One of the most challenging aspects of educational technology management is walking the fine line between protecting students and ensuring access to academic, creative, and communications resources. As a department, we receive hundreds of requests per year to block – and to unblock – specific websites, online services, and sometimes whole categories of online content.
In order to address the very real concerns – on both sides, in most cases – related to internet content filtering, the Office of Technology & Innovation adopted a process several years ago that relies upon a basic set of rules and representative input as it relates to content filtering decisions within the district. You can read the full policy here, or read on for a summary.
How the Process Works
When a teacher or administrator submits an allow/block request, the district determines whether the site/service fits cleanly into an allow/block category per the content filtering policy, and if it does, immediately implements the request. If the request falls into a gray area, the request follows the process outlined in the policy – you can click the flowchart image to see details – which routs the request through a committee review process, with the potential for temporary action to be taken if the request has a potential student safety impact. Once the committee has considered the request and made a recommendation, Office of Technology & Innovation staff implement any necessary changes within our content filtering services.Continue reading Content Filtering Policy
After a couple of false starts, we successfully completed an upgrade of our internet service through the Iowa Communications Network (ICN) just over a week ago. The most substantial impact of this change is that our internet bandwidth has been expanded from 1Gb to 3Gb, a critical improvement (more on that below).
Why was this upgrade necessary?
Once we completed the upgrade, issues we had been facing with internet performance almost immediately vanished. Prior to the upgrade, we were seeing our bandwidth max out immediately at the beginning of the school day, and it would remain that way until school was out for the day. This means that – at any given time – we had more demand for bandwidth than our service could accommodate, resulting in slow performance and intermittent drops / loading errors. You can see this in the chart at right, which shows our demand and usage prior to the upgrade. Continue reading Internet Service Upgrade Completed
Each year, I provide a report to the board that provides a high-level view of our technology program, through the lens of particular projects completed, underway, or planned. This will certainly not be the most riveting content I’ve posted to the blog, but for those of you who are interested, I’m posting a summary of that report here.
The 2016-17 school year was one of transition in the Iowa City Community School District’s Office of Technology & Innovation. As we move into winter of 2017-18, we have completed a number of major projects and still have significant initiatives underway or in planning stages. Our departmental performance metrics have generally improved slightly, though I’m excited to see how our work in terms of specific initiatives and in targeted locations will manifest itself in the coming year’s technology program evaluation. Continue reading Technology Annual Report
There will be a short internet outage tomorrow morning, October 12th, at 6:00 AM for maintenance. The outage should last around ten minutes.
Our internet service upgrade – scheduled for last night – has been delayed until next week after we encountered an unexpected problem. We do not have a specific date/time for the next upgrade window, but I’ll post that here as soon as we’ve completed a conference call with the involved parties.
At 5:00 PM, ICCSD network administrators, working with Iowa Communications Network (ICN) and Lightedge Solutions engineers, switched our internet connection from our current 1Gb ICN connection to the new 3Gb ICN connection. A component of this switch also includes moving from our current internally-managed Palo Alto firewall to a Lightedge-managed Fortinet firewall; staying on our existing Palo Alto hardware is not an option, as it cannot handle the 3Gb throughput required for the new connection.
The internet connection worked properly, as did all but one of the mission critical services that we had previously identified as potential points of failure during the internet service upgrade. One service, however – a VPN tunnel to a particular site – was not successfully brought online after implementation of the new firewall. We attempted troubleshooting until the close of our announced upgrade window, but with no success were forced to revert to the previous settings and service.
What should I expect moving forward?
As previously mentioned, we’ll be rescheduling the upgrade window as soon as possible, likely for next week. We’ve already identified the steps necessary to solve the issue with the site that didn’t come up, and now need to coordinate availability on the part of ICN and Lightedge. I’ll post a specific date/time as soon as we have one.
Since the upgrade was not successful, I expect that internet performance issues will continue for the coming (approximately) week. Our network administrators have been tuning quality-of-service settings over the past couple of weeks in order to prioritize critical or interruption-intolerant traffic, and will continue to do so in order to make the most of the 1Gb service we currently have.
As mentioned in my previous post on this topic, we expect all internet performance problems to be immediately resolved following the successful upgrade to 3Gb service. We appreciate your patience as we work through this process.