What Hardware Are You Using and Why?

10/30/2013 By:

Should you buy laptops, iPads, Chromebooks, Windows tablets, or some other device for your teachers and students? T&L asked panelists from their New York and Texas Tech Forums to answer these questions and more. See below to watch the archived video from these panel discussions.

David Andrade
Chief Information Officer, Bridgeport Public Schools, CT


Which device do your teachers and students use? How did you or others make this choice?

“Our teachers use desktops and we have started deploying Chromebooks. We chose Chromebooks because of the price, ease of use, free Web apps, and minimal setup and support needed from IT. All teachers, staff, and students also get Google Apps for Education accounts.”

How are you managing devices?

“We use the Google Management console to manage the Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education. Bandwidth is a huge factor and our network staff worked hard to increase our bandwidth and wireless infrastructure so we could manage all devices efficiently.”

What LMS and other major digital tools are most used on a regular basis at your school?

“We use PowerSchool, Edmodo, and Safari Montage, along with hundreds of Web sites and teacher resources. We tested everything we had on Chromebooks to make sure it worked.”

How have these devices improved teaching and learning?

“Chromebooks have allowed our students to create instead of just consume. We wanted students to be active and create something using what they learned instead of just consuming information.”

Brandon Lutz
Technology Integration Specialist, School District of Philadelphia, PA


Which device do your teachers and students use? How did you or others make this choice?

“My district has a mixed-device environment. Most teachers have a laptop [for their own use] and desktops in their classrooms for their students. We began a partial iPad rollout for our autistic support classes that are now in use by many administrators. Laptop carts were rolled out over the course of several years for students in some classes. All decisions were made on the basis of current educational need or parameters of the defined program. We are starting to add Chromebooks and some Android devices.”

How are you managing devices?

“Our devices are managed at each school by the technology teacher leader. Now that we have added more mobile devices to our schools, we created a new position for a mobile device coordinator. They are the only ones who can update and add apps to the devices. Bandwidth is not an issue with the infrastructure in place at SDP facilities. We run fiber to each location with multi-antennae APs in each room.”

What LMS and other major digital tools are most used on a regular basis at your school?

“We use a bunch of apps such as proloquo2Go, drawing, Garage Band, and iMovie. Teachers started using Nearpod to engage their autistic students with great success. Nearpod allows the teacher to take control of the iPad, students see the presentation in front of them, and they are able to interact and draw.”

How have these devices improved teaching and learning?

“We see inquiry-based learning popping up in some locations. There is also greater, more accurate, fact-based content in student-created content. The devices also provide differentiation for activities and projects in the classroom.”

Kevin Schwartz
Chief Technology Officer,
Clear Creek Independent School District, TX


Which device do your teachers and students use? How did you or others make this choice?

“Students in grades 4-12 receive the Dell Latitude 10. Secondary students can take the tablets home. In grade 3, we will have class sets of about 6 in each room. Our device selection let us reach two more grade levels of students (6,000 kids) than we could have reached with our second choice of comparable tablets. PK-2 has a similar number of iPads. We also have 1,000 Chromebooks, 3,000 iPads, and a BYOD program for our 21,000 secondary students. For us, the BYOD program is largely a bridge for students who have not yet received their tablets.”

How are you managing devices?

“As Windows 8 Enterprise devices, the Dell Latitude 10s fit well within our existing Windows support infrastructure. It’s easy to leverage Active Directory and Group Policies, for example.”

What LMS and other major digital tools are most used on a regular basis at your school?

“We have Blackboard, but we are not using it as comprehensively as we would like. We are seeing that the addition of a 1:1 is helping to drive the demand for a comprehensive LMS. Edmodo is a tool we are beginning to use primarily at the teacher/staff level while we evaluate our overall LMS needs. We use GAFE, but are now exploring all or part of the Microsoft online suite as well since many tools like OneNote integrate with SkyDrive.”

How have these devices improved teaching and learning?

“The greatest learning for our team came from the process. In “going slow to go fast,” we tore down long-standing silos, built an incredible team, and have a unified board and community. These outcomes are being leveraged for far greater things than a 1:1.”

Carl Hooker
Director for Instructional Technology, Eanes ISD, TX


Which device do your teachers and students use? How did you or others make this choice?

“We chose iPads because we found them to be the highest quality mobile device with a lengthy battery life. Because it’s a consumer device, it translates into continual use even after students leave our system. The number of educational apps and ease of personalization means that kids can truly carry their own style of learning with them. We had a team of core teacher leaders and some students pilot its usage versus other tablets before making a choice.”

How are you managing devices?

“We are using Casper JAMF as our MDM for grades 6-12 and Apple configuration to manage iPads in grades K-5.”

What LMS and other major digital tools are most used on a regular basis at your school?

“We were heavily email dependent in the first year of the pilot, which was a challenge. In the second year, we added eBackpack as our digital content management system. It is a platform that is Web-based but with native iOS integration, which means it is accessible anywhere. We are also a GAFE district and heavily utilize Google tools (e.g. Google Drive, Gmail, and Google hangouts) with our iPads to foster communication and collaboration.”

How have these devices improved teaching and learning?

“It is very exciting to see teachers focusing on personalizing education through technology and focusing on students creating their knowledge.”

Marianthe Williams
Director of Technology, River Dell Regional School District, NJ


Which device do your teachers and students use? How did you or others make this choice?

“We serve grades 7-12 in our district, and we are currently in year eight of our 1:1 initiative at our high school. We have no desktops at our high school. Every high school student and every staff member in the district has an HP Folio (Intel Ultrabook). Every middle school classroom has a set of folios for students. These devices were chosen based on our curricular needs. They were also evaluated by a panel consisting of students, administrators, teachers, and the technology department. Students needed to be able to generate videos for projects such as documentaries, book trailers, science labs, and PSAs. Another consideration for selection was the need to address the specifications for the PARCC assessment.”

How are you managing devices?

“Our devices, user accounts, and email are managed in a Windows environment through an active directory that offers filtered and monitored access to the Internet. All devices are imaged and managed using Altiris Deployment System, with all user profiles managed through an active directory. A Juniper firewall with a Lightspeed Internet filter allows for remote filtering on student computers. Bandwidth and network speed are monitored on a regular basis so that we can always stay ahead of user needs. Users are provided with network folders that are accessible anywhere on the campus and from home. They are also backed up nightly on the network. All students have email accounts and many modes of assessment submission.”

What LMS and other major digital tools are most used on a regular basis at your school?

“We use Schoolwires as an LMS and a Schoolwires add-on called Nimbus which provides students with a “Ninglike” environment for collaboration. In addition to these resources, we use many others, such as MovieMaker, Adobe Creative Suite, TurnItIn, Gizmos, Camtasia Studio, and Jing for screen capturing. [We also use] Audacity, SASCurriculumPathways, Thinkfinity, Gizmo, and a plethora of digital content found on each teacher’s Web site.”

How have these devices improved teaching and learning?

“The biggest plus of technology is [to provide a pathway] for good communication between parents and administrators, teachers and students, and technology departments and instructional coaches. Without good communication, a lot of things fail. Patience is key. Teaching and learning doesn’t happen overnight even if you distributed devices overnight. However, with several months of aligned planning times and quality professional learning and support, learning becomes transformative.”

Dr. Robert Miller
Director of Information and Communications Technologies, New Canaan Public Schools, CT


Which device do your teachers and students use? How did you or others make this choice?

“We have taken a differentiated approach based on need. At the elementary level, iPads are being used for teacher instruction, collecting data, and student learning centers. We also utilize iPads for various assessments. We went with iPads due to the cost, [access to] a great array of educational apps and resources for iPads, and [gaining] more efficient support. We went with thin clients in labs and libraries to provide the most efficient and fastest computers for assessment and student learning in an environment that services hundreds of students daily. We provide laptops in carts as mobile labs and use smaller netbooks at the elementary and middle school levels while going with full laptops at the high school level. We have found the iPad meets 99% of all assistive technology needs for our students.”

How are you managing devices?

“We are utilizing the Apple Configurator for setup, deployment of iPads, and new apps. This tool is highly efficient for the quantity of iPads we currently have, but if numbers increase, a more robust solution may be needed. In August we rolled out a new guest Wi-Fi network and have allowed filtered but unmanaged access for middle school and high school students and all staff. This has greatly reduced the overhead of managing a Mac-filtered,Wi-Fi network, which was our prior system. We have high bandwidth from the state and have steadily increased our internal wireless capacity in our schools. We have a robust fiber network connecting all the schools to a central network infrastructure. We are now concerned that the internal bandwidth may be maxing out, especially in relation to our thin client utilization.”

What LMS and other major digital tools are most used at on a regular basis your school?
“We have a core group of teachers using Moodle at our high school and some teachers at our middle school. We are a Google Apps district starting in our 2nd-grade classrooms. We also have an extensive digital portfolio system (Digication) for all middle school and some high school students in the visual and performing arts. We also utilize Brainpop, Discovery Education (for video and science), Gizmos, and other curriculum-rich resources and learning environments.”

How have these devices improved teaching and learning? 

“I am most impressed by the use of the iPads, especially at the lower grades. Teachers have created innovative usage with students. Many of our teachers are also using data to inform their instruction through the use of the Confer app on their iPads.”


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