The Burlington Link or BLINK Network

Burlington’s technology staff has been hard at work this summer creating the Burlington Link or BLINK Network.  The BLINK Network will allow more centralized management and access to programs through a common “cloud.”

Ultimately, Burlington faculty, staff, and students will sit at a computer or bring in their wireless computer from home and sign-on to their BLINK Account.  This home screen will allow access to those programs that they need to do their jobs or complete their assignments.  The BLINK Network can be accessed from any place at any time.

The district has enough capacity to provide every student with a BLINK ID and password.  Imagine an electronic folder following your child throughout their school career.  A shared folder will eliminate the challenge of emailing papers between students and teachers using software that is not compatible.  In fact, teachers will be able to directly edit student work in a shared folder.

The BLINK “Cloud” will be the vehicle for the district to provide access to many open-source software products.  There is a growing list of high quality, open-source software products that are free to use and share.  I have even been reading about a growing number of open-source textbook options aligned to each states’ standards (making for much lighter backpacks) – see Mr. Larkin’s post http://burlingtonhigh.blogspot.com/2009/08/glimpse-at-schools-of-future.html  . 

Initially, we will be in transition from our desktop oriented environment to a “cloud” type environment.  This journey is a familiar one in schools. We have moved away from chalkboards, film-loop projectors, VCR’s, and other older technology.  Currently, we need to upgrade from computer-based, proprietary software to open-source, network-based options.  The BLINK Network creates the foundation for this transition. 

A key for us this year will be professional development and searching out software options that meet our new criteria while delivering the instructional purpose of the software that is being replaced.  Stay tuned…

7 thoughts on “The Burlington Link or BLINK Network

  1. Gerald Beuchelt

    Eric –

    Can you share some information on the proposed architecture and its implementation? Single Sign On is certainly interesting and efficient, but it requires particularly careful planning to avoid privacy violations. In the end, any unnecessary storing or sharing of identity attributes across distributed system increase the likelihood of data leakage and ID theft.

    Also, I am interested in understanding the use of Open Source Software (such as Linux, OpenOffice, OpenLDAP, etc.) vs. proprietary packages (such as MS Windows, MacOS, MS Office, etc.). In economically difficult times, I would be pleased to see a migration to cheaper solutions.

    Thanks a lot,

    Gerald Beuchelt

    Reply
    1. burlingtonps Post author

      Gerald,

      I know the software product we are using is called Stoneware. I will follow up with more information on the security aspects of the environment. We are always looking at ways to deliver the same service while saving money in all areas. We are asking teachers to prioritize applications that are open-source and web-based first. There are many more options that meet these criteria available than there have been in the past. We still use many proprietary packages. I hope to see a transition over the next few years.

      Reply
  2. JDS

    WebOS is a robust Graphics user interface that is presented when users log on to our Blink and it looks just like a user desktop. Blink is an alias or a nickname we have chosen to access our WebOS environment. It is accessed by using web browsers like Microsoft Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc. Today these tools run in different Operating systems such as the diverse versions of the Microsoft Windows family OS, Mac OS X and Linux. The user experience when accessing Blink is the same. From there that Stone-ware (makers of WebOS) claims to be platform independent. In addition, behind the scenes, WebOS makes use of other technologies such as Java, Javascript, HTML5, Ajax and CSS. These technologies brings a lot of tools that enable us to manage our environment; for example: decide who can run what program, have access to certain files, give access to users of their home/work file drive no matter where s/he is at (school or home), etc.

    The connection experience is established via SSL which is integrated to our current Active Directory, to provide security authentication and data integrity from the user’s end to our systems. Our systems are also firewall protected (stateful packet inspection, NAT/Masquerading, IPv4 and Layer 7 packet filtering, among other features).

    The usage of the WebOS will enable us to upgrade some of our old client computers to an Operating system that is relatively inexpensive or free and also improve its security and performance. We still need to run other commercial OSes, since there are applications that depend strictly on these Operating Systems. We will be evaluating and implementing whenever possible, Open Source Software, freeware and shareware applications that are comparable in quality to the ones used today in our school community.

    Jose (one of the Schools’ IT guys)

    Reply
  3. Gerald Beuchelt

    Eric, Jose –

    Thanks a lot for your answers. I am impressed by your decisions to move towards a more open world: not only does the town make better use of available funds, but this strategy also opens up the possibility to include our most talented students in creating the IT environment for the schools and the town in general.

    In fact, I would like to get your opinion on creating a program where students can contribute their own software code or systems engineering products to non-critical IT systems. For example, many commercial companies but also government entities are using wikis in various capacities. Such an environment can be planned, deployed, administered, and extended by students for non-business usage. More advanced projects could include portal/portlet developments, public cloud infrastructure leverage, etc.

    Ultimately, many of the technologies used in today’s web 2.0 environment have been developed by high-school students and college freshmen. I would like to see our school IT strategy to be inclusive to enable our students to excel. Migrating from proprietary software to open-source alternatives (where it can be done) is the right start into this direction.

    Finally, one question with respect to WebOS: does Stoneware provide access to their source, or do they at least offer a free Java (Ruby, perl, PHP, …) SDK?

    Best,

    Gerald

    Reply
  4. Josh Murphy

    Hi Gerald,

    My name is Josh Murphy and I’m a teacher at BHS. I’m basically the computer science teacher. I love the idea of getting students involved in real-world applications, especially those that directly benefit the school and the district. This summer I was awarded a grant that provided me with 10 ipod touches for my classroom. I have various goals for their use throughout the year, but my major goal is to get the kids creating their own apps toward the end of the school year.

    Jose (IT guy from above) and I have talked in the past about setting up a small lab or a couple computers somewhere dedicated to students who are interested in application development and security. Basically, creating safe environment for them to experiment and explore where their actions wouldn’t harm or affect the school’s network. I think it’ll take a little time to get a concrete program off the ground. Mainly, because all the IT changes we’re going through, but in due time I definitely see such a program existing.

    I sat in on one of Stoneware sales meetings, and I highly doubt they’ll provide access to their source code. However, it is flexible enough that we can choose whatever applications we want to be in the cloud and who has access to those applications.

    Hope this was helpful,
    Josh

    Reply
  5. Pingback: New Educational Technology « Marshall Simonds Middle School

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