Search this site
Other stuff

All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

My latest books:


        Available now

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Page on Facebook


EdTech Update




« Vote no | Main | Google Docs - maybe not »

DIPs and home access

Not long after I took my current job in 1991, my dad came to visit. I gave him the nickel tour of my offices - the secretarial area, the printshop, the repair area, the film library, the book processing area, the mail room, the computer tech workspaces, etc. After I explained all my department was in charge of and introduced him to my staff, he turned to me and said quietly, "And they put you in charge of this?"

As I reflect on the task ahead of me this fall and winter - evaluating the need for a new student information system, potentially selecting a new one, and then implementing the change that will touch every teacher, every administrator, and every parent in the district, and potentially every student - I too wonder "should they have put me in charge of this?' The task is daunting to be sure.

We did this once before in 1997 when we replaced the stand alone OSIRIS student information system with the networked SASIxp SIS, added classroom-networked attendance and gradebooks, and started the parent portal. It wasn't pretty for a while. It's when I formulated Johnson’s Policy on Implementing Large Technology Systems: I’d rather be optimistic than right. (For a more extensive look at our district's technology planning philosophy and processes, link here.)

This is a simple diagram of our DIP (District Information Plan) in 1997:

















And this is what the draft of our 2007 DIP is looking like: (Click on the image for a larger pdf version) 


While our 1997 plan called for:

  1. No data to be entered manually more than once.
  2. Make sure all data bases allow for easy importing and exporting.
  3. Never use paper when electricity will do. (How many paper forms can you convert?)
  4. Use electronic storage for seldom used or often modified documents. (Curriculum guides, etc.)
  5. Give the end user a part in choosing the system.
  6. Balance ease of access with the need for security. How much home access is necessary?
  7. Make it impossible to do the job any other way.

the School Interoperability Framework was not available, and databases have since seemed to grow like weeds.

Two other major changes have occurred since 1997:

1. We've succeeded with our objective 7 above: Make it impossible to do the job any other way. If this stuff doesn't work, many, many people simply can't do their jobs - or do them as efficiently and effectively. Trust me, we hear about it when the network is down, even for a few mintues.

2. Parents' and students' expectations of access to school resources from home grows every year. While we've worked on this deliberately, we've not reached the level of transparency and student/parent centeredness that visionary Jeff Utecht suggests.

It could be argued that parents and students ought to have access to all data that pertain to them. If we re-color the chart above, that means that everything but the gray elements below should be readily available to homes:


I expect some interesting discussions to come from our review and possible selection of a new SIS, and perhaps a new model of data management in the district. I'm extremely fortunate to have an excellent tech staff and some brave user-volunteers to serve on the evaluation committee.

With help like that, even putting me in charge shouldn't be too bad.

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (1)

It's amazing how similar the infrastructure is where I work and I work at a private K-12 school. Great Chart!


October 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>