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

With Paso Robles’ new BYOD policy, students are no longer expected to leave their technology behind when they arrive at school. Scott Knuckles admits that much of the motivation for going BYO, as opposed to one-toone, was financial—equipping every student with a device was not affordable at this time. 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 to an MP3 player to a smart phone to a laptop—that they can bring to school. Districtowned hardware supplements the students’ devices and makes it possible for them to stay after school to get homework done, if needed.

Beyond the cost savings, the open policy has the advantage of allowing students to work with the technology that they already know and love. 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 can happily take notes, fact check, and conduct other research on their mobile devices during class. Collaborative learning has taken off. “The best part,” says Knuckles, “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

For several years, the New Berlin district had been moving towards a one-to-one environment. Many devices— including netbooks for use in lower grades, laptops for secondary school, and iPads and iTouch devices for special education classes— had been purchased already. Adding a “bring your own” component for students in the middle and high school grades was the logical next step.

Larry Lueck emphasizes the importance of laying the groundwork, which has involved everything from building the wireless infrastructure to adopting a new Appropriate Use Policy to replace the more ban-oriented Acceptable Use Policy. The district also invested in professional development programs that emphasized the educational aspects of technology use.

In the first three months after the network was opened, the number of devices in use at school nearly doubled. Maintenance costs have been kept low because the personal devices are maintained primarily by their owners and there is less than 10 percent 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.

Tools They Use

• 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

“We have no problem giving each student a textbook so why not a computer?” —Patricia Haughney (CIO, Barrington CUSD 220, IL)

Barrington’s middle school one-to-one program reflects a commitment to digital equity for the district’s students, a number of whom do not have devices they can bring from home.

To prepare for their one-to-one program, a Linux-based wireless network was established with access points placed in strategic locations. The district adopted Google Apps and a variety of free and open resources for use by students and faculty alike. The district’s librarians also created a number of web-based textbook alternatives known as “lib guides.”

The one-to-one 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. The reception was so positive that other teachers were particularly motivated to join the program when it became available to them.


• HP 3115 Notebook computers
• Linux-based OS
• Cisco wireless network
• Moodle
• Google Apps, Glogster, and a variety of other Web 2.0 tools

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).