

In past technology surveys, I’ve expanded the Comments section to try to document as much of this information as possible to have supporting documentation for the corresponding five-year Capital Improvement Plan.

But not all consultants performing Building Condition Surveys have the same background so another consultant may decide that Communications Systems is limited to Public Address (PA), and will consequently neither access nor document the condition of other systems This can lead to the exclusion of major technology-based systems such as Telephone, Data Network and Access Control from your 5-year Plan.

Do you think it makes sense to expand the BSC forms to include technology infrastructure and systems?

DonBrownThanks for reading and I’d be interested to hear from you.

— Don Brown, P.E., CLA Consultant

NYS Smart Schools Planning In Action@Pembroke CSD

As the father of two children who are both students at Pembroke Central School District (NY), I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email with a Technology Survey for Pembroke Parents and Guardians.

pembroke_dragonsThe survey, which took less than five minutes to complete, asked questions about the types of internet connections, devices and digital communication practices my family has at home as well as soliciting some general thoughts on potential uses of the district’s $1.1 million allocation from the NYS Smart Schools Bond Act.

As a technology professional actively engaged in the education market, it was satisfying to see Pembroke CSD reaching out to its stakeholders for direct input into how to best spend this one-time NYS-supplied windfall.

From a more personal perspective, the survey was a validation on the evolution of the classroom from my chalkboard-and-eraser days to my kids’ more digitally based experiences. One can only wonder what changes the next ten or 15 years will bring not only to the classroom but everywhere in our lives.

Here’s a link to the Technology Survey for Pembroke Parents and Guardians.

AT-GStone-smAs school districts around NYS start preparing for Smart Schools Investment Planning, I’d like to hear what teachers, technologists and students think are some of the most effective uses of technology in today’s classrooms. What’s your thoughts?

Thanks for reading and have a great week ahead.

— Gregg Stone, K–12 Practice Group Manager

NYS Smart Schools Update from March 12 School Facilities Summit

On Thursday afternoon I was fortunate to attend the 2015 School Facilities Critical Issues Summit in Albany, NY hosted by the NYSED, the School Facilities Management Institute, and the NYS School Facilities Association.

The topic is especially timely as public school districts across the state are preparing for Building Conditions Surveys. If these Surveys include a technology component, they can provide a baseline of critical data as districts begin the process of preparing their Smart School Investment Plans.

2015-SFMI-SummitInviteAs you can imagine, there was quite a bit of discussion about the technology-based impact of the Bond on school facilities such as network connectivity, instructional software and systems, and end-point devices. With the Bond’s primary goal to improve K–12 student achievement via technologies that prepare them for the 21st Century workforce, it’s not surprising that professionals dedicated to district facility management would be interested in the wires and boxes that will make it all possible.

However, the human side of the Smart School Bond Act’s affect on classrooms was also evident. As an industry, we must never lose sight of the fact that what we do is empower people. We connect ideas, ambitions and interests among people, organizations and communities of all kinds. But if people aren’t trained on and motivated to use technology correctly, all the tablets, whiteboards and video displays in the world won’t solve the problem.

During the Q&A session of his Smart Schools Bond Act/SED Critical News You Can Use presentation, I asked Carl Thurnau, P.E., a Coordinator at the SED Office of Facility Planning, if Bond Act funding could be used for teacher and staff training in the effective use of technology in the classroom. I was happy to hear that, to his knowledge, it could. That’s great news for thousands of teachers across the state and the exponential number of students they touch.

I plan to post more blogs about the Smart Schools Bond Act and the opportunities — and potential pitfalls — it brings to residents of all ages in the Empire State.

In the meantime, I’d be interested in your thoughts as to how technology can best be used to support education in NYS.

Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from anyone with an interest in the success of our students.

TomRauscher— Tom Rauscher, President, Archi-Technology

Visit Us at NYSCATE Booth #103

If you’ll be attending this year’s NYSCATE (New York State Computers And Technology in Education) Conference Sunday through Tuesday, I hope you’ll visit Archi-Technology at Booth No.103.

NYSCATE-14Conf-logoWith passage of the Smart Schools Bond Act in November, schools districts around the state each have technology-funding allocations based on student and community need. Assessing a district’s technology infrastructure to determine what’s already in place is critical to developing a smart Smart Schools Investment Plan that maximizes this one-time incremental funding. Our Technology Building Condition Surveys (TCBS) do just that.

Harness Archi-Technology’s unwavering focus on technology infrastructure in educational settings to start your district off on the right path with experienced, independent consulting services.

We hope to see you at the Conference and safe travels. (For the record, here in Roc we only have a trace of snow compared to the 4+’ 60 miles to the west.)

Note: NYSCATE Exhibit Hall hours at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center are:

  • 10:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Mon., Nov. 24
  • 8 a.m.-12 p.m., Tues., Nov. 25LukePoandl

— Luke Poandl, K-12 Practice Group Leader and Project Manager

Helping Sort Through The Hype To The Hope Of Technology in K-12 Districts

Starting A Conversation About Technology’s Impact In And Outside The Classroom

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The efficient integration of technology throughout K-12 school districts has never been more important or challenging. From “smart” classrooms that support educational objectives to daily operations such as security and communications that rely on networked systems, technology has become an integral part of every school.

As long-time specialists in technology infrastructure and related facilities-based systems, Archi-Technology is experienced in taking a holistic view to the planning, design and construction management of a district’s “core fiber” as a starting point for any infrastructure upgrade. After all, how can you efficiently plan and design an upgrade to your existing network-based systems if you aren’t 100% certain of what you already have?

Our recently announced Technology Building Condition Survey (TBCS) service for New York State K-12 school districts is based on more than 15 years of working with major higher education clients such as Cornell and Syracuse universities on intricate, multi-year programs to upgrade campus technology infrastructures.

As Archi-Technology’s Practice Group leader for the K-12 market, I am excited about the possibilities technology can bring to multiple facets of a school district but am tempered by the associated challenges that go beyond devices and systems to encompass human factors such as teacher training and student adaptation.

The vote on the Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014 on the Nov. 4 NYS ballot will, of course, be closely watched by state-wide districts but, whether it passes or not, the districts’ work will have only begun. We invite your contributions to this blog about technology in the K-12 setting as we raise each other’s game on this important issue.
So what’s the single biggest challenge facing your classroom, school or district when it comes to technology integration and is there advice you can share on how to face it?

We’d like to hear from you. LukePoandl

— Luke Poandl, K-12 Practice Group Leader and Project Manager