Steamboat Springs School District Technology Director Tim Miles, back left, speaks with Senior Network Systems Engineer Dave Holloway as students prepare computers for server-based software.

Photo by Zach Fridell

Steamboat Springs School District Technology Director Tim Miles, back left, speaks with Senior Network Systems Engineer Dave Holloway as students prepare computers for server-based software.

High school going wireless

Upgrades bringing podcasts, students' laptops, district server

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— In previous years, Steamboat Springs School District technology staff had to travel to schools and touch each computer to update software.

Now, thanks to a server-based model implemented this summer, updates need only occur at one central location and will be applied to every computer on the district's server space. By placing the software on the servers, students also will be able to access the programs they need from home. Additional technology updates this summer will bring the district to the forefront of American schools in the way technology is delivered, with classes available by podcast, server-based programs and wireless Internet at Steamboat Springs High School.

The creation of a wireless network throughout the high school will allow students to bring their laptops to school and connect to their files stored on district servers.

"Since I've come to town the question that I've been asked all the time is, 'When can I bring my child's laptop to school?'" said Tim Miles, the district's technology director.

To ensure security of the district's servers, students will enter the network through a district Web site, from which they can access the school resources.

There also will be walk-up stations throughout the high school for students to transfer files from their flash drives or iPods onto the server space. Those stations will be configured specially to check each device and file for viruses or other malevolent software before it is allowed on the server.

How laptops are used in classrooms will be up to individual teachers. High school Vice-Principal Kevin Taulman said teachers will go through a training program at the beginning of the year and policies will be put in place for students using their laptops in common areas of the school.

Streamlined system

Miles said the server-based programs will save the district time and money, which then can be used for innovative programs in the future.

Money will be saved in several ways. By streaming the programs over the school's servers, the district will need fewer licenses for programs. While in the old system, each computer would need a copy of a program - up to 1,000 separate copies. Miles now has purchased 300 licenses for the district to share, since not everyone on the computers is using the same software at the same time.

The computers to run server-based programs also can be purchased at discount prices because they no longer have to be high-end computers. This summer, Miles and his team will install about 100 computers purchased secondhand for $70 each. While they are no longer state-of-the-art, the computers do not host any programs on the machines, which means an old computer works just as well as a new one.

The software company that created the server-streaming software, Citrix, is writing an article about Miles' innovative use of the software.

"I know for a fact that when we're done with (upgrades) this year, there isn't another district in the nation using server-based delivery like us," Miles said.

Miles said he hopes someday to use the money saved through these programs to "take school out of the school." He said he would like to provide laptops to low-income students or establish mobile technology labs to bring computers where they are needed in the community.

Other major improvements going on this summer are the installation of new technology at the under-construction Soda Creek Elementary School, new intercom systems at Steamboat Springs Middle School and a new district Web site, which will be revealed before the beginning of the upcoming school year.

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