What age groups are targeted for laptop use?
Initially, the target group is Grades 9 through 12. Ideally, we would be able to implement a one-to-one program at all high school grades in our first year of implementation, 2013-2014; however, this will be determined by our financial ability to do so. As a minimum, we would follow a model of implementing at Grades 11 and 12 in the first year, and then adding a grade level each year in the following years. Ultimately, we could see a one-to-one environment in the junior high, but our initial implementation focus is the high school.
At the elementary level, we are working toward establishing mobile labs for grade levels so that we transition from the idea of “going to the computer lab” to do technology work to an environment where any classroom can be a computer lab because of the ability to use the mobile laptop or iPad cart. This could be considered somewhat of an offshoot of the one-to-one idea, but the point is a “one to one” program can take on a variety of forms and it can impact students at all grade levels, just in different ways.
What financial responsibility will students/families have if a laptop is damaged while in the student's possession?
A model that has been successful for other districts that have already established one-to-one programs is a self-insured program. Students pay an annual insurance fee and the district establishes an “insurance account.” Typically this annual student fee is $40 to $50 in the districts that have implemented a self-insurance fund. Then, if a computer is broken through negligence, lost, or stolen, the laptop is replaced through the insurance fund with a pre-set deductible applied.
Can we afford to maintain both the software and hardware for these laptops/iPads on an ongoing basis?
It is financially feasible for us to establish a one-to-one program. Though our general fund, which finances our basic day-to-day expenses, is a constant challenge for us, our Permanent Improvement fund, which would fund such a program, is stable. Annually, the Board designates $150,000 of our Permanent Improvement funds for technology hardware purchases. Outfitting a grade level will cost somewhere between $70,000 to $120,000. The cost depends on which device we decide to use—laptops or iPads—and the number of students at that grade level. In addition, we are investigating options that range from a single cash payout to a lease-to-own program. The bottom line is that we will fund only what is financially feasible to allow us to address all technology needs for the district.
Another consideration is that the establishment of a one-to-one program reduces other traditional expenditures, freeing up money for the one-to-one program. For example, the purchase of high-powered desktop computers becomes unnecessary because the traditional “computer lab” setting ultimately becomes obsolete. Every classroom is a computer lab in a one-to-one setting. Funds that were once spent on desktop computers are now spent on mobile devices, such as a laptops or iPads.
As far as software, we try to purchase primarily on a district license basis, so the number of machines software is loaded on is not an issue. In addition, we use many district subscriptions for websites which have a fee. These subscriptions are typically based on the number of students in a district, not the number of computers, so these types of subscriptions would not be affected either. There are some software titles that are purchased based on the number of computers the software is loaded on, but these would be a minority.
If a laptop isn't working properly, will a student be able to immediately trade it in for one that is so that there is no interruption in their work?
Yes, and we currently have that set-up with our teachers. Our teachers now all have individual laptops, and if there is a problem with the laptop that will take some time to address, our technology coordinator will issue that teacher another laptop until the issue can be resolved. However, we have found this to be a rare occurrence.
Will class time become "figure out what's wrong with the computers" time? What if it's an issue of the entire class's software or network not working correctly?
To be proactive in avoiding such situations, we have been laying the foundation for an infrastructure—both personnel-wise and network-wise--which will make such situations non-issues.
Personnel-wise, we strengthened the support for our technology use in the district by adding an assistant technology coordinator. This person aids our district technology coordinator, with a specific focus on the network which supports district technology. The addition of an assistant technology coordinator was not an extra cost to the district, but a redistribution of budgeted funds. For example, in the past, we spent money on a “Rent-A-Tech” program through NWOCA, our district’s A-site. This was an “assistant” that we were paying on a per-diem basis to provide the support that we now have with our assistant technology coordinator. It’s more cost effective for us to hire someone full-time rather than pay NWOCA’s daily “rental” rates.
Network-wise, we upgraded our district servers to strengthen our network—the “backbone” of our technology infrastructure. We renovated some closet space just off the high school gym area so that we have a server room that is roomy enough to house our new servers, along with being temperature-controlled and clean.
The third part of the process in establishing an environment that can support a one-to-one program is making our district buildings completely wireless. We are in the process of gathering quotes for this project, but we expect our buildings to be wireless by next school year. The Ottawa Hills Schools Parent Association is helping to fund this project, which will have an initial installation cost of approximately $35,000 to $37,000.
Even if the software/hardware is working perfectly, kids will have questions. What kind of support will there be (especially outside school hours) for kids who have questions or problems using any particular aspect of the device?
As we speak to schools that have established one-to-one programs, we find that this is not an issue. The hardware works well and the software works well. Because they are used to the technology, the students are typically able to trouble-shoot any minimal problems they might encounter. Teachers who teach in a one-to-one environment note that even though there is no “formal” program set up, they often will take the time to view emails from students in the evening and will take the time to respond to those emails to help a student troubleshoot any specific problem they might be having.
Even though teachers might not be able to address technology issues, the response to this question speaks to the fact that: 1.) issues are minimal; 2.) there are typically “informal” supports in place that can help students who might be experiencing problems beyond the school day. Some schools are also establishing internships and certification programs with students who can then become a resource for other students who are experiencing hardware or software problems.
With the sophistication of the internet, why can't software programs like virtual textbooks, email-type communication, Blackboard, and other items be used just as effectively on the computers kids have at home? Is it a cross-platform (PC vs. Apple) issue? I understand the laptops/ipads you give out would be networked, but is there no way to do this via the wider internet already?
Is it penny wise to give a child who may have two or three computers at home--maybe even one of their own already--a laptop when we could instead only give students a laptop who apply for one based on need?
There is one response to these two questions because basically it’s the same question: Why not allow students to use the technology they already have?
Some school districts are investigating or have implemented a “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) program where students may bring whatever type of technology they have at home—a PC, an iPad, an Apple Laptop, an iPod… The initial finding is that it is a lot harder to implement a BYOD program successfully.
First, as noted in other responses, we’ve been working on establishing the foundation needed for a successful one-to-one program. This includes the appropriate support personnel, the appropriate network, and a wireless environment. This will allow us to be successful in supporting one platform—an Apple laptop or iPad. The ability to support a BYOD environment is beyond our ability. There is no way that we could address the hardware and software issues that would be presented to us with a variety of technology tools coming in our doors.
Second, in order for teachers to be successful, we need them to be able to teach without worrying about the technology. How does a teacher plan a lesson with students who have all different sorts of hardware and software with different levels of capabilities?
In general, having every student “on the same page” as far as hardware and software allows us greater flexibility in delivering instruction, implementing cooperative learning, communicating, and addressing problems. In addition, one platform gives us a consistency in networking the devices, which gives the district the ability to more easily monitor content. One platform also provides greater control over what is on student computers
We cannot dictate what is on a student’s home computer. We cannot require them to have software and applications that are compatible with our instructional and learning needs. When we have an environment where every student has access to the same tool with the same capabilities, then we’re giving teachers the power to enhance their instruction and we’re giving students the power to explore and create.
These tools will include not only textbooks, but may also software such as Microsoft Office, iLife, iWork, Adobe Creative Suite, Google Apps for Education, video/audio/multimedia editing tools, Moodle, and student email. In addition, grade-level and subject-specific software may be included on students’ computers. Software specific to an individual student’s need can be an advantage for students on Individualized Education Plans. Internet filtering and a document backup solution will also be vital elements of each laptop and are examples of software that we would not be able to install on individually-owned technology tools.