Hello from the Contra Costa Jewish Day School in the San Francisco Bay Area. After only 5 months I am happy to report that we have been largely successful in all of our stated goals. Our progress so far includes:
1) We have a working, active file server that our middle school teachers use to distribute homework, collect assignments, and post resources for the students to use. The students actively use their network home folder as back-up and storage for their computer files and notes.
2) Using our already extant account with our school's website host, we have created school email accounts for all of our faculty (eg. mr. or ms.X@ccjds.org) so that teachers don't have to use their private email accounts for school business.
3) Again, using our already existing account with the school's website host, we have created a password protected, faculty-only online calendar that we post all of our school trips, major events, absences, school tours, etc. It has already vastly cut down on the amount of faculty meeting chatter about calendaring and events. Although it took a while with the clunky website tools to get everyone signed on, all of the faculty know exactly where to go to check our calendar as well as post and edit new events as they are planned, reducing the needs to send excessive email to try and calendar future events.
Current and on-going challenges.
1) Due to my own lack of technical familiarity as a server administrator, I have yet to figure out some of the technical details about hosting our own internal web site for teachers to post assignments, newsletters, etc. Therefore, we are continuing to use a pbwiki website we created last year for this purpose.
2) We have learned the limits of using Apple's Airport wifi base stations that regularly seem to go off line and have to be rebooted and reset every other month or so causing havoc with internet connectivity and especially with printing, since all of our printers are wirelessly available to students and faculty alike.
3) Online report cards. We have experienced some technical difficulties getting FileMaker Server 9 to work correctly, and--as I will mention below--we have had difficulties with our outside technical consultants in creating and fine-tuning our FileMaker Pro 7 report card databases. So unfortunately, this year we are still using our old "tried and true" method of emailing each other report card files rather than making them available on a password protected web site.
4) Technical consultants. Oy vey! Our original tech. consultant who we thought was so great literally flaked out and disappeared on us. After making several appointments to show up and troubleshoot things beyond our technical skills, she repeatedly failed to show up and finally stopped responding to phone calls and emails. Unfortunately, it was this same person who sub-contracted our FileMaker report card database to yet another tech. consultant who has done a lot of us, but still has not demonstrated the kind of technical skills that we need. This is why we are so behind in this area.
5) And finally, we are most vexed by the human interface with technology. Our principal who is still a significant supporter and stake-holder, is growing more concerned about our potential "time sink hole" of technology as it absorbs more of my time from my duties as the Rabbi-in-Residence of the school. In addition, the introduction of new technology and the slowly growing technical infrastructure of our school has led us to discover some grey areas in our decision making processes and overlaps in the areas of responsibility of our small technical work group of three teachers. We are still actively working on these issues.
In conclusion, we believe that despite these challenges outlined above, we have been extraordinarily successful! Students and faculty are indeed using the file server and adding more content all of the time. Students and faculty alike are also slowly mastering the necessary technical skills to access these new resources and use them effectively. And the online school calendar for faculty only has been very successful at reducing time-wasting calendaring sessions at our faculty meeting--aside from minor "version control" issues which is actually a human factor error and not technical. If anything, the use and integration of this technology has only helped us to identify the underlying administrative and structural challenges that were there all along, but which have been spotlighted by the use of the new technology. Overall, I give us a B+/A- on the success of our grant so far!