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Laptop Lessons - Tech Learning

Laptop Lessons

Although we see more articles every week about schools doing iPad pilots, a great number of districts are finding ways to launch oneto- one laptop initiatives or refresh their laptop carts.
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Although we see more articles every week about schools doing iPad pilots, a great number of districts are finding ways to launch oneto- one laptop initiatives or refresh their laptop carts. Still others are using Title funds and applying for grants to get netbooks into students’ and teachers’ laps. However your district pays for it, there are a few essential issues to discuss. Here are some of them and thoughts from other districts.

LAPTOPS


The Peddie School, Hightstown, NJ
What do you use?

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226 Toshiba Portégé R700s, www.toshiba.com/tai

How were they funded?

“We look at tech spending as the same as spending on teacher salaries or electricity,” says Tom Phelan, IT director. “It’s part of the cost of doing business.” The private school buys laptops in bulk and issues them the way public schools issue textbooks. A student has the same laptop all four years; it’s built into tuition.

How will you maintain these machines?

The school has run a laptop program since 1998; as such, it has well-developed repair procedures in place. “We have loaner laptops, so there is no downtime,” Phelan says.

Describe your professional development and training.

Department chairs drive the process, working with Phelan to provide academic technology leadership. One of the many benefits of this method is that when new teachers come on board, their colleagues share information with them and get them up to speed in terms of tech.

Any interoperability problems?

The school deliberately standardized with one operating system. “I have a seven-and-a-halfperson staff, so we need everything to work together. We may offer a smaller number of products, but that’s better than being all things to all people.”

How long did it take to get the laptops running?

It’s a smooth and ongoing process. Sophomores receive brand-new laptops they keep until graduation. Each summer, Phelan pays students to clean and reimage the used laptops, which are given to incoming freshmen.


Springfield (IL) School District 186
What do you use?

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6,500 MacBooks
apple.com/mac

How were they funded?

Originally schools bought tech with regular funds, Title funds, or PTA money, says Sue Ruff, director of technology. Then the foundation began buying laptops for the middle and high schools, and the district received a tech-integration grant to set up a one-to-one program at the middle school. Last year Ruff leased 5,610 laptops from Apple.

How will you maintain these machines?

“That’s a big question,” Ruff says, laughing. “As we find ways to save money in one area, we try to figure out how to put it toward technology. We want to become paperless so we can put those savings toward tech. We are also looking into online textbooks.”

Describe your professional development and training .

The district does lots of PD but loves its summertime training. “The teachers plot out their curriculum and, through the help of tech trainers and tech-savvy colleagues, figure out how to embed tech into their lessons.” A team of seven trainers works with students, teachers, administrators, and staff to teach and mentor.

Any interoperability problems?

Teachers use the district’s “homegrown SIS” for projects and multimedia and to drive instruction. They post grades, test scores, and other reports, and students and parents log on to the student information system to see grades, attendance, and other information.

How long did it take to get the laptops running?

“Kids used them the moment we wheeled them in. We’ve done this for more than 20 years. There have been changes in OS and software, but currently everything with Apple is integrated; it’s where you need it when you need it.”


Crook County (WY) School District
What do you use?

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70 Fujitsu LH530s
www.fujitsu.com

How were they funded?

The laptops, which were spread out among schools and grades, were bought through a combination of Title IID competitive grants and Title I funds, according to Howard Bjornestad, technology coordinator.

How will you maintain these machines?

“I like the Fujitsu’s sturdiness,” Bjornestad says. “Next year we’ll get more and move out the obsolete ones.” Although the district has discussed one-to-one laptops, he thinks it may use textbook dollars to get iPads instead. “I see that as our direction, possibly, and a game changer.”

Describe your professional development and training.

A technology facilitator in each building offers training. “Teachers went to four courses for these laptops and continued taking classes throughout the year. We bring people in for specific training, such as how to help children read and write.”

Any interoperability problems?

“We’re running Windows 7, and everything is fine. They are all wireless.”

How long did it take to get the laptops running?

Once the machines arrived, Bjornestad used a disk duplicator and had all of them ready in a couple of days. He set one up, then took out the hard drives and duplicated them.

Netbooks

City School District of New Rochelle (NY)

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What do you use?

30 HP Minis
www.hp.com

How were they funded?

The district won a two-year HP Innovation in Education grant and received $265,000 worth of technology (laptops, printers, digital cameras, etc.) and training for middle and high school students to study invasive plants in our environment.

How will you maintain these machines?

“We are in our second year of the grant,” says Christine L. Coleman, director of technology. “We’ve integrated the netbooks into our network, and our staff will support them. We can sustain them for another three to four years or until they need to be replaced.”

Describe your professional development and training.

Eight full-time instructional-tech facilitators, who Coleman says are highly trained in technology applications and integration, provide on-demand professional development. “We don’t rely on after-school training. The facilitators can meet teachers one-on-one, in small groups, or in large groups for curriculum planning and integration and to co-teach or model a lesson.”

Any interoperability problems?

“It was a hiccup at first to integrate the HP platform into our Novell network.” To help it go smoothly, Coleman’s team prepared before the boxes arrived. They had an image built and were able to unbox, image, ghost, integrate, and test. That cut down on setup time significantly.

How long did it take to get the laptops running?

“Once they arrived, it was just under a month. With a little extra training, our teachers were ready to go.” Watching the students use the netbooks is fascinating, Colman says. “It’s not about the keyboard, the typing, or the machine. It’s about learning, researching, solving problems, and answering questions. The kids are getting so much from these. They can go beyond what we ever expected.”


Union County (NC) Public Schools
What do you use?

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3,200 Dell Latitude 2110s
www.dell.com

How were they funded?

“The funding was cobbled together out of different pots,” says David Kafitz, executive director of technology services. “Because of cutbacks and state funding, we could not use money to hire personnel, so we used it for technology instead and negotiated a bulk purchase from Dell.”

How will you maintain these machines?

The goal, Kafitz says, is to continue finding ways to fund purchases out of savings from other departments. “We’re hoping that transitioning to a 21st-century, skill-based instructional model will encourage local leaders to help us find ways to fund it.”

Describe your professional development and training.

Ten instructional-technology specialists and four middle-school curriculum specialists serve as mentors and model teachers and lead professional-development efforts in their schools. In addition, each principal selects a model teacher for sixth and seventh grade; these teachers take monthly classes and share what they learn with their colleagues. Last summer teachers learned how to use the netbooks and incorporate 21st-century skills.

Any interoperability problems?

“Before giving out the laptops, we crawled through all the systems at the schools, switching networks and routers and going wireless. For 18 months we focused on cleaning everything and ensuring our bandwidth and wireless infrastructure. We’ve flooded our middle schools with wireless access so there’s density of coverage.”

How long did it take to get the laptops running?

The students will receive the laptops early this year. A pilot with 120 middle and high school students in spring of last year yielded several valuable lessons. “We established a process for parent rollout nights, in which we bring in parents and do some education. Then the kids get their laptops.”

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