Archive for June, 2009
How to Reduce Phone Calls to the School Office

A school office can often serve the role of customer support for the school community. When parents have questions the first option that usually comes to mind is to call the school office and ask. However, is this really the most efficient option for both parents and the school? Sometimes the questions can be very simple, like “what time does school get out today” or “is the softball game rained out?”. Although this might seem like a convenient way to get information, what about the alternative like having a central information source for the school that is available to be viewed online. Instead of having to call the school, what if parents could view the online school calendar instead? They wouldn’t have to wait on hold, which can save them time and also reduce the number of calls to the office for simple questions. For many corporations that have call centers, each call is estimated to cost as much as $20 per call or more. By reducing calls to the office, this could save money for the school or free up the school administration to focus on other tasks.

Our school calendar application, Tandem for Schools, can help your school reduce calls to the office by centralizing information at your school’s calendar website. Tandem was designed to help schools communicate effectively with parents. The calendar can be updated with the latest information almost instantly. Parents can sync a Tandem school calendar with their personal calendars like Outlook, iCal, Cozy, or Google Calendar, which will update them whenever changes are made to the school calendar. Parents can also subscribe to RSS updates with any RSS reader like MyYahoo or Google Reader. Finally, the online school calendar is available 24/7, so parents can access information at any time from anywhere that has internet access.

You can try Tandem for Schools Plus free for 30 days or use the limited free version.

If you are a parent, check out SchoolCal.org to request Tandem for your school.

You can contact Intand at info@intand.com or 1-866-685-3449.

Photo by tome213

How To Raise Money By Renting Out Your School Facilities

One way to schools can raise money is by renting out their school facilities to the community. They could rent out their school gym for local recreational sports leagues or the auditorium for company meetings in the summer. Many schools rent facilities to Boy or Girl Scouts or even weddings. However a paper-based sign up process could be too time consuming for both community members and school administrators.

Tandem for Schools provides a streamlined process for facilities requests that is completely online. A community member can fill out an online request form that is sent to the administrator in charge of facilities rentals. They can approve or deny the request and the requester will be notified via email. Once approved the rental time slot will be scheduled on the school calendar, to automatically prevent any double booking of that facility. A handful of event bookings can potentially pay for a year of Tandem for Schools and can start generating a positive cash flow that many schools desperately need right now.

Sign up for a free demo to learn more.

Photo by Heated Ground Photography

The Transformative Potential of Digital Books

The ebook has the potential to transform the way students use books as a learning tool. While cost is prohibitive right now, in the future each student could have a virtual library in their hands with access to almost any book. One of the most popular formats right now is the Kindle.

Open Education describes the features of the latest Kindle, the Kindle 2.

To get a sense of the basics, we turn back to the latest version of the Kindle. The device features the ability to display a wealth of different document styles and formats. As one would expect, the Kindle 2 provides access to and readily displays books, newspapers, and magazines. However, the latest version also displays a vast array of other document formats: Microsoft Word, PDF, HTML, TXT, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, PRC and MOBI files. Therefore the Kindle now has the potential to be a document repository and full-fledged library.

Perhaps an even more exciting option, albeit still in its infancy as a polished product, is that the Kindle 2 can turn a traditional book into an audiobook. There is still much work to be done before the device can be considered a perfect swap for the audio created by a soothing and polished human voice, but the device offers an amazing step forward in the overall reading process.

As proponents tout, one can use the Kindle as an ebook reader on a train or airplane just as you could pull out a book to read. But then later, the earbuds can be connected and you can continue to read (as in listen to the audio production) as you walk through the station or airport.

Of course, the new ereader means that no book has to be printed and therefore there is no such thing as a truly finished product. The ereader concept certainly makes nonfiction works more practical as updates can be easily uploaded to ensure that the book available for purchase always represents the latest edition.

A less expensive ebook reader alternative is the free Kindle application on the iPod Touch. The iPod Touch costs about $199 and can access the Amazon library of ebooks if a WiFi connection is available. While most books cost $9.99, there are also many free ebooks available through the free Stanza application. Many classic titles such as Alice in Wonderland or Romeo and Juliet are not copyrighted and available for free through Stanza and on free ebook sites like Project Gutenberg, which has 28,000 free ebooks.

You can see the full article, The Future of Books and Authors in the Digital Age at Open Education.

Photo by Richard Masoner

How Tandem for Schools Works With Windows CardSpace

Intand CIO, Scott Otis was interviewed by Channel 9 to demo Tandem for School’s integration with Microsoft code name Geneva Server and Windows CardSpace by using the Zend Framework for information card support. This allows Tandem to consume claims from the school’s “Geneva” server, to authenticate users with the school’s database (Active Directory).

See the video that explains how it was done here.

Tech Director Saves District $1 Million

Steve Young, a chief technology officer at the Judson school district used a brilliant networking technique to provide 2,283 additional computer seats with 781 CPUs, and saved the district over $1 million.

According to TechLearning.com:

The NComputing x300 solution that Young used is a modified thin client that virtualizes the host OS and shares the host’s resources. It is installed via a PCI card into the host machine, and up to three terminals can be connected to each PCI card. Young decided to focus NComputing x300 deployment into three areas: elementary schools, middle schools and library student stations.

So basically Young setup four computer stations for each Windows PC or Mac (the article doesn’t specify which one Young used). This is a great idea that could save many schools a lot of money if it was widely implemented. Not only does it save money in hardware costs, but Young was also able to cut energy costs per seat by 73%! Judson ISD was one of the first districts in the nation to receive the CoSN’s Green Computing Certification.

To learn more see:

Judson ISD Green Computing Initiative

NComputing Homepage

Photo by izzymunchted

Intand Featured on TechCrunch

To Intand was on TechCrunch recently for their partnership with Cozi to launch the site SchoolCal.org which provides parents with information on online school calendars and lets them vote to encourage their school to consider implementing an online school calendar.

From TechCrunch:

It can be a struggle for parents to juggle their kids’ school events, games and conferences and it’s becoming increasingly common for parents to use web services to manage family calendars. But schools still remain stubbornly disconnected from parents online. While more and more schools are turning to the web as a platform, less than 5% of schools, both public and private, are offering parents internet school calendars.

While we don’t think schools are being stubborn, we do want to let schools and parents know about the tremendous benefits that an online school calendar provides. SchoolCal.org describes some of these benefits such as:

  • Access to school calendar information anytime you need it.
  • Parents can be immediately notified of schedule changes, like snow days or baseball rain outs.
  • Parent can sync school events to their current web calendar like Outlook, Cozi, iCal, Google Calendar, etc.
  • Plan vacations, after-school activities, and appointments more easily.
  • Eliminate accidental double bookings on your calendar.

To learn more visit SchoolCal.org.

Experimental School Pays Teachers $125,000 Per Year

A new charter school in New York may answer the question- what would happen if you paid teachers really well? Would you attract top talent and would that improve school performance?

From The New York Times

The school, called the Equity Project, is premised on the theory that excellent teachers — and not revolutionary technology, talented principals or small class size — are the critical ingredient for success. Experts hope it could offer a window into some of the most pressing and elusive questions in education: Is a collection of superb teachers enough to make a great school? Are six-figure salaries the way to get them? And just what makes a teacher great?

The talent question may have already been answered. The school had their pick of 600 applicants including a former personal trainer of Kobe Bryant and graduates from top US colleges. The school’s founder, Zeke M. Vanderhoek, interviewed 100 applicants to build a teaching dream team for the school that is set to open in New York’s Washington Heights area.

It will be interesting to see what happens.

See the full New York Times article.

Benefits of Internet School Calendars for Parents

Schoolcal.org is a site for parents that does a good job at describing the benefits for parents of a good internet school calendar. It also answers frequently asked questions about internet school calendars and how they can help parents. Parents who want to show support for schools using an internet-based calendar can add their name to a list of parents to show interest to schools and encourage them to consider implementing an online school calendar. From the website:

Parents and schools both benefit when everyone uses an Internet calendar. You’ll love being able to:

  • Add each child’s Internet school calendar to your personal digital calendar—Cozi, Google, Yahoo, iCal, Microsoft Outlook, or any digital calendar that supports the iCalendar standard.
  • Receive any schedule changes or school closures automatically.
  • Access the school calendar whenever and wherever you need it.
  • Plan vacations, after-school activities, and appointments more easily.
  • Save time and eliminate accidental double bookings on your calendar.

A good school calendar can be a great resource for parents, who like and need to have information about what is going on at the school. School calendars like Tandem can immediately update parents with important school information like snow closures or an event rescheduling using the power of the internet. Parents can either go to the calendar page on the internet or have the school calendar sync with many calendar programs that parents may already have such as Outlook, iCal, Google Calendar, or Cozi. This can make school parent communication more effective and less stressful for both sides.

Without a central information hub like a school calendar, finding important school information can be frustrating for parents who may have to call the school or just find out when they get there. With a good school calendar, parents can know exactly where to look to find out key dates or schedule changes.

For time sensitive information like a snow closure or a baseball game rain out, the need to spread information quickly is important. A good school calendar will allow administration to quickly and easily update the calendar so everyone that is affected can get the message.

Get Free Books Via the iPod Touch

As the summer approaches some lucky students will be assigned summer reading. I say lucky because not all students are intellectually stimulated during the summer hiatus from school. They might be assigned classic literature like The Hobbit or Alice in Wonderland. In the past you would might have to request a hold from your local library or purchase the book from a book store. However, now with the magic of the internet, you can access many classic books for free through sites like Project Gutenburg. If you have an iPod touch, which is basically a hand held computer, you can use programs like Stanza, Wattpad or the Kindle app to turn your iPod into an ebook reader.

Wattpad
This ebook reader application for iPod touch gives you free access to 100,000 titles including Frankenstein, War of the Worlds, Romeo and Juliet, Alice in Wonderland, The Adventures of Sherlock Homes, and many more. It even automatically scrolls the pages for you at whatever speed you set it to.

Stanza

Probably the best iPod application for free books. It gives you access to several sites with free ebook downloads like Project Gutenburg and Manyreads.net and the application lets you download the ebooks straight from these sites and start reading immediately.

Kindle App

You can get many ebooks for free using this app like The Three Musketeers, but it is mostly geared to selling books which are typically $9.99. You can also sample virtually any book which is like being in a virtual bookstore.

Authenticate Users of Third Party Applications

Intand was recently featured on Channel 9, the Microsoft community site in which President Bryan Otis and CTO Scott Otis were interviewed about Tandem’s integration with Microsoft’s “Geneva” project. Instead of the school having to manually setup user accounts inside Tandem for students, teachers and parents, this integration allows Tandem to consume claims from the school’s “Geneva” server, which tells Tandem if the user is authenticated to the school’s database (Active Directory) and other details about the user (like name, email, position, groups, etc…).

In the interview Bryan Otis gave an overview of Tandem for Schools:

“If you think about a school as an entity, as an organization, it’s a very complex organization with
a lot of moving parts. There are many roles that run the school district and manage the schools. You also have parents outside that are really looking to connect with the events. Tandem manages all the facilities and the groups that are doing events in those facilities…Tandem does this online in a seamless way that allows parents to connect in. It also allows a school district to be conflict free with all the events they have going on across their district.”

“Before this project, we set up permissions on a directory we had inside Tandem. You (the person in charge of running the application)  would have to identify those the administrators that had the ability to add events. Also you would need to set up parents roles, which allows them to see a little more information than the general public. Other roles include students and you may also have community members who are interested in what’s going on in the school district. With all of those roles you have varying levels of permissions that are granted inside our application. Whether someone signed themselves up, or an administrator who has administrative privileges inside of Tandem signed them up, it took someone at the school district granting those permissions to that person on an individual basis.”

The significance of Tandem’s integration with Geneva Server for school tech directors who use online third party applications is that they can manage user permissions across multiple applications with Geneva Server, without having to export user information into all of the applications. This can save them considerable time and head aches. It also improves security because school’s do not have to give out individual’s personal information to third parties.