Mobile Computing

5 Must-Haves for Any 1-to-1 School

Plano ISD manages a 1-to-1 environment with 52,000 Chromebooks. Here, two tech administrators share the five essential tools that make it all work.

5 Must-Haves for Any 1-to-1 School

With roughly 52,000 students and a slightly larger number of Chromebooks sharing the same classroom spaces, the Plano Independent School District recently joined the ranks of other K-12 organizations investing in large scale 1-to-1 computing environments. In our quest to connect teachers and students to powerful digital tools, content and ideas, the potential advantages of ubiquitous access to technology and the Internet proved too great to ignore. But so are the possible pitfalls too significant to disregard, as the specter of digital distractions accompanies every single device we deploy.

Dubbed the "One2Web" initiative, Plano ISD's 1-to-1 program is addressing the challenge of managing a fleet of enterprise Chromebooks and all their associated resources. Here are the five tools we couldn't do it without.

1) Single Sign-on

Our single sign-on tool,ClassLink, is used by nearly everyone every day. Beyond providing one click access to the products we use to learn, teach and do the work of schooling, we also glean invaluable insights about how often other tools are being used.  Simply placing launchable tiles on our users' custom app dashboards serves to promote resources in a way that we haven't been able to achieve before now.  Said differently, ClassLink helps us encourage usage because there's nothing that says "click me" quite like a shiny new tile that's pushed out to everyone's personal "my apps" page.

With "quick cards", an authentication method that leverages QR codes instead of keyboard strokes, even our youngest students can access hundreds of instructional applications within seconds — even if they've never experienced a traditional login before.

2) Web Filtering and Classroom Management

Before rolling out the bulk of our 52,000 Chromebooks, we engaged groups of classroom teachers and campus administrators in a "pre-mortem" activity. During the exercise, we asked participants to imagine that our 1-to-1 project had been an abject failure. Then we asked the groups to think about all of the factors that likely would have contributed to that failure. Digital distractions kept bubbling to the surface as a consensus concern. Lost instructional time was also forecast as a separate but related culprit responsible for an unsuccessful implementation.

Armed with that valuable feedback, we decided to pair our student devices with a tool capable of mitigating those very real concerns. Teachers are responding very favorably to our decision to use GoGuardian to help classroom teachers manage, monitor and filter students' web activity on their Chromebooks.

3) Office and Productivity Suite

Plano ISD staff and students have been using G Suite for Education productivity and presentation tools for a very long time. Years before we started talking about our One2Web initiative, Google Drive, Docs and Classroom held a prominent place in this district's digital ecosystem.

Since we rolled out the Chromebooks, that G Suite for Education footprint has become even more pronounced. According to ClassLink's analytics module, Google Classroom has been launched more than 700,000 times since Aug. 1; that's a big number that doesn't even account for logins that occur outside of our Single Sign-On portal.

4) Instructional Content Creation

While pre-packaged content has proved to be a vitally important element within our instructional toolkit, we recognize that many teachers still want and deserve the autonomy to create their own digital materials and to enhance existing content through digital customizations and edits.

Most of us already believe, inherently, that a 1-to-1 classroom can afford students more opportunities and resources than would otherwise be available to them. But not everyone is immediately comfortable interacting with students in these newly constructed digital learning environments.Nearpod is a tool that has helped with that transition by easily converting existing, static, one-way content into interactive experiences replete with formative assessment options. Because it's so simple to use, we've enjoyed a strong adoption rate. During the first part of this school year, we've recorded more than 177,000 student joins to 8,600 launched sessions.

5) Cloud Printing Management

Despite our future-facing posture, Plano ISD is still operating inside the gap that exists between the printed past and the largely paperless future. Until that day arrives, we want to give our users the ability to get work done in the most efficient and effective way possible. Papercut NG enables our staff and students to print from their Chromebooks via Google Cloud Print to traditional Microsoft networked printers wirelessly.

Becoming a 1-to-1 environment does present new challenges along with additional opportunities and advantages, but by thinking ahead and anticipating them, they can be mitigated effectively.

About the Authors

Dan Armstrong is the assistant superintendent for technology services at the Plano Independent School District. He can be reached at [email protected].

Matt Frey serves as the executive director of instructional technology for the Plano Independent School District. He can be reached at [email protected].