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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 😉
The first post of a 4-part series on 1:1 at Leyden High Schools. Jason Markey, principal of East Leyden High School
Leyden High School District, located just outside of Chicago, serves the communities of Franklin Park, Schiller Park, River Grove, Rosemont, and parts of Northlake and Melrose Park. Our two high schools serve just over 3,500 students.
I’m excited about Leyden sharing our 1:1 journey in hopes that we can help schools realize the potential of access for all students and to allow all of us to learn from others along the way. One of the most important parts of our digital evolution has been the conversations, visits, and meetings that we have been fortunate to have with districts from Iowa, South Carolina, Massachusetts and many others. But the most important part of any school’s development of vision is to understand “the why.” So that’s where we started.
A few months ago, the importance of starting with the why was made even more clear to me when I read a blog post by Carmela Ianni highlighting Simon Sinek’s TEDx Talk. So the center of our “golden circle,” the answer to the question why 1:1, has always been because it will provide opportunities for our students that are simply not possible without anytime, anywhere access to the web.
So what opportunities specifically?
The opportunity to ensure that great teaching and learning can happen in all classrooms and not be dependent upon access.
The opportunity to collaborate both synchronously and asynchronously with other students seamlessly.
The opportunity for students to receive more timely and specific feedback from teachers.
The opportunity for students to create a positive digital footprint with learning being public on the web.
The opportunity for students to generate more writing and create more authentic representations of their learning than ever before.
The opportunity for students to choose how they present their learning.
Leveling the playing field for access for all our students.
The opportunity to remove the ceiling on what they can learn and share. We purposely did not set a finite goal on what outcome we want to see as “results” of 1:1 because what we truly want is for each student to be able to follow their passion in learning and allow that to take them to new possibilities.
Equally important as considering the why, is considering the why not. I recently wrote a brief blog post on considering the opportunity cost of not choosing 1:1. I strongly believe if 1:1 is honestly considered, the only roadblock for districts considering 1:1 is the fear of managing the logistics. Our next blog post in this series will cover how we have addressed the many logistical concerns of a 1:1 initiative. One of the most important decisions that made our logistical concerns much easier to address was our device selection, the Chromebook.
So the question we have answered the most since last December when we publicly made our decision is “why the Chromebook?” Often the question is phrased something like this, “so why didn’t you choose iPads, and aren’t Chromebooks just the web?” As I wrote here in my blog, yes they are a web-based and web-managed device, and that is actually an incredible advantage over many other potential devices. Ryan Bretag wrote a great blog post on this topic, “The Internet as a Belief System”. Again, many more technical specifics will be discussed in our next post, but when we considered a device we looked for something that could ensure our resources, both time and money, were focused more on student learning rather than supporting the technology. I am so excited to report that we launched 3,500 devices in our two high schools this year and we have not hired one additional person in our tech department. We have put into place two instructional coaches specializing in integrating technology and a new course called Tech Support Internship (TSI). TSI is our “frontline” tech support now for students and teachers in addition to being so much more for our students. Again resources supporting learning, not technology. In the final post of this series we will highlight our TSI class.
I hope this has been a good introduction as to the “why” we chose 1:1 and Chromebooks for our students. Please do not hesitate to follow up with me here. Also, we are opening our doors at Leyden for two school visit dates this fall and a conference in the summer. If you are interested, please see more information here.
Post #2 – The Logistics of 1:1 at Leyden
Post #3 – From the Classroom – How Learning is Evolving with Access for All
Post #4 – Student Tech Support – Student Ownership of 1:1
The National Association of Science Teachers reports that we currently have approximately 180,000 science teachers in middle schools and high schools. We could replace all of them (which I hasten to add is not necessary) and give their successors full 4-year scholarships as science majors to the State University of New York (where in-state tuition and fees run about $7,000 per year) for less than half the cost of a single $11 billion Nimitz Class aircraft carrier. With the money left over, we could buy new inquiry-based science curricula for every elementary and middle school, train all existing elementary school teachers on the new Next Generation Science Standards, and provide high-quality professional development for every math teacher in the country.
Here’s a short video highlighting what flexible classroom furniture might look like in schools and universities. Other than the assumption that the default setup of the classroom is students in rows facing the front, I like the ideas shown here. What do you think? Are you doing something like this in your classrooms?
Here are some additional thoughts of my own. These are not all-encompassing – I have additional questions and concerns – but they do constitute a few important issues that caught my attention. I’m also intentionally not commenting on topics for which I’m fairly ambivalent (e.g., charter schools) or don’t know enough (e.g., teacher salary schedules and compensation tiers) and instead will leave those to others who care or know more than I do.
Failing 3rd graders fails our 3rd graders
I’ll pick the low-hanging fruit first. Failing 3rd graders who can’t pass some reading assessment is a really, really bad idea. It doesn’t matter how many safeguards and second chances there are and I understand why the policy is being proposed (both educationally and politically). The bottom line is that, regardless of the ‘social promotion’ rhetoric and whatever gut intuition parents or policymakers may have, the research evidence is overwhelmingly unidirectional that in-grade retention does far more harm than good. Desired test score increases often never materialize and, even if they do, they usually don’t persist past a few years. One of the stronger and consistent findings in educational research is that, in the long run, in-grade retention is at best a long-term wash score-wise and the resultant negative impact on students’ psyches and their likelihood to graduate is horrific. The Governor and DE don’t get to advocate for research-driven practices in other parts of the Blueprint but ignore that requirement here.
We can visualize a box that represents the day-to-day occurrences within a classroom or other learning environment. That box is the most important aspect of schooling: if what students and teachers do on a daily basis in their learning-teaching interactions doesn’t change substantially, all hope of achieving ‘world class schools’ in Iowa vanishes. WE LEARN WHAT WE DO. There are a variety of inputs (e.g., standards, curricula, teacher quality, funding and resources, school structures, technology infrastructure, laws and policies) that hopefully impact what occurs inside the box. We also look at what comes out of the box (e.g., student knowledge, skills, and dispositions) to see if what we wanted to happen actually did happen. This is a classic Input-Process-Output systems model (that hopefully is accompanied by a recursive feedback loop that informs the system).
There are 85 main bullet points, or action ideas, in the Blueprint. As you can see in my annotated version of the Blueprint, I tried to place each action idea into one of three categories: Input, Process, or Output (coded I, P, & O in the document). You are welcome to disagree with my categorizations (and I admit I struggled with some of them), but the evidence is quite stark that the Blueprint is overwhelmingly focused on inputs and outputs and gives very little attention to the day-to-day learning and teaching processes that occur between students and teachers.
This is unsurprising. This is traditional school reform stuff:
We’ll change some inputs; let’s try better teachers and higher standards. Oh, and we’ll also change some structures around. How about reallocating some monies, reorganizing traditional schools a bit, and allowing for charter and online schools? On the back end, we’ll assess like crazy by changing our tests or using new and/or additional ones.
In the end, we change only a little and, if we’re lucky, we see a little change in results. This is the way most states do it, but it’s neither the only way nor the required way. Where in the Blueprint is the recognition that we need to do something DIFFERENT in our classrooms? Where’s the acknowledgment, for example, that we need to invest heavily in teachers’ ability to facilitate learning environments that foster higher-order thinking skills (an increasing necessity these days)? Where’s extensive language about better facilitating student engagement in their courses? There’s virtually nothing about students’ interest in what they’re supposedly learning. There’s nary a bullet point about student hands-on or applied or problem-based learning or authentic intellectual work (a great program already being piloted by DE, by the way). To the extent that PBL and AIW and similar issues are addressed at all, the Blueprint does so indirectly; all hopes lie with effective implementation of the Iowa/Common Core and the Smarter Balanced assessments. Instead of just holding educators ‘accountable’ on the front and back ends of the process, how about directly investing in them so that they actually can be successful? The overwhelming emphasis of the Blueprint is on accountability rather than capacity-building. Go ahead and do a search in the Blueprint for the terms training or professional development or capacity; you won’t find anything. If DE and the Governor are truly serious about ‘world class schooling’ in Iowa, they should be focusing heavily on the Process box – the day-to-day learning and teaching processes occurring in classrooms all across the state – and right now they’re not.
It’s a globally-connected world out there, but the Blueprint primarily focuses on globalization as an economic force to which we must respond, not a societal / learning / citizenship issue to which we should attend for mutual benefit and empowerment. The Blueprint also says that Iowa students and graduates need to be internationally competitive but most of what it proposes is vastly different from what other countries are doing to achieve better results. The Blueprint contains no significant investment in teacher capacity-building, no emphasis on early childhood education, no amelioration of the impacts of family and neighborhood poverty on learning, and no recognition of the importance of strategic foreign language learning (particularly at younger ages), just to name a few.
It’s also a digital world out there, but you wouldn’t know it given the lack of emphasis placed on technology in the Blueprint. For example, only nominal attention is paid to online learning, despite the fact that it’s booming nationwide and despite Iowa’s meager offerings compared to other states. Even though Iowa ranks abysmally low when it comes to Internet speed and access, there’s nothing regarding the importance of universal statewide broadband Internet access for both educational and economic development purposes. Most damning, there’s absolutely no recognition of the power and potential of digital technologies to transform learning, teaching, and schooling, despite the rapid and radical reshaping of every other information-oriented societal sector by digital tools and the Web. In the world of the Blueprint, it’s as if computers and the Internet essentially didn’t exist. Go ahead and do a search in the Blueprint for the terms Internet or digital or technology; the omissions are quite alarming, actually. There’s one meager shout-out to the rapid growth in 1:1 laptop initiatives across the state, but no support for giving every Iowa child a powerful digital learning device, for providing technology integration assistance for educators, for upgrading woeful infrastructures, for rethinking policies, or for anything else of substance when it comes to educational technology. It’s 2011. Personal computers have been around for three decades and the Internet has been around for at least a dozen years for most of us. Digital technologies are transforming how Iowans and the world connect, collaborate, and LEARN; this omission is both sad and shameful.
A lost opportunity
There are a few things that I’m glad the Blueprint included. Although there is only a single bullet point referencing competency-based (rather than age-based) student progression, if done well that one thing alone has the potential to significantly and positively reshape much of how we do education in Iowa. I also like the willingness to invest in district-level innovation and to give districts some flexibility. The proof of most of this, like everything else, will depend on the legislative language and the resources committed.
As I think about the Blueprint as a whole (and we are encouraged by the document to treat it as ‘a set of changes designed to work together’), it feels like a lost opportunity. The Governor and DE had the chance to dream big and swing for the fences. They had the chance to propose impactful, sweeping changes to the current system. They had the chance to create learning and teaching environments that prepare students for the next 50 years rather than the last 50 and to educate the public as to why those changes are necessary. The Blueprint rhetoric is right but the action items fall far short. I don’t know if it’s a lack of knowledge or vision or courage that’s holding them back, and of course there are political considerations with all of this. But the result is a a tweak of the current system, a tinkering at the edges rather than a rethinking of the core. Perhaps it’s foolish of me to wish for more.
This post is not about knocking P-12 athletic programs. But budgets are pretty tight right now and any financial expenditure reflects decisions about priorities. So in the interest of fostering some conversation …
How much money does your school district spend per year on athletics?
How many student/teacher laptops (at, say, $1,400 apiece) would that buy?
Which offers greater benefits for students and/or the district (short term and/or long term)?
It’s the first day of school here in Ames, Iowa. In past years, I’ve posted the following checklist, wondering if schools have made any improvement since the previous fall.
This year you have two ways to participate…
Download this checklist in Excel. Enter the name of your school organization and fill in your ratings (editable areas are in yellow). Click on the Chart tab at the bottom, then print. Disseminate broadly!
Feel free to use and distribute the Excel file and/or the survey link as desired. If you would like to conduct this online survey within your school organization, contact me about hosting a version just for you (at no cost). Hope you made some real progress since last year!
If a teacher gets it, a classroom changes. If a principal gets it, the whole building begins to change. If a superintendent gets it, the whole district begins to change. [And, if state or federal policymakers get it, the statewide or nationwide climate begins to change.]
Seems obvious, right? So why are so many government / corporation / foundation educational technology reform initiatives (money, time, training, energy, vision) focused on teachers, who at best are usually informal leaders, rather than formal leaders such as principals and superintendents? Do they want systemic change or just something they can tout for public relations purposes?
I’m all for investing in students and teachers when it comes to educational technology. But if we don’t also set aside some dedicated resources for formal leaders, the kind of changes we need are never going to happen.
ISTE’s Top Ten in ‘10 list of educational technology priorities for this year is a worthwhile read (hat tip to THE Journal). Some of its items are more vague than others. For example:
2. Leverage education technology as a gateway for college and career readiness. Last year, President Obama established a national goal of producing the highest percentage of college graduates in the world by the year 2020. To achieve this goal in the next 10 years, we must embrace new instructional approaches that both increase the college-going rates and the high school graduation rates. By effectively engaging learning through technology, teachers can demonstrate the relevance of 21st century education, keeping more children in the pipeline as they pursue a rigorous, interesting and pertinent PK-12 public education.
6. Leverage technology to scale improvement. Through federal initiatives such as i3 grants, school districts across the nation are being asked to scale up current school improvement efforts to maximize reach and impact. School districts that have successfully led school turnaround and improvement efforts recognize that education technology is one of the best ways to accelerate reform, providing the immediate tools to ensure that all teachers and students have access to the latest innovative instructional pathways. If we are serious about school improvement, we must be serious about education technology.
10. Promote global digital citizenship. In recent years, we have seen the walls that divide nations and economies come down and, of necessity, we’ve become focused on an increasingly competitive and flat world. Education technology is the great equalizer in this environment, breaking down artificial barriers to effective teaching and learning, and providing new reasons and opportunities for collaboration. Our children are held to greater scrutiny when it comes to learning and achievement compared to their fellow students overseas. We in turn must ensure that all students have access to the best learning technologies.
Those all sound great to me, but I confess that I need to think further about what these would look like in terms of specific legislation or policy initiatives that would be implemented. In other words, for what would we ask legislators and policymakers in order to make these happen?
Ask your legislator
Here in Iowa we’ve been having our own conversations about legislative and policy initiatives for which educators, school board members, business leaders, and others should be advocating. We may not know what the future of schooling is going to look like, but I think we can already identify at least some of what the key building blocks and policy levers are going to be. Here’s a quick list, in no particular order, of some things that we’ve been discussing:
Get every kid/home connected (universal broadband access, preferably wireless) [this also is an economic development priority, not just a schooling priority]
A computing device (probably a laptop) for every teacher
A computing device (probably a laptop) for every student (maybe start at the secondary level?)
Statewide curricula that emphasize critical policy needs (e.g., STEM, global awareness) and higher-order thinking skills (e.g., critical thinking; problem solving; synthesis and analysis of complex data to make meaning; creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship; reading, writing, and multimedia creation in digital, online, hyperconnected information spaces) rather than factual recall and low-level procedural knowledge [the Iowa Core initiative is intended to do this for our state]
Additional and/or different professional development initiatives that help educators (teachers AND administrators) implement the curricula described in Item 4
More online coursework options for students (e.g., a statewide virtual high school; the ability of districts to provide courses for others’ students) [Iowa students’ options in this area are anemic right now]
Different statewide assessments that better assess higher-order thinking skills rather than fact regurgitation
The creation of and/or permission to use low-cost or no-cost electronic textbooks and other online learning materials instead of paper texts
Greater flexibility for schools to repurpose existing funding streams (e.g., the ability to use textbook monies for computing equipment and learning software; removal of Iowa’s $500 minimum for equipment purchases)
Repeal or revise Dillon’s Rule here in Iowa, which is getting in the way of school district innovation (by essentially saying that if you don’t have express authority to do it, you can’t)
Ramp up the understanding of educators and citizens about needs and issues pertaining to 21st century teaching and learning, workforce development, and a globalized economy (e.g., a statewide publicity / visibility initiative aimed at educators, school board members, citizens and community members, business leaders, the press, and so on)
Utilize professional development, funding, accreditation, and/or promotion and tenure policies to make preservice educator preparation (teachers AND administrators) more relevant to new curricular and instructional paradigms
Okay, your turn
You’ve seen our list and ISTE’s. What would you add / change / delete? Contribute your ideas by January 20 and I’ll make a new list that we can collectively rank order in Part 2 of this series. Thanks for participating!