Locking down Firefox settings


So I need to lock down my firefox proxy settings so that students can't change them.

I used the blog post from here and it works fine except that it doesn't work for FF3.

Once I added the line into the firefox.js file as instructed here, it works like a charm

Thanks to Chris Ilias's blog and Chris Dillon.

Rant on Packing Material


Warning! This is a rant...

We ordered 34 new computers from Lenovo to replace the 34 Premios we started with 5 1/2 years ago. The amount of packing material that comes with new computers is unbelievable. In order to unpack ONE functional computer I received the following items:

  • 2 boxes (recyclable)
  • 2 large plastic bags that covered the mini tower and flat panel monitor
  • 2 pieces of Styrofoam for the mini tower
  • 2 pieces of Styrofoam for the monitor
  • 1 bag that contained a booklet and cd for the monitor
  • 1 bag that encapsulated the VGA cable for the monitor
  • 2 twist ties at both ends of the VGA cable to keep the bag in place
  • 1 zip lock bag for the power cable for the monitor
  • 1 twist tie for the power cable for the monitor
  • 1 bag that encapsulated the stand for the monitor
  • 1 keyboard box (recyclable)
  • 1 plastic bag that encapsulated the keyboard
  • 1 twist tie for the keyboard cord
  • 1 plastic bag that contains the power cord for the tower, mouse, and documentation
  • 1 twist tie for the power cord
  • 1 plastic bag for the mouse (yes the one that was in the larger plastic bag)
  • 1 twist tie for the mouse cord
Total recyclable items=3 Total non-recyclable items=18 Total computer =1
This is totally insane. The only items I see actual need for are the boxes and stryofoam. I don't need all those damn baggies and twist ties. What am I, a pot dealer?

SCED Code Pilot Project


Our school is participating in a pilot project with the Wyo Dept. of Ed (WDE) in aligning all of our courses to SCED codes.

  • taxonomy for assigning standard codes to secondary school courses in 22 major subject areas. It also includes a content description for each course, and instructions on how to use the taxonomy in coding courses (link)
We should have our alignment completed by late January. This is going to be a requirement for all Wyoming school districts by the next school year (09-10). The need for this alignment and coding is for tracking of Hathaway Scholarship requirements.

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Has Gateway gone out of business?


Is it just our school or has Gateway gone out of business. We ordered over 250 machines from Gateway MPC (their gov/edu section) on July 1st and just canceled the order because we hadn't received them yet. WTF? We now have Lenovo's on the way.

Case Study: Wyoming e Academy of Virtual Education

Class.com created a case study on our school.

Click here

Follow up to eCollege concerns


I want to make a follow-up post to my previous post regarding the letter we sent to eCollege Now removed by request of eCollege.

  • Our letter/my post was in NO WAY a slam or a complaint regarding the people that we work with at eCollege. All of the individuals are great and we have a good relationship with the people. The concerns we outlined are technology concerns. eCollege as a software program, just isn't DOING what other software programs are doing (in this case what other LMSs are).
  • I understand that "higher ed" is eCollege's bread and butter. I understand that we are some little tiny school with just a handful of enrollments. But, we pay a lot (given our operating budget) for the enrollments we do use. The purpose of our letter was to highlight just how many of our needs are not being met with a product that is basically built for higher ed.
  • When we started our school over five years ago, there were no LMSs available that had K12 customers in mind that were a viable solution. We looked at Blackboard, WebCT, Moodle, and so forth. eCollege was very attractive for several reasons:
    • ASP model--I didn't want to run my own servers, backup, internet access, etc...
    • public company, had been in the game a long time, industry leader
    • willing and able to help us start and grow our program
    • service and support for students, staff, admin, and tech
  • I don't think we could have made a better decision at the time because the products that are available today just weren't around five years ago.
I believe what has happened during that time frame is that K12 online learning exploded and many new products came onto the scene. eCollege was focusing on their core client base, higher ed. I can't blame them for that. eCollege needed to pay the bills and higher ed was writing the checks. I understand.

What is going on now is a growing gap in functionality that the new products are able to provide. These new products (Angel, D2L, Go Course, Maestro, etc...) benefited from their predecessors like eCollege, BlackBoard, and WebCT, who provided a solid base of functionality. They were able to take that base and add specific K12 needs that just don't exist in higher ed. They also didn't have a huge client base to keep happy while developing their new products. They were free to experiment and develop with a handful of K12 customers.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not upset with people at eCollege. I understand how we got to where we are today. But these concerns need to be addressed. These functionality issues need to be addressed in order for eCollege to attract new K12 customers. These functionality issues need to be addressed in order to keep existing K12 customers who may have contracts that are going to expire.

We are ready, willing and able (especially myself) to work with eCollege on adding some of the functionality we outlined in our letter.

Photo attribute: www.flickr.com/photos/69507579@N00/504209281

3 things I'm going to do


My friend, Chris Rapp, from Colorado Online gave me a great idea: he says that after every conference he writes down three things he is actually going to DO when he gets back to the office. So often, we attend conferences chuck full of great ideas but then don't implement them because we get back home and start back into our daily grind.

  1. Begin a comprehensive list of functions that should be more efficient in our system. For example: data exchange w/ Infinite Campus, messaging (set up gmail accounts for our students) This has been completed (with the exception of student email). The letter will be posted soon that was written to eCollege addressing each of the concerns I was thinking about in this bullet point. 11/10/08
  2. Follow up with everyone I have a card for that I need to email. Still working on this, almost finished.
  3. Attend the Western NACOL meetings and participate more with the committee. I've been slacking in this area (sorry Chris and Donna) but it is easy to blow off a webinar when I have a student how needs help. Maybe moving the webinars to Tuesdays will help with that. Also contribute more to the Ning community.
    The NACOL meeting is tomorrow and I just joined the eCollege Ning group. 11/10/08
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VSS 2008

So I'm sitting in my hotel room updating a blog I haven't touched for 10 months at the urging of several of my colleagues that I saw again at VSS. I guess my somewhat blunt post about Pearson's purchase of eCollege is famous infamous in the small online high school world.

I made three presentations this year which was really weird for me. On Sunday I presented as part of a panel on starting an online program with the moderator Dave Glick, our external evaluator. I was sitting with some pretty impressive people on that panel.

Then on Monday I presented again with Dave and data was the focus. We have all the raw data in the world, but very few ways to aggregate and report that data in a meaningful way. Our presentation articulated those frustrations and sought out solutions and suggestions from the audience. I couldn't believe that so many people came to the session.

Today we gave a presentation on my small little program that serves Native American students in Wyoming and part time students from other Wyoming districts. Again, I was floored at how many people attended the session. I am very humbled by that. We are such a small program and to have so much interest is unbelievable.

More focused thoughts to come...

U.S. Court ruling threatens the future of computer-based virtual schools


I don't think this is going to affect how we run our school. We do NOT educate home-schooled children. All courses are taught by highly qualified, Wyoming licensed teachers. We only collect funding (ADM) for our full time students. We define full time students as those who are taking more than 60% of their courses from us.

If I remember correctly, the school in Wisconsin at the center of this firestorm is run my K12 Inc. Wyoming had it's own brush-in with K12Inc. I think they are still working with Campbell Co. School District #1 but there is some legislation that will be put before the legislature this year that will prevent this type of funding lawsuit.

So in short, we are in good shape. Whewwww...

U.S. Court ruling threatens the future of computer-based virtual schools

CROSS PLAINS, Wisconsin - School districts across the United States are watching a court ruling that challenges the existence of virtual schools and could determine the future of online education.

The ruling is the first of its kind in the U.S. It placed the Wisconsin Virtual Academy at the centre of a national policy debate after critics raised a key question: Do virtual schools amount to little more than home schooling at taxpayer expense?

Virtual schools operate in 18 states, says the North American Council for Online Learning, a trade association.

More than 90,000 students from kindergarten through high school are enrolled in virtual schools nationwide.

Supporters say the schools are a big help for parents who prefer their children learn from home.

Opponents, including the largest U.S. teachers' union, insist the cyber charter schools drain money away from traditional schools.

"People are paying attention because online learning is really a growing phenomenon," said Susan Patrick, president of the North American Council for Online Learning.

"And for us to arbitrarily shut down online learning for students is a really dangerous precedent to set."

Virtual schools generally require parents to lead daily lessons. Licensed teachers monitor students' progress through e-mails, online classes and tutoring.

Last month, an appeals court ordered Wisconsin to stop funding the academy, ruling that parents were the primary educators - a violation of a state law requiring public school teachers to be licensed.

And, the panel said, districts that operate virtual schools cannot receive taxpayer money for students who don't attend classes within their boundaries.

The decision could shut down other Wisconsin virtual schools, which are used by 3,000 students.

Barbara Stein of the National Education Association, the teachers' union, says she objects to the use of tax dollars to support what she called a new form of home schooling.

"The issue is whether a program where you don't have licensed educators and where you don't have students working directly with other students should be getting fully funded as though it were a quality educational experience," she said.

Politicians from both political parties say they want to keep the virtual schools open, but they have been unable to agree on the details.

Republican state Representative Brett Davis said Wisconsin has the chance to become a national leader in online learning.

"The bottom line is it's time to modernize education laws in Wisconsin," Davis said. "We have these great virtual schools that are doing well. I think we've become a model for the country to look at."