Friday, February 16, 2007

Going 1:1- An international school perspective (Part 1)

I am responding particularly to Jeff Utecht's request for ideas and input on 'How to go 1:1'. I am also using this posting as an overview of the past 3 years of the Laptop Initiative For Education at International School Dhaka (ISD), Bangladesh.

Jeff's school, the Shanghai American School, is in an enviable position as it has made a strong commitment to 21st century learning and they have already fostered that with open discussion, ongoing planning and now a week of workshops and conversations with resident consultant David Warlick. Now the question is how to proceed with a 1:1 program and how to spend the money available! I think the fact that SAS is an international school is pertinent to the plans that are put into place but more importantly the essential philosophy and vision needs to be agreed on so that everyone can move forward towards that goal, maybe at varying speeds but at least in the same direction. Using ISD as the model I will offer my experiences over the past 3 years.

The Vision
Creating a 1:1, mobile and ubiquitous school environment is essential. There is no question about this. Students and teachers need to be online (Intranet and Internet) when they need it, not when it is convenient to the timetable (computer lab scenario). They also need access to creativity and productivity tools provided by computing (eg audio and video file and software) to support their learning in an integrated, holistic approach to curriculum. We have this vision at ISD and it is clearly articulated. It is also clearly supported with available funds given the circumstances of the school itself. ISD is a for-profit international school that has been fully accredited to deliver the IBO programs at PYP, MYP and DP levels. We have about 320 students in the secondary school (middle/high).

Laptop Initiative For Education (LIFE)
Our laptop program has always been based on student and teacher ownership of the devices. We do not have laptop carts, we do not give laptops to teachers. We expect all students from Grade 8 and above to purchase a laptop and have it at school ready to use everyday. On a regular school day we now have about 220 laptops being used.

To facilitate this we have provided:
  • An IT Support department to troubleshoot device and connectivity problems; to configure all laptops to the WLAN; to install and take responsibility for the compulsory Norton Corporate anti-virus software (cost passed onto the students) and to install designated software as per curriculum objectives at the time
  • A WLAN throughout the secondary school and library areas where the laptop students are working
  • Deals with representatives of local and international companies (HP and DELL) to provide certain laptop specifications as well as a 3-year service warranty for each device. This means next business day support by a technician to the school and a replacement laptop on loan if the student's device is down for a period of time
  • Reduced price licensed software (cost passed onto the students) for designated packages, currently we install Inspiration, Adobe Acrobat and Adobe PhotoShop Elements (I might add this was a coup in Bangladesh where unfortunately pirated software is the norm)
  • A teacher interest-free loan to purchase a laptop (model designated by the school)
  • A laptop incentive scheme for teachers this year to give up their classroom desktop in favour of their own laptop (option to take a portable hard drive and an LCD flat screen)
  • Security for devices with lockable student lockers and exit gate checks to ensure the owner is the person taking the laptop off the premises
Implementation of laptops into everyday learning and classroom practice has been facilitated by:
  • Ceiling mounted digital projectors (half of the classrooms this year, half next year)
  • Projectors available for loan from IT Support to continue to support those without permanent installations this year but also to foster continued mobility of use. It may not be convenient to always have the projector facing a certain wall!
  • Encouraging digital exchange of documents (eg PDF files) and ongoing digital communication with students via email, blogs etc
  • Encouraging PD and conversation that promotes best-practice use of laptops
We do not have a perfect implementation. We have teachers who are not on board for various reasons. We have technical problems and theft and a number of ongoing challenges, some pertinent to where we are and who we are, some related to the big picture of ubiquity and 1:1 learning. However, we are continuing to improve and extend and refine. I cannot imagine working in a school where students of the levels I described above do not carry laptops.

As an international school with many teachers staying only 2-3 years I do think it is better to invest in the infrastructure of the school and in the teacher's PD. I do not think the school should purchase laptops for teachers. A laptop or inequivalent mobile device should be seen as essential to a teacher's toolkit and be a personal purchase. However it is essential that all or most teachers do have a laptop/mobile device and are brought on board early.

I am calling this post 'Part 1' as I am sure there are experiences left out that I will want to talk about later. Also, we have a handheld program at ISD so Part 2 will give some details about this 3-year old program.

Your comments and responses are always welcome!

Technorati Tags:

No comments: