Archive for General

Happy “New Year!”

New year’s celebrations mark the retirement of a major calendar unit, a trip around the sun, and the passage of four seasons. We reflect on the events of this past cycle and express hopes for the next one. The media reminds us of public events of the past year, and nonprofit organizations request our help to reach their fundraising goals. In January, a new calendar cycle begins. However, many educators and students feel more like they are partway through a cycle than beginning a new one.

For education, the academic year holds far more significance than the calendar year. The academic year offers substance for reflection and anticipation. Students begin the year in a new grade, division, or school, with the corresponding institutional and social expectations, as well as development milestones. Teachers note another year of service, and length of tenure carries weight in schools. Professional goals, teaching assignments, and co-curricular responsibilities also change with the academic year, as educators gain the chance to deepen their practice and assume new roles.

December is a tricky time for schools. Holidays performances coincide with culminating academic moments. Schools face a choice: finish the term in December to help students enjoy their vacations or finish in January to spread out the work and balance the semesters. It’s tough to end the calendar year while the academic year keeps moving along.

Our lucky southern hemisphere colleagues get to combine the two. For them, December brings summer vacation, and January the start of a new school year. South of the equator, people neatly celebrate the ends and beginnings of school years in parallel with community celebrations of the calendar years. They mark the new academic year with four simple digits, while we awkwardly slide across an hyphen: “2014-2015.” Reflections and goal setting neatly align.

Which has more meaning to you, the academic year or calendar year? Answer this quick poll and feel free to elaborate in a comment below.

[poll id=”2″]

Whether your days are currently long or short, hot or cold, I wish you a happy and prosperous new year.


Hiring: Systems Administrator

We have a great opportunity for a qualified server/network specialist to work in a friendly, high-performing PS-12 school community.

Apply for this position


Apply by:       March 10, 2011

Reports to:   Director of Information Technology


The Systems Administrator has primary responsibility for network and server hardware and software support and secondary responsibility for user workstation hardware and software support. Serves as a member of the IT Team.


  • Manage mixed-platform server environment including Windows (25), Debian Linux (2), and Mac OS X (1) servers. Troubleshoot and resolve server hardware and software problems. Perform routine server maintenance tasks (check error logs, install patches, monitor capacity and performance). Manage configuration of Active Directory, DNS, DHCP. file, database, and other services as necessary in response to school needs. Manage server group policies and permissions to ensure network security. Perform server upgrades and migrations as necessary. Manage backup software and hardware systems to ensure consistent, reliable backup of server and client data. Manage configuration of additional server software applications such as voicemail, inventory, database, and deployment systems.
  • Manage the Avaya phone and voicemail systems, including maintenance, support, and upgrade (as needed). Maintain the proper configuration of phone numbers, extensions, ports, and voicemail options. Keep current the published phone numbers list. Anticipate upcoming needs and adjust system capacity appropriately.
  • Monitor, troubleshoot, and maintain Cisco, Aruba, Sophos, SonicWall, and SafeConnect network infrastructure systems (switches, routers, wireless access points, cabling, antivirus, wireless access control system).
  • Provide end-user workstation hardware and software support, particularly troubleshooting, workstation-network interactions, best practices for image creation, and on-demand training in a mixed-platform, multi-function environment. Place and manage service calls with network infrastructure vendors as necessary.
  • Create and maintain internal systems documentation including hardware and software maintenance records, inventory records, and a procedures resource book. Maintain organized library of electronic resources including software and documentation.
  • Respond to technical requests from the Director of Information Technology and other IT staff in a timely manner. Regularly communicate project status and take responsibility for project completion.
  • Maintain up-to-date knowledge, skills and abilities on new and emerging technologies that improve efficiency and effectiveness included but not limited to new operating systems, methods, systems, hardware and software. Make recommendations for proceeding in new directions where appropriate.
  • Complete server and network maintenance work after hours and on weekends (on rare occasions when necessary).


The Systems Administrator is primarily responsible for ensuring the smooth operation of the school’s server and network environment. The successful candidate must adapt to the academic calendar and its seasonal priorities, be comfortable with and adept at multitasking, exercise sound judgment in establishing priorities, regularly communicate with other members of the technology staff, participate in shared decision-making, work independently and effectively manage his/her time.  The ability to communicate and work effectively in an academic setting with teachers, students, and administrators of widely varying skills and abilities is critical.

This is not a supervisory position.


Daily interaction with the Catlin Gabel community including: faculty, staff, students and parents.  Communications include face-to-face, phone and electronic interactions.


Experience with Windows Server, Windows 7, Linux Debian, and Macintosh OS X operating systems.

Experience configuring and supporting Cisco and Aruba or equivalent local area network hardware.

Experience installing and upgrading hardware components such as RAID, NIC, RAM, and hard drives.

Experience with laptop and mobile device support.

Ability to prioritize and handle multiple tasks successfully with strong attention to detail.

Ability to work with a wide variety of people who have a wide range of skill levels and abilities.

Ability to explain problems in non-technical terms.

Ability to work independently, smoothly, even when under pressure with several issues needing attention.

Strong verbal and written communication skills.

Possess great team skills to work on group projects and other collaborative efforts.


BS/BA in Information Services/Technology, Computer Science or related field, or previous experience with systems administration and individual in-person support.


Office environment. Occasional heavy lifting up to 50lbs. Walking required between multiple buildings on campus. Interface with young children through adults. Time spent on phone. Working with people in person. Time spent working on computers.


Network basics

Fourth grade students have spent the last few classes exploring their new network accounts. We started with username and password basics and set their passwords. Students completed a treasure hunt to find as many website-based services they could access with their new logins. By now, the students have a done a nice job remembering the new passwords that they chose!

Monday, we took a break from network accounts and got to know the insides of three computers that I had taken apart. Today, we asked the question, “when you save to the server, where does the file go?” We took a mini field trip to follow the route the fiber takes from the lower school to the server room, where we found the copied file and got to know the other servers a bit.

Next week, we’ll start typing practice and begin a more curriculum-integrated unit on research.

Teacher meetings

I have attended a couple of really valuable start of year meetings with teachers in the last two days. The first was to plan the fourth and fifth grade technology curriculum for the year with those homeroom teachers. I am teaching fourth and fifth grade technology for the first time and really looking forward to it! Our plan is to align technology activities throughout the year with classroom activities taking place with the students’ other teachers, whether in homeroom, arts, languages, or P.E. So far, we have identified the units with which a technology activity seems to fit best — in productivity application use, publishing, research, or other technology theme. We will also give some time to technology as its own subject of study, for example to improve the students’ keyboard skills or develop sequential and logical reasoning skills (a.k.a. programming) using Scratch. Classes begin in two weeks’ time!

Today’s meeting was with three upper school arts teachers who are really keen to further develop the program’s website presence. Given the role of the arts in encouraging students to present or perform their work in a public space, it’s a natural fit for the teachers to explain the design of the school’s arts program and publish loads of student work online. They will be using our site’s new photo gallery and embedded media features to make this happen. We also devoted some time to the possibility of student portfolio publication and blogging, so that students could publish their work directly to the website. When upper school faculty meetings begin, the upper school teachers will give some consideration to this question: what is the pedagogical value of students publishing (or performing) their work to a general, public audience?

Discussing teaching, learning, and technology with teachers. This is some of our IT department’s most important work.

Getting close

I have had my head down working on our new school web site for the past few weeks, hence I have not written much here.

We presented new features to focus groups: three faculty, one parent-faculty association, and one board communications advisory group. We hired a local college intern to migrate content from the old site to the new. Two staff members are working on the photo directory, site copying and backup utilities, and an emergency contacts form. Our graphic designer sent us two graphic concepts, and our web site team met and sent back comments. We received the a second revision and are preparing to send back our comments on Monday.

We are gradually taking on real users as we build up the web site. Our athletics director has started entering competition dates for next year. The arts department recently met to build out their new “schoolwide” arts program section. This week, we plan to invite employees to update their emergency contact information through our new custom form. The week after, we will likely invite all parents to update their contact information and review their directory entries online.

Our publications director has been developing her Twitter “voice” and getting to know the Facebook Pages interface in preparation for that aspect of the site launch.

So far, we have committed about $5,000 of contracted work to the project. We plan to finish the project at less than $10,000 total.

Hopefully, I will find time after site launch in July to post more information about our project!

Teacher Creativity

Provide teachers with technology tools, and they will invent the most remarkable uses for them.(first grade caterpillar study)

Laptop maintenance underway

Our summer helpers have developed a killer room for the process of completing annual maintenance on our faculty and staff laptop computers. Note the ingenious use of the built-in projection system to get everyone through the long days!

MacOS class

Today, I led day one of our MacOS class. I was pleased that five teachers and staff members chose to spend time learning more about an operating system. I wish more would seek such professional develoment, since good practice with one’s OS can make a huge difference. Four of the participants were switchng to a Mac at school or at home, and only one just wanted to better get to know their computer.I used an emergent curriculum approach, which worked well for day one. A brief introduction, prompt about challenges faced or problems solved, and then we spent the rest of the time rolling with the questions encountered as the participants toyed with their machines.We also discovered that any Mac loaner laptop user could control the screen of any other’s, because we used shared login credentials for our shared machines! We will have to change the remote management preferences, finding a way to allow screen sharing when useful and prevent it when not.


I picked up this coffee mug to remind me to always create new ideas and content. In the darkest months of winter, warm beverages will remind me that the sea of content is best navigated when we participate in the creation of that information. May you create something today.