At a recent School Board meeting the head of IT for the district gave a presentation to the Board on the plan. As a follow-up we reached out to him as well as one of the Assistant Superintendents and asked a series of questions. The exact email exchange is shown below if you want to read it. For those of you who want a synopsis here it is:
- If they roll out computers to grades 3-12 that should equal ~11,000 students at a cost of ~$212 per unit (in 2016 dollars). This would work out to about $2.33 million. The 7th grade “test” will cost ~$88,000.
- There will be a “fee” per laptop (declining with multiple students in a family household) as “insurance” – the fee is not yet defined and is optional
- The actual choice of use is up to each teacher – there is no district policy
- While computers have lots of potential positive uses they are not the answer to education improvement
- Is “equity” a sound reason to provide computers to everyone?
- Studies show that computers can actually harm the educational experience (stay tuned for a blog story on this topic)
- Is this a good use of funds?
- Please reach out to us and/or the district with your questions so we can all learn
1) Why use 7th graders as a the roll-out population?
For the pilot, we need to start small. We chose middle schools because it allows us to work with fewer teachers than we would in a high school. We also wanted our pilot group to include the teacher/trainers in those buildings, so that led us to the 7th grade. These teachers are already trained to provide professional development with technology, so their presence benefits the program.
2) How many students do you expect to participate? (Number of students; # of teachers; # of schools and what portion of an IT support FTE?)
We are working with 17 teachers in the 3 middle schools: Pleasant Valley Middle School, Tukes Valley Middle School, and Amboy Middle School. Based on the last enrollment numbers I saw, the pilot will include 416 students, though this number could fluctuate up and down by a few students prior to 2nd semester. We are not adding IT support for this pilot (see the response to #11).
3) Will students and parents be notified ahead of the roll-out and if so how far ahead? Will they be given the opportunity to “opt-out” and not participate? If they do “opt-out” what are the implications?
Phone calls went out to parents of 7th graders last night and parent outreach nights are scheduled for after Thanksgiving. Parents will receive information about the program and the optional assurance plan at that time. If parents choose to opt out, their student would still have access to technology in the classroom.
4) Exactly what will the Chromebooks be used for in the classroom? If students do not participate will that affect their ability to learn/participate in class? What if they forget their unit but need it for class? Will there be “loaners” or other alternatives?
The chromebooks we are assigning to students will be used for the same types of activities that students are already doing with the chromebooks we have in schools. We have carts of chromebooks at every school already, so use of these tools is not new to the students or the teachers. There will be access to devices for the times when items are forgotten.
5) When will final details about the “coverage” program be available?
The form is being finalized now. Information will be ready prior to the parent outreach night.
6) Will students be allowed to use their own personal unit in place of the Chromebook (I think you said no)? If not can you summarize the reasons why?
Use of personal devices prevents the district from managing and supervising access on the device. The web filtering in use by the district will not work on personal devices outside the district and we have no ability to manage the system with the tools I mentioned in the board meeting.
7) Will you monitor all activities on the Chromebook? Email? Web browser? Can they watch YouTube? Use Twitter, Snapchat and other such services? Will there be reporting (and to who and who sees/reviews the data/reports) post fact or real time or? Will the students and parents be apprised of the details of what will be seen? Who will have access to the data gathered?
Student filtering is already in place and is required by the federal government to participate in erate, a funding tool in use to help offset the costs of telecommunications. This requirement has been in place from the inception of the program, which I believe was 1997. Battle Ground Schools has had web filtering in place since before I started with the district 17 years ago. There are far too many services to list as blocked or allowed but we do not allow Snapchat, Twitter or Facebook, as well as many others. Youtube is open to students in middle and high school due to the enormous amount of excellent educational content on that service. This access is forced into a “restricted” mode, which curtails much of the content that we do not need access to, similar to a “Safe Search” option in many search engines. There is no way any organization could manage or see what is happening in real time. There is simply too much. Similarly, providing reports on everything would also be unmanageable for any school. We do have a tool in place that allows the teacher visibility into what students are doing in Google including email, web, blogging, etc. The teacher can also see what students are doing in real time, and the teacher has controls to take screenshots of what students are doing and can control the sites a student is on. Last, we provide professional development to staff on topics dealing with the safe and responsible use of technology.
8) Are there written guidelines/training on acceptable and unacceptable behaviors and the consequences of deviations?
There has been an acceptable use policy and procedure in place since the district had access to the Internet, which precedes my time here. Please see Policy and Procedure 2022/P on the district’s website. You may also want to see Policy and Procedure 3207/P for the information on Cyberbullying, Intimidation and Harassment and 3241/P Classroom Management, Corrective Action/Punishment.
9) What if students don’t charge the laptops? Will there be recharging or other support services in each classroom?
Yes, there will be locations in each classroom for charging devices.
10) Can the students be able to download and install software and I so from where and how do you control/monitor and take action if/as needed? Can they play games?
Chromebooks do not install software like a Windows or Mac computer. There are apps and extensions, most of which are “pushed” by the district.
11) How much time/effort do you see support (teachers or IT or others) being needed to train and maintain?
We have been providing technology professional development since I first started, and we have ramped up considerably in the past 5 years. We have a ed tech coordinator who provides workshops throughout the year and also visits classrooms for one on one teacher coaching. There are also teachers in each classroom who provide training as well. We are working with teachers during two all day workshops and one collaboration day per week. Teachers then collaborate through the week before coming back to meet with us. These sessions are roughly 45 minutes in length.
IT support for Chromebooks is minimal. They arrive ready to distribute and update automatically. We keep them set to the ChromeOS version that is supported by all of our different online tools, typically one version back. This is a simple setting on an IT admin panel, so it takes perhaps 5 minutes for the district to update all the Chromebooks. Hardware support is minimal – we have seen very little physical damage to the devices. Overall, if I had to provide an estimate of the percentage of our time that it takes to support Chromebooks, I would say 1-2%. The support needs for just the pilot group would be impossible to guess, but perhaps a small fraction of 1%? Again, there isn’t much that can happen to these computers. They simply do not behave the way a laptop, desktop, or iPad do.
One final question: Who’s the champion for the 1:1 rollout? Is a board driven or superintendent or you? Who’s approval did it require and is it the same process for other grades? If this is successful what is the rollout progression and timing?
2017-2018 – grades 7 – 8 2018-2019 – grades 6 – 9 2019-2020 – grades 5 – 10 2020-2021 – grades 4 – 11 2021-2022 – grades 3 – 12
Again, this timeline is tentative depending on many different factors.
This follow up question was posed to one of the Assistant Superintendents:
Exactly what do/will the 7th graders use the Chromebooks for? I would like a comprehensive list of uses so I can understand the value. Appreciate your assistance in getting the details. I’m happy to meet with one or more of the 7th grade teachers and ask them if that’s preferred.
There have been a series of articles and videos that provide information as to the use of the technology we have implemented. I spoke to some of these uses at the board meeting, so they would be in the minutes. The articles are here:
- Student and teacher collaboration in Google Apps
- Peer editing
- Comparison and analysis of various types of media
- Student communication using email, web, blogging
- Publishing student work online
- Accessing digital content such as video, audio, text including online access to textbooks
- Coding and programming
- Interactive resources such as virtual tours or simulations
- Google Classroom for managing assignments
- Differentiated instruction to allow students to work a level appropriate to them
- Connecting with other classrooms