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CloudReady USB Maker Updates

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CloudReady USB Maker Updates

 

Hey CloudReady Fans!

We’ve released a new version of the CloudReady USB Maker today. The new version has a couple of helpful features and some fixes for an improved user experience.

Release Notes

  • Format CloudReady USB installers after done installing: Unlike the default Windows format feature, this new Welcome screen option preserves the storage capacity of the USB device.

  • Removal of USB device format prompt: Windows will no longer prompt users to format the device after USB installer creation.

  • Fixed: When running the USB maker a second time, "What's next?" text incorrectly displays during the USB installer creation step.

About the CloudReady USB Maker

The CloudReady USB Maker is a Windows application (.exe) that you can download directly from Neverware to guide you through the process of creating a CloudReady USB installer.

Current customers, or those with a trial of CloudReady, can get the USB Maker by logging in to my.neverware.com and visiting their Downloads tab.

Users of the Home Edition can find the latest version here.

As always, your feedback and suggestions are welcome!

Have questions at Home? Visit the forums!

Need help at school or work? Support's here to help. 

Need help installing?

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4 Reasons Why CTOs Have Chosen Chromebooks

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4 Reasons Why CTOs Have Chosen Chromebooks

 

People involved in educational technology (EdTech) know that Chromebooks have become the computer-of-choice in school districts across the U.S. Some experts are estimating that 80% of new computers sold into U.S. K-12 this year will be Chrome devices (Global Market Insights; Statista 2018). But why?

In 2012, Chromebooks had 1% of the K-12 market, but by the end of 2014 had 39% market share! The number of all types of computers sold almost doubled in these 2 years, mostly driven by public school districts’ rapid acceptance of Chromebooks.

 Source: Futuresource Consulting Ltd.

Source: Futuresource Consulting Ltd.

So what exactly about Chromebooks led to this?  

Chromebooks are dominating U.S. K-12 because of their speed, simplicity and price. They boot in 7 seconds, run the fastest browser in the world (Chrome), and can cost less than $200. The simplicity of running entirely in the browser has made life easier for both education IT professionals, via the Google Admin console, and students, via G Suite for Education. The total cost of ownership for Chromebooks is 1/6th of PCs and Macs, and will continue to diverge with the accelerated development of free, web-based tools and curricula built for the Google ecosystem. For those that understand and live this, it’s no surprise that Apple & Microsoft are getting thrashed, and superintendents, Chief Technology Officers, school site techs, teachers, students, parents and taxpayers are increasingly opting for G Suite and Chromebooks.

G Suite for Education

Education technology is often focused on the newest hardware, bleeding-edge software, the latest AR, VR, AI algorithm, blah blah blah. But the only thing that matters to CTOs and K-12 leaders is helping kids be better students, employees, entrepreneurs, and ultimately citizens! Better at taking tests, graduating, extracurricular activities, community service, getting jobs, and going to college. Google recognized this, created a comprehensive library of tools and resources for teachers and students - many of which are unique to Google’s ecosystem - and made it totally free. It includes things like Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs/Sheets/Slides, Google Forms, Google Calendar, Google Expeditions, and perhaps most importantly, Google Classroom, which helps teachers and students manage assignments and coursework.

The Google Admin Console

School district IT departments are not always front-and-center in the way that teachers and principals are, but they are the crucial backbone that keeps all technology running, from the network infrastructure, computers, and classroom technology, to the central office, ERP and security systems (recently, I spoke with one IT Director at a rural, socioeconomically disadvantaged district who even handles his district’s HVAC system, and coaches the wrestling team to boot). Out of necessity, most IT professionals learned in the last couple of decades how to manage heavyweight Windows & Mac environments, with a large operating system (OS), constant OS updates, a multiplicity of desktop applications, computer refreshes, security threats and increasingly, digital assessments. There weren’t any other good options.

The Google Admin console made it incredibly easy and quick to set up large numbers of Chromebooks, manage them securely, and update them automatically, in the background, from the cloud. No more day-to-day OS updates or issues with version compatibility! The only cost: a $30 Chrome Management License to manage each Chromebook.

Furthermore, the Google Admin console’s “Kiosk Mode” enables IT to lock down computers to a single browser-based app, for student assessments, in a fraction of the time it takes on Windows & Mac computers. Nearly every US state's department of education has a roadmap for digital transformation (http://www.state.nj.us/education/techno/localtech/tpdl/tpdl.pdf), a cornerstone of which is often a transition to digital student assessments. Digital assessments yield faster reporting on test results, while reducing the operational overhead of analog, pencil-and-paper assessments. Faster assessments align with superintendents' and Curriculum & Instruction departments' objectives for quick feedback so they can iterate and improve on the fly and year to year, thus compelling them to switch to Chromebooks. The end result: Google for Education has amassed market share, namely by expanding the market to segments that could not previously afford to run complex assessment routines and could not make a swift transition to assessing digitally.

At the end of the day, all of this transformation for administration and IT meant a better experience for teachers, and therein, a better experience for students.

 Source: Futuresource Consulting Ltd.

Source: Futuresource Consulting Ltd.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

The first thing I learned when I began working with public school districts 4 years ago was that money is tight...scratch that - very tight. Paying to get the best teachers, curriculum, district support personnel, facilities and IT resources adds up, and districts don’t always get more money if they help kids better. More often than not, school districts are in a constant battle to make ends meet, and keeping up with technology for students is one of the first things to get cut. I spoke with a CTO of a 50,000+ student district this week whose budget was slashed 50% from last year!

But superintendents are increasingly aware that their students need access to technology to perform on digital tests, graduate on time, get decent jobs, compete for admission to college and become well-informed, well-rounded citizens that positively contribute to their community. Without adequate computer access, students are at a serious disadvantage, like in Baltimore City Schools, where the push for digital assessments combined with the lack of computer access for low-income students has hurt those students' test scores. Six years ago was when this awareness began spreading most strongly, and Google introduced the Chromebook right on time.  

With the least expensive models priced at $179, Chromebooks are undisputedly the most affordable computers for students and teachers. When buying in bulk with a Chrome Management License, white-glove setup, shipping and all other burdened costs, districts regularly pay $250 per Chromebook, much less than the standard Windows setup, which regularly runs double (or Mac, which easily runs quadruple).

IDC even did a study showing that Chromebooks have a 61% lower TCO over a 3-year period as compared with Windows computers, as a result of the 49% lower cost of Chromebooks, 68% more efficient IT support workflow, 91% lesser need to reboot, and whopping 93% faster deployment!

Google has also invested in Neverware, where we help school districts repurpose their old computers as Chrome devices, speeding them up and providing the same experience as Chromebooks, for as little as $1 per student per year. And they’ve sponsored services from companies like Amplified IT, so school districts can get their IT staff, Instructional Support staff and teachers the necessary training on Google tools and the Google Admin console with the purchase of their Chromebooks, and so teachers can jump right into teaching and focus on helping their kids with these tools. Again, all this for free!

Free Web-Based Tools & Curricula

The final key to Google and Chromebooks’ rapid adoption in K-12 has been content and apps.  Below are just a few examples from the broad ecosystem they’ve fostered:

  • Google Expeditions, empowering students to travel and learn (virtually) across the globe

  • Google “Digital Tools” like Scholar, which enables students to search scholarly articles

  • Google Computer Science, a large initiative to encourage and facilitate CS education

  • 3rd-party apps and tools to facilitate classroom instruction, IT administration and more

  • Google Training Center, with professional development resources for teachers

All of this led to continued growth of the K-12 device market and Google’s share of it, and by the end of 2017, Google owned almost two-thirds of all K-12 computing, and by way of its ecosystem, even more of EdTech mindshare as a whole. If superintendents, CIOs and CTOs weren’t already thinking this way, Google’s made it easy for them to decide, by mobbing them at the ground level with teacher evangelists that are well-versed in Google’s ecosystem and the resulting benefits for students.

 Source: Futuresource Consulting Ltd.

Source: Futuresource Consulting Ltd.

And unlike Microsoft and Apple, who’ve had this position in the past (albeit not quite as dominantly), Google’s not letting go. They’re the first to make it easy for high school seniors to transfer their Chrome profiles over for college, and to eventually follow them into the workplace.  

Taking all of this into account, it’s no wonder that some experts are estimating that 80% of new computers sold into U.S. K-12 this year will be Chrome devices. More and more districts are going 1:1 (targeting a student-to-computer ratio of 1), and almost none of them can afford to do so with anything else. Nor would they want to. Superintendents realize that the heavyweight, costly Windows & Mac computers just aren’t needed, and that the money saved can be invested in helping kids be better instead.   

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Going Google at Scale in Florida: Webinar Q&A

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Going Google at Scale in Florida: Webinar Q&A

 

Hey CloudReady fans!

On Tuesday the 24th, we held a webinar featuring two guests from Florida's Lee County Public Schools: Dwayne Alton, Lee's Executive Director of Infrastructure Services, and Jerry Christmas, Systems Engineer.

Dwayne and Jerry spoke during the session about the background, processes, and lessons learned from their district switching to the Google ecosystem, including G Suite, Chromebooks, and CloudReady. You can find the session available now as an on-demand webinar here.

During the session Q&A, we encountered some audio challenges with the last two questions, so we've transcribed that portion here for you:

Q: What do you feel is good enough, as well as suggested, internet bandwidth for deploying Chromebooks and CloudReady?

A: So let’s put it this way - for our high schools, which hover around 2000 students, we have 1GB for those. Our middle schools have 500 MB to them and they hover around typically around 1200 students - and keeping in mind that we’re not using digital textbooks - we’re actually using interactive digital objects and videos and things like that, so we deliver some pretty heavy content over that. Our internet bandwidth right now is 16 GB, it’s two redundant 8 GB lines. We did increase our bandwidth with the implementation, however a lot of people think that if you use Google rather than Windows that your bandwidth utilization is going to be higher because everything is “in the cloud.” In reality, there is actually not a big difference between what we were seeing with on-prem Windows machines and the cloud traffic for Google Docs. Google Docs saves continuously while you’re typing. Microsoft saves files in larger chunks. So the transition from Windows to Chrome was handled with the bandwidth we had already roadmapped for upgrades anyway. We didn’t do anything special for Chrome. Of course if you’re in a rural area and you’re saying 16 GB, that is special, I understand. 

Q: Can you talk about how you’re doing Web content filtering, and are you doing SSL inspection?

A: So the answer to the first one is we’re using GoGuardian for our Chrome devices, and GoGuardian has two components: one is filtering, which is called GoGuardian for Administrators, and the other one is GoGuardian for Teachers, which is a classroom management tool where they can see the students’ screens, kill the background tabs when the students are not on task, and add their own rules to what the students can do. We implemented those two solutions - it’s actually one product, but two pieces. As far as SSL inspection, it’s a little bit different way of looking at it. It’s not like a traditional perimeter appliance where you’re doing a man-in-the-middle attack and installing your own certificates and decrypting the traffic and inspecting them. We see all SSL traffic, not just the traffic for the specific sites where we’ve pushed “trusted” certificates. The other benefit is that we see what the user intended to go to, not where they ended up. A lot of the solutions show you destinations, I see what they’re trying to get to. I’ll give you an example where that’s useful. If you have SSL decryption turned on and you happen to catch that they’re going somewhere inappropriate, you might see - oh, they’re going to a proxy site. For us, we see what they’re looking at through the proxy site. So, having the agent on the device to see the traffic before it even hits the tunnel is beneficial. For the Chrome world, your two probably biggest leaders would be GoGuardian and Lightspeed; both use similar methodology for the Chrome devices. And what I really like is that they are human-readable reports. So the way we do it is to delegate the review to the schools. Whether it was blocked sites or they were getting through to something inappropriate, the AI system sees that and flags it for the school directly so the IT department doesn’t have to do all the investigation.

Our thanks to Dwayne and Jerry for taking the time to join us on the webinar!

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Using older computers to increase security at your school

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Using older computers to increase security at your school

 

It's no surprise that recent events have school districts worried about security. Parents and educators around the country are voicing the need for additional safety measures, and in an education system where every proposed dollar of spend needs to be squeezed out of a tight budget, some districts have already implemented, and in many cases bought, new things.

Take Henry County Public Schools, for example, a school district in Georgia that transitioned their 14 schools, central office and 42,000 students to an automated 'Ident-a-Kid system', where visitors now use computer kiosks in an outer lobby to sign everyone in and print IDs:

Read more: Henry County Public Schools

Another district, Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools in North Carolina, has offered free lunch to officers in an effort to increase law enforcement presence at random times throughout the day on elementary school campuses:

Read more: Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools

How about Midway Independent School District, which is investing up to $100,000 on increased security measures like an additional armed security guard, and a buzzer system added to school entryways?

Read more: Midway Independent School District

What if your district board denied your budget request to fund additional security measures? For some, they’re resorting to “kicking rocks." Literally! That's what Blue Mountain School District did, by equipping every classroom with a 5-gallon bucket of stones (in addition to starting active shooter and evacuation drills).

Read more: Blue Mountain School District

It’s pretty clear that school district administrators are purchasing new technology to answer the call from parents and their state for increased security, which is great for districts that have the means to do so - but is too expensive for districts that don't, and need it most (initiate student rock-throwing security system).

So, districts that can do so will replace old computers with new, but other districts repurpose, refresh, or recycle.

When looking at outdated technology and revamping district security, many seem to be throwing out their older, slower computers that are believed to be 'end of life' computers, thinking that their only option is to buy new security tech. However, many districts are running their old computers as “kiosks” at school entrances, to screen visitors and enhance security at a very affordable rate.

This has the added benefit of not just screening potentially armed visitors, but also sex offenders, people with restraining orders, divorced parents with allocated child time, or even volunteers, where cloud-based software can keep track of time they log at the school - at a fraction of the cost of buying new.

This is how the Coronado Unified School District got it done.

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A creative, yet realistic, approach to 1:1

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A creative, yet realistic, approach to 1:1

 

Has the goal of becoming a 1:1 district blinded us to the realities of budget, asset allocation, and financial responsibility? Have the means become more important than the end goal?

Schools have been going 1:1 at a dramatic rate. The cost of doing so has been astronomical, not just in terms of the cost of new computers, but also in the effort of staff, and the energy required to sell another tax raise/budget increase to a board and community.

The science, student success, and teacher feedback from 1:1 programs is irrefutable. Having a computer for every student and increasing the time they spend with it has a positive effect on student learning. The question is, does it have to be a new computer to be effective? Do schools have to spend hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars to see these results? 

Schools have so many under-utilized assets. Computer labs that are rarely used, carts of laptops that are no longer checked out, and sheds of old equipment waiting to be sold at an upcoming auction. 

What if those assets are the key to unlocking a better 1:1 program: a program that provides the same benefits to students while decreasing the work load on staff, and leaving money in the budget? What if you could get a 1:1 program and have enough money left over to give teachers a raise, update network infrastructure, or buy other equipment?

Here at Neverware, we've helped hundreds of schools across the US use the assets they already own to build a sustainable 1:1 program. Those 10 carts of laptops that are not being used, the storage room with 400 Latitude laptops, and the computer lab with desktops that are becoming too slow to use daily, are now being converted into fast and simple Chromebooks.

New computers are not fundamentally more valuable to a student's learning process than old computers, if the old computers can keep up with student needs. When schools focus more on the end goal, and less on how others have achieved it, more creative solutions become apparent. 

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