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SUMMER 2010 VOLUME 2010 • ISSUE 3

Open Source Software

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Moore’s Law Dies Again Key IT Systems that Lack One Important Thing— License Fees OSS: A Philosophy that’s Compatible with Education


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TABLE OF CONTENTS

California Educational Technology Professionals Association

Summer 2010 | Volume 2010 | Issue 3

ARTICLES 6 President’s Message By Dr. Kelly Calhoun

8 Best Practices By Phil Scrivano

10 My Favorite E-mail System is Free Open Source Software By Tim Goree

12 Open Source Helps EdResults.org Provide Free Data By Dave Johnston

14 The Greatest Success of Open Source is its Philosophy By Jordan Erickson

16 CETPA Call for Speakers 18 Moore’s Law Dies Again By David Thornburg

20 E-Rate Update By Fred Brakeman

24 Member Profile

A Chat with Andrew Schwab

30 Resource Guide and Ad Index

In-depth On-line for Members Only Open Source in Education: Why IT Matters! By Benoit des Ligneris http://cetpa-k12.org/pub/db_art/342

Databus is the official publication of the California Educational Technology Professionals Association (CETPA). Databus is published four times a year as a service to our members and information technology managers for California’s K-12 school system. The CETPA and the Databus assume no responsibility for the statements or opinions appearing in articles under an author’s name. The services of an attorney or accountant should be sought in legal and tax matters. All copyrights and trademarks are proper ty of their respective owners. Except where otherwise noted, content in Databus is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Publisher California Educational Technology Professionals Association Managing Editor Tim Goree tigoree@norris.k12.ca.us Assistant Editor Diane Foulks dfoulks@fldusd.k12.ca.us

Advertising Manager Cici Trino Association Outsource Services (916) 990-9999 Fax: (916) 990-9991 cicit@aosinc.biz

Layout and Design Lori Mattas Printing and Mailing Copeland Printing

Editor Lisa Kopochinski (916) 481-0265 Fax: (916) 481-1181 lisakop@sbcglobal.net

Summer 2010 • DataBus 5


PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

BOARD OF DIRECTORS PRESIDENT

Like the Seasons, CETPA Changes By Dr. Kelly Calhoun, CETPA President

Dr. Kelly Calhoun, Chief Technology Officer Santa Clara County Office of Education 1290 Ridder Park Drive San Jose, CA 95131 PRESIDENT ELECT

Stephen Carr, Executive Director, Technology Services Ventura County Office of Education 5189 Verdugo Way Camarillo, CA 93012 PAST PRESIDENT

L. Russ Brawn, Chief Operations Officer FCMAT/CSIS 770 L Street, Suite 1120 Sacramento, CA 95814 TREASURER

Oswaldo A. Galarza, Director of Technology 915 L Street #C424 Sacramento, CA 95354 SECRETARY

Gregory W. Lindner, Technology Services Director Elk Grove Unified School District 9510 Elk Grove-Florin Road Elk Grove, CA 95624 EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Andrea Bennett

915 L Street #C424 Sacramento, CA 95354 DIRECTOR OF PUBLICATIONS

Tim Goree, Director of Technology Services Norris School District 6940 Calloway Drive Bakersfield, CA 93312

DIRECTORS AT LARGE

Sandra Ching, Director of Information Services Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District 1301 Orangethorpe Avenue Placentia, CA 92870

Todd Finnell, Chief Executive Officer, CA K-12 High Speed Network Imperial County Office of Education 1398 Sperber Road El Centro, CA 92243

Dr. Carl Fong, Information Technology Executive Director

Orange County Department of Education 200 Kalmus Drive Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Steve Thornton, Director of Technology Menifee Union School District 30205 Menifee Road Menifee, CA 92584

Wade Williams, Director of Network Services Stanislaus County Office of Education 1100 H Street Modesto, CA 95354

6 DataBus • Summer 2010

S

ummer’s here, although some of us have been wondering if it ever would arrive. We’ll all soon be complaining about it being too hot just as much as we were recently complaining about too much cold and rain. But early or late, fast or slow, the seasons change. Like them, change is constantly happening for us too, and it comes whether we want it or not. The question is how we face it. This year has been such a terrible one for so many people in education and everywhere else with devastating budget cuts, lost jobs and times of great suffering. In times of trial—and it’s been a major one for me this past year too, so I know of How are we what I speak—sometimes it feels like happiness and good times are gone and will never come again. How are we supsupposed to be posed to be supporting and inspiring others when we may be supporting and at such a low ourselves? These are the times when it becomes hardest to strike inspiring others that balance between dealing with reality as it sits before when we may us today and shifting our gaze into the future, where hope surely resides. Many of you have lost jobs, or have had to tell be at such a low others that they are losing theirs. You’ve had to cut beloved ourselves? programs that you and others have built with hard work over so much time. You’ve been battered with greater and greater demands and, at the same time, your resources are being ripped away. Great technology leaders are those who constantly seek and find this balance: they face reality, but maintain a certain faith and optimism that from the worst of times can sometimes come amazing things. They dig into the resilience and creativity that makes us unique and special within each of our organizations. They know that we can participate in taking whatever is happening and use it to make something better for others. We’re doing just that as your CETPA board, looking for ways to expand member services—like the new ones you’ll see popping up on the website now and in the coming months. We’re putting structures in place to better engage our members in opportunities to volunteer and participate. And, we have exciting new changes we’ll be sharing with you further in the coming months. Speaking of creativity, this issue’s theme is open source. The open source community has developed and shared countless application resources for others to use. What are the questions you need to answer to know how you might leverage these in your organization? What are the implications of dependence on open source solutions? What are the things to consider when choosing between an open source or commercial product to solve a challenge? This issue takes on these questions and more to help our members get and keep up to speed on this fascinating topic. Don’t forget our 50th anniversary celebration in Monterey in October. Though our annual conferences are always awesome events, this one promises to be even more special. And remember you’re invited to my party—the President’s Reception at the spectacular Monterey Bay Aquarium, included with your conference registration! Check out the CETPA website for more details on the conference. Yes, these are tough times with many changes, but an event like this one can help support you through them in more ways than one! 


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BEST PRACTICES

Is It Time to Discover Open Source Desktops?

I Phil Scrivano

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From small, low-end tablet computers to being able to get a few more years life out of old computer hardware, the advantages are stacking up. nnn

8 DataBus • Summer 2010

have been fortunate to experience many desktop technologies in my career. As a sixth-grade teacher, I received one of the first Apple IIe computers. That same year, a student brought in an early Atari computer, which introduced the class to command line language. We soon upgraded to a couple Apple 2GS computers, and we were introduced to basic networking in order to share one printer. DOS was the next step, which was followed by Windows 3.11 and the evolution of the Macintosh. Windows 95, 98a and 98b enabled us to connect the classroom to the Internet using a US Robotics 2400 baud modem. The Internet changed everything. Next were NT Workstation, Windows 2000, Mac OS X, Vista, XP, and Windows 7. In the background during these exciting years was the software that seemed to run the Internet. Our first touch were distributions based on Unix/Linux that many of us first experienced when conducting Gopher-type searches or using a text-based e-mail system. Young computer engineers seemed to like building Unix/Linux-based servers for such things as DNS and firewalls. When I observed these types of applications in districts, the systems were primarily command line interfaces. Command line is okay, but it has been the graphical interface for common users that has made technology what it is today. Based on this observation, I believed that Unix/Linux-based systems were primarily the tools of servers and the Internet. In 2004, I noticed my son using a graphical interface that was based on Linux. At this time, I observed him primarily still working at the command line level. I have always had an interest in the command line tools of DOS, so I started to observe and soon built a computer based on Arch Linux. This first experience at a Linux-based desktop was an exercise in command line frustration as I learned a new language. This has proved just as valuable to me as using DOS commands has been throughout the many distributions of Microsoft systems. Today, my primary desktop is Ubuntu 9.4. Ubuntu is to Linux as Windows 3.11 was to DOS 5.0. Although there are many distributions of Linux that are excellent, Ubuntu seems to have the pulse of common society using an operating system. It is rare that the common desktop user will have a need for command line. Security can be built in by the net-

work administrator. It is Active Directory and LDAP friendly. And, it is easy to install. The business model at this time is to keep the software free and charge for support for the large-scale users who will need programming assistance. About the only thing I go back to Windows for is Apple’s iTunes. In the next few months, Ubuntu will be distributing 10.4 that furthers their commitment to end-user ease of use. Is Ubuntu ready for real time in California education? I believe the answer is “yes.” Other states, such as Indiana, have been studying this question for several years. Using an open source desktop enables schools to save money in both hardware, software, and support. As more education applications become web-based, the need for high-end new stuff is decreasing. Our collective vision for technology in the classroom has always been to put a computer in the hands of every student. Technology at the hands of students will someday be considered just another tool such as a pencil. “The program, dubbed Indiana Affordable Classroom Computer for Every Secondary Student (InACCESS), launched in 2003 as an alternative way to put computers in the hands of every student.” (http://www.schoolcio.com/ShowArticle/758) The models are building throughout the world. Indiana and India are good places to start looking. Do a search for “OSI,” which is “Open Source in Indiana.” From small, low-end tablet computers to being able to get a few more years life out of old computer hardware, the advantages are stacking up. Our customers, educators, students and administrators will adapt easily to the new distributions such as Ubuntu. The desktop is just the beginning. There are hundreds of educational software selections available now. Major applications such as Open Office, Google Chrome and Firefox are solid and ready for the school environment. There is also classroom control software such as iTALC for Intelligent Teaching and Learning with Computers that enables remote viewing and control other computers. Once you start to look at the world of open source, I believe you will see the potential benefits for your education setting.  Phil Scrivano is Vice President of Customer Services for Lightspeed Systems. He can be reached at (661) 716-7600 or phil@lightspeedsystems.com.


@@@@@@@ OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE

My Favorite E-mail System is Free Open Source Software

W By Tim Goree

Since first installing Zimbra, we have run it on both Mac OS X Server and Ubuntu Server.

hen I came to the Norris School District in late 2006, I found myself in a unique position. My reasons for taking the position were more personal than professional.  I looked forward to driving only two minutes to get to work, as well as working in the district where my own children attended.  Where the adjustment came was in the fact that Norris was almost 100-percent Macintosh on both the client and the server side. I had worked for 16 years before that in almost exclusively Microsoft environments, so this would be a considerable change. My e-mail administration experience up to that point had been with Microsoft Exchange 5.5 - 2003. One of my first tasks in the new position became one of unifying two separate e-mail systems. That’s right—there were two! Both were administered by our county office of education, but one was for outside communications, and the other was for inside the district communications. Both used different clients too. It wasn’t anyone in our district that was asking me to unify our e-mail, though, it was a task I put on myself.  After getting used to Exchange with the Outlook client for so many years, the two e-mail system environment had me completely discombobulated!  This was simply a move that I needed to make for my own sanity’s sake.  I was hoping that our staff would love me for it in the end. So what does one do when faced with Microsoft Exchange experience and nothing but Macs?  I had a big decision to make. Anyone who has worked in a Microsoft Active Directory environment knows that a move to Exchange would ultimately be a move to an Active Directory structure, followed by an all Microsoft environment on the back end. And, if you have an allMicrosoft back end, it would seem pretty silly to have

10 DataBus • Summer 2010

an all-Mac client environment. That’s just how it tends to play out. As comfortable for me as a move like that would have been, I had always adhered to the idea that standardization of systems on the client side was highly advantageous as long as the people using those clients were satisfied with the situation. In this case, our staff was not only satisfied, they seemed downright giddy to have Macs sitting on their desks, and I wasn’t about to move in a direction that would downgrade that giddiness to something less desirable. It didn’t take long for me to realize, as I learned more about the Mac on my desk, that Mac OS X is built on Open Source Software. It is a very close cousin to Linux on the desktop and works with Linux on the back end very seamlessly.  My thoughts turned to free open source e-mail server software, and we soon found a product call Zimbra (http://zimbra.com). Zimbra and I found ourselves in an excellent relationship immediately.  Being one of the first to use AJAX effectively for its web client produced impressive results. The first time I worked with a demo, I fell in love with the idea that I could have a web client that was nearly as robust and feature rich as the full Outlook client. Obviously, the upside of the web client would be that when we changed systems, my staff and I wouldn’t have to install client software on all of our district computers, and our users could have the same e-mail client experience at home as they could at work, regardless of their operating system differences. We moved forward and haven’t looked back. Since first installing Zimbra, we have run it on both Mac OS X Server and Ubuntu Server. In that time, its company ownership has changed hands twice, from being an independent company to being owned by Yahoo! (who uses


@@@@@@@@ Zimbra as its engine for Yahoo! Mail) and now VMware (who sees it as an integral part of its future productivity suite). We have always paid for support with this product, and we’ve had excellent experiences both with the Zimbra team in that regard as well as our current support team, Revolution Linux (http://revolutionlinux.com/). I can say with confidence that Zimbra is rock solid.  From the standpoint of administration, it is worlds easier to deal with on a day-to-day basis than Microsoft Exchange 2003.  Most importantly, however, Zimbra was my first foray into FOSS, and the positive experience has launched our district in a healthy direction going forward. 

Tim Goree is the Director of Technology Services for the Norris School District in Bakersfield, California (tigoree@norris.k12.ca.us). He has 20 years of IT experience, with 14 of those years being specific to education.  As a member of the CETPA Board of Directors as well as the Kern CUE Board of Directors, Tim is well known for his ability to bring IT staff and educators together ideologically to produce outstanding educational results. He can be reached at tigoree@norris.k12.ca.us.

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Summer 2010 • DataBus 11


OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE

Open Source Helps EdResults.org Provide Free Data and Best Practice Resources

I By Dave Johnston

12 DataBus • Summer 2010

n 2002, when Dr. Jim Lanich was looking to bring the Just for the Kids project to California, he received a budget estimate of more than $1 million for the hardware, software and programming time. Rather than rely on the servers and staff in Texas, he felt it was important that the Just for the Kids—California project have its own technology infrastructure so it could customize the data analysis available to California school districts. The amount seemed insurmountable for the newly formed nonprofit to raise. I became acquainted with Jim through our mutual work with the California Technology Assistance Project (CTAP). During this initial phase, Jim showed me what he had in mind for the project, including hand-drawn samples of the charts he wanted. He asked me to review the technology portion of the budget and give him feedback on whether the solution seemed appropriate. While

the approach used by the national project certainly worked well for them, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a solution that didn’t require such a huge initial investment. My own experience with open source began in 1993 when I was the network manager for a community college. One of my student employees handed me four 3.5-inch disks with “this new version of UNIX created by some guy named Linus in Finland.” Within a very short period of time, Linux servers supported much of the college’s network infrastructure. Given my Linux experience, I couldn’t help but think there must be an open-source solution that would work for this project. While I had experience in programming, I hadn’t developed anything for the web. I had done a little work in Perl and had been looking for an excuse to play with PHP. I was thrust into working with MySQL as part of a college class I reluctantly agreed to teach to make the


computer and information sciences department chair happy. The only piece of the software missing was the ability to make nice-looking charts. I did some investigation on the Internet and came across a PHP chart library JpGraph (http://aditus.nu) that seemed like it would provide the bar charts that Jim had in mind. The final piece I needed was the data to display. Fortunately, when I looked at the California Department of Education (CDE) website, I found that I could download the school identification, demographic and performance data that I needed for the first few charts. Even though I thought a server with a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, & PHP) installation, the chart library and the data from CDE, would do the job, I hadn’t mentioned anything to Dr. Lanich yet. I knew that I needed to be able to show him that I could duplicate what the million-dollar system did with open-source tools. So, when a long weekend arrived, with the approval of my very understanding wife, I set up a prototype on my home Linux server and started constructing the demonstration site. By the end of the weekend, I was able to demonstrate a prototype that displayed the basic four-bar chart that compares the performance of the selected school at a specific grade-level and subject with the performance of a group of higher performing comparable schools on a statewide, region-wide and county-wide basis. Certainly the site wasn’t complete, but it was enough to demonstrate to Jim that this solution was viable. I’ll never forget the look on his face when he saw the working prototype. As I explained each of the tools used to create the site, he would ask about the cost of that component. I enjoyed being able to repeatedly tell him, “Oh, that’s open source, so that one doesn’t cost you anything.” I shared with him that the only upfront costs were the server hardware, Internet access and the programming time—and that the cost would be significantly less than the milliondollar figure. Over the next few months, I worked with Jim and his colleague, Ross Santy, to acquire the hardware, identify a hosting solution, and create the first version of the website. Throughout the process, the open source tools we selected exceeded our expectations. In fact, we determined in our testing that our solution was fast enough to allow us to identify the comparable schools in real time as the pages were displayed rather than doing all the comparisons up front and caching

the results in the database as the expensive system had to do. The website was released in February 2003 and has been used ever since by school and district staff, parents, policymakers and researchers from across the state. We’ve added many new charts using additional features of the JpGraph library including scatter plots, line graphs and some really cool looking tachometer charts. We eventually migrated to the “Pro” version of the chart library, paying an extremely reasonable fee in order to have access to some additional chart types. The site’s code has been updated over the years. I cringe now when I see some of the original PHP code I wrote back at the beginning. While it worked, it was definitely not pretty or efficient. I think my skills have improved over the last nine years that I’ve worked on this project. This skill improvement has allowed us to continue to provide more features, add more data and support more users as the project has grown. As a nonprofit entity funded entirely

through philanthropy, by necessity we are a very lean organization with limited human resources. Our open-source solution has allowed me to be a one-person development group, QA group and IT department at the same time. While it gets a little crazy from time to time, I’m sure it isn’t any worse than it is in your office. You can see our solution in action at http:// edresults.org and try it for yourself.  Dave Johnston is the Director, Data Management and Programming for California Business for Education Excellence Foundation (CBEE), the sponsor of EdResults.org, which was previously called Just for the Kids—California. He has worked with CBEE on a full-time basis since 2005. Prior to that he worked in instructional technology for a County Office of Education and as a network/telecom manager for a community college. In his spare time, he serves as a trustee on his local school board. He can be reached at dave@edresults.org.

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Summer 2010 • DataBus 13


OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE

The Greatest Success of Open Source is its Philosophy

W

By Jordan Erickson

hen it comes down to it, we work for the future of our children. The very purpose of our jobs, regardless of whether you are a superintendent, teacher, systems administrator or custodian, is to aid in the education of our youth so that they may be prepared, motivated and creative in their adult lives. Working in schools gives us a unique perspective as to the forming of minds and how they solve problems now and later on in life. What we do to solidify what we teach our students is important in an almost subliminal sense (a “practice what you preach” approach, if you will). Remember that—to the student—teacher and school are synonymous. If a health class teacher points out the importance and benefits of consuming natural juices instead as opposed to soda, it is hypocritical for the student to see vending machines filled with carbonated sugar water at lunch. It then becomes a choice of whether they listen to their teacher or opt for the convenience of the campus-provided vending machine 20 feet away. It undermines the importance of the message you are communicating when your words aren’t backed up in the real world. Okay, let’s talk technology. Beyond the long drawn-out and inconclusive arguments of technical superiority or inferiority of proprietary versus open source software, there is the less obvious (but, in my humble opinion, much more important) examination of how people perceive technology as a whole. There is an overwhelming mentality of most nontech geeks that computers are sealed black boxes.

14 DataBus • Summer 2010

The language of software end-user license agreements alone is enough to make you want to contact your lawyer before you click on the “I Agree” button. This creates a “hands-off” mentality of the end user when operating a computer, and that mentality is dangerous when you want to learn as much as possible. It instills fear, uncertainty and doubt, and manifests into an attitude of shying away from digging deeper into how technology actually works. If there are security alarms embedded in the program, it is probably best to not tinker. Open source software is quite the opposite in that the philosophy behind it promotes (and the license legally enforces) the open sharing, copying and modification of program code. It engages the students on a technological level and tells them, “Hey, if you want to change how I work, go ahead. If I crash, feel free to dig into my code and fix it. If you do, please share your work with everyone so we can benefit from it too!” It also openly encourages the involvement and participation of everyone interested in the project to help create documentation, help out other users online, and generally become part of how the software evolves and gets better. This is a very important idea—from the ground up, open source software projects rely on the involvement of its community to prosper. By laying out every piece of the puzzle for everyone to see, discuss and collaborate on, there are no secrets and everyone is on the same level. This creates a motivation to give back to the community who provided the software for you, as you feel mor-


ally indebted. Many people start using open source software to fill a gap, and then become a part of that software’s community later on to help others fill that same gap (or even create a better gap filler)! In an educational context, it is always important to stress the usefulness of collaboration, teamwork and open sharing of ideas. Unfortunately, there is a disconnect (no pun intended) with restrictive and binary-only software to these concepts. What students start to understand when using computers is that they are to obey their applications, period. They are not to “fiddle around” in the file system. (“Warning: This folder contains critical files!”) regardless of system permissions that are already set. They are not to copy, take home or otherwise use the software anywhere else but on the system in which it is already installed. They are not to openly explore the technology they are using to solve a problem or accomplish a goal. To me, this is hypocritical in an educational context. There is a lot to be learned in the continued weaving of technology into real life, and it parallels many other areas such as personal morals and ethics. On the one hand you have personal power and hierarchy, and on the other you have total equality and

a strong sense of power through community. Not to say that one is more productive than the other, but wouldn’t you agree that the latter seems that it would better represent the overall ideals our educational system strives to convey? To me, the greatest success I have felt from using open source technology in school is its philosophy. It is the feeling that I am creating a lasting impression that these methods work in the real world. Even if not literally expressed by students, they see that open source works on a much different level than other, more restrictive methods. They see that it works in a way that harnesses the power of collective knowledge. From this example, they are able to transfer those ideals into other areas of their lives and manifest an open future for themselves and their peers.  Jordan Erickson is a technical consultant and network engineer that contracts with California schools to deploy energy-efficient and open source solutions such as GNU/Linux and LTSP thin client systems. He has owned and operated his business, Logical Networking Solutions, for eight years. He can be reached at jerickson@logicalnetworking.net.

www.cetpa-k12.org

Summer 2010 • DataBus 15


CETPA Invites you to Participate in the 50th Anniversary Celebration “50 Years of Gold” …and we keep getting better! CETPA would like to invite you to help your fellow educators this year by creating our speaker sessions “50 Years of Gold.” This is your opportunity to share ideas, practices and solutions that can assist educational institutions. Submit your Speaker Registration at http://reg.cetpa-k12.org/pub/htdocs/2010-speaker-registration.html Please extend the invitation to any speaker who has information valuable to our membership or send us their name. If you or your group are planning a statewide event and would like to discuss joint sessions, please e-mail speakers@cetpa-k12.org. Select a one-hour or two-hour presentation. Breakout rooms can typically seat 40 to 50 conference attendees. Popular sessions can accommodate up to 80 attendees. A projector and Internet access will be provided. CETPA also offers roundtable discussions. If you have an idea for a roundtable, please submit it with suggestions of participants. If a vendor would like to sponsor a roundtable session where they construct the content, please indicate this on the registration form. Please use “Roundtable” as the first word in the title. This year CETPA will continue with its four strands of technical and educational knowledge: New Learning Environments

Secure, Reliable Infrastructure

Policy and Programs that Impact Education and Technology

Technology Tools for Education

(Student instructional technology used in the classroom.) (IT management, administrative application software and the support of federal and state requirements.)

(Hardware and software supporting the network and application software.) (Non-student instructional support in the classroom and other IT tools.)

We are very interested in hearing your experiences that you believe would benefit our attendees. Here are a few popular topics: • Classroom Technologies • Digital Curriculum • Distance Learning • Emerging Technologies • Business and Student IS • Cost Reduction Strategies • Integrated Data Management

• Federal and State Requirements • Managing Personnel Resources • Purchasing Options • Records Retention • Technology Strategies • Desktop Administration • Disaster Recovery

• Information and Network Security and Support • Networks • Open Source • Unified Communications • Virtualization • VPN Deployment

• Cloud Computing • Mobile Professionals • OS and Office Updates • Professional Learning • Student Assessment System • Web and Application Development Tools • Wireless Technology

Contact Sandy Ching, this year’s Speaker Chairperson, by e-mail at speakers@cetpa-k12.org if you cannot find the information you need on the CETPA website. Important: Preference will be given to applications received from educational agencies, followed by educational agencies partnering with an exhibitor (submitted by the educational agency) and then exhibitors. Room scheduling will be ongoing for educational agencies and begin August 1for exhibitors. Session topics as well as the date of submission may be used when scheduling. 16 DataBus • Summer 2010


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CUE VIEW

Moore’s Law Dies Again

Processor speed and complexity have reached the point where virtually no ordinary person cares how fast a processor is.

By David Thornburg, PhD

M

ost technology folks know about Moore’s Law, named after its developer, Intel’s Gordon Moore, more than 40 years ago. In the early days of integrated circuitry and computer chips, he observed that the complexity of these circuits was doubling every two years, usually measured by the number of transistors that could be crammed onto a silicon wafer. He also noted that, as complexity increased, cost went down and speed improved. Over the intervening years, this “law” has been modified to the point where the “doubling time” has been reduced to one year. The present state of development is giving us processors with more than 750 million transistors, with a throughput equivalent of 12 gigahertz. Gollyorkins! As chip complexity increased, naysayers pointed out that, sooner or later, Moore’s Law was going to run out of steam. Transistor size can only be reduced so much; heat dissipation has its limits; and the architecture of microprocessors will finally have bumped into a stone wall. There is even a report that suggests the cost of fabrication facilities has grown so large that they have to be used for a long time just to recover the investment, and this will provide a death blow to Moore’s Law. This pronouncement, due to take hold in 2014, was reported in a recent article in EE Times. See (www.eetimes.com/ showArticle.jhtml?articleID=217900102&cid=NL_eet). I have a different theory. Advances based on Moore’s Law are going to end because it no longer matters. That’s right. It simply doesn’t matter how much faster processors are than kids’ hands when it comes to educational computing. Processor speed and complexity have reached the point where virtually no ordinary person cares how fast a processor is. For those who do care, cluster computing is the way to go. Video games—which use the most computing power of any home or business application—have gotten to the point that you can strap eight Sony PS3s together and make one of the fastest supercomputers on the planet (www.ps3cluster.umassd.edu). This site shows you how to build your own supercomputer that outperforms the 200 node IBM Blue Gene computer. What big iron (very large, even room-sized computers, servers, etc.) cares about today is reliability, and this means redundancy. Basically, if you have a parallel machine running at a few teraflops and a few processors croak, then all that happens is your throughput drops a bit until you swap in fresh boards. As for home machines, there is a reason that netbooks are growing in popularity. For us mortals, we have entered the world where bandwidth matters more than processor speed, and with 3G networks, etc., we will see computer-intensive applications move to big machines on the web, leaving our laptops for simple programs. We forget that the Apple II and its ilk ran wonderful

continued on page 22

18 DataBus • Summer 2010


E-RATE UPDATE

Major E-Rate Changes Coming

F

By Fred Brakeman

inally, after 13 years since the program began, Congress is considering some major changes to the E-rate program. Changes are occurring because the Telecommunications Act of 1996 needs updating and President Obama’s National Broadband Plan wants to enhance and update E-rate. Unlike years past when many were calling for the abandonment of E-rate funding, now all voices and concerned parties are actually requesting that the program be strengthened, streamlined, services added, and additional funding put towards the program. On May 20, 2010, the FCC put out a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that outlines some of the changes they propose to make to E-rate. Here is a list of the items they are considering and seeking comment on: Proposal #1: Eliminate the need for having approved technology plans for Priority One services. The FCC’s thought process is that this requirement “may represent an unnecessary complex and burdensome program requirement.” They propose to continue to require technology plans for Priority Two Internal Connections projects. They also are seeking comment to see if these technology plans should require third-party approval. Proposal #2: Possibly eliminate the requirement to file a Form 470 each year and subsequent 28-day waiting period to procure goods and services. Applicants would be required to follow local and state bidding requirements, however, even if the Form 470 requirement is eliminated. Proposal #3: Revise the way discount information is collected and shown on the Form 471. The FCC proposes to streamline the process by changing from calculating the Free and Reduced Lunch information by site to using the discount rate for the entire school

district. The thought process is that it will streamline the collecting of this information and eliminate the likelihood that schools will move their equipment out of their 90-percent discount schools down to their lower discount schools. Most likely, this would eliminate the ability for districts that have a small subset of schools that are at the 90-percent range of applying for only those schools. If they revise this requirement, it most likely would eliminate the 2-in-5 rule. Proposal #4: Change the “rural” designation. Currently schools are required to use the Goldsmith Modification to the 2000 Census website to get this information. It is proposed to use the U.S. Department of Education’s NCES urban-centric locale codes instead. The thought process is that the USDOE’s information would be targeted to schools and be more reflective of the actual “rural” classification. Proposal #5: Permanently allow applicants the ability to allow the use of their facilities by the community during “non-school” hours. The FCC has temporarily allowed this change for year 13, but now they want to make this rule permanent. Proposal #6: “Support more online learning by providing wireless connectivity to portable devices so students can engage in learning while not at school.” It is assumed this would allow students to use their wireless devices to log into the school’s network to do online learning. Proposal #7: Open up the ability for schools and libraries to use more opportunities to find leased fiber. Currently applicants must use an eligible telecommunications carrier to get all of the services that are eligible for Priority One services. The FCC proposes to allow continued on page 22

20 DataBus • Summer 2010


CUE View—Moore’s Law continued from page 18

E-Rate Update continued from page 20

software with less than a one mHz clock. Five-gigabit processors make money for Redmond and the electric utilities. But, seriously folks, how fast do you need to boot Solitaire? Acer now has a netbook with an 11-inch screen and a mostly regular-sized keyboard. With a six-cell battery, you are talking six hours of actual use between charges. Costco has the computer for about $350 (with a regular battery). When this machine gets Google’s Android version of Linux in the Fall, the price will likely drop below $300. Plus it tips the scale at about one kilogram. No more sore shoulders. I’ve been carrying a small netbook with me for some time and it is doing most everything I need when I’m on the road. Yes, I’d like a larger screen (coming) and a standard-sized keyboard (coming), but these do not impact the overall utility of the system; and, after a little while, my fingers adjust pretty well. Aside from the cost (I paid less than $300), the advantage is overall size and reduced weight. And—I almost forgot—battery life. These machines are pretty green, which is important when you realize that our global computers use about 20 percent of all electricity generated on the planet! See Kevin Kelly talk about this in his video about the 5,000 days at www.ted.com. For kids of all ages, netbooks can be pretty cool devices. Built-in wi-fi, decent storage (I have 160 GB of hard drive space), and the ability to run good applications all favor these computers. And, let’s not forget that we are living in stressful times when it comes to budgets. Look in your kid’s backpack. (Bend your legs when lifting the backpack so you don’t strain yourself). Each of those obsolete textbooks costs your school system $75 or more. Four books equals a netbook at full retail. And, you’ve traded several kilos of passive paper for a kilogram of dynamic computing power with which kids not only can read what others have done, but also can create and build their own understandings of the things they will need to know about in their future. For several generations, we have celebrated Moore’s Law without realizing that we have also been enslaved by it. Our quest for faster, better computing has cost us a fortune. And, the day we installed our new computers, even faster machines were introduced to the market. Now we have finally said, “Enough!” If there is a silver lining to the economic crisis in education, it may be that it will finally get us to provide every child with the kind of powerful technology some of us have been predicting for many years. How cool is that? 

applicants to use other third parties to provide these services, even municipalities, state-wide educational networks or other institutions. They are considering eliminating the rule that “dark fiber” cannot be leased. Proposal #8: Find ways to better serve “unique populations” in residential areas such as “dormitories, teachers’ centers and residential programs” that have been found to be ineligible for support under the E-rate program.” Proposal #9: Find ways to fund more Priority Two projects for applicants that have never been able to receive funds because their discount rate was not high enough to receive E-rate funding. Some suggested ideas are to provide a flat per student cap on new Priority Two funds, eliminating the 2-in-5 rule, reducing the total paid by E-rate (90 percent) applicants down to 80 percent or some other amount and have the applicant pay the difference. The FCC thinks if applicants have to pay more, they will think twice about asking for more expensive equipment or services that they don’t currently need such as ultra high-speed data networks. Proposal #10: More funding for E-rate. When Congress enacted the E-rate program in 1996, they failed to put a cost of living adjustment (COLA) on the program. This means $2.25 billion has been funded each year and it has not been able to fully fund all the requests for funding for more than ten years. More money is needed to pay for this vital program. Proposal #11: Correct a flaw in the E-rate rules that makes it difficult to dispose of obsolete equipment purchased with E-rate dollars. Expect for the FCC to provide guidance on how to incorporate the new Internet Safety Policy component required under the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act into your current CIPA requirements. Unfortunately, by the time this article is published, the comment period will probably be over to provide comments to the NPR. Furthermore, it is likely that some of these proposals will be enacted in the upcoming year 14 (July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012) filing period this fall. It is our recommendation that you frequent the SLD website for current rules changes and also to keep abreast with any emails sent out by the CDE to the E-rate listserv regarding these rules changes. As these new rules changes come out, we will also post them on the CETPA listserv. If you want to see the actual FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, go to http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/ FCC-10-83A1.pdf.  Fred Brakeman is President of Infinity Communications & Consulting, Inc, a full-service consulting firm including E-rate/ CTF and Microsoft Ed Tech K-12 consulting, technology design services, and low-voltage construction management and inspection services serving approximately 20 percent of all the school districts and county offices of education in California. Infinity Communications & Consulting is located in Bakersfield, California, with field offices in Fresno and Emeryville. Fred can be reached at fbrakeman@infinitycomm.com, office phone (661) 716-1840, or via mail at P.O. Box 6069, Bakersfield, California 93386. Please visit www.infinitycomm.com.

David D. Thornburg, Ph.D., Director, Global Operations, Thornburg Center for Professional Development (www.tcpd.org, www.tcpdpodcast.org) is also Executive Director, Thornburg Center for Space Exploration (www.tcse-k12.org). He has been an active supporter of CUE since its inception, and is a leader in the educational technology field. He can be reached at DThornburg@aol.com

22 DataBus • Summer 2010


MEMBER PROFILE

DataBus Chats with Andrew By Lisa Kopochinski, DataBus Editor

What is your title and responsibilities at Le Grand Union High School District? I am the IT director for Le Grand Union High School District. As the IT director for a small rural district, I am responsible for all aspects of IT—everything from administering core infrastructure services to providing basic help desk support.  In addition to keeping all technology on two campuses running, I also teach a computer systems class and an online programming class.  In my spare time, I am responsible for maintaining the district’s student information system and CALPADS reporting.  It’s the typical small school IT job description.

Schwab What drew you to this industry? What do you like most about it? I’ll blame my dad, the Atari 2600 and an Apple IIe for getting me hooked on technology. After getting out of the Army, a degree in computers seemed like a good idea, especially with the tech bubble in full swing. In hindsight, that may not have been the best choice, but burst bubbles aside, I love being in the technology field. When you think about it over the past ten years, technology, and really the Internet, has transformed the way businesses do business. I believe we are now starting to see that same kind of transformation take hold in education and I’m excited to be part of that change. I also love to learn new things and the tech industry is the perfect one to be in for that because of the fast-paced change inherit in it.

How long have you been in the computer industry? I have been working in the tech industry since graduating with a BS in CIS (computer information systems) from When did you join CETPA and why? Humboldt State University in December I attended the CETPA Annual Conference 1999, but I did not find my way into the shortly after starting my first EdTech job in education technology sector until late 2003.  2003 and became a member without really understanding what that meant. As some-

24 DataBus • Summer 2010


one brand new to the EdTech field, I was just glad to have the conference experience and to be able to mingle with fellow EdTech folks. Over the years, I have come to realize that participating in CETPA provides a critical link for my small school to the outside world and I try to attend the annual conference whenever I can. Last year I applied to present at the conference because I thought it was important that open source software and the small school perspective be represented.  I think CETPA is a great resource for sharing challenges and solutions and for supporting the EdTech community as a whole. I only joined the mailing list a few years ago, but I feel it really exemplifies that community spirit and I enjoy the opportunity to give back to the community as well.

Where does CETPA need to grow? Electronic textbooks, 1:1 computing, the Internet, cloud computing and open source software are set to transform the role of technology in education. Were it not for the current budget situation in California, I think we would be seeing a much larger role for technology in the classroom than what we have now. Until we can get past the idea that technology is something that is nice to have, but not really essential to educating students, we won’t truly move toward a technology-rich classroom. I was very encouraged to see a focus on instructional technology at the San Diego conference last year and the recent Databus article by Martha Robrahn entitled, “Who Are Our Customers,” brought home some of the unique challenges facing IT in education. CETPA is perfectly positioned to help define the role of IT professionals in education and to advocate for authentic integration of technology into the classroom in partnership with administrators, teachers and instructional technology professionals. What is the greatest challenge facing this industry and how can it be overcome?  It is time to move beyond the “Does technology belong in the classroom” debate and recognize that first, the stuff we call technology is not technology to our students, and secondly, technology has fundamentally changed the way every business operates except education.  We are still using 19th-century technology to teach kids in the majority of classrooms today. As IT professionals, we should be focused on the needs of our business. We need to focus more effort on engag-

ing teachers and administrators in conversations about using technology in the classroom and spending less time locking down systems and blocking everything on the Internet. Do we truly know the technology needs of our administrators, teachers, students and community?  I’m finding that it is a much more complicated question to answer for education than it ever was in the private sector.  But, if we can answer that question, we’ll be much closer to technology being a critical component of education and the classroom.

How is the state’s deficit affecting you? As a small, rural district, we face technology-funding challenges even in decent budget years.  Right now we are in survival mode. Luckily, we’ve been moving to open source software and web-based services for the past six years, so as long as our hardware keeps running, we’ll still be moving forward with some projects for next year.  Spending money on hardware is a necessity, but operating systems and web browsers are free. I look at the hardware as the device that gets a student (or teacher) access to the Internet and from there, they have an abundance of free resources available to them for learning. One big challenge we have is that in traditional school district fashion, six years ago we put a projector in every classroom with one-time funding and, of course, now those projectors are starting to fail. We are looking at grants and any alternative funding sources that we can, but it’s going to be an interesting next couple of years to be sure. Where do you live and what do you like to do in your spare time?  I live in Merced, which as the local joke goes, is two hours away from everything. This works out great because I get to spend time with my wife and fouryear-old daughter, skiing in the winter, hiking in the spring and at the beach in the summer.  Apparently I also spend too much time playing with computers, but I prefer to think of that as research.  Recently I started a podcast about EdTech with a fellow teacher inspired by our CETPA 2009 presentation, which can be found at www.smallschoolbigtech.com. Based on the whole experience, I’ll be integrating podcasting into my computer class next year. 

Summer 2010 • DataBus 25


Resource Guide & Advertiser’s Index C INNOVATION/ZANGLE

Zangle / C Innovations (800) 230-2533 www.zangle.com Please see our ad on page................................4 ERATE/CTF CONSULTANT - TECHNOLOGY DESIGN SERVICES

Infinity Communications & Consulting (661) 716-1840 www.infinitycomm.com Please see our ad on page..............................13 FINANCIAL & HUMAN RESOURCES SOFTWARE

Infinite Visions/Windsor Management Group (888) 654-3293 www.InfiniteVisions.com/CETPA Please see our ad on page................................3 FINANCIAL/HUMAN RESOURCES

Sungard Public Sector (866) 965-7732 www.sungardps.com Please see our ad on page..............................17

Sungard Public Sector (866) 965-7732 www.sungardps.com Please see our ad on page..............................17 Tyler Technologies (800) 772-2260 www.tylertech.com Please see our ad on page..............................11 TURNKEY TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS AND CURRICULUM INTEGRATION

IVS Computer Technology (877) 945-3900 or (661) 831-3900 www.ivsct.net Please see our ad on page................................7 USER ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT

Advanced Toolware (888) 770-4242 www.advtoolware.com Please see our ad on page................................9

AD INDEX

Advanced Toolware....................................... 9 BICSI............................................................ 15 Decotech.......................................Back Cover Eagle Software............................................... 2 Edupoint Educational Systems..................... 19 Infinite Visions/ Windsor Management Group........................ 3 Infinity Communications & Consulting........ 13 IST, Inc......................................................... 21 IVS Computer Technology............................. 7 Pearson School Systems.............................. 27 Sungard Public Sector.................................. 17 Tyler Technologies....................................... 11 Western Blue............................................... 23 Zangle / C Innovations................................... 4

INFORMATIONTRANSPORT SYSTEMS

BICSI (813) 979-1991 www.bicsi.org Please see our ad on page..............................15 SOLUTIONS PROVIDER

Decotech (800) 597-0757 www.decotech.com Please see our ad on page................. Back Cover Western Blue (800) 660-0430 www.westernblue.com Please see our ad on page..............................23

Please support the advertisers that have made this publication possible

STUDENT INFORMATION SYSTEMS

Eagle Software (888) 487-7555 www.aeries.com Please see our ad on page................................2 Edupoint Educational Systems (800) 338-7646 www.edupoint.com Please see our ad on page..............................19 IST, Inc. (866) 266-6364 www.ist.com Please see our ad on page..............................21 Pearson School Systems (877) 873-1550 www.pearsonschoolsystems.com Please see our ad on page..............................27

California Educational Technology Professionals Association

50 Years of Gold Join us for the 50th annual CETPA Conference in beautiful Monterey at the Portola Plaza and Marriott Hotels.

October 19-22, 2010

26 DataBus • Summer 2010


®®

50 states • 55 countries • 4,700 customers 96,000 national user group members 10.5 million students Performance matters. That’s why more than 830,000 students and their parents in California can check their grades every day through PowerSchool. More schools and districts have chosen PowerSchool than any other Student Information System. PowerSchool is the only Student Information System (SIS) that comes with a highly intuitive user interface, world-class service and support, and the largest online community for K-12 student information systems. Plus, it’s priced to meet your shrinking budget. So the next time you evaluate your student information system, take a look at PowerSchool, the fastest growing, most widely used SIS available today. Please visit www.PearsonSchoolSystems.com or call 877.873.1550 to learn more.


CETPA Summer Databus  

CETPA Summer Databus magazine