The Hard(ware) Choice | November 2012 Digital Edition

Macbooks: Piedmont City Schools

Matt Akin
Piedmont City Schools, Piedmont, AL
Year Deployment Began: 2010
About the Program: 850 Laptops Deployed to all students in grades 4-12, students have devices 24/7.  Additionally, district is participating in an FCC/E-rate pilot that provides internet access at home to students (FCC- Learning on the Go)

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.

Earlier this year, we conducted a longer interview with Akin about his district's technology use.

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?

Akin: Our first consideration was ease of use. We wanted a device that we could put in the hands of students and staff and it would work, simply and reliably. Next we considered cost. Not just the cost of the device, but the longterm cost of repair/support, upgrades, and software. Finally, we valued creativity. We wanted a device that not only offered our users the ability to consume but to also create.

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. 

Akin: The best resource for us was speaking with other school districts that were using various devices. We were fortunate that we were able to speak with and visit districts using various devices.

THE: Why did MacBooks 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 MacBooks provide that those other devices didn't?

Akin: We began with a small technology staff - one person. Our Director of Technology is responsible for all things that are related to technology (networks, repair, E-rate, grants, planning, PD). Therefore, we needed a device that was going to work with little technical support. As I previously stated, we were also looking for a device that had the software as part of the operating system that allowed for creativity. Ultimately, we felt that the Macbook was the best solution for our needs.

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

Akin: We had a district-wide Technology Integration team that was established as a result of an Enhancing Education Through Technology-2 grant. This team consisted of district administrators, district technology staff, teachers, school level administrators and parents. This team made the recommendation of which device to deploy.

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? 

Akin: My Director of Technology, Rena Seals, developed an incredibly organized deployment process.  

Pre-Deployment Activities included:
Major Upgrade to network to provide Wireless-n (802.11n)
Laptop Image prepared and tested
Create network organization to include logins for all students
Create and Print ID and Login Cards for all students (attach to district provided backpacks)

Teachers volunteered many hours the week before deployment to assist with imaging process, organize and prepare backpacks

The deployment occurred at school on Parent Night. Parents received training on  computer basics, required use policy, and CIPA. Teachers, principals, and central office administration all were a part of the process.

THE: Since the deployment of the MacBooks, 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?  

Akin: We underestimated an increase enrollment. I would suggest that a district needs at least a 15 percent surplus of laptops. Sometimes things happen, a screen gets broken or there is spill damage. Ultimately, we have to be able to quickly put a replacement computer in a student's hands. If a student is in class without a computer, they are like a fish out of water.

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

Akin: 850 laptops have been deployed to all students in grades 4 through 12. The students have their devices 24/7. It’s very important to note that we are participating in an FCC/E-rate pilot that provides internet access at home to students (FCC- Learning on the Go). Our first year of 1-to-1 was 2010-11. We piloted the project in grades 9 through 12 in 2009-2010.

About the Author

Jennifer Demski is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, NY.