IT Department Update–Workstation Refresh and Kurzweil Upgrade

Before we all break for a well-deserved holiday rest, we thought it would be helpful to update everyone on two important initiatives.

Workstation Refresh

Earlier this year, we outlined the plan to update a significant portion of the outdated computer hardware in the district. We had planned three distinct phases: 1) update laptops for IS teachers in schools, 2) replace the district’s remaining CRT monitors, 3) update additional workstations. We’re pleased to announce that the work on the IS laptops is complete. Further, we have almost finished with the removal of old CRT monitors, replacing them with (more efficient) flat screens. Finally, this week, we have begun the process to secure up to 600 additional workstations. Vendors will have an opportunity to bid on the purchase until January 4th. The successful vendor will be selected the following week. We expect that the workstations will be delivered within a month, and then deployed to schools and facilities within the month afterward.

Kurzweil Upgrade

Kurzweil is a software package that is designed to help students who need additional support with reading. It can be used across the curriculum, and at multiple grade levels. The software has been used in our district for a number of years, but it has been acquired at the school level (though there have been some exceptions to this in the past). As a result, across the school district we have a number of different versions of the software. In most cases, the software was installed on single machines and was available to students only while they were at school.

The IT Department is pleased to announce a collaborative effort with the Student Support Services Department. We have jointly developed a plan to provide a single, networked version of Kurzweil (version 13) to all schools within the district.

(Clarification – December 19th, 2012) We’ve received questions about the ‘single, networked version’ comment in the previous paragraph. By single version, we mean that there will one version of Kurzweil for the entire district. Currently, we run anywhere from Kurzweil 7 through to 12. All previous versions of Kurzweil (from 7 though 12 will be replaced with version 13). Additionally, schools can have an unlimited number of accounts for their students needing the software (particularly those where the need is identified in the IEP). If a school requires 10 accounts, it will get them. Further, there is no limit to the number of copies of Kurzweil 13 that can be installed in the school or the district.

Once a school’s staff determines that the software is an appropriate and timely support for a student, that student will be given an account under the new system. Further, this account can be accessed from any web-enabled computer, any Flash-capable tablet device, or any iOS device with the special Firefly app installed. Further, schools can download the full version of the software on any computer used by an individual student with a Kurzweil account. Finally, the full version will be made available for student use at home, at no additional charge. This means that any text entered into the system, from anywhere a student has access to the web, will be available to that student at any time.

Kurzweil 13, once it is installed, will become the district’s consistent and system-wide approach to the delivery and management of this tool for our students. It will replace all previously-purchased versions of the software in our district. Further, the cost of purchase and installation is being borne by the school district, and is provided as a district-wide service to schools.

The IT Department has arranged for the software’s purchase, and will manage the licenses and login information for staff and students. The Student Services Department will develop a staff development plan to support those staff working with students who need the software.

Both departments are still working out the final details of the deployment and training plan. However, we can confirm that the software is being purchased, and will be installed in the near future. We ask for your patience as these plans will be communicated to the system as they are developed. If you have an urgent question regarding the software, its deployment, or the training plan, please feel free to send us an email.

Happy Holidays to everyone!

About Graham Arts

District Principal of IT
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