Saturday, October 18, 2008

Laptop and 1:1 Programs and Web 2.0

At Qatar Academy we are trying to define our 1:1 program within the constraints of meeting the expectations of the school administration, Qatar Foundation (our 'mother ship'), parents, teachers and students. Earlier this week I posted a question to the ECIS Moodle IT discussion forum.
How does moving to a pedagogically appropriate Web 2.0 learning environment affect how a 1:1 and/or laptop program is implemented? There are 3 possible scenarios with laptops:
  1. A controlled environment where the school purchases the laptops and maintains administrative control.
  2. A more open environment environment where the school owns (or purchases for the students) but gives the students administrative rights.
  3. A student-purchased environment where administrative rights are always with the student.
I see option 2 and 3 as being more conducive to Web 2.0 learning environment where students have the freedom to download and install software and updates as they need to. A more locked down situation where admin. rights are not given to the user prohibits students from having control of their own learning environment using mobile technology.

What are you doing in your school? What are your feelings about this??

Here are excerpts from the excellent responses I received:

Madeleine Brookes, ICT facilitator from Western Academy Beijing (WAB):
"Certainly option 2 and 3 would be the better option for your students - the line between using the computer for social purposes and for educational purposes is becoming blurred however I believe that educating the students in what not to download and how to use a computer responsibly is better than locking it down."

Harry Bennett, Technology consultant for international schools helping set up 1:1 programs
"The trick is to create an environment that allows your users to do all the things they should be able to do (which probably shouldn't include installing programs that haven't been tested by the experts you hired) as part of the learning process but not able to do the things that will diminish that capability for themselves or others. That is a tricky task but throwing out security because its hard to do right is as wrong as locking down a machine so that no one can do anything."

Kathy Epps from International School of Geneva
"The kids, teachers, and families are given many many opportunities to learn how to take care of their computers - how to use the admin rights, in effect. Teachers are given nearly limitless support, coaching, etc., to help them make efective use of the computers in the classroom, so that every one is supportive, enthusiastic, and learning and teaching is enhanced - not just more entertaining. (Julie, I have no doubts about what you would do in this situation!)"

Ben Morgan, Director of IT from United World College of SE Asia
"I think that tying students to a single laptop is already technologically and culturally outdated. The question, to me, is how to best provide access to the necessary data/tools via WHATEVER hardware the students may use.
This requires school to create:
- an online learning environment that provides tools for creating / delivering / managing instructional content (this will be an amalgamation of web based portal, elearning system, web 2 tools, MIS system, library system, etc)
- online data storage
- access to specialist software
- through a robust wired/wireless infrastructure that supports a multitude of devices"

My response today in reply was as a summary of essential points with an invitation for more discussion.
Her is a brief summary of the main points you have shared:
  • Laptop model and make - most in favour of the same
  • Image - standardized that includes licensed software and anti-virus
  • Collaborative environment - need to be able to foster this within a secure environment
  • System security - learning affected if system infected
  • Student purchase scheme (lease over 3 years as an option)
  • Administrative rights given to teachers/students under certain conditions - security, maintain original software
  • Tech support - needs to be a drop-in service
  • Systematic approach to laptop service - re-image if issue too time consuming to fix
  • Infrastructure - providing re-charging stations
  • Storage and backup of files - locally? USB? Server?
  • Computer failure - 3-year insurance/warranty, replacement policy
  • Professional development and pedagogical support for teachers, students and parents
  • Wireless network - continuity of access
  • Internet and Web2.0 - access at school and at home
  • Access to printing
  • Other mobile devices - handhelds, include broader mobile computing devices
  • Access to data and tools not hardware specific - include ALL types of ubiquitous devices
  • Secure network with set criteria for access - devices therefore do not not need to be 'locked down' or even the same model/make/device
The use of Web 2.0 tools came through as part of the overall consideration of what the 'laptops' will be used for and not as a focus of the possible program. Given the sometimes lack of access to online tools (Web 2.0) there continues to be, from what I can tell, a preference for standard software to be installed on each device as a base for classroom use.
Ben, I think your points particularly resonated with me as in my previous school, International School Dhaka, I spearheaded a mobile program that included handhelds and laptops; Palm devices for handhelds and a non-standardized laptop (in other words bring your own with minimum configuration required e.g.XP Pro) with a set of licensed software installed, costs passed onto parents. Since 0607 of course converging technologies has opened up even more possibilities and I agree with you we cannot be just talking about 'laptop programs' anymore.

I welcome further discussion on this. You, the reader of this blog, what is happening in your school re moving to a 1:1 environment while considering access to Web 2.0 and online resources?

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Anonymous said...

I've run a large 1:1 program and although the advent of web 2 has changed the software landscape, as far as hardware is concerned I've always used one platform and one supplier so that repairs/damage could be sorted out quickly (we work on a 24 hour turnaround). Without this kind of support, students can be without their "learning tools" for extended periods ..... unless the school can provide a large bank of loan machines.
I'm very interested in these discussions as I prepare plans for my current school to move in this direction. We currently provide Tablet PCs on a booking system and have achieved about 1:2 but needing to book the machines is a barrier itself, and different machines and software at home means a lack of continuity and equity.

Shamblesguru said...

Julie ... brilliant post ... I've linked to you at Shambles Shambles

It's certainly interesting times and at the moment I'm being blown away with the capabilities and functionality of my new iPhone

I do wonder what the future would hold if (when) we have really reliable internet connectivity ... when cloud computing becomes something we can trust and then maybe all we need is a browser which we take out of our pockets and unroll

.. and maybe in that futuristic 'paper-thin' browser all we see (or enter) is a 3D online virtual world.
UMMmmmmm back to reality ... a not so thin cup-a-tea ;-)

Have fun

Anonymous said...

My school is also lookig at going down the 1:1 path. Ours was supposed to be a Government initiative where the Governement put in so much money per laptop, the school chipped in some money and the parents also chipped in a token amount. (Still waiting to hear if it is going ahead or not.) If it does go ahead the laptops will be owned by the students, therefore they will be given admin access- this would be to simulate real life where they will full access and no 'big brother' watching over them. Laptops would be purchased from the same supplier with an image on them to ensure everyone had the same OS, programs etc.

I am excited about th eprospect of 1:1 as I currently use technology every day with my students and with limited access to labs this will make my life easier. I believe the 1:1 program lends itself very easily to problem based learning such as webquests. As a school we are exploring the use of web2.0 technologies such as blogging, wikis and webquests at the moment. It will then be up to the ICT committee to educate the rest of the staff on how and why to use these technologies...(I think staff PD is a crucial factor in implementing such a large technological change)

Anticipated benefits of 1:1
- unlimited access to computers
- world at fingertips via internet
- encourages problem based learning
- equips students for technology enhanced world
- allows technology to be integrated across curriculum
- use of web2.0 technologies

Anticipated issues with implementing 1:1:
-lack of staff technical skills
- lack of infastructure to cater for large number of wireless laptops

A great topic for discussion!

scmorgan said...

We follow #2 and are looking at #3 for the future. Interesting aside: we hosted the PLP f2f at our school in September. A teacher couldn't get on our network b/c her own laptop, issued by her school, was so locked down we couldn't add our access point for her.....sad.

Josh Raub said...

Great post Julie.

ASIJ isn't a 1:1 school yet, but we have been discussing it for a few years now.

However, after ASB Un-plugged I'm not sure we are ready. The strongest message I came away with from the Mumbai conference is that until you have all constituents invested in the program, don't do it. Right now virtually nobody as ASIJ (parents, Board, students, teachers) is asking for a 1:1 program. There is a small group of Admin and teachers that think we should look into it, but that's it.

As far as which model we are going to follow, we're not sure. But we are leaning towards something similar to what Ben commented on and Ewan McIntosh talked about at Learning 2.008: that students can bring in anything they want.

There are a number of reasons for this, two of the biggest are:

- We have a number of students that come to us in HS from another international school. That school is a 1:1 school with Macs. We are a Microsoft school (for the most part). How can we require them to buy another laptop after they have just purchased a Mac for 8th grade?

- Getting an onsite vender to do support for us here in Japan looks to be very problematic. I could be proven wrong on this, as we haven't pursued it that far yet.

So what I am trying to do is to prepare the IT infrastructure so that whatever model we go with we are ready. We are doing this primarily by:

- Investing only in web-based systems (that support Firefox if possible) when needed. Otherwise encouraging offsite Web 2.0 tools.
- Moving away from all computers joined to our domain and being managed by Group Policy. Instead have everything set up on images.
- Being 100% managed by images allows for the users to be admins on their machines since we can reimage quickly if the machine gets messed up.
- Rewiring our campus with CAT6 so that we can image with Gigabit speeds and we can get full bandwidth use out of N access points when they come out.

Here's my question for everyone else:

We are getting to the point where the number of machines we have is approaching 1:1, but not in a good way. For example, in the MS we have about 360 students. If you count lab machines, classroom machines and laptop carts, we have about 320 computers.

So nobody's asking for 1:1, but when does it get to the point where we should start to encourage teachers in the direction? Does that point exist?

Hardware wise it seems we should be going 1:1, but pedagogically I'm not sure we are there yet.

Julie Lindsay said...

Thanks everyone for your input. I have come back to this post and responses today as I prepare a submission to go to the school board next week requesting funds and approval for our 1:1 program. Our Director has decided the program will start with laptops distributed to Grade 6 and 7 students next year, and we are asking Qatar Foundation to purchase these for Qatar Academy.

Josh, your points resonate with me as well, given that we continue to have 100s of PCs in computer labs, that seem to be often very empty when I walk past during class time! In fact we are about 1:1.5 devices to students across the whole campus PreK-12. The plan needs to be to dismantle the labs over the next 3 years and implement more mobility. PD is a key pint in this! I have also been charged with developing a PD program that has measurable outcomes and possibly will be linked to an end of year bonus. Will share this with you when it is approved.
Thanks again for your considered input.

Mr. Mac said...

I know I am late in this discussion but I'll give you my opinion anyway. I am at a school division where there is 1:1 computing for staff members, but with extreme lockdown on each machine. For students the ratio is closer to 1:10...and something needs to be done.

I personally like model #3, however the IT department really hates that idea as they are responsible for what happens on our government "network" that provides us with the bandwidth.

I would like to see a company come in and work with both the school division and the parent consumer. The laptops could be set up according to School Division specifications, so that network security etc. is looked after. The company could then sell to parents (students) and provide decent "educational" pricing and financing.

Just a thought.