Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tuesday Tech Tip #2 - Computer Logins

In the IT department we're often asked about computer logins. Part of the confusion is that in the past we have maintained a series of generic logins (charterle, charterpfaa, etc), but now everyone has their very own unique username and password for logging into the computers on campus. We made the switch to individual accounts because it reinforces positive digital citizenship skills by teaching students how to manage their own accounts and provides some ability for students and staff to customize their desktops on computers they regularly use.

Staff Logins
Every single staff member has their own login. These work on any computer on campus and Chromebooks. Users with laptops have logins that are configured to even work from home. Your login is meant to be used by you only, so please don't share it with others. There is a slight difference between computer and Chromebook logins which is demonstrated below.
Computers: jsmith
Chromebooks: jsmith@natomascharter.org
Student Logins
In Leading Edge, PFAA, and VLA every student has their own unique login, along with Star Academy students starting in 1st grade and middle school PACT students who are in Peggy Chapman's technology classes. PACT and Star Academy have special generic logins which are meant to be used by younger students who do not have their own accounts. Similar to staff logins, these should only be used by the student to whom the account is assigned and there is a slight difference between computer and Chromebook logins.
Computers: JohnS2020
Chromebooks: JohnS2020@natomascharter.org
Special Events
We do have a few generic logins which are used for special events. For example, the Area 3 Writing Project workshops have a login for outside guests to use our computers. We turn these logins on for the event and turn them off afterwards. If you have a special event where you will need to use the computers simply let us know through the Activities Request Form and we will make sure a login is set up.

New Students & Forgotten Passwords
When students enroll both Google and computer accounts are automatically created for them. Sometimes, however, account creation can be missed as part of the enrollment process. If you find that this has happened just let one of us know on the IT team and we can quickly create an account for the student. Similarly, if you find that a student has forgotten his or her password anyone on the IT team and Elsa can quickly reset it.

Hopefully, this post clears up some of the confusion around computer logins. If you have any questions please let me know.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tuesday Tech Tip #1 - Wireless Networks

Today we're starting a new series of posts - Tuesday Tech Tips. These will be quick and easy reminders for using technology resources at Natomas Charter School.

This week our focus is wireless networks. At Natomas Charter School we maintain multiple wireless networks. We maintain separate networks because our devices need to be filtered at different levels and we need to ensure that our internal network resources are safe from malware and viruses. While useful, the separate networks can be a bit confusing, so here is a listing of each network and its intended use by campus.

Main Campus

Here we maintain four networks - two for devices owned by the school and two for devices owned by students and staff

This network is used by wireless devices owned by Natomas Charter School, primarily teacher and staff laptops. All of these devices have antivirus and malware protection software and since the devices are used by staff the filtering is fairly open. Only the IT department has access to this password and we add it to all devices when they are set up.

This network is almost identical to NCS-Staff with more restrictive filtering. It is used to support our school-owned Chromebooks and iPads. Similar to NCS-Staff this password is maintained by the IT department. 

Bringing your own iPad, iPhone, or laptop to school? No problem. You can use NCS-StaffGuest to connect to the network. It is filtered at the same level as NCS-Guest, but does not allow users to access internal network resources (servers, networked printers, etc.) and instead routes users directly to the Internet. We do this because personal devices may not have adequate antivirus/malware protection software. All NCS staff members have access to this password. I am not posting it here since this is a public site, but feel free to contact the IT department or check your email if you do not know the password. Please do not provide it to students. Last year this happened and everyone ended up having to re-set their devices.

NCS-Guest - This network is available for all students (at teacher-direction) and guests who are not NCS employees. It is filtered like NCS-Student, but similar to NCS-Staff Guest does not allow access to internal network resources. When using NCS-Guest it is important to launch a web-browser after connecting, accept the security certificate, and enter your email address.

PACT & Star

These two campuses have different wireless hardware than the main campus, so their system is slightly different as well.

Identical to NCS-Staff at the Main Campus

Identical to NCS-Student at the Main Campus

Very similar to NCS-Guest at the Main Campus and meant for use by student, staff, or outside guest personal devices.

Hopefully, this post clears up some confusion about our wireless networks. We are constantly working on improving the system, so you may hear of updates as well in the future. Please let us know if you have any questions. Should you ever come across a site you or your students need simply put in a Help Ticket (or email if it is an emergency) and we will take care of it.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

March is Minecraft Month

This weekend I had the opportunity to speak at the Central Valley CUE conference in Fresno. While I was there I took full advantage of John Miller's two-hour Minecraft workshop. John is a middle school teacher from King City who runs Minecrafter Camp with two other Central Coast educators. Let's just say that when I left his workshop not only did I know a whole lot more about Minecraft, but my mind was officially blown. I had no idea how popular Minecraft or all of the creative ways educators are using it for learning and just frankly good ol' exploring-with-blocks creative fun.

Just a few examples to give you a taste...

I provide you this information because just a few hours ago I welcomed 25 of our students into the Minecraft Mentor program (we had 50 apply).  These individuals will assist of all of us at three upcoming Minecraft EDU workshops. A few students and Joe Cook (along with my support, but really I'm a learner this time) will be leading the sessions while the rest will be working as 1:1 coaches. That way if you find yourself in a hole or completely confused by the crafting table (both happened to me the first time I played) there will be someone there to help you out. Should you choose to use Minecraft in your classoom your Minecraft Mentor might also be able to be a student assistant for that lesson.

Below are brief descriptions for each of the sessions. 

Workshop #1: Surviving the Night - Introduction to Minecraft
Date: Tuesday, March 11th
Time: 3:30-5pm
Have you heard of Minecraft, but aren’t completely sure what it is? Join us for an afternoon of discovery and gameplay with your own personal student mentor. We will spend the workshop learning Minecraft terminology, navigation in the virtual world, and surviving your first night. All you need to bring is an open mind and a willingness to play.

Workshop #2: Creative Mode - Building Worlds in Minecraft
Date: Tuesday, March 25th
Time: 3:30-5pm
You’ve learned the basics of Minecraft by surviving your first night. Now we’ll examine what you can build in this virtual world. Join us as we discover the possibilities for using Minecraft to create anything you dream from virtual cells to back drops for movies, books, and other adventures. Your personal student mentor will be there, so all you need to bring is a little creativity and imagination.

Workshop #3: Minecraft in the Classroom
Date: Tuesday, April 1st
Time: 3:30-5pm
After exploring both Survival and Creative modes of Minecraft, in this workshop we’ll brainstorm ideas for bringing Minecraft into the classroom. We will start off the conversation by examining examples from other schools, but use the afternoon as a conversation for identifying possible upcoming projects.

While each session has a series of outcomes that focus on one aspect of the game, our over arching goals for the three days are to play, explore, have fun, and learn more about Minecraft. If you accomplish these items I promise it will be time well-spent. 

Currently, we have about 18 teachers signed up. If you are interested in joining us we have space for about 10 more people. Just click here to fill out the online RSVP form.