Districts Utilize Uplink to Keep Their Technological Edge
The Blue Springs School District in Missouri has a habit of finding and latching onto new technologies. As a known leader in educational technology, the Blue Springs School District was one of the first districts in the country to design and implement a WAN when frame relay became a reality. In recent years, Blue Springs was the first organization, school or business to fully implement Windows 2000 from client to server, districtwide.
To stay on this cutting edge of technology, the district is currently implementing UplinkOS and the Uplink Network, both from GeKL Technologies LLC. Districts across the country were introduced to this technology in September 2001, but a select group of schools, including Blue Springs, have been using the system since October 2000. The districts rely on the Uplink Network to provide services to their staff, students, parents and patrons. There are many facets to the UplinkOS infrastructure and the Uplink Network. A quick examination of the two will demonstrate how this new technology can be utilized.
The UplinkOS Infrastructure
Functional and secure. Much of the power of the Uplink Network is found within the UplinkOS technology. It is a unique system that allows districts of any size to have their own secure enterprise-network system with built-in accessibility for users from anywhere, without additional hardware, systems software, software development or staff. UplinkOS is an innovative Web-based operating system that empowers district users with functionality and system control, made possible without a certified engineer to set up or maintain the system. A server or network operating system is not required to use UplinkOS, just a workstation or an Internet appliance, because it provides the user with a comprehensive set of easy-to-use and affordable tools. In addition, all the customization is under the direction of the district and its appointed PowerUser(s), or technical staff, who are responsible for the parameters within which each user can operate.
Internet Accessibility. UplinkOS securely provides all applications through an Internet connection at standard 56K speeds, but has had positive results at 26K as well. It was created using rigid standards to ensure that users utilize the fastest online experience possible. "The UplinkOS infrastructure allows our staff to easily define who has access to which school(s) and their information, and also which applications each group of staff has. However, this access is not limited to just staff. We are also able to allow students, parents, patrons - literally anyone in the community - controlled access to information," says Roger Adamson, deputy superintendent of business affairs for Blue Springs School District. "This is done through a Web site provided by UplinkOS for our entire district and schools. No matter how you look at it, this type of scalability, flexibility and control has never been possible for us before, and it is all done without the need for costly certified engineers. Our entire enterprise setup was done by GeKL Technologies in one week. We estimate that in one year, the system will have saved us $350,000 by eliminating our need for recurring licenses," he says.
UplinkOS provides the infrastructure for what makes up the Uplink Network, a collection of secured applications ready for use by districts. The network features its own encrypted and secure programs, including the following:
- Uplink Messenger
- Technology Work Request System
- Maintenance Work System
- Board Applications Suite
- Online board policy
- Online student handbooks
- Committee contact organizer
- Bond/levy organizer
- Calendar management system
- Newsletter manager
- Content manager link to national, regional and local portals
- Government relations manager
- Special Education IEP System
UplinkOS not only provides for its own set of applications, it allows for the use of external software within it as well. VistaSource, an Uplink Network software partner, provides its full-featured Anyware productivity suite, which includes a word processor, spreadsheet, etc., within the Uplink Network. "Our district is currently implementing the Uplink Network with the VistaSource Anyware application suite for all staff and students at Delta Woods Middle School," says Annette Seago, assistant superintendent of instruction for Blue Springs School District. "This system allows all students to use the same technology tools at school, home and the library."
Applications currently in use can be made part of the district's Uplink system as well. "One of the original objectives of the Uplink Network was to provide users with fast access to the applications they used, whether they were on a dial-up connection, fractional T1 or any other high-speed access - and I am glad to say we have achieved this," says Don Keeler, co-founder of GeKL Technologies and the chief architect of the Uplink Network. "The second major objective was to provide enterprise solutions, no matter the size of the organization. We developed UplinkOS to provide a solid foundation for any organization to deliver enterprise administration, enterprise applications and remote access. We have also gone to great lengths to develop secure Internet access, or some derivative of this, because we know this is where all applications are headed. And in anticipation of Internet 2 (see below), we wanted to provide solutions now," he says.
Internet2 (www.internet2.edu) is a consortium led by more than 180 universities working in partnership with industry and government to develop and deploy advanced network applications and technologies, accelerating the creation of tomorrow's Internet. Internet2 is recreating the partnership among academia, industry and government that fostered today's Internet in its infancy. The primary goals of Internet2 are to:
- Create a leading-edge network capability for the national research community;
- Enable revolutionary Internet applications; and
- Ensure the rapid transfer of new network services and applications to the broader Internet community.
The Missouri Association of School Business Officials is an Uplink member and has included an Uplink Network membership for all of its member districts as well. School business officials' associations in several other states are also looking to implement the service statewide.
Kansas City, MO
Corporate Sponsorships Provide Free Network Access
Much of the Uplink Network may be free for school districts to implement through corporate sponsorships. A number of utilities license the Uplink Network, procure their individual territories, and then provide the Uplink Network to their local schools and civic organizations at no cost. Currently, more than 300 cooperatives have procured their territories, representing approximately 7,000 districts in 38 states. There have been statewide adoptions of the Network as well, such as the East River Electric Power Cooperative in South Dakota. E-mail GeKL Technologies at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out if your local cooperative is sponsoring your district.
This article originally appeared in the 02/01/2002 issue of THE Journal.