GIS Helps School District Extend Facilities Management Beyond the Physical Plant

By Jim Baumann
Esri Writer

The Garland Independent School District (GISD) is located in north-central Texas, adjacent to Dallas. The district encompasses approximately 100 square miles and serves the Dallas suburb cities of Garland, Rowlett, and Sachse. With an enrollment of about 58,000 students, it is the thirteenth-largest school district in the state of Texas.

The GISD has a “district of choice” policy. This policy allows parents to choose where their children will attend school, based on established criteria for ethnic balance. Annually, the district has a one-month selection period for both secondary and elementary schools. Once the selection period ends, the district’s Student Services department begins the process of assigning students to campuses based on building capacity, grade-level capacity, and seat availability. Other criteria, including campus demographic data, are considered before making the final decision on school placement.

To help with student travel and support the district of choice policy, the district’s GIS (geographic information system) department developed a Flex application for distance routing. With this application, officials can determine the location of a student’s home and local schools within the immediate vicinity.

Converting AutoCAD Files to Geospatial Data

Garland maintains 7 high schools, 12 middle schools, 47 elementary schools, and 2 pre-K schools, as well as a number of administrative offices and special use facilities. Managing these facilities for compliance with governing standards, current use, past maintenance data, and potential renovation or remodeling projects became increasingly difficult, and it was decided that an automated system was needed to prepare plans and data for quick and easy access.

For several years, the district used Autodesk’s AutoCAD for facilities management. The district’s AutoCAD facilitator, Kelli Daughtry, was responsible for converting all paper drawings into AutoCAD and maintaining facility floor plans during the district’s $385 million bond program. Approximately four years ago, the facilities department began implementing a GIS to be used in conjunction with AutoCAD. The district retains all facility floor plans in AutoCAD while using GIS to provide easy access to site plans, floor plans, room numbers, and data referenced to them.  Continue reading

The Surface Pro 2 Will Be the Death of Notebooks

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

Updated 11/19/13, 9/6/14

(Related articles: “Thoughts on the Surface Pro 2 After 8 Months” and “Why the Surface Pro 2 Will Be a Game Changer in the Tablet World Series.”)

About three weeks ago, when all I had to go on was reviews, I predicted that the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 (SP2) would be a game changer. I had just put in my order then and was told that shipment would be in mid- or late-December. Thus, I was surprised and happy to learn, in late-October, that it had been shipped for next-day delivery. It arrived on schedule, and in the time it took to remove it from the packaging, plug it in, and turn it on, I knew that the notebook was dead.

Surface Pro 2 with type cover and digital pen.

Surface Pro 2 with detachable type cover and digital pen.

I’ve had it for about a week and haven’t had time to do more than a few things, but what I’ve seen is impressive. The look and feel reminds me of the original iPad and iPhone4 — which I’m still using. Rock solid and sleek, beautifully engineered. In contrast, the clamshell notebook with its hinged keyboard suddenly seems odd, anachronistic, looking more like yesterday’s typewriter than tomorrow’s computer.

Don’t get me wrong. The SP2, like the original iPad, is far from perfect, and better and less expensive models from Microsoft and competitors will soon be flooding the market. However, it’s more than done its job as a groundbreaker. In short, it’s the first viable full-blown Windows PC in a tablet chassis.

Form factor alone, however, wouldn’t be worth much if the tablet couldn’t perform. The big question for me was — and still is, to some extent — will it perform?

In size, it’s slightly larger than the original iPad and only a half pound heavier. But the difference in terms of sheer power is huge. The SP2 runs the 64-bit version of Windows 8.1, MS Office 2013, and everything else you can run on a notebook or desktop. It has a high-resolution 1080p display and an HDMI port. Plug in a 26″ 1920 x 1080 monitor and you have all the size you’ll need. It has a standard USB 3.0 port and a micro-SD card slot. Plug in an external two-terabyte drive, a CD/DVD player-recorder, a thumb drive, or an SD card for more onground storage.  Continue reading

Why the Surface Pro 2 Will Be a Game Changer in the Tablet World Series

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

Last updated 9/6/14

(Related articles: “Thoughts on the Surface Pro 2 After 8 Months” and “The Surface Pro 2 Will Be the Death of Notebooks.”)

I’m one of the 15 million who bought the first generation iPad in 2010-11, and I’m still using it today as a flexible extension of my desktop. I can take it anywhere within my WiFi zone and have instant connection to the web. Press, sweep, and tap, and I have my email. Tap and tap, my favorite websites. Tap and press, I’m done. No desk, no mouse, no keyboard, no waiting around.

Microsoft Surface Pro 2

Microsoft Surface Pro 2

But it’s not a desktop PC, and it still can’t do some of the basics. It can handle email, both reading and writing, but it can’t multitask very easily. This means that any task that requires grabbing info from one app and using it in another is iffy and requires so many steps that it’s almost not worth doing unless you’re desperate.

My iPad also can’t do standard PC apps such as MS Word and Excel and the gazillion little utilities that I can’t live without, and its ability to handle the vast range of webpage styles is poor, which makes web browsing and research a more miss than hit exercise. There are countless workarounds for mainstream desktop programs and app alternatives for mobile devices that are supposed to render standard websites readable, but these are clunky and offer poor alternatives to the real deals.

My iPad can’t handle images and videos very well, and it balks at most online video formats outside of YouTube. Thus, it’s a great tool for what it can do, but it leaves me on a short tether to my desktop.

I’ve been closely following the 2nd-to-4th generation iPad releases, but I haven’t seen the breakthroughs that I need. I also have an android tablet to keep an eye on what’s happening in that sector, but the issues are similar.  Continue reading

Chromebooks for Teachers Through 12/21 for $99

bonnie icandy

The following are excerpts from the Chromebook and Donors Choose sites:

Through 12/21, Google is providing an exclusive opportunity through DonorsChoose.org for public school teachers to request the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook for the heavily discounted price of $99 each, including hardware, management and support. The Chromebook is a new type of web-based computer designed to make learning with technology easier, and will be available in Lakeshore’s eSchoolMall catalog.

Chromebook

Chromebooks for Education are fast, intuitive, and easy-to-manage computers that connect students and teachers with the power of the web. Chromebooks provide fast access to the web’s vast education and collaboration resources, while offering easy centralized management at a low cost. Click here to read more.

UPDATE: As of December 10th, 11pm eastern time, we’ve received a tremendous response to this offer. With a limited quantity of discounted Chromebooks available, we cannot accept additional submissions at this time. If you’d like to be notified if additional Chromebooks become available, read on for instructions. Click here* to read more.

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* WebCite alternative.

Size May Be the iPad Mini’s Downfall

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

[Update 11.24.12: I just had my first hands-on trial with the iPad Mini a few minutes ago. I was wrong! It is narrow enough to grasp in one hand with thumb hooked over one edge and fingertips over the other. Also, despite its much smaller size, the screen is surprisingly readable and viewable. My apologies to Apple and congrats on a beautiful design! -Jim]

The release date is just a couple of days away, and the rumors seem to be converging on an iPad mini that will be 8.4x 5.7 inches in size, smaller than the iPad’s 9.5×7.3. But not by much. To get a feel for the mini’s size, I created a rough model out of a flyer that I received in the U.S. Mail. It was thick enough to hold the shape that I cut, roughly the height and width of the mini.

At 5.7 wide, I couldn’t wrap my fingers around it, as I do the iPhone, which is only 2.3 wide. I systematically reduced the width until I could comfortably get my fingers around it – the thumb at one end, the fingertips at the other. The grippable width that I arrived at was 4.0. At this width, the 8.4 height became awkward. I sliced away at it until the whole seemed right. The finished height was 6.0. It’s roughly the size of a postcard and slightly smaller than a paperback.

I then drew a rectangle on one side to get an idea of the screen size. Using the iPhone as a model, I decided to leave a bezel at the top and bottom, with the bottom slightly larger than the top. I left a slim margin for the sides. The diagonal screen size turned out to be 6.0, roughly midway between the iPhone’s 4.0 and the mini’s 7.9.

My aim wasn’t to build a large iPhone. I think the iPhone has maxed out in terms of size. Any larger than its 4.9×2.3 and it would be too big. My target was a new iPad that met two criteria:

  1. It is grippable by the human hand when held in portrait or landscape.
  2. It has a screen that’s at least twice that of the iPhone.

Continue reading