The Logistics of 1:1 Chromebooks at Leyden [guest post]

The second post in a series about 1:1 at Leyden
by Bryan Weinert, Director of Technology for Leyden CHSD 212
@LeydenTechies – Author of the Leyden Techies Blog

The wonderful thing about Chromebooks, is Chromebooks are wonderful things.
Their tops are made out of rubber, their bottoms are made out of springs.
They’re bouncy, flouncy, pouncy, trouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN!
The most wonderful thing about Chromebooks, is they’re the only one!

Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t be trying to write a blog post at the same time while watching my 15 month old daughter, but hopefully I got you started reading this with a smile.  This is the second post in the four-part series on going 1:1 with Chromebooks in our district that a few of my colleagues and I were asked to write for Scott McLeod’s amazing Dangerously Irrelevant blog.  Be sure to check out the first post in the series, Why 1:1? Why Chromebooks? written by Jason Markey, our principal at East Leyden High School.

Let me start by suggesting that one of the really wonderful things about Chromebooks is that they actually eliminate or simplify a number of logistics.  While researching and planning to go 1:1 in our district, this made the Chromebook an extremely attractive choice for us.  Far too often over the past 12 years that I’ve been the Director of Technology for our district did technology initiatives run into problems because of logistics.  The following are some of the key highlights that we’ve experienced so far.

SETUP

None.  Really, none.  We purchased enough devices that they came pre-setup with our wireless network configured and enrolled into our Google Apps domain.  We were able to take them out of the box and give them directly to students.

MANAGEMENT

We purchased our Chromebooks directly from Google so the management tools were included.  If you purchase them from a different vendor, you can contract with Google to add the management capabilities.  Basically, this adds a ChomeOS section to the Settings tab in your Google Apps for Education control panel.

Being web-based, I can quickly and easily manage our entire fleet from just about any web-based device I may be working on.  Some of the management features we have implemented through the control panel are as follows:

  • Proxy Server – We force all of our Chromebooks to communicate through a proxy server so that our students will always be working behind our firewall and content filter.  This was critical for us since our students take their devices home.
  • Screen Lock – We force all of our Chromebooks to be locked after a set amount of idle time or upon closing the lid.  The students can easily re-enter their passwords to pick up working where they left off.
  • Default Homepage – We control not only what the default homepage is for all of our students, but also define multiple different tabs to open each time they log into their device.  That has proved beneficial when we want to get particular information delivered to or highlighted for all of our students.  For example, we created a webpage about digital footprints that was the first page students saw for a week.
  • Account Access – We do not allow “guest mode” on our devices and only allow users within our domain to log in.
  • ChromeOS Updates – We have the ability to allow or prevent our Chromebooks to auto update and can restrict the version of ChromeOS our students are using.
  • Chrome Web Store – We currently allow our students full access to the Chrome web store, however, we can easily turn it off or restrict which resources our students have access to in the web store if necessary.
  • Apps & Extensions – We push out a base package of apps and extensions to all of our students to help standardize some of the tools and practices used in our district.  A few of the tools in our base package include the Google Tasks, Google Dictionary, and Readability extensions and the GeoGebra, Desmos Graphing Calculator, WeVideo for Drive, and Kindle Cloud Reader apps.

That’s about it.  It doesn’t seem like a lot and that’s really the beauty of it.  There just isn’t much to manage for a Chromebook environment.  I’d also like to note that if you have your Google Apps domain grouped into organizational units (OU), you can configure your management settings differently for each OU.

SOFTWARE

Once again, none.  There is no software to install and manage on the Chromebooks.  With our initiative to move teaching and learning to the Web, our teachers and students have the freedom and power to use just about any free tool or resource they choose.  In my opinion this can foster more student choice which could lead to more student engagement and creativity.  Check out one of my previous blog posts on this topic.

CHECK OUT

Because all of our Chromebooks are exactly the same and any user will have the same exact experience regardless of which device they use, we were able to randomly assign the Chromebooks to the students.  We built a system that was used during our registration/book pick-up day the week before school started that had a staff member scan a student’s ID badge, scan the Chromebook’s serial number, scan the Chromebook’s asset tag (self created), and then scan the power cord’s serial number to create a record in a database and officially assign the device to the student.

SUPPORT

One of the most exciting things we’ve done in conjunction with going 1:1 this year was to develop a new Tech Support Intern (TSI) class.  This is an elective course in our Business Education department that runs every period of the day and serves as the starting point for all of our teachers’ and students’ tech support needs.  More detailed information about this class will be featured in the fourth post of this series, so stay tuned.  For the purposes of this blog post, it’s important to note that we purchased 60 extra Chromebooks per school to serve as loaner devices that can be issued to students through the TSI class when they have a device in need of service.  Our goal was to never have a time when a student did not have a Chromebook.

POWER

This is one of the logistics that choosing Chromebooks completely eliminated for us.  With the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook battery lasting 8+ hours, we were able to require our students to bring a fully charged Chromebook to school every day and be assured that they’d be able to use it in every one of their classes.  Since this is a requirement, there are consequences for not bringing a Chromebook to school and for not having a charged device.  If students find themselves in either situation and need a device to participate in class, they can check out a loaner from the TSI class.  The TSI class keeps statistics on how many times a student checkouts out a loaner because they did not have their own to use and sends reports to our deans to assign the consequences.

DEVICE SAFETY AND SECURITY

We issued a protective case to all of our students and require them to carry their devices in those cases when not in class.  They are small enough to even fit in a backpack.  We’re hopeful this will cut down on the breakages.  To help prevent any mysterious disappearances, either on accident or on purpose, we had all of our Chromebooks laser engraved with the following text:

Property of Leyden High School District 212

If found or presented for sale,

please call 847-451-3017.

ID# 2012-2xxxx

In addition, we added a barcoded asset tag to each device with the number matching the engraved ID number on the device.  We outsourced the engraving and asset tagging work which was completed before we even took delivery of our Chromebooks.

INFRASTRUCTURE & BANDWIDTH

We currently have sufficient building-wide wireless coverage to ensure that our students can use their Chromebooks everywhere they need to.  In addition, we currently have a 250 MB Internet pipe for each of our two campuses.  So far, both the wireless infrastructure and our bandwidth are holding up.

CONCLUSION

I may have missed a few logistics topics, but am more than willing to field your questions, so feel free to contact me at , via Twitter @LeydenTechies, or through my blog at http://leydentechies.blogspot.com/.

I’ll wrap up by mentioning that we have been thrilled with the digital evolution of our district into a fully 1:1 environment and many of our success are a result of choosing to go with the Google Chromebook.  The most important factor to our success so far, of course, is our teachers.  We have incredibly talented teachers that have risen to the challenge of moving teaching and learning to the Web.  Because we didn’t have to hire any additional tech support or dedicate as much time, money, and resources to going 1:1 with Chromebooks as we may have needed to do with other devices, we were able to hire two full-time instructional tech coaches to support our teachers.  Please check back for the next post in this series, From the Classroom – How Learning is Evolving with Access for All, to learn more about the professional development we’ve done and the amazing things our teachers and students are now doing.

Thanks for taking the time to read through this post.  “When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”  Uh oh, guess it’s time to get back to my kids  ;-)

10 Responses to “The Logistics of 1:1 Chromebooks at Leyden [guest post]”

  1. I would have major concerns about my children attending a school that encouraged them to spend most of the day staring at their own computer screen instead of engaging in hands-on learning and problem solving.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics also supports limiting screen time for children over age 2 to only a couple of hours a day.

    http://safetynet.aap.org/internet.pdf

    It sounds like children in your district may be doubling that just during the hours they are at school, and at home they are presumably spending more time watching tv or playing on the computer.

    • I’ll let the Leyden folks respond to this concern in more detail, but I’m guessing that students there probably are NOT staring mindlessly into screens all day.

      I have a different ‘major concern’ – that the vast majority of students spend the vast majority of their school time passively listening to teacher lectures or doing mindless factual recall and other low-level mental work. This has far graver implications than giving students a robust computing device that allows them to be powerful self-learners and active participants in our global information commons.

      • I share your concern too, but that can be addressed in other ways that don’t involve lots of extra screen time for kids. For instance, having students work in small groups, and using Montessori methods and materials, which encourage higher-level thinking.

        • I agree with everything you say here. And yet… knowledge work in the real world (i.e., outside of school) is done with computers. Schools are supposed to be about knowledge work. Can we claim to be adequately preparing students to do real, authentic, meaningful knowledge work these days with notebook paper and ringbinders (i.e., without substantial presence and integration of computers)? Can we say that we’re preparing students to be ‘learners’ without regular and frequent use of the most powerful learning tools ever invented?

    • I completely agree that students should not be “staring at their own computer screen instead of engaging in hands-on learning and problem solving” and that is not what we are seeing in our classrooms at all. In fact, I’d argue that our student engagement has actually increased with the move to 1:1 and they are doing more hands-on learning, more problem solving, working more collaboratively, and have opportunities to be more creative than in the past. This ultimately comes down to professional development for the teachers and setting high expectations for our students and faculty.

    • As a teacher in the school, I can say that the level of technology use of the Chromebooks varies widely among classrooms. For example, in my French 1 class, my students use them very little in class because that level of language learning is very hands-on and the teachers in our department still teach it that way. Assuming that teachers just tell kids to open their Chromebooks and stare at them for 50 minutes a day is a rather horrific assumption of the role of teachers. What the Chromebooks have allowed me to do is to put all their resources online, readily accessible to students at any moment. This actually can leave me a lot of time to do more in-class practice and speaking activities, which, afterall, is why they’re taking my class!

  2. It would be interesting to hear from the teachers what unexpected ways they are using technology now that all students have computers.

    • Stay tuned for the next post in this series, From the Classroom – How Learning is Evolving with Access for All. I’m hearing that the author is planning to share lots of examples.

    • Hi Becky! Here are just a few small things I’ve done so far that I think have helped me decrease wasted time in class:

      1. I can have my students do a quick online “review” quiz to evaluate how well they’ve gotten the material without having to waste time finding computer lab time or moving the whole class to and from the computer lab.

      2. For certain projects, I can have the kids create a digital visual presentation, add their audio to it and then post it to a class site instead of spending 3 days listening to each kid get up and present a poster. This saves a lot of time and also allows me to add more small projects that show me how well they’ve mastered what I’ve been teaching.

      3. For my seniors, who use a university level textbook that is online, they can complete their homework and it self-checks so they can immediately see what they got correct or incorrect and then make corrections. I can always go online to see how they’ve done and it saves us in-class time because I don’t need to check their homework in class everyday. I can see whether or not they’ve done it, and how well they did it, online.

  3. Another great post about 1:1. I really appreciate the details about infrastructure and management. I’m curious how many users you have on your network. We only have a 100 mega-bit service for just under 2000 users. I think logistics are some of the main questions that schools have.

    To desmoinesdem… what about the jobs of the future? Will then not required the use of screens?

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