Tech Council Meeting Minutes on 1/15/09
Focus: CT Education Network (CEN), CEN Filtering and State Tech Initiatives
Guests:
Aliza Bailey, CEN Network Engineer, and Sarah Edson, CEN Program Manager

Three Important Pieces of Information about the CEN and CEN Filtering
1. For Support on the CEN Filtering, go to: http://cen.wikispaces.com to find slides and video from training posted on their Wiki.
2. To contact the CEN Help Desk, call (860) 622-2300, option 9 or e-mail doit.helpdesk@ct.gov.
3. For the CEN portal, go to: http://cen.ct.gov/cen/site/default.asp

Questions and Answers on CEN & CEN Filtering
Q: These things may not apply to the super techie people, but I'd like them to demonstrate the procedure for logging in as the admin and making changes to the CEN filtering--I've been on the site a few times and am more than a little fearful that I'm going to make a big mistake, but we get blocked too often for sites that offer things for sale (under the "shopping" filter they have imposed.) (Maybe we can have a "Hold our hand while we adjust things" session. Also, I have trouble getting in using my Mac--it seems to only let me in on a PC--is this a fluke? How does one unblock using wildcards? How do you unblock an entire site, not just one page?
A: Aliza encouraged everyone to watch the training seminar videos on the CEN Wiki or to call the Help Desk. The Help Desk team works very hard to be responsive to requests. Setting up the 8e6 filtering should work fine on both Macs and PCs. Call the Help Desk if you are encountering problems with either platform.
Sarah and Aliza explained that CEN is run by the CT Educational Technology (CET) Commission. CET authorized the creation of the CEN and has control over its actions. Last summer CET decided to include a Minimum Filtering Level on the CEN as a protection for districts that did not have a full time person to work on supporting their technology needs. They placed filtering by category to make it easy to block sites. Despite their good intentions, it wasn’t working in practice and caused a great deal of angst for districts. After the hue and cry from districts during the summer and fall, in November CET voted to only leave adult pornography and child pornography in the Minimum Filtering Level. There are still R categories but they no longer fall under the Minimum Filtering Level. On the 8e6 Web site, there is an explanation of the R category. The categories that were R under the Minimum Filtering Level are still R but districts may unblock them at their discretion. The December video on the CEN Wiki focused on content filtering and reviewed the process of configuring 8e6. Go to: https://cen.wikispaces.com/techseminars to view the videos of the training seminars.
If you choose to block a category you still have the ability to unblock certain sites within that category using the Exception URL List. The CEN Help Desk staff recommend testing some of the unblocking changes off hours if you are concerned that you may be unblocking too much. After you’ve unblocked a site or domain, login as a student and make sure the unblocking is working the way you are expecting. You’ll get a much better feel for what you’ve unblocked and you don’t have to worry because the students aren’t in school. The Exception URL List was intended to override the Minimum Filtering Level. You can also unblock individual sites by URL. You can use the wildcard to unblock whole domains. The format for using the wildcard is *. [and the domain name]. For example, type in *.google.com to unblock the entire Google site. You should only use wildcards when you want to unblock an entire domain.
Q: The filtering sometimes appears to destroy other Web pages by removing graphic images. Can this be adjusted?
If you come to broken images on a Web site, the mostly likely reason is that the images are being hosted at a different site than the URL that you went to and that site is being blocked. To find out where the image is, right click on the images to see what the URL is. Then you can unblock those URLs individually so the broken images will appear. This may be a tedious process but there is no way around it because CEN has no control over where Web sites choose to host their images.

Q: We are using the 8e6 filters. I'd like some clarification on the best way to set things for search using Google images. I have checked the Google/Yahoo safe search enforcement option under the filter orders. Do I also need to select the Google strict search under the Google preferences on each computer or does the 8e6 filter do the same thing? Will it increase image filtering if I do change the Google preference? I'd love to hear some discussion about the best settings for safe image search.

CEN doesn’t make policy about what should and should not be filtered. They don’t have a “best practice” because they believe it is up to districts to do determine their own policies and practices. You can use Google Safe Search – do this through the 8e6 filter not through Google Preferences on the individual machines. Just enable Google Safe Search in 8e6 and it will work on all machines in the district. Students can still go into the Google Preferences and enable safe image searching but the filtering that you’ve set through 8e6 will be the master control for image searching.

Q: What are the plans for content on the CEN Portal? What resources will be available to teachers and school districts? When will they be available?
When Sarah was hired two years ago, her full time job was to focus on content, highlighting user generated content. She’s since been promoted to CEN Program Manager and has many new responsibilities and much less time to concentrate on content. Their vision is to invest in a new Content Management System (CMS) and keep adding content, both commercial and content created by districts in Connecticut, e.g., Wikis, Podcasts, etc. However, in these very tight fiscal times, there is very limited funding to do this. Sarah is working closely with the CT Distance Learning Consortium; she is hoping that this will lead to more resources on Podcasting. Their goal is to have the CEN serve as a directory for links to great resources. They do not have space for content on their server yet though it’s on Sarah’s wish list. Go to: http://cen.ct.gov to check out the CEN portal.
Sarah encouraged the group to let her know about what they are doing that they are willing to share so she can post links on the CEN portal. If your district has content to share (like Wikis, Blogs, Podcasts, etc.), e-mail Sarah at sarah.edson@ct.gov or contact her on Twitter at sedson.
Q: I’ve heard something about Discovery Education videos being available through the CEN. Can you talk about that?
CEN, CSDE and the CT State Library have negotiated a four year license with Discovery Education to give all districts in Connecticut access to the Discovery Education for Middle School Science product for all teachers of middle school science. Superintendents received a letter from the Commissioner explaining this about a month ago. Discovery Education is contacting principals to get the passcodes out so teachers can begin using this resource. The RESCs will be providing training. This is a separate collection from the Discovery Education United Streaming product. If you haven’t gotten your passcode yet, you can sign up for a 30 day trial. If districts want to learn how to get access for their earlier or older grades, they can contact Adam Dolan at Discovery Education for more information.
Connecticut is the first state to have a statewide adoption of this new science product. Discovery Education wants to have a stronger presence in Connecticut. If you are interested in becoming part of the Discovery Educator Network, contact Lance Rougeux or Dennis Swain (in charge of the Leadership Councils) at Discovery Education. Discovery Education needs at least 3 STAR educators representing different areas in the state who will take on leadership roles as well as other STAR Discovery Educators who are willing to serve on the Leadership Council. Pam Skelly (EASTCONN) and Lynn Reedy (Stafford), both EASTCONN Tech Council members, are STAR Discovery Educators. To find out how to become a STAR Discovery Educator, go to: http://community.discoveryeducation.com/star/index.html. The group expressed interested in learning more about this.
EASTCONN will be hosting a “Day of Discovery” sometime this winter or early spring after the EASTCONN network upgrade is complete. Dennis Swain will meet participants and train them in using the Discovery Education streaming videos and other resources. Pam will send an e-mail to the Tech Council LISTSERV once the date is set.
TO DO: Jane will talk with Lynn about inviting someone from Discovery Education to visit us (either live or virtually) during the March Tech Council meeting on 3/5/09 (snowdate: 3/12/09) to discuss the possibility of creating a Connecticut Discovery Education Leadership Council and to talk about their resources for educators.
Q: I’ve heard that some Districts are differentiating filtering without buying their own 8e6 device (i.e., students receive one level of filtering and adults receive a different level of filtering). I’d be interested in knowing whether the folks from the CEN are familiar with methods districts are using for this that do not require buying a separate 8e6 appliance for the district.
This work in a very similar way to the way it was done with N2H2. District traffic is being routed through CEN but they do not see district networks. If a district has a single IP address they cannot do this. However, if your district has multiple IP addresses, then you have the ability to map different profiles by IP address. A lot of districts will segregate to separate VLANs for students, for teachers, for administrators. This allows them to discriminate how the filtering is applied. CEN will filter for any number of separate public IP addresses for each district. Most districts have no more than a dozen separate IP addresses.
On the appliance side, you have even more flexibility. Josh Smith in Ridgefield is using an appliance as are New Britain Public Schools. If you want more info, contact them. CEN has paid for education seat licensing for filtering. If you have purchased an appliance, please notify the CEN and then you can be disconnected from the CEN filtering servers. If you don’t do that, you will be double filtering. If you have the appliance you can be as flexible as you want with regard to what you block and unblock.

Q: How can we make YouTube available? If we could figure this out, teachers would be most grateful!
You Tube is no longer part of the Minimum Filtering Level. You can unblock You Tube with a wildcard for the whole domain. This will unblock all You Tube videos. You can also add it to your Custom Allow category located in the Admin Console under the Library tab. This will also open up the whole domain. To open up specific You Tube videos, you need to unblock them by individual URL. Putnam uses a site called Save Tube and downloads You Tube videos to host them locally so they don’t have to unblock them.

Q: What is the status of Internet2? Can we access it? If so, how; if not, when? What content will be available?
On CEN we are attached to Internet2 To find out whether you are on Internet2 the easiest thing to do is to do a trace using the Internet2 Detective at: http://detective.internet2.edu/. To find out who is on the Internet2 backbone, go to: http://k20.internet2.edu. They have created a social network called MUSE, built using Drupal that is in Beta. There are a few hundred people around the country who are participating in this social network. Check it out to find out who is doing what projects and who wants collaborators. Frank Fulchiero from Connecticut College did a great videoconferencing activity with the Library of Congress through Internet2.
Q: What is the status of the CEN as a content provider? Is there funding, programming schedule, long term plans/goals? With the economic climate the way it is, are there plans to start charging towns for access and programming?
Sarah has been in countless budget meetings in the last few months and so far there has been no inkling that CEN will need to change their model to charging districts. The State’s intention in developing the network was to provide access and bandwidth to the K-12 education community. The higher eds do pay for access to the CEN and this money helps support the free for K-12 model.
Q: Are there any Federal or State monies available for non-priority school districts?
The CT State Department of Education (CSDE) has just released two Requests for Proposal (RFP):
  1. EETT Local Competitive Grant RFP – This is federal money being competitively released through the CSDE. The focus is developing assured experiences in technology for students in Grades 4-8. Appendix F contains the list of eligible districts. Proposals are due 2/12/09 and grant awards are expected around 3/15/09. This is primarily a training grant (though hardware is an allowable expense) with a minimum of 50% of the funds required for professional development. Districts who received funding under this grant source last year are not eligible to apply this year unless they were awarded less than $25,000.
  2. Local Competitive Grant for Computer Assisted Writing, Instruction and Testing – This is State money that is being competitively released through the CSDE. The focus is on using laptops and online writing tools to support student literacy development in Grades 6-12. Proposals are due 2/20/09 and grant awards are expected around 4/1/09. This is primarily a hardware and applications grant with no minimum percentage required for professional development. All districts in the state are eligible to apply. All grant funds must be expended by 6/30/09.
To download the RFPs, go to: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/cwp/view.asp?a=2683&Q=320346 and scroll down till you find them.
E-mail Donna Mingrone in Union if you are interested in collaborating on the Computer Assisted Writing RFP at dmingrone@union.k12.ct.us.
Q: Is there a possibility of a statewide assessment to ensure students, faculty, and administrators meet or exceed ISTE basic skill sets?
Since we live in the “land of local control”, it is highly unlikely that the State will mandate a statewide assessment of this type. Windham Middle School is using Simple Assessments for students in grades 5-8. This is a free assessment. They have found that that the language is a little difficult for the 5th graders and there are questions in the assessment that Windham students cannot possibly answer because they do not have access to certain technology resources. But it is free and relatively easy to administer in one to two class periods (one period is ample for the older grades; the 5th graders need two periods). For a cost, you can get the commercial version of Simple Assessments which allows you to customize the questions. Go to: http://www.simpleassessment.com/ for more information.
Members of the Tech Council shared what they are doing with regard to technology assessments. They are using a variety from homegrown to commercial to digital portfolios with authentic curriculum products/projects to clickers.
If you go to http://www.quia.com and type in technology, you will find a number of free assessments. North Carolina has created a state assessment. For more information, go to: http://www.ncpublicschools.org/accountability/testing/computerskills/. The Massachusetts Department of Education has a state online self-assessment for teachers aligned to the NETS*T. For more information, go to: http://www.doe.mass.edu/edtech/standards/sa_tool.html . Study Island has also added a tech assessment based on national standards. It’s brand new in the last couple of months and it’s fairly inexpensive.
The RESC Alliance has created a Web site where they have compiled a variety of tech assessment resources; some are free and others have a charge. To search that site, go to: http://www.learncit.org/sta/.
New Hampshire has passed a state law mandating technology integration across the curriculum and in all grades and using an ePortfolio to assess student proficiency. To view the New Hampshire Portfolio Cube, go to: http://www.nheon.org/ictliteracy/PortfolioCube.pdf.
The EASTCONN Tech Council Wiki has a tech assessments page at: http://eastconntechcouncil.wikispaces.com/Tech+Assessments. Go there to look for information about technology assessments and to post links to new assessments that you find.
Q: What’s the status of online learning and impact on local schools? There was a pilot scheduled for this year, what is the status/update on this pilot?
Funding was pulled for the CT Virtual Learning Center, coordinated through the CT Distance Learning Consortium, so they have had to change their model and start charging for seats. Go to their Web site for more information.
Q: How can you turn off banner ads? Are there repercussions for turning off banner ads?
Go the Bandwidth category on 8e6 to turn off banner ads. Marji Roy just did this so e-mail her at mroy@ashfordct.org or contact the CEN Help Desk if you need help doing this.

Focus Group Questions from EASTCONN Tech Council Members on 1/15/09
Jim Huggins facilitated a focus group with a small group of EASTCONN Tech Council members, asking questions about how EASTCONN can best serve its districts. Below is a synthesis of this discussion:
Number of participants: 6
1) Of your district plans for next year, what areas, programs, services or positions are you concerned may have to be reduced or eliminated?
· Tech integrators
· Tech mentors
· Network support
· Technicians
· Specials teachers
· School data base personnel
· Professional development/training
· Hardware
· Software
· Supplies, e.g., ink cartridges, pencils, paper, etc.
· Attendance at conferences
· PD days eliminated from teacher contract
· Copying services – consolidating to a Copy Center
2) Are there things that could still be offered in your district, even on a reduced basis, if they were done cooperatively with one or more of your neighboring districts?
· Copying
· Cooperative Purchasing
· PD
· Clearinghouse for regional software licensing
· Regional hardware purchasing
· School database reports, e.g., PSIS support person, locally trained person for some commercial products like SASI, etc.
3) What should we (EASTCONN) be offering on a regional basis?
· Twilight PD sessions
· Getting additional funding to keep the price for workshops down
· Make sure that the CEU PD states what CEU codes teachers will be getting so that teachers can fulfill their literacy and technology CEU requirements
· Find hands on, innovative PD topics to attract people, e.g., Get Wired in CT
· Vendor demos or training that include “goodies” (training can be done by EASTCONN staff but contact vendors to see what they are willing to throw in)
· Technology assessments – consortium of technology questions/artifacts, etc. – Either EASTCONN creates the assessments or a group attends a tech assessments users group and walks away with a completed assessment after working on it over a series of sessions
· Reinstitute TIPP training of trainers
· Using SmartBoards for assessment
· Additional users groups that are affordable
· Web conferencing like ISTE is doing
· Online PD, e.g., videoconferences, tutorials, etc.
· Web 2.0 tools so that teachers can integrate them across the curriculum
· Integrate United Streaming and other videos into the curriculum
· Assistance with the new BEST