Category Archives: Announcements

Canvas info overload!

Canvas is an incredibly powerful learning management system (LMS). The amount of customization available for courses is incredible and the basic functionality of the system is fairly intuitive. But sometimes having all this choice and information thrown at you can feel kind of overwhelming. For this reason, the Technology and Innovation Department is going to publish a series of Canvas info guides and how-to’s in an effort to help make sense of the feast of options we have available in Canvas, but don’t always know what to do with.

We have data about how we, as a district, use Canvas. While that information isn’t always relevant to a teacher’s or staff member’s day-to-day routine, perhaps knowing a little more of the big picture will help put your own usage into a larger context.

Since Canvas was first introduced at ICCSD in the Spring of 2017, we have seen its use at the secondary level increase exponentially. This can be measured by several different metrics including number of courses in which Canvas is used, number of teachers or students using it, number of assignments or discussion topics within all courses, and even number of files uploaded to the system. However, the most relevant statistic to overall activity within Canvas is the number of page views. Counting page views gives us a sense of the number of users, frequency of use, length of use, and depth of use all rolled into one number.  The patterns that arise in the numbers of page views can give us insight on Canvas usage from year to year or even from day to day.

Take Canvas use at West High School, for example. Here is a graph of daily page views at West between Oct. 14 and Nov. 15 of this school year. Can you spot the weekends?

This regular pattern emerged over time but didn’t exist at the onset. At the beginning of our Canvas implementation, between May 18th and June 2nd 2017 there were approximately 2000 page views total at West. This isn’t a high number, which makes sense. It was the end of the year when this new system came online. 7 teachers, teaching 196 students, decided to dip their toe in the water and created a handful of assignments in Canvas.  Each of those students clicked on a page about 10 times over the course of 2 weeks. Everyone was just trying this out.

At the beginning of the 2017-2018 more teachers at West were ready to hit the ground running. Starting on Aug. 23, for the first two weeks, the school averaged about 30,000 page views a day. The activity tapered off a bit after that as some teachers, having tried Canvas, decided to go with a more traditional content organization format. But by the end of the 1st Trimester the school had racked up 1.6 million page views across several categories including content pages, assignments, quizzes, files, grades, announcements, collaborations, conferences, groups, and other general pages.

The 1st Trimester the following year, 2018-2019, West saw about the same amount of Canvas usage as the previous T1, approximately 1.6 million page views. It looked like there was saturation and that perhaps this was the most use the school was going to get out of the system. But as the year went on the Canvas usage grew steadily. In the first full week of the 2019-2020 school year, the page views at West exceeded 60,000 for 3 consecutive days. It was clear that the school had entered a new phase of its Canvas implementation.

This was also apparent by the fact that the Helpdesk was getting inundated with requests for help with Canvas like never before. It was somewhat perplexing until we took a look at the data and realized that the Canvas usage across the district was much higher than it previously had been. This put all the help requests into a new context. It was good that people were needing help. It meant that there were more new users working to implement Canvas in their classrooms.

By the end of the T1 this year West High School alone had clocked in at over 2.8 million page views, a 75% increase from the previous T1. Given approximately the same number of students, this represents an increase of about 800 additional page views per student over the course of the trimester. This pattern is consistent with usage at the other high schools in the district, including significantly increased usage at the Junior High level as well.

There are multiple factors that contribute to this odd pattern of usage stagnation and then explosive growth. One interesting factor is something that is happening behind the scenes which we can tease out by looking at our data on manually created courses. These are Canvas courses that are created by teachers and students (yes, student created content!) rather than being imported through PowerSchool. These include ‘sandboxes’ where teachers try out new features and functions before implementing them in their classes, PLC courses where teachers and coaches are teaching and learning about Canvas or other teaching tools, and even some courses created specifically for student collaboration. The graph below represents district wide page views of manually created courses between August of 2017 and now.

During the first year, as a district, we averaged about 2,000 page views a week for courses of this type. In the second year that doubled to about 4,000 page views a week. And in the third year, this year, it tripled to approximately 12,000 page views a week! The amount of teacher and staff learning about Canvas and through Canvas has been increasing dramatically. This shows that even during times when it seems like there is stagnation in usage, teachers are still collaborating and developing their Canvas skills, which then serves to launch our Canvas community to the next level during the following academic cycle.

So regardless of whether you are just starting out on your Canvas journey and aren’t sure where to start or you are a veteran, daily Canvas user, you are part of a vibrant and growing community of users at ICCSD. There are many opportunities for collaboration and to receive assistance whether its from the Helpdesk, a neighboring teacher, or an instructional coach. Don’t hesitate to reach out!

 

Jan 17th Help Desk Hours

January 17th, 2020 the Help Desk will be closing at 1:00 PM but will remain reachable by chat and email until 3:00 PM. 

Help Desk Live Chat

Starting at 11:00 AM today, the Help Desk can be reached by phone at x4357, by email at helpdesk@iowacityschools.org, or by live chat.

In order to start a live chat access the ticketing system or the Tech and Innovation Blog and in the bottom right corner click on “Chat with Us”. 

Once you fill our the contact infromation and hit “start a live chat” you will enter the Help Desk queue and we will be with you as quickly as possible. 

ICCSD Student ID Cards Can Now be Used at our Public Libraries

We’re excited to announce a new partnership that will allow ICCSD Student ID cards to be used at the public libraries within our district.  Over the past six months, we’re grateful to have had the opportunity to work with the Iowa City Public Library, Coralville Public Library, and North Liberty Public Library to implement this complex project.  Some of the highlights of this program include: 

  • an exemption from fines and late fees
  • access to books at any public library location, along with access to digital materials, books on CD, and other media
  • ability to check out up to 3 items at a time
  • access to the public library system for all ICCSD students in grades K-12

We’ve been able to integrate our systems such that this service will be available to students immediately (pending distribution of ID cards to elementary students, which is underway).  

Read on for the full release: 

Continue reading ICCSD Student ID Cards Can Now be Used at our Public Libraries

Tech Support Changes

For a number of years, District schools and facilities have been served by a combination of the centralized Help Desk, along with a technician who is assigned to a group of buildings.  Typically, technicians are responsible for 6-10 schools, depending upon school size, and handle almost all types of support requests generated from those buildings.  The three comprehensive high schools are each served by a full-time technician, each of whom also have responsibilities related to the student technician internship program.  

While this approach provides consistency for our schools and other sites – who can generally anticipate being supported by a single individual – it creates substantial challenges in terms of coverage for long-term absences, limits our ability to efficiently specialize support, and makes it difficult to respond to demand surges (at the beginning of the school year, for instance).  

Implementing a New Model

Beginning today, we will be implementing a new model that maintains the high school building technician roles – support services for the high schools will remain largely unchanged – but expands the role of our Help Desk while converting technician assignments to support category-based rather than building based for all other schools and sites.  For example, if a printer-related ticket is submitted by Borlaug Elementary, the technician responding will be one who has printing as a category assignment, rather than a technician who has Borlaug as an assigned school.  

The support categories align with those in our ticketing system, and include: 

  • Accounts, Software, and Cloud Services
  • Classroom Technology, Networking/Internet, and Printing
  • Hardware Repair and Support

Each category will have two assigned technicians, providing greater resiliency in the event that one staff member is unavailable.  Service will still be delivered via the Help Desk and in schools and classrooms, and this model will allow the department to more accurately assign support requests to the proper technician(s), to target our internal professional development around areas of specialization, and to provide more consistent service throughout the District.  

Continue reading Tech Support Changes

Fellowship Opportunity for ICCSD Teachers

Digital Promise, one of ICCSD’s partners on research projects and initiatives related to computational thinking, data interoperability, and learner variability, has released a call for applications for the next cohort of HP Teaching Fellows. The HP Teaching Fellows program supports elementary and secondary school educators who demonstrate powerful teaching and learning with technology. Ideal candidates design authentic, personally relevant lessons that challenge students and encourage collaboration.

The program provides educators the opportunity to:

  • Bring visibility to best practices happening within their school and district
  • Share thought leadership at national conferences and in various publications
  • Build community with innovative educators across the United States and Canada
  • Share and learn best practices with their peers and experts at Digital Promise
  • Earn micro-credentials for free
  • Experiment with new tech tools in their classrooms

There is no fee to apply or participate in HP Teaching Fellows. For priority consideration, educators should apply by Sunday, November 17 at:  http://go.pardot.com/e/414542/2PC5m5W/5dwzzn/993837131?h=zUfL4fzaio1ANLM0VOULmtSD4tlkVogIhWkFwnqEnfs

Continue reading Fellowship Opportunity for ICCSD Teachers

EMAIL SPOOFING ON THE RISE

Good Afternoon,

I’m sure by now you are all familiar with and have experienced email phishing, but today I’m reaching out to discuss another very popular tactic called email spoofing.

Email spoofing is a type of forgery that makes the email look like it’s from a boss or colleague in need. They will often send a short, vague and sometimes desperate email in attempt to get you to reply to the message. Recently, school districts (including ours) have been hit hard with these attempts. Just in the last week we’ve seen five building administrator’s accounts spoofed.

You can generally tell that these are fake emails by looking at the email address the message is being sent from.  For example, the account doe.john@iowacityschools.org would be someone from the district and should be safe to reply to. However, an email from johndoe12@gmail.comprincipaljohndoe@yahoo.com, or even doe.john.iowacityschools.org@gmail.com are fake and potentially malicious. These are only examples and this is not an exhaustive list.

Here are few email best practices put together by the Help Desk.

  • Do not send confidential or sensitive information via email.
  • Do not send money or gift cards via email.
  • Always verify the sender’s address.
  • Keep an eye out for a yellow or red warning across the top of an email.


As always, if you have questions or suspect a spoofed email, contact the Help Desk.


Thanks,

Josh Reynolds
Client Services Manager

Faculty and Staff Computer Purchases

We have once again partnered with the University of Iowa to offer discounts for faculty and staff members who wish to purchase Apple computers and other Apple devices.

Receive up to $575 off of the regular retail price on select MacBook®, MacBook Pro®, MacBook Air®, iPad Pro®, iMac® models during our Apple Faculty and Staff Apple Appreciation Event April 25-26! Preorder online now through April 8th to be sure we have the model you want in stock.   

It’s really easy: 

1) Review the product list to find out which item best meets your needs, https://www.hawkshop.com/facultyandstaff 

2) Simply fill out the information below to select your model and we will reserve your item. 

3) Then stop into the Iowa Hawk Shop on the Ground Floor of the IMU April 25-26*.  

In addition to receiving the discount on your Apple device, we will also be giving away Apple swag to those who pick up their items in the store and as always the Hawk Shop is tax-free!    

*To receive the extended discount, payment for your item must be made on April 25-26, purchases made before or after the date will not qualify for savings.     

For any questions, please contact Ruby Bollinger at ruby-bollinger@uiowa.edu, or call  319-353-5212. 

Reservation form: https://uiowa.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_cCRL5fTLZsoyV0N

Citrix Virtual Application Server Updates

We’ve revamped the ICCSD virtual application server! Here are a few exciting things we’ve done to improve the user experience.

  • Branded login page
  • New and improved background servers
  • Improved login times
  • App optimization for better processing and graphics performance
  • Profile cleanup and reconfiguration
Continue reading Citrix Virtual Application Server Updates

An Inexpensive Home Internet Option for Qualifying Families

While the district is able to provide home internet access* for students in our secondary schools who do not have home internet, we sometimes get inquiries from elementary families about options for affordable home internet.  

One option that I’d like to share is Mediacom’s Connect2Compete program, which offers 10Mb internet service to families who qualify for $9.95 per month. 

Continue reading An Inexpensive Home Internet Option for Qualifying Families