Much To-Do About Laptops

One of my former students, Nicholas Horsley, is now the junior contributor for our school’s newspaper, The Pine Needle. This past summer we had an opportunity for some Q and A about our new 1:1 laptop program and the following article is the result.

*On a side note, there is nothing better than seeing a former student develop their skills and pursue their passions.

LAPTOPS!! They’re all the buzz this school year since St. Chris has decided to move to a 1:1 computer model. I caught up with Mr. Cuevas, who is one of the faculty spearheading this transistion, and asked him a few questions:
Many people are asking a lot of the same questions and while the laptop blog is helpful ( it can be confusing and not quite clear.  Over the summer, many of the faculty went to Memphis for a conference that was centered around laptop programs.  Mr. Cuevas was kind enough to chat with me about the new program:
In which grade does the 1:1 computer model start?
A: St. Christopher’s is using 2 different approaches.  In the MS, we are using a standardized model. In this model all students have the same computer and the computer is purchased and serviced through the school.  It is the most common 1:1 strategy deployed in schools.  The 7th grade will be part of this model.  The Upper School on the other hand is using an open model or a Bring Your Own Device strategy(BYOD).  This strategy is gaining in popularity and the Tech Department felt it also provided the greatest flexibility for our families in the Upper School.
Q: Will the school adopt its own basic laptop option as an option for the program? 
A: Essentially we have for the standardized model.  There are no options and we also purchased the same computers for the faculty who were due to have their computers refreshed.  In the Upper School, we’ve made recommendations and we’ve also made arrangements with MacPro Solutions and HP to provide families with options and some discounts. Families in the Upper School were also given the option to use a laptop that they may already own so long as it satisfied our minimum requirements.  See the blog for the minimum specs.

Q: What will happen to the computer labs and carts of netbooks if everyone from 7th grade and above is getting laptops?
A: In the Middle School, we moved away from computer labs last year and replaced them with netbook carts. There are four carts that will be used by the 6th and 8th grades.  In the Upper School, Dr. Smith has a laptop cart in his room to accommodate the juniors and seniors who were not required to participate in the laptop program.  The following year, the netbook carts will be reallocated to other areas on campus and some of the netbooks themselves will be used as spares because grades 6-12 will be part of the 1:1 program.

Q: What did the faculty learn from the Memphis conference? 
A: We had a great cross section of teachers and administrators in attendance at the Laptop Institute in Memphis, TN.  While we all came away with different pearls of wisdom that could be used in our respective areas, I think it is safe to say that the conference validated many of the steps St. Christopher’s has taken to prepare for this initiative. From a pedagogical perspective it was clear that taking small steps to design and integrate technology in effective and constructive ways into the curriculum is the best approach.  Also, ongoing professional development is a must!  Attendees: Mrs. Mayer, Mr. Tune, Mr. Szymendera, Miss Pohanka, Mr. Spears, Mr. Zollinhofer, Mrs. Anderson, Mrs. Boykin, and Mr. Cuevas.

Q: How will you cope with the Mac vs. PC compatibility issues (especially with St. Catherine’s)?  
A: In theory, this is the beauty of the Open Model in the Upper School as compatibility becomes more of a nonissue.  As part of our technology coordination with St. Catherine’s, both schools are now Google Apps for Education Schools.  This essentially provides communication and collaboration tools in the cloud so it becomes platform independent. In addition to Google Apps, we are encouraging teachers to continually seek web based apps rather than clients that need to be loaded onto each computer.

Q: Will there be any file sharing options between laptops and the network computers? 
A: Student laptops(Middle School) that are part of our domain will have access to our file server to backup some of their work.  Students in the open model will not have file server access but are encouraged to backup their work.  Examples are listed in our blog and more info will be shared during the opening weeks of school.  Becoming a Google Apps school essentially eliminates the need for a student file server because all of their work can be saved to the cloud providing them not only with a superior redundancy and security but also access from any computer so long as it has an internet connection.  As for printing, students will have access to our print server and further instructions will be provided during the opening weeks of school.

Q: I noticed the publications office received new iMacs. Is the student center going to have iMacs as well? 
A: Yes, we are including iMacs for the digital arts classroom in the Luck Leadership Center.

Q: What has the school done to prepare?
A: We have done incredible amounts of preparation for the 1:1 program.  We’ve increased our wireless footprint, increased our band width, increased the electrical load in our buildings, installed new lockers in the Middle School, become a Google Apps for Education School, and conducted an extensive professional development workshop this past summer.  I would also be remiss if I did not mention the many conversations that took place last year in the Middle School and Upper School.  

Q: Will the network be able to handle the extra few hundred computers
A: We’ve been pretty aggressive about upgrading our network infrastructure… Let’s just say from a wireless perspective, our campus is glowing. The school’s backbone is set to 1 Gb/s, we have 3 internet pipes to handle traffic. … Moreover, the construction of the Luck Leadership Center has required that the tech department be proactive with regards to the day to day needs of the curriculum and its impacts on the network.  This fall will be a great test of the steps we have taken to prepare for this increased load and we will continue to monitor and evaluate the needs as the Luck Leadership Center comes online.

Q: Plans for use/ changes to necessary school supplies? 
A: If anything, students won’t need to purchase thumb drives or CDs for their work because of their access to Google Apps.  As we move forward with the program, I am confident that we will start to see more eBooks.  Moving to eBooks will in some cases reduce the cost of books, decrease the weight of the backpacks, and it’s green.  

Q: Will students have to use it over pen and paper? 
A: I would say it is up to the individual instructor. However, if an activity requires the use of technology then it is safe to say that a student will most likely have to use their computer.
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