PVRHSD students and staff to keep laptops over the summer
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PV students can rejoice: they can finally check their emails while sitting by the pool.
Mr. Paul Zeller, Director of Instructional Technology in the PV district, announced over a mass email to students and faculty on March 28, that they would be allowed to keep their laptops over the summer.
“It’s something that we’ve always wanted to do but technically couldn’t,” said Mr. Erik Gundersen, Superintendent of Schools.
The adjustment to the laptop policy comes as a result of a new software update from Apple which allows moderators to check the status of updates on all devices.
“This never existed before,” Zeller said. “It’s existed in this Windows environment forever but it’s never existed in the Apple environment until now.”
The district’s laptop management system, JMF Pro, can now remotely take inventory of what is on each computer in the district as well as the processes that have run on the computer and the success rate of each process. While the district has had this system for a very long time, the new update allows them to check the operating system remotely.
“We have to make sure everyone has their software up to a certain level otherwise there are security concerns,” Zeller said. “The last major hurdle was getting all of the updates done.”
Laptops were collected in the past in order to ensure that every laptop was updated. The reimaging process that the laptops underwent gave an updated version of the operating system and updated applications. Changes in the wireless connections and other school-wide systems would also be installed over the summer. These changes can now be made as the year goes by.
In the past, laptops were also collected for inventory control and for fear that students may break laptops.
“That was 14 years ago when nobody had a laptop,” Zeller said. “Today everyone’s got a device so people are just used to having them.”
According to Gundersen, “There are no concerns that are different from the concerns that they first had when they rolled out this laptop initiative 13 years ago.”
“There were always questions about whether kids were going to be okay taking laptops home even during the school year,” Gundersen said. ”We don’t have those significant problems during the course of the school year. I don’t see the summer being any different from that.”
While students and faculty will be allowed to take their laptops home over the summer, blocks on websites will not be lifted.
“Technically these devices are supposed to be used for education,” Gundersen said. “We are responsible for making sure that students are protected from inappropriate materials while using these devices.”
The national Children’s Internet Protection Act requires that the school monitors computers with Internet access in order to protect children against “visual depiction that are obscene, child porngraphic, or harmful to minors.”
“It’s been a lot of effort for us to get this process in place, but it will make our summers more productive in other ways because we won’t be spending five weeks retouching every single student’s machine,” Zeller said. “So it’s a win all around.”
According to Zeller, the department now also plans to replace older projectors with the newer, mounted projectors that have been installed in several classrooms around the school.
“[In past years,] we never would have been able to do that and the reimaging at the same time all in one shot. We would have had to do a wing or maybe a floor,” Zeller said. “We’re happy for the students, obviously. That’s the most important thing. But, for our staff, it will free us up to do other projects over the summer.”
The tech department will also be hiring fewer people over the summer, downsizing from three to two.
In order to allow JMF Pro to access all the necessary information from laptops, both students and teachers will have to update their devices.
Sixteen students have already tested the necessary updates. The group of students was asked to install the necessary updates to their computers and identify any bugs. The test initially revealed a hiccup in the update process, an error that was eventually resolved.
“The transition was very smooth and [PV’s technology department] did a great job of making the process easy and painless for us,” PV junior Matt Low said.
Updates will begin this week during English classes, during which laptops should restart twice.
“It was actually really, really simple. It was just a matter of clicking a button,” freshman Brian Buckley said. “I think it will help with clubs over the summer or if you have different things that you want to keep learning or that you don’t want to forget.
The update will not only allow compatibility with the new version of JMF Pro but will also replace the content filter, which will allow for faster web browsing at home. After the update during English classes, most updates throughout the year will be silent. However, at least once a year, there will be a mandatory manual update.
Through the 1:1 Laptop Program, which started 14 years ago, Apple replaces the district’s laptops every three years. As a result, laptops will still be collected during years when laptops are being replaced. The laptops were replaced this past summer so the district still has two more years with the current devices.
“You’re going to have some students that are going to use their device a fair bit and we’re going to have some students, I’m sure, where the laptop sits in their bedroom and maybe doesn’t get used all that much,” Gundersen said, “but it’s there for student to use if they have a need and so far students have been responsible with the technology.”