LIVINGSTON, NJ – With the 1:1 computer initiative now in full swing during its first official school year, Livingston Public Schools (LPS) Technology Manager, Thomas Douglas, updated those present at Monday’s Livingston Board of Education (LBOE) meeting on the operational aspects of the program.

According to Douglas, over the summer a sizeable investment of time, resources and dollars was concentrated on updating the infrastructure to ensure maximum usability with minimum issues—an investment that’s now paying dividends.

“We’re looking for zero downtime which means the network is always up,” said Douglas. “We’ve had our little blips but primarily those have been due to power issues in the building that are beyond our control.”

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To keep on track, Douglas and his technical team vigilantly monitor the network and have made continual increases to bandwidth in order to keep pace with usage patterns.

Another key issue has been dedicating technical staff to monitor constantly changing web filters. The staff is involved with making essential, daily alterations to categorizations so that needed sites aren’t unintentionally blocked to the users who access them. 

What Douglas referred to as “make ready work” for fiber optic cable improvements is currently underway. He said the fiber has been ordered and permits have been approved, making it possible for the contracted vendor to soon begin the task of affixing the fiber to outside poles. Costs are coming in under the original estimates, which will serve the dual purpose of saving the district money while improving network efficiency, simultaneously.

Of the 950-plus devices issued to Heritage Middle School (HMS) students, issues that have predominantly come up involve battery and hard-drive failures with approximately 10 percent of the devices being affected. However, the current devices being used are expected to last through the end of the school year, Douglas said.

Livingston High School (LHS) students did not experience these issues with their devices. In fact, no battery or hard-drive failures were reported. The major issue with the nearly 2000 devices in play at LHS has been the Bluetooth-ready digital pens that accompany them. More than 250 of the pens have experienced problems.

“They seem to be very fragile,” said Douglas. “We’re working with Microsoft right now to figure out what the issue is.” 

According to Douglas, Microsoft suggested that the issue could be due to a manufacturing defect. LPS and Microsoft continue to work together to come to a resolution.

Although 24 HMS and 54 LHS devices experienced physical damage due to students dropping them and breaking the screens, both schools are well under the average annual norm of 10-percent breakage per year.

Already, the Heritage Device Selection Committee, comprised of LBOE members, administrators, teachers and community members, has met four times to review other types of devices on the market that would make a better fit for students for the 2017-18 year. A pilot program in which students will get to test the proposed devices is on target for late February.

The same survey that fielded in October 2016 will be released again this week to track teacher, student and parent feedback and to gauge how well the improvements that were made in response to the October feedback is meeting needs.

To date, in response to survey feedback, the tech team has addressed concerns regarding battery issues with the installation of power strips in classrooms and charging stations in common spaces as well as alterations to web filtering.

Help Desks, staffed by technicians who are available at both schools during the entire school day, are busiest before school, during lunch and after school, but can also be reached by phone or e-mail to answer questions. According to Douglas, the majority of problems are resolved the same day.