DataBus - Vol 41 No. 1: December, 2000-January, 2001
Governor Mifflin School District Builds A Connected Learning Community with Microsoft Exchange 2000!
Led for more than 15 years by a superintendent with a strong vision of the ways that technology can enhance teaching and learning and help the school district run more effectively and efficiently, Governor Mifflin School District in Pennsylvania is constantly exploring new and future technologies for the ways that they can help build a "Connected Learning Community." Among the many new technologies that are part of the innovations at Governor Mifflin are a network running on Microsoft® Windows® 2000 and SQL Server™ 2000, and the current migration of the messaging and collaboration system to Exchange 20000.
Serving more than 4,200 students, 300 teachers and 20 administrative staff in Berks County, Pennsylvania, Governor Mifflin director of technology, Sandra Becker, recognizes the challenges facing K-12 schools today. "We must develop lifelong learners," says Becker. "We are preparing students for the global community."
Becker says that key to meeting this challenge is staying "out there, way ahead" with new technology. "You must always have a test bed for new technology in your district so you are always looking ahead," she explains. "It takes two years or more to implement a new idea in education. You must prepare your stakeholders, build anticipation and create excitement. Implementing new ideas - new technology - in education is a very futuristic process."
Two of Becker and Governor Mifflin's latest new implementations are migrating its districtwide network to Windows 2000 and its messaging and collaboration platform to Exchange 2000. Both of these changes are part of a bigger vision for technology at Governor Mifflin -- a vision of a Connected Learning Community.
Network Stability and New Innovations with Windows 2000
Governor Mifflin migrated its network to Windows 2000 Server more than a year ago. Becker says they made the switch to take advantage of the decreased administrative costs and ease of network management offered by Windows NT(r) and Windows 2000. Connecting five schools on three campuses, Windows 2000 has increased the overall stability of the district's network.
Using the server-based computing functionality that Terminal Services adds to Windows 2000 Server, Becker will offer teachers and administrators dial-up access to the network from home. By March 2001, Governor Mifflin will have added several computer labs in schools, using Terminal Services to run Windows 2000 on legacy hardware that normally might not be able to run the operating system.
Governor Mifflin already had a firm foundation built when it migrated its infrastructure to Windows 2000 Server early last year. Every classroom and every office in the district was already wired with more than 935 computers in the district's five schools. Long noted for its innovation in educational technology, the district has received two Computerworld-Smithsonian Awards for technology innovation and is nominated this year for a third-award, recognizing action research projects done by students in elementary technology science classes.
Exchange 2000: Increasing Collaboration, Sharing Information
Always on the cutting-edge, Governor Mifflin is now migrating its messaging and collaboration to Exchange 2000. The school district made the decision to migrate so that it could use the messaging and collaboration software to manage workflow. As always, Governor Mifflin has a broad vision for the ways that Exchange 2000 will enhance and enrich teaching and learning and increase administrative effectiveness in its district. Becker says plans are under development for Digital Dashboards, putting both critical districtwide information and individual school information at teachers and administrators' fingertips.
Down the road Becker has plans for reaping the benefits of other products in the Exchange family, such as Exchange 2000 Conferencing Server, the newest member of the Exchange product line, a data, video and audio conferencing platform. She says, "Students and teachers need to contact experts in the field and others to explore topics. Online conferencing will offer the tools that education needs for this kind of collaboration."
As part of Governor Mifflin's cutting-edge vision for technology in education, messaging and collaboration are part of teaching and learning from the youngest grades. While students don't necessarily have their own email accounts until middle school, as young as first grade they work with their teachers accounts' on projects that increase their world view, like sending email to students in other countries.
New District Intranet Running on Microsoft Technologies
This summer, Governor Mifflin launched a districtwide intranet, built on the foundation of Windows 2000, Exchange 2000 and SQL Server 2000. This intranet will allow the district to more effectively use technology for administrative decision-making; and provide a safe-environment for parents to view their children's work and for students and teachers to collaborate on projects.
Becker says that interoperability is a critical component for the development of the district's new intranet. Products from companies participating in the Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF), such as SIF founding members Chancery Software Ltd., and, of course, Microsoft, are a part of the intranet. Their ability to work seamlessly together is critical to the intranet successfully serving the instructional and administrative needs of Governor Mifflin School District.
The intranet is a work-in-progress. The district plans to continue to develop it over the next four years using it to help to ensure that Governor Mifflin students graduate with the media and information literacy skills that they are going to need for success in the 21st century.
Windows 2000 & Exchange 2000 Foundation Improving District Efficiency and Effectiveness
Governor Mifflin's vision focuses on the ways that technology can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the district, as well as teaching and learning. District administrative assistant for business, Mark Naylon, is currently working with Becker on moving Governor Mifflin's business operations to an e-commerce model, in conjunction with Pennsylvania Power Port, the state's new Internet portal, designed to offer access to government information and services via the Internet.
Naylon says, "The Windows 2000 network offers a dependable foundation for our administrative operations. We plan to expand our use of the network to building districtwide calendars and workflow applications. It will help make our work easier and more accessible to our community."
Looking Ahead at Governor Mifflin
Becker says that one important way for a school district to develop its vision for using technology is to learn from the business and education community. "Dr. Jack Harf, our superintendent, and our technology team find that strong relationships with companies such as Microsoft, and education organizations, such as the Pennsylvania Department of Education and higher education institutions, enhance our capability to develop solid, innovative solutions for our school districts."
Becker and the team at Governor Mifflin have many innovative plans on the drawing board for the future. She says that her district will begin looking at the ways that handheld devices, such as Pocket PCs and eBooks, can become a part of its technology infrastructure and explore ways to address pressing issues like the "digital divide" to ensure that all students have access to the technology they need for success in life.
Becker concludes, "We are always looking ahead."
Tuan Nguyen is K-12 Education Marketing Manager for Microsoft Corporation's Southern California District. He may be reached by telephone at (310) 449-7408 or by e-mail at [email protected]