The Hard(ware) Choice | November 2012 Digital Edition

Netbooks: Godfrey-Lee Public Schools

Daniel Townsend
Technology and Media Supervisor
Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, Wyoming, MI
Year implementation began: 2009
About the Program: 600 Dell Latitude 2100 & 2110 netbooks deployed over 3 grade levels at Lee Middle and High School, with plans to deploy an additional 450 netbooks over the next three years for full 1-to-1 implementation in grades 6-12.

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?

Townsend: The first key consideration was cost. We really wanted to ensure that this program would be sustainable in the future without ever having to Bond or Borrow dollars. By reallocating our textbook budget we were able to create a reliable budget for one-to-one.

The second consideration was size and durability; we wanted to find a device that our students could easily take around the building while still being rugged enough to withstand the everyday use by students.

The third key consideration was how much time our department would spend reimaging and upgrading these devices during the summer. With a limited staff and increasing number of devices, we wanted to spend the least amount of time imaging these mobile devices so we could spend more time working on improving the overall experience with technology.

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.

Townsend: Learning how other districts were implementing their one-to-one was the most valuable resource for us. Online research and personal visits to districts turned out to be a great factor in making our decision as to what device to implement. Taking a survey of our users to see what they were comfortable with was also a deciding factor. We still evaluate which device we implement on a yearly basis. We partnered with the One-to-One institute, who helped us in the initial planning stages of the program. We also utilized resources and contacts from 1-to-1 Laptop Schools, a social community for one-to-one districts.

THE: Why did netbooks running ubermix 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 these netbooks provide that those other devices didn't?

Townsend: Netbooks running ubermix stood out to us initially because the ubermix platform created an easy to install, quick, clean, teacher resourceful, open-sourced environment. The open sourced resources that come pre-loaded on Ubermix encouraged our teachers to use these resources in the classroom. These same resources can be downloaded for free and used at the students home, where learning should continue. Pricey software applications hindered the district from providing those resources to students at home in the past. At the time of implementation we were heavily considering MacBooks, and essentially it came down to cost, comfortability and ease of support.

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

Townsend: Our IT and curriculum department played the most important role in this decision making process. Together we researched and developed a plan to implement the devices, technically support the devices as well as design an extensive professional development  plan that supports not only the 1-to-1 program, but all technology in the district.

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?

Townsend: When we deployed the devices we rolled out a few communal carts of netbooks with little to no expectations. We wanted students to acclimate to the devices before we started the 1-to-1 initiative for that grade level. Teachers would check out a cart and use it in that classroom for the day. We structured a two-and-a-half day professional development event during the summer to focus on curriculum integration, as well as ongoing support from our Tech Integration Specialist that included lesson planning and course development. We solicited teacher buy-in by providing the PD opportunities as well as compiling a list of online resources to help integrate technology into their planning. Parents were not involved in trainings since we do not allow devices to go home.

THE: Since the deployment of the netbooks, 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?

Townsend: We did not spend enough time planning out our network. We implemented a wireless network infrastructure, but overlooked the intensity that the devices would have on our network. We have since spent a significant amount of money to revamp our network and proactively structure it to support devices for the next five years at least.

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?  

Townsend: Currently we have 600 devices over three grade levels, including some high school. We plan to add about 450 devices within the next three years. This will allow us to be 1-to-1 in grades 6 through 12. Our devices do not go home with the students at this time although we consider the possibility from time to time.  Our first year of implementation was 2009 and our research began in 2007.

About the Author

Jennifer Demski is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, NY.