Mobile Computing

Mobile Computing

It’s hard to imagine being told to leave your device at home and to enter a Wi- Fi-free zone for most of your working day. Yet that is what schools all over the country are asking students to do on a daily basis. Participants in the SchoolCIO Technology Summit working group on “The Future of Mobile Computing” were unanimous in their belief that we can no longer afford to ask students to “power down” when they enter the classroom. Here is how they are addressing this issue in their schools:

“The pent-up demand for BYOD and 1:1 is a tidal wave and it’s going to come, regardless of our readiness for it. Either we surf or we drown.”
Ron Chandler (CIO, Los Angeles Unified School District, CA)

“We describe our approach to BYO as the ‘school bus model.’ Our district provides buses to bring students to school, but we don’t tell them they can’t get a ride or drive their own cars. It’s their choice.”
Matt Federoff (CIO, Vail School District, AZ)

“Each initiative is going to be unique because the culture from one district to another is so different. There is no ‘one-size-fits all’ approach to one-to-one or BYO.”
Debbie Rice (Director of Technology, Auburn City Schools, AL)

Paso Robles USD, CA
Presenter: Scott Knuckles, Director, Information & Technology

Until recently, students arriving at school each morning in California’s Paso Robles public schools were being asked to leave their technology at the door. According to Scott Knuckles, not only were teachers wasting valuable time enforcing a practically unenforceable ban on mobile device use, students were missing out on access to valuable learning tools that would help connect them with one another and the world at large.

All that has changed, thanks to the district’s new “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) policy, which was implemented this past year. Knuckles admits that much of the motivation for going BYO, as opposed to one-to-one, was financial. He estimates that adopting 1:1 district wide, with school-purchased devices, for the entire 7,000-student district would have cost $2.4 million to implement and $300,000 a year to maintain and this was not feasible in the current economic climate.

Fortunately, a large percentage of the students in Paso Robles, at a variety of income levels, have some sort of digital device – from a handheld game machine or MP3 player to a smart phone or a laptop – that they can bring to school. A shift to Web-based delivery and wireless communications, with support from eRate funding, increases the ability for a wide range of these devices to work in the classroom. District-owned hardware, including laptops purchased for all the teachers and shared laptop carts for student use, supplement what the students bring from home and make it possible for them to stay after school to get homework done on a powerful computer, if needed.

Beyond the cost-savings, the new, open policy has the advantage of allowing students to work with the technology that they already know and love. Teachers, students, and parents alike have been pleased with the results. Faculty members appreciate that they are no longer policing the use of cell phones in class and are not expected to be the only experts in the room; students happily take notes, fact check, and conduct other research on their mobile devices during class. Collaborative learning has taken off, with students learning to work effectively in groups to complete assignments.

“Yes, it took some work to set up the infrastructure and get the filtering right,” says Knuckles, “but once the program was established things have fallen into place easily. We haven’t had the theft or technical difficulties some people worried about. The best part is that the learning is driven by the students, who embrace being given choices. Trust goes a long way!”

Tools They Use

• Hewlett Packard Procurve centralized wireless system to manage all mobile devices, both district and student owned
• Lightspeed content filtering and authentication system
• Acer netbooks and Apple iPads to supplement the BYO program
• Lightspeed’s My Big Campus for collaboration and student file storage
• District-based cloud file storage maintained by Novell

School District of New Berlin, WI
Presenter: Larry Lueck, Director of Learning Technology

New Berlin, a suburb of Milwaukee, is also embracing BYO as a cost-effective way of ensuring that students are not forced to power down the moment they walk into school. For several years, the district had been moving towards a one-to-one environment. Many devices had already been purchased, including netbooks for use in the lower grades, laptops for teachers and secondary school students, iPads and iTouch devices for special education classes, interactive white boards, projectors and more. Adding a “bring your own” component for students in the middle and high school grades was the logical next step – a way of moving the district more rapidly towards its one-to-one dream.

Larry Lueck emphasizes the importance of laying the groundwork for such an initiative. A big part of it, he says, involves building the wireless infrastructure. In the year before the 2011 launch, New Berlin worked with Dell and their partners to create a robust network with adequate wireless access points at their two secondary schools, an improved firewall, a guest network (or “dirty line”) for student- and teacher-owned devices, an upgraded service desk and, the transition from an eDirectory structure to Active Directory.

Equally important was building consensus and setting policy about the ways in which the devices were to be used. The district worked with an outside organization to set up community focus groups that discussed expectations and concerns and provided data to guide administrators in shaping policy. “We went from an Acceptable Use Policy to an Appropriate Use Policy,” says Lueck, explaining that the new wording was more positive and reflected a shift from an emphasis on banning to seeking out the most valuable uses of mobile devices in the classroom to support learning.

Last, but certainly not least, the district invested in professional development programs that emphasized the educational aspects of technology use. Faculty members were involved in Intel Essentials training focusing on project-based learning. Secondary staff members who were identified as pioneers and “go-getters” were selected for training over the course of the summer to explore what classrooms would look like when students had their own devices. These pioneers helped create structures and components that later became a BYO handbook and also supported other teachers when the BYO program rolled out.

As it turns out, there was not a lot of fanfare when the BYO program did launch. “It was in March, 2011,” Lueck explains, “and we pretty much said, ‘Tomorrow you can start bringing your own devices.’ That was it.” The lack of drama over the announcement attests to the preparation that preceded it rather than to a lack of interest. In fact, in the first three months after the network was opened, the 2600-student district went from approximately 1,000 devices to 1,900, with nearly half of them student-owned.

From an IT perspective, the initial investment in infrastructure, followed by the BYO implementation, has paid off significantly. Maintenance costs are kept low because, as Lueck puts it, “This model limits the entanglement.” The personal devices are maintained primarily by their owners and there is less than 10% breakage overall. On the educational side, the district has seen engagement increase tremendously as students choose which devices to use, teachers embrace a flipped classroom model, and learners have access to a variety of exciting cloud-based resources from within the school walls.

As with any ambitious initiative, New Berlin’s BYO program is a work in progress. Lueck anticipates both challenges and opportunities ahead as the district moves to online MAP benchmark testing. At three points in the upcoming school year most of the school-owned devices will be devoted to the testing process. The good news, he explains, is that the unavailability of district hardware during those periods will motivate some students to bring in their own devices for the first time, adding to the school community’s growing knowledge about what works best as they journey towards a “blended” 1:1 model in which student- and school-owned devices live side by side.


* Dell 2110 Netbooks
* Dell 6410 or 6430 laptops
* Stoneware cloud services
* LifeSize videoconferencing tools
* SMART boards and NEC or Mitsubishi projectors
* Software including Moodle, Read 180, Odysseyware, Kace (helpdesk)

Barrington CUSD 220, IL
Presenter: Patricia Haughney, Chief Information Officer

Barrington’s middle school one-to-one program reflects a commitment on the part of the superintendent and school board to insuring digital equity for the district’s students. Patricia Haughney explains that the community is fairly affluent, overall, but that it also includes a significant number of students on free or reduced-price lunch, many of whom do not have devices they can bring from home.

Preceding the 2011-2012 one-to-one launch, CUSD 220 had invested in netbook and laptop computers, resulting in a 1:3 device-to-student ratio. But these computers had mostly been available on mobile carts and, as Haughney puts it, having to sign out a device from a cart every time you want access to information “doesn’t do it” in today’s digital world. “Just-in-time learning is essential,” she says. “For students to learn, solve problems and make use of the technology, it has to be readily available. Nobody should have to wait!”

As with most 21st century, technology-based initiatives, increasing student engagement was a goal of the one-to-one program but that, according to Haughney, is just one piece of the puzzle. The school’s educational program, supported by the mobile technology, is based on Grant Wiggins’ participatory learning model and aims to teach students to be flexible problem solvers, skilled communicators, global citizens, and more.

Involving staff members in the curriculum redesign process has been important. In addition to a range of planning and professional development opportunities for teachers, the district has engaged its librarians in building “lib guides” for the various subject areas. These web-based textbook alternatives pull together video, images, text, learning activities and other relevant content in one easy-to-access place.

While the curriculum folks were gearing up for a new learning environment, IT staff were focusing on building a robust infrastructure to support them. A powerful wireless network was established with access points placed in strategic locations determined by a wireless assessment. Barrington adopted the Linux-based “Ubermix” open source learning environment pioneered in Saugus Union, CA, by fellow SchoolCIO participant Jim Klein. They also got rid of the cumbersome log-in procedures that had slowed student and teachers down in the past and adopted Google Apps for a variety of uses.

The 1:1 program was phased in over time, starting with one team at each of the middle schools and incentives for teachers who might otherwise have been reluctant. Team leaders were paid to work over the summer and received funds for purchasing classroom apps. The reception was so positive – and the demand from families whose children were not in the initial rollout was so intense – that other teachers were particularly motivated to join the program when it became available to them. Once on board, few teachers would dream of turning back the clock. Students and parents are enthusiastic and teachers report a pedagogical shift from independent work to collaborative, project-based lessons – a goal that would have been hard to reach without the technology infusion.

Haughney expects things to be even more exciting in year two when students are allowed to take the laptops home for 24/7 use. Unfortunately, she says, this did not happen in year one because details were still being worked out regarding insurance. “We’ve had less than 10% breakage and decided not to purchase extended warranties. The notebook computers are reasonably priced so, if they break and we can’t fix them in-house, it makes more sense to replace them.”

While Barrington has no plans to move away from its one-to-one approach in the middle grades, district leaders are open to a variety of approaches as they work on plans across the district. Students have long been allowed to bring cells to school for use outside the classroom and to work in class with their own laptops. Whether that will morph into a more extensive BYO program remains to be seen. As Haughney explains, “We are focused on how to provide 1:1 access through the district to ensure equitable device access and are working on our plan at this time.”


* HP 3115 Notebook computers
* Linux-based OS (modified from Saugus Union’s Ubermix)
* A Cisco wireless network with load balancing
* Moodle on-line classroom with open source apps including Open Office and Cheese (for digital photography). For a more complete list see Saugus USD’s web site
* Google Apps, Glogster and a variety of other Web 2.0 tools. (A complete list can be found at:

Gurnee School District 56, IL
Presenter: Phil Hintz, Director of Technology

In the eyes of teachers and administrators in this Illinois district serving grades Pre-K through 8, none of their students are too young to be using technology on a daily basis. Which is why the decision was made to purchase iPads for all students in all nine grade levels beginning in the 2012-2013 school year.

Gurnee School Distict 56 has been leasing technology for a number of years now. Although Illinois state tax regulations changed recently, making it impossible to levy a special tax for leasing purposes, there’s nothing stopping the district from building the leasing costs into their standard budget, which is what they are doing now. When their latest four-year lease came due, the decision was made to lease iPads – in part because of their kid-friendly features and in part because they cost about half as much as the larger mobile devices the district might have purchased otherwise.

To get ready for the possibility of moving to 1:1, the district used their last round of ARRA funds to purchase 200 iPads for their Special needs and ELL populations during the last half of the 2010-2011 school year. The devices arrived too late in the year for them to be deployed to students, so the district decided not to lose ground and to give each teacher in the district an iPad to use as he or she liked for the summer as long as he or she agreed to review at least six educational apps and make recommendations about which ones should be made available on the student devices for the next school year. “The teachers absolutely fell in love with the iPads,” says Hintz.

After finally deploying them to the students this past year, the district received the confirmation that it wanted to move forward with a 1:1 initiative for the 2012-2013 school year. For this year’s lease, each of the nearly 200 teachers and administrators in the 4 schools of Gurnee School District 56 will receive a MacBook Pro and an iPad for their arsenal of tech tools.

Being new to the one-to-one game, Gurnee’s planning team spent a fair amount of time checking out other 1:1 programs to learn what was working well. Many great ideas were gathered in this way, including the idea of creating open curriculum units to take the place of textbooks as fellow SchoolCIO participant Matt Federoff of Vail, Arizona, recommends.

One common practice that Gurnee did not want to adopt from other districts, according to Phil Hintz, was an approach that limited one-to-one to a particular grade or school. Dr. John Hutton, the district’s superintendent, was adamant about equal access to technology, no matter the grade level and no matter the school. “Today’s kids learn better when they are more fully engaged,” he said. “The iPad is the game-changer when it comes to student engagement and we are seeing the results of this when put in the hands of all age groups.”

The district has since coined the phrase, NCWT (No Child Without Technology) and now the iPads will be phased in, one grade at a time, over the course of several months; by the end of the school year, every child, ages 3 to 13, will have a device to work with on a daily basis.

Hintz works closely with Gurnee’s curriculum director, Dr. Colleen Pacatte, and classroom teachers on planning and implementation. When the district decided that the K-5 science curriculum was in need of an overhaul, a team of 15 teachers was assembled to develop digital interactive science textbooks for themselves and their colleagues. In just a few months, they had built over 100 units, says Hintz, who was surprised at the teachers’ enthusiasm. “I thought they’d hate how much work it involved but they love it. They can customize books with different sizes of print, add video, link to great lessons and create digital textbooks that the kids really like.” When they found out how easy it was to create professional learning content, word traveled fast and now we have other teachers wanting to do the same thing for their classes in all other subject areas. According to Hintz, “It’s becoming a curriculum revolution!”

District administrators have an open mind about the role of student-owned (BYO) devices down the road but, for now, the emphasis is on one-to-one and ramping up from 0 to 100 in the months to come.


* Apple iPads
* Macbooks for the teachers
* iPad cases from Trident Cases
* Polyvision ENO interactive white boards
* Wired Networking from HP ProCurve switches and Wireless networking solutions from Aruba Wireless Networks. To prepare for the 1:1 the district added 150 additional wireless access points (1 for every classroom) to their existing 90 access points and upgraded their Aruba Wireless Controllers to the Aruba 3600 Controller.
* Curriculum tools such as Apple iBooks Author, and the Reflection App that allows teachers to wirelessly project their iPads to computers and projectors using Apple’s AirPlay Protocol

Auburn City Schools, AL
Debbie Rice, Director of Technology

Auburn City Schools is moving into the seventh year of a one-to-one laptop program involving all students in grades 8 and 9. District leaders initially chose to target the junior high grades because research showed that the most common dropout year was 9th grade. The district is confident that through these resources and tools – accompanied by continuous support and wrap-around professional development – their students now leave the district better prepared and more adequately equipped for a constantly changing world. Test scores confirm this; students in both participating grades scored higher than 90% proficiency on the Alabama Reading and Math Test in Spring 2011.

The district’s technology plan is closely aligned with its district-wide accreditation plan. “It’s important to start with your educational goals,” explains Debbie Rice. “What needs are you trying to meet? How will the technology implementation help meet them? We prefer to call the technology tools ‘resources’ to make it clear that all about supporting the curriculum.”

The planning process started early, with students invited to test out the laptops under consideration for purchase. They and the teachers agreed on a convertible tablet as their choice, giving students the flexibility to type or script based on their learning style or preference. The teachers received their computers a full year before the students, giving them plenty of time to get comfortable with the devices and explore ways of using them in the classroom. Professional development sessions focused on components of Intel’s K-12 Blueprint model and other approaches that emphasized transforming teaching and learning with support from 21st century tools.

In addition to curriculum planning and professional development, the third element that Rice stresses when talking about one-to-one is building a robust infrastructure. After all, she says, “If the network isn’t working, nothing else about the program can work.” In planning their wireless infrastructure Auburn Schools installed an enterprise solution that assisted with configuring, deploying and managing their multi-site wireless LANs (WLANs) from a single management console. Auburn installed one access point per classroom, along with wired connections as backup, providing redundant wireless connectivity and load balancing between access points when needed. The district is also moving to a mobile device management solution locating mobile users and their devices to gather real-time positioning data for those users and devices.

The administrators and teachers in the Auburn City Schools feel strongly that economic disadvantage should NOT mean educational disadvantage. Which is why they continue to be committed to their junior high one-to-one program. The district is considering BYO for the schools not currently involved in 1:1 – starting with the elementary grades where the teachers seem most receptive. For the 15% of high school students who don’t have devices to bring from home, the district provides a laptop check out program where students are allowed to check out laptops through the media center for nightly use when needed.

An important consideration in moving to BYO, adds Rice, is setting unified policy that addresses legal and privacy issues – especially for students younger than 13 where government regulations are the strictest. She is currently researching options for a private cloud environment that would offer privacy and security along with flexible access to online resources.


* HP 2730 and HP 2760 convertible tablet computers for all junior high students and teachers
* Dell Vostro laptops issued to all other teachers and available on multiple mobile carts to high school students

* iPads for elementary schools
* Trapeze (now Juniper) enterprise wireless network solution, with a main controller that allows one-point control of access points across the district
* Moodle Learning Management System is locally hosted allowing teachers a closed private cloud solution
* DyKnow Classroom Management Solution allows teachers to manage student tablet use during instructional time

Additional Participants:

Eric Callis
Director of Technology, La Grange Highlands School District 106, IL

Ron Chandler
Chief Information Officer, Los Angeles Unified School District, CA

Matt Federoff
Chief Information Officer, Vail School District, AZ

Carl Fong
Executive Director, IT, Orange County Dept of Education, CA

Phil Hintz
Director of Technology, Gurnee School District 56, IL

Debbie Rice
Director of Technology, Auburn City Schools, AL

Matt Underwood
Superintendent of Schools, Lago Vista ISD, TX

Craig Williams
Director of Information Services, Illinois School District U-46, IL

The Keys to Mobile Computing, K-12

• You don’t have to choose between BYO and one-to-one programs; student-owned devices can be supplemented with school-provided ones and vice versa.
• It is important for schools moving to BYO to consider equity issues. School leaders need to think about all the ways to support families with solutions that make it easy and affordable to buy devices (from the district or elsewhere) and get Internet access at home.
• In building your wireless infrastructure, plan for more than a one-to-one ratio—anticipate several devices per person. Do a spectrum analysis and focus on overall bandwidth, access point distribution, and load balancing.
• Consider moving from Acceptable Use to Appropriate Use policies with a focus on positive ways of using the technology rather than banning it.
• Be aware of state regulations governing such issues as leasing, self-insuring, and the sale of district-owned technology. Take the time to figure out solutions tailored to these parameters. • Whether you call it insurance, a care plan, or a fee, consider having every family contribute at least something to a one-to-one program to help cover maintenance costs.
• It’s time to rethink the money we are spending on textbooks. Digital content and mobile technologies allow schools to access free/open content and pay only for what you really need and plan to use.
• Consistency and continuity are important considerations in districts with grade-specific one-to-one programs. Once students have had 24/7 access, there will be “push-up” demand on the grades that follow. How will you meet that need?
• Before launching your own program, talk to or visit at least 10 districts and cherry-pick what works for you.
• Thorough planning is important, but anticipate that you will need to modify as things unfold. Always be prepared to go to plan B (or C or D).