The Hard(ware) Choice | November 2012 Digital Edition

Chromebooks: Leyden Community High School District 212

Bryan Weinert
Director of Technology
Leyden Community High School District 212
Franklin Park, IL
Year Implementation Began: 2012
About the Program:  3,390 Chromebooks have been issued to students in all grade levels at this two high school district.

Editor's note: This special Web supplement features the unabridged responses from districts regarding their 1-to-1 computing programs. Edited responses originally appeared in the November 2012 digital edition of T.H.E. Journal. Use the navigation bar at right to browse additional responses.

THE: What were your district's three key considerations when researching devices to support your 1-to-1 initiative? (i.e., cost, server-based, existing infrastructure, vendor support, etc.) Why?

Weinert:

  • Finding a device that could be “invisible” in the classroom. We want teachers teaching and students learning; we don’t want them spending time dealing with tech setups, troubleshooting, and other issues.
  • Finding a device that allowed the most flexibility in its uses. We want our teachers and students to be as creative as possible and have the ability to use as many different resources, tools, and activities as they can dream up. All of these need to have the ability to be quickly and easily implemented without any obstacles getting in the teachers’ and students’ way.
  • Finding a device that would allow us to focus more on instruction and less on logistics while planning and implementing our 1-to-1 program. We want to focus as much time as possible on professional development and instructional support for our teachers and less time worrying about things like retrofitting our old buildings with more electricity.

THE: There is significant research that a district must do before they can make an educated decision on which device is best for their 1-to-1 initiative. Please describe which resources were most helpful to your district while researching devices.

Weinert: The four most helpful resources to our district while researching devices were our own internal pilot program, participating in the 2011 Summer Connection hosted by the Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina, the site visit to the Council Bluffs Community School District in Iowa, and the visit made to the Googleplex in Mountian View, CA.

    • Pilot Program - We ran a pilot for two years during which we had seven different district courses of varying levels in multiple departments that were scheduled into classrooms with dedicated sets of laptops and other technologies. We were able to experiment with different devices and learn a great deal about how to scale our pilot into a full 1-to-1 implementation.
    • 2011 Summer Connection - We sent 11 members from our district including the Board of Education president, a second Board member, Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, Director of Technology, a principal, an assistant principal, a couple academic department chairs, and the president of our teachers’ union to Mooresville Graded School District for their three day learning extravaganza during which they shared every aspect of how they’ve been successful in going 1-to-1 from planning through implementation.
    • Council Bluffs Visit - We sent our Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, one principal, and one assistant principal to visit three different 1-to-1 schools in Iowa, with the visit to Council Bluffs being especially valuable since they were using the device we were most considering.
    • Googleplex Visit - After having two Googlers visit our district for a couple days, we sent the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, Director of Technology, and one assistant principal to Mountain View, CA to meet with the entire Chromebook team to outline some of the things that we were hoping to accomplish by going 1-to-1 and to learn how Google would help support us if we decided to choose the Chromebook.

THE: Why did the Google Chromebook stand out as the device that would best meet your district's key considerations? What other devices made your short list, and what features or functionality did the Chromebook provide that those other devices didn't?

Weinert: The Google Chromebook quickly vaulted to the top of our list shortly after we obtained two class sets and wheeled them into two of our 1-to-1 pilot classrooms and wheeled out the netbooks we had been using. The more we learned from our own experiences and the more we learned about the new devices from the Chromebook support team, the more we realized that they were the right device for our district.

    • They are “invisible” - The eight-second startup time and instant-on after closing the lids allows our teachers to maximize their instructional time. The ChromeOS operating system always works without any need for troubleshooting or tech support. By logging into the Chromebooks, the students are automatically authenticated to all of their Google Apps. Overall, the teachers are teaching and the students are learning during every class period without the technology getting in the way.
    • They allow flexibility - Having the power and the freedom of the Web at their fingertips allows our teachers and students to find and use as many resources and tools as they need. This includes taking notes, collaborating on papers, creating videos and other media projects, accessing current information, writing blogs for a public audience, connecting with students in other schools around the world, and a lot more. All of this is quickly and easily orchestrated by the teachers and students with minimal tech support.
    • The focus is on instruction and not on logistics - The 8+ hour battery life allows us to require students to bring a charged device to school every day and did not require us to plan for or worry about electrical needs for the devices. The minimal tech support required to support these devices allowed us to hire two full-time instructional tech coaches instead of hiring more tech support personnel. The no-touch setup eliminated the need for hours of configuring the devices and students could begin using them immediately after the shipments arrived. The management of the users and devices is all done through the web-based Google Apps control panel and not a separate system which allows for system-wide changes to be pushed out in seconds so the teachers and students can efficiently obtain the resources they need.

THE: What role did your IT and curriculum departments play in the decision-making process?

Weinert: The decision-making process was a collaborative effort by various faculty, staff, and administrators. We utilized a number of different committees to work on various aspects of the research and planning of our district’s digital evolution.

    • Admin Council - Weekly meetings were held over the course of an entire school year to talk about and discuss the digital evolution of our district.
    • Technology Planning Committee - One teacher from every academic department was assembled into a committee that met almost once a month.
    • School Improvement Team (SIT) - A collection of teachers, department chairs, and administrators make up our School Improvement Team and they used part of their meeting times to discuss various digital evolution topics.
    • Curriculum Advisory Council (CAC) - At least one teacher from every academic department participates in our CAC and dedicated some of their time last year to discussing how going 1-to-1 would affect our curriculum.
    • Technology Department - The tech department learned and reported on the management and tech support requirements for Chromebooks.

THE: Describe the deployment process. Were there any infrastructure upgrades that needed to be made? How was professional development handled, and how did you ensure teacher buy-in? Were parents involved in any training?

Weinert:

Infrastructure
During the digital evolution of our district over the past 10+ years, we upgraded our network infrastructure each year and did not need to do anything special the year immediately prior to going 1-to-1. With that said, it is essential to have a robust wireless infrastructure with complete facility coverage and sufficient bandwidth for going 1-to-1.

Professional Development
We have always provided professional development opportunities for our teachers in the form of before/after school workshops, institute days, internally run courses for teachers to obtain salary schedule “credits,” lunch-and-learns, and personal training sessions. The big difference once we announced that we were going 1-to-1 in the 2012-2103 school year is that more teachers began participating. The obstacle of getting access to using what they would learn at one of our professional development sessions was being removed and all teachers could begin implementing just about any web-based technology they wanted. A few extra professional development opportunities that we offered in the year prior to going 1-to-1 included the following:

    • An institute day dedicated to training all teachers on Google Docs, Google Forms, and Google Sites.
    • A 6 hour block of time over two days to learn about and practice using the new learning management system, OpenClass, that we rolled out for all teachers, students, and courses as part of going 1-to-1.
    • With support from Google, we hosted an optional two-day mini-conference a few days after the school year ended. We brought in a dozen highly respected EdTech enthusiasts and specialists from around the country to run workshops for our teachers.
    • The Director of Technology started a blog with tips, tricks, information, and resources that teachers could tap into to help expand their teaching toolbox.
    • Before/after school workshops were held specifically to introduce teachers to the power of Twitter for expanding their personal learning networks.
    • A Tech Corner section was added to the weekly faculty bulletin that featured a new tool each week.
    • A digital evolution website was started for the district to stay current on the research and planning for going 1-to-1 which included Google Forms to obtain their feedback and share resources.

Teacher Buy-In

    • Many teachers were involved in the various planning committees and, through the structure of our inservice days when the academic departments meet for an hour every Wednesday morning before classes begin, the teachers were able to collect and share information.
    • Weekly updates were added to our digital evolution website to be as transparent as possible through the entire research and planning phases.
    • Chromebooks were purchased for every department at the ratio of about one device for every five department members. Teachers had the opportunity to get their hands on the devices to play and experiment.
    • The tremendous support from Google and the Chromebook team was a significant benefit.

Parent Training
All parents were required to attend a 1-to-1 orientation meeting prior to their student receiving a Chromebook. We began these in June of 2012 and continued them throughout the summer.

Tech Support Intern Class (TSI)
It is significant to note that we added a new Tech Support Intern class to our Business Education department to serve as the front line of support for all students and teachers during the school year. This is an elective course and our students are not only providing tech support for the district, but they also choose a pathway of learning to specialize in: certification pathway (IC3, Google Apps, MOS, A+, or NET+), programming/networking pathway, communications pathway, Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) pathway, Google Apps development pathway, or they can submit a proposal for an independent study pathway.

THE: Since the deployment of the Chromebooks, have there been any considerations that weren't weighted heavily during the research process but have come to have a significant impact on the success of the initiative since the deployment?

Weinert: So far, there have not been any considerations that weren’t weighted heavily during the research process that have impacted the success of us going 1-to-1. We were concerned about the durability of the Chromebook enough that we purchased extra devices to serve as loaners for students that have devices in need of repair. Given the limited availability of Chromebook screens in the market, the only thing we should have done differently is probably order more Chromebooks to serve as loaners at each of our schools.

THE: Can you provide some additional details on your 1-to-1 initiative? For example, how many devices have been deployed? Which grades are involved in the initiative? Do the devices go home with the students?  

Weinert: We are a two high school district and currently have 3,390 Chromebooks issued to our students in all grade levels. The devices have been checked out to the students for use both in and out of school. They do take them home. We are now moving into our second month of being 1-to-1 and have seen tremendous successes all around the district in our classrooms, in our study halls, and even in the hallways. While most of our evidence is primarily anecdotal and from observations, we are in the process of compiling some data.

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