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Technically Speaking--A Blog


A blog written by the Director of Technology and Administrative Services for Bath County Public Schools
April 27
BCHS Students Lose KidWind Competition--and Win Big!

The US Eastern Region Finals of the 2015 KidWind wind generator design competition was held at JMU on Saturday, April 25.  The group of BCHS students on the design team did not produce as much power as the top three high schools; they did not take home a check from sponsor Dominion Power.  They lost the competition, and the day was a BIG success!

  • They worked together as a team on Saturday and over the last few months to come up with ideas, design, test, and redesign to solve many problems along the way.
  • They more than doubled the amount of generated power from their device since the state competition a few weeks ago.
  • They competently and enthusiastically spoke with judges, competitors and spectators throughout the day, receiving accolades from all.
  • They were told again and again from many voices that they had what it takes to solve problems, to create, to work as a team, and to communicate with others.  They were told that they had what it takes to succeed at the university level and at the corporate level.  Business cards were received from renewable power companies who hoped that our students would give them a look.
  • Oh yes, and they were awarded the Blade Trophy for the best design in the competition!  ...and were given some advice for a few small tweaks to their design that should blow away all competitors next year!


April 24
Where's the Weather?

Do you miss seeing the weather conditions from Bath County High School on and local television stations?  I do too!  The weather station that was mounted on the roof of the high school fell down a third time due to ice about 18 months ago, and was too costly to repair.  Thanks to the enthusiasm of Mr. Ozol's programming class, we may soon be enjoying updated weather information based on our school weather station data.  The programming class has been working with data from other weather stations to include in a mobile weather app they're developing, but we need BCHS weather data in this app!

We are working out final details for the purchase of a new weather station and camera for the high school, and hope to have it installed by the end of the school year.  The other good news is that the total cost of the new system will be a small fraction of what we paid for our last weather station & camera!

The BCHS weather station will be a great instructional tool for our programming students, but will also provide real-time information for PK-12 teachers and students as they study the weather.  Likewise, division administrators will once again have much better local information on which to base school closure decisions, and community members will be able to just how hard the wind is blowing on the BCHS hill! 

March 17
The Next Big Thing:  Student Tablets 1:1


We are just about ready to roll out our student tablets!  The pilot program will be conducted at both Valley and Millboro grade six classrooms, as well as BCHS grade eight English classrooms.  Far more than just a hardware deployment project, the school division

has partnered with Curriculum Loft to set up onilne repositories for documents, files and assignments to be "pushed" down to student tablets.  Apps selected by teachers will also be synchronized to student devices.  Students without internet access at home will be able to access files directly from the tablets.  Participating teachers have completed a day of training, and have a tablet for their use.  They will be uploading files to the "cloud" over the next few weeks; tablets will be issued to students in early April.  Spring 2014 will be an introductory period for the program, and teachers will pick back up in the fall. 

Participating teachers this year are:

  • BCHS: Kirby Smith, Noreen Mitchell, Jeanie Rooklin
  • MES: Joey Crawford, Maria Secoy, Jan Lee, Aimee Paret
  • VES: Charity Reish, Suzanne Ostling

Technology integration support will be provided by school Instructional Technology Resource Teachers Ed Ozols, Tammy Lindsay, and Joey Crawford.

November 22
We're Replacing Our Oldest Tablet PCs...

They've lived a long, full life!  The original 2006 Gateway 285 convertible tablets that spearheaded our tablet PC technology integration program have just about given out:  their batteries only last a few minutes without power, their processors are weak, they have limited RAM, and they are running Windows XP.  Seven years is actually quite old in "laptop years"--most folks agree that five years is the average lifespan of a laptop, so put into the perspective of a human lifetime, our old Gateway tablet PC are at the ripe old age of ​112!  As teachers opt for a Windows 7 or 8 upgrade this fall, we will move several of the machines to a semi-retired state--low use, non-critical use locations in schools.

There is always someone with the oldest computer in service!  We will continue to replace tablet PCs over time--the next Make/Model to be upgraded is the dozen or so HP 2710 tablet PCs that are in use at all three schools.  Most of these machines are still operating satisfactorily, but they have never been a favorite for many because of the lack of a touchpad, instead using the eraser-like pointing stick (it grows on you though, with use).  Look for some of these machines to to go away a few months from now.

We have a number of Windows XP computers still in service.  As Microsoft has announced that they are dropping support for the operating system, we will continue our move to Windows 8 through the end of 2014. 

November 02
Student Record Collections - How Data Gets to Richmond

School divisions across the commonwealth have reported information to the Virginia Department of Education for generations, but the complexity of the information collected and reported has grown exponentially over the last few years, and continues to increase as more and more data points are tied to our students and the educational programs that serve them.  Known as Student Record Collections, these data are collected in the fall, winter, spring, end-of-year and summer from every school division in Virginia.


The first report of the year has long been the September 30th Fall Membership report, a compilation of totals from classroom registers to report the grade level enrollments for division schools.  The 2011-12 September 30th report was just completed:  Bath County Public Schools is serving 674 students in grades PK-12, up from last year’s 658, though below the 701 students served in 2009-10.  While it is easy to tie these numbers to reports from the past, the data now collected in conjunction with our “September 30th Report" goes far beyond, with 50 separate data points that include specific information about each student, enabling far greater tracking of our students.  In conjunction with the other several “Student Record Collections” throughout the year, an additional 55 data points are collected to broaden the scope of data even further.


The most comprehensive record collection undertaken to date is the Master Schedule Collection report that was also completed in October.  These data sets tie our student information mentioned above to courses taken, to grades received, to the teachers that teach the classes and their licenses and other demographic data, to the SOL scores received by the students.  It has been a huge undertaking with colossal data sets, and will no doubt increase in complexity over time.  It’s been quite a school year of data reporting, and we’ve just finished the first nine weeks!

October 14
Steve Jobs Was Quite A Guy
I'm no Apple fanboy and Steve Jobs was not a god.  ...but to be fair, he was quite a guy!  Lots of folks have been talking about him since his death, but two comments really struck me. The first, I've heard referenced a number of times from interviews he did a few years back when he said that he didn't give the public what they wanted; they didn't know what they wanted until he built it for them.  No that's not arrogance when you have the record of Apple behind it.  The second quote is attributed to President Obama who wrote about what a statement it was that so many folks learned about Jobs' passing by using devices that Jobs had helped put in their hands.
The company has certainly come a long way since those first Apples rolled out of Jobs' garage.  The first Apple to roll into Bath County Public Schools was in May of 1981, marking our first foray into computers; I had just been on the job for about five months at the time.   We purchased another 17 Apple II+ coputers with a federal grant the next year, and things took off from there.  I really, really wish we had kept one of those first Apple II+, IIe, IIc, IIgs, Mac SE machines!  I do have my first notebook computer--an DOS HP Vectra that still works!
So, Mr. Jobs, thank you for your invaluable contributions to our technologies!  Yes, we moved to Mr. Gates' world when Windows became available, but we thank you for a good start with Apple.
October 11
Could Someone Guess Your Password?
Please tell me you don't use your mother's maiden name, your first-born child or your dog's name for your password!  How secure is your password?  Do you just have a single password for lots of different accounts?  How complex is your password--does it include some special characters?  When did you last change your password?  Your user account is powerful!--If you are a staff member, think for a moment about the kinds of places you can go and the things you can do with your protect your password!   The following short article on passwords from Microsoft may be of use to you--GIVE IT A LOOK!
April 26
One Space or Two?

Mrs. Hunt at Albemarle High School taught me to space twice after a period at the end of a sentence, and I did the same for nearly 35 years. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was teasing me about how I was still using that antiquated formatting style, and assured me that just one space was sufficient, and any more than that was redundant redundant. I Googled the question, found a few reputable sources that also found me behind the times, and then began the process of undoing a long-standing practice. But with the often cyclical nature of things, I now see that APA has reversed their recommendation from years past, and they recommend that non-published manuscripts go with the two-space technique! Yes, PUBLISHED documents will still have a single space after a period at the end of a sentence, but the 99.999% percent of folks who write should go back to two spaces. OK, this sentence was preceded by two spaces; back to the future. Wow, I feel better already! Hmmm… a blog is published to the web, so do I use one or two spaces? I'm sticking with two.

April 22
Everyone’s a Writer—or Should Be

I read--not so many books in recent years, though I enjoy a good novel while under an umbrella at the beach or at a pool.  But I read every day; lots of information every day.

I write--not with a pen/pencil; in fact, I don't even carry a pen, since I only use one now to occasionally sign my name on a paper document.  But I write every day; sometimes short notes, sometimes longer reports or other information to disseminate to staff.  My writing is done with digital tools--most often a computer to help me organize my thoughts, draft my words, edit the document, and eventually send it to others--rarely involving paper.

A fair amount of what I write often ends up on web-based media, although little of it other than email is written in the first person.  "I" am there, but behind the words.  I have assisted other BCPS staff members to find an appropriate vehicle to communicate with others--often using web-based media--though I have not used available tools to put "I" (me!) into my public writing.  This blog is an attempt to do just that; we'll see how it goes.