Follow Up: Tech Update


Danielle Parker, Reporter

Here at South Pointe, students and faculty are required to work with their laptops every day for educational use. How are we supposed to do that if there’s simply too many issues? These issues include unnecessary blocks, unreliability of the district’s Wi-Fi, and more.

Back in December, we decided that it was time for a change. Students here were fed up and ready to state their opinions. Not much has changed since then.

Senior Kinsley Thurston was left defeated when network issues put a foil in her plans. She had a field trip Friday, but wasn’t able to access the site that she needed for her trip due to this dysfunctional tech.

Students like Advanced Placement English 5 student Diego Rodriguez tried to gain access to the poem “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid, but was stopped abruptly by the district’s outrageous filter.

Instructional Technology Assistant Danny Chapman said sometimes certain laptops were blocked unintentionally, or the students were trying to use phones to look things up and the phone is blocked.

The convergence media editor and editor-in-chief of SPiN’s newsmagazine could not access the printer in California’s dropbox to place the finished March issue’s PDF in there, a process that in past years was so easy. No one seems to know how to solve that issue although much time has spent on it by Chapman.

Marine biology teacher Shaunteca Simmons and environmental science teacher Susans Fields both have difficulty connecting to websites such as Kahoot and Youtube.

The journalism adviser could not even help me proofread this article on the computer given by the school after I sent it on email. She repeatedly got the big red X that said changes were not being saved and she needed to copy changes and save them before closing the edit and reply feature on her email. She is even plugged into the network using the Ethernet cable, having complained before about the feature that should speed up conversations between her and students actually costing her way more time because of the repeated glitches. She was directed to plug in. Still, she ended up downloading this article to her desktop to work on it with me and then has to reattach it to send it back to me. Sometimes this feature works great when the internet is up to speed.

When teachers screen shot problems and send them to the district office technology department or the school IT people, the IT people seem to try to unblock sites, but people say doing it on a need basis is just ridiculous.

Schoolwork goes way faster than going through all that trouble to try to use devices to support learning through inquiry using 21st century technology. Why pay all this money for one-to-one technology frustration when we try to use the laptops, or God forbid, our smart phones.

Most people, trying to use their phones to get anywhere, have learned either use data or you are out of luck because of filters and because of wifi speed.

Recently, we got in contact with Executive Director of Technology John James and he sent Chapman to our news room. Efforts that are being made are ongoing and involve staff in the Network Department, school techs and outside support and help from Meraki.

Several meetings were set up with Meraki to look at the network performance and identify problems that may affect all schools in our district.

“The meeting with Meraki was productive; but we still need documentation in order to pin down the issue,” said James.

After meeting with Meraki, software was installed to monitor usage on the network during peak periods, such as morning, mid-day and afternoon and see when band width is inadequate and how devices are using the network. That way, they can determine where they need to work as far as improving the network to meet the needs.

The district has been making improvements to the overall network. According to Chapman, James has put in place a district networking team that has Meraki monitoring software, which is being used to monitor the over networking performance. This is beneficial for the district and the software can look at the overall network load to see if they’re maxing out the bandwidth or if there are particular schools or areas having problems.

Meraki’s team also has started to visit schools to gather information and determine how schools are performing and note specific problem areas. Getting this information will help determine networking needs and changes.

One of the main issues with the technology is website filtering. Our district provided all district-issued devices with IBoss filtering and Cisco Umbrella filtering required by the state.

“The need for website filtering is important with so many problems affecting the use of the internet. Sites based on subject and content can be blocked and this can be a real time problem for teachers and students working in the classroom,” Chapman explained.

James pointed out he has someone in his department who is assigned to check any website issues that may be affecting teachers or students. If you were to have any issues with a website, you would need to communicate to the school tech and have your problems checked out.

So far, the district has checked several sites that teachers or students reported as problems. Most of the sites were checked and fixed, but other sites reported as problems were ok and not blocked.

“This may indicate a problem with the laptop or browser that the student is using,” Chapman stated.

As stated by the district, efforts are being made to understand and provide the best networking environment for our district.

“Our recent efforts have been focused on preventing Ransomware like what brought Chester down a couple of weeks ago,” James mentioned.

This is an ongoing process where information and feedback from users is critical to understand and correct the problem, but we have to ask loudly: HOW LONG?