The Hard(ware) Choice | November 2012 Digital Edition

Android: CSD 158

Marissa Burkhart
Director of Educational Technology
Consolidated School District 158, Algonquin, IL
Year Deployment Began: 2012
About the Program: 1,100 Kuno Android tablets deployed to teachers and students in grades 3-5 at Martin Elementary School.

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?

Burkhart: The three main considerations we had when selecting devices were compatibility with curricular resources, ability to manage device, and cost. The focus of our 1-to-1 initiative is literacy. Our initiative is directly aligned to the roll out of Pearson Reading Street in a digital format, so our first priority was that it had to be compatible.  Manageability was also a huge factor because our first phase of this project is over 1,000 devices.  We were interested in being able to easily monitor what’s happening and deploy resources without significantly taxing our technicians. Cost is an important factor for us as well because we are funding this through repurposed textbook dollars. Digital curricular materials are finally being priced so that it is possible to purchase a device and digital materials at a cost similar to a physical text adoption. If this is going to work for us, we need a sustainable model that we can support year after year. Therefore, selecting a lower cost device that can accomplish our curricular goals was a priority.

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.  

Burkhart: We did a lot of web searching to take a look at what other districts are doing. The main decision for us was Laptop, Chromebook, iPad, or Tablet. Some of that was easy. We immediately excluded the iPad because of some compatibility issues. Also, based on our current experience with about 150 iPads in the district, we weren’t pleased with the options for managing them.  Most of our research was internal in terms of testing the curricular resources on the devices. Ultimately, our team all agreed that although we need to select a device, our initiative really isn’t about the device at all.  I really believe that because our goals are specifically tied to curricular objectives, it simplified the decision making process.

THE:  Why did the Kuno tablet 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 Kuno tablet provide that those other devices didn't?

Burkhart: The Kuno stood out to us because it addressed our key considerations of compatibility, manageability and cost effectiveness. The management features of KUNO and Curriculum Loft actually exceeded our expectations. When a student logs into their tablet, they see our district home screen and have access only to the content and apps we provide. Not only are we able to deploy weblinks and android apps through a cloud based management system, we can also build a library of documents, videos, links, teacher materials, etc., in the cloud and push the to the student tablets based on their course enrollment. It’s incredibly easy to use and has helped us effectively implement our literacy program. This repository of content can also be leveraged immediately when we continue this program in two more schools that house the same grade levels next year.

From the technical perspective, not only are we able to deploy apps, we are also able to apply wifi network passkeys, lock students out of the android interface, and filter the tablet’s browsing capabilities on networks outside of our district.

Our short list also included Google Chromebooks, which offer a similar concept of managing content in the cloud. We ultimately thought the management capabilities were greater with the KUNO, and weren’t in favor of the monthly fees associated with extended management services with Chromebook although it’s my understanding that those fees no longer exist. Additionally, KUNO and the Pearson etext app allowed for a lot of offline functionality that the Chromebook did not. We also thought that although the app environment wasn’t a top priority, the android environment gave us more productivity and creative options that the Google web app environment did.

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

Burkhart: This decision was really driven by the curriculum department because of the direct correlation to our literacy adoption. Our IT staff participated in the selection team, and served in a consultative fashion to help discern which products would best integrate into our current environment.

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?  

Burkhart: In preparation for the 1-to-1 initiative we upgraded with wireless N capable access points with new Cat 6 cabling.   We also upgraded the core and edge switches with 10GB capable equipment for the future needs and increased the campus building-to-building connection to 10GB to eliminate any through put issue between the building and the campus core.  These infrastructure changes began in May and carried on throughout the summer.

When the KUNOs arrived, we had a host of volunteer teachers and staff that assisted with unboxing, barcoding, unwrapping, and inserting the tablets in their cases. Once the tablets were organized, we were ready to implement our in-class registration model. Each student needs to initialize the device and sign in with their personal account. Curriculum Loft provided on site support. Over a series of about four days, we visited every classroom and walked the students through setting up their devices and registering them. They were long days, but exciting ones, and at the end 1,054 students had their own tablet.

The following week, parents were required to attend a training session facilitated with our classroom teachers. Parents came in, learned how to use the tablet, were able to talk with teachers and administrators about any questions they had, and sign an agreement to allow their student to begin taking the tablet home. Over the course of four days, we had 99 percent of our parents attended. It was very successful and we received great feedback from parents.

When we selected the KUNO tablets, we knew we had a timing issue to deal with. The KUNO 3 was scheduled to arrive around August 1 – just weeks before deployment. Because of this, we began training our staff in Reading Street in May so that they had time to become comfortable with the content. Once the technology was in place, we had multiple trainings with teachers before the start of school and continue to have them. We have instituted TAC days (Tech And Curriculum) where students assemble to participate in PBIS activities while teachers receive training or collaboration time.  We’ve been fortunate to have great staff buy-in, but I’ll again connect that back to our clear curricular goals. I think staff buy-in is high because we aren’t just buying technology, we are implementing a digital literacy program, and literacy is something that all teachers understand – regardless of their technology expertise.

THE: Since the deployment of the Kuno tablets, 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?  

Burkhart: Kuno tablets have an optional filtering system through a third-party vendor that we purchased. We didn’t really consider the details on this when we decided to include it. We’ve had some technical difficulty getting the filter set up because we weren’t really aware of how it worked. Additionally, adding another layer of filtering has opened a lot of questions from parents and teachers on both ends of the spectrum regarding sites that should and shouldn’t be blocked offsite. This has encouraged more communication between home and school about internet safety and has been a healthy discussion, but something we didn’t really expect.

We also didn’t really take vendor support into consideration, but we sure ended up on the right side of that decision.  I was expected to handle implementation internally and had organized it as such, but the three days of on-site support were invaluable. Their support team exceeded expectations and after implementation, they continue to be engaged in what we do. Having a vendor-partner like Curriculum Loft has made a difference in our 1-to-1 project.

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

Burkhart: We’ve deployed about 1,100 tablets to teachers and students in grades three through five at Martin Elementary School. The students do take the devices home. August of 2012 was the first year of deploying the devices.