School network administration

Blackboard Inc., a provider of technology to education institutions, announced a new customized eLearning product for K-12, the Blackboard K-12 Starter Edition. The solution is a hosted package featuring a variety of resources for K-12 districts in the early stages of establishing an eLearning strategy, according to the company. The Blackboard K-12 Starter Edition combines curriculum delivery, professional development, home-to-school connections, and community-building capabilities in one central hub. Blackboard said it designed the product to enable districts to easily provide classroom materials online without having to know HTML; engage parents by allowing them to view student progress; enable 24/7 access to learning materials in a secure environment; offer innovative testing methods and self-assessments for individualized learning paths; and take advantage of secure, around-the-clock, technology hosting. The new solution offers a comprehensive platform for up to 2,000 users and is available to help districts get familiar with the features and benefits of a learning management platform, the company said.

Conterra Ultra Broadband, a provider of broadband network transport services, featured its digital microwave networks. Conterra says its digital microwave network solution is an affordable broadband solution for organizations without access to so-called “last mile” fiber, including non-urban school districts with point-to-point wireless networks. The company said that recent advances in digital technology have reduced the complexity and cost of the systems and enabled Conterra to engineer, operate, and support affordable high-speed wireless network connections. Using only Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licensed microwave radio links provides customers with carrier-grade service levels with performance attributes associated with fiber deployments, according to Conterra. The bandwidth is scalable with options from 10 megabits to 1 gigabit, and a licensed wireless network that supports data, voice, and video simultaneously in a converged environment.

CPSI Inc., a provider of SIF- (Student Interoperability Framework) compliant network management solutions, showcased its SIF-Connect Data Warehouse solution. CPSI says the data warehousing solution will automatically store data from all other applications in the SIF environment; automatically extend any data object created into the database schema using the CPSI Mapper Tool; and request data from other applications rather than just subscribing to data, which is how the company says other data warehouses operate. In addition, the company says maintenance is low because of these capabilities. The district does not have to call in a consultant to extend the database schema for new data, which happens automatically, according to CPSI. The data warehouse is also completely integrated with other data-driven decision-making tools, the company said.

Gaggle.Net, a provider of secure student eMail to school districts across the country, demonstrated its latest feature, Gaggle Blogs. The company says Gaggle Blogs will serve as a safe blogging solution to help protect students from the dangers associated with typical blogging web sites. Gaggle says its blogs are safer because the product leaves teachers in control. Teachers can decide if access to the student blogs are restricted to just within the school or district, or opened to the outside world. They can password protect blogs, restrict who can comment on the blogs, hide full names and eMail addresses, and prevent the posting of pictures. Teachers decide if all blog entries and comments must be approved before posting. Gaggle also provides tools for filtering blogs. Each entry is scanned against a blacklist of inappropriate words and phrases and all graphic files are processed through Gaggle’s anti-pornography scanner. The company says the scanner can block pornographic images while permitting more appropriate ones.

Highly Reliable Systems, a provider of network backup products, introduced a new series of backup devices that the company said would give IT managers a new level of comfort with the “restorability” of their networks. The multi-drive “Disk to Disk to Tape,” backup model gives users the same functionality as “robotic” tape libraries at a lower price point, the company said. The drives are labeled on a five-bay, Monday-through-Friday rack, each backing up a different day of the week. The user can continue to use industry standard backup software products such as BackupExec, Brightstor, Dantz, and others. The single and multi-drive backup systems are based on what the company calls “reliable hard drives.” The standard hard drives are converted to USB 2.0 and removable drive trays can be detached and transported off site.

Microsoft Corp., provider of software solutions, released Microsoft SharePoint Learning Kit and the Microsoft SharePoint Community Kit at NECC. Both the solutions are designed to further extend the capabilities of Microsoft Learning Gateway. With Learning Gateway, schools can build a standards-based education portal for administrators, educators, and students to share information, collaborate on projects, and access rich learning resources from a single point of access. The new Microsoft SharePoint kits are built on technology that enables web sites to provide document and information sharing capabilities, according to Microsoft. These kits offer tools and source code to help educators, administrators, and industry partners customize their portals to be as unique as their district., a provider of web-native operations management solutions for schools, announced its ITAMDirect, a web-based system designed to gather and report about networked hardware and software assets. ITAMDirect supports all aspects of IT asset administration management for ed-tech departments, ranging from monitoring and reporting to planning and life cycle costing, according to SchoolDude. The system includes SchoolDude’s ITDirect help desk management system to provide detailed configuration information and asset history for incident resolution. The company says the ITAMDirect solution is ideal for reducing the administrative burden of asset management and allows for excellent record-keeping and accountability for IT assets, among other benefits.

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