What is a 1:1 Readiness Assessment?
During this Readiness Assessment, we will:
• examine our current strategies for enabling student access to shared computers and students' current use of personally-owned computers at school
• given our current status and anticipated changes ahead, determine what would need to happen in order to create a 1:1 computing environment in the Middle and High Schools
• identify challenges and opportunities associated with a potential move to 1:1 from curricular, administrative, technical, fiscal, and school culture perspectives
• determine what level of consensus there is or can be about moving to a 1:1 model
• report these findings to the Director and his designees along with recommendations about the extent to which the Middle and High Schools are ready to move to 1:1 and, if so, how and when that should happen
A readiness assessment typically includes numerous opportunities for gathering information from school stakeholder groups. In Lab's case, those stakeholders include Middle and High School students, teachers, administrators, parents, and those University of Chicago entities with whom the Schools work to provide technology services to our school community.
Meetings with individuals, small, and large groups are part of the process, as are online surveys. The work will be led by Director of Information Technology Curt Lieneck, and regular updates on project status will be entered in a blog created for that purpose.
When the data gathering and analysis is complete, a report will be composed summarizing the findings and making recommendations based on those findings. That report will be delivered to the Schools' Director, David Magill, and his designees in mid-June.
What Prompted this Readiness Assessment?
The Schools’ shared resource strategy for meeting students’ computer access needs in the Middle and High Schools has reached its breaking point. Steadily increasing demand for computing resources in classroom and other programmatic use is overtaxing availability, despite the Schools’ substantial investment in desktop and laptop computers for student use. The known, inherent pedagogical flaws in a shared computing model have also become more obvious as resource contention hits new heights.
Indications are that the demand for computer access in Middle and High School will only increase. Consider:
• The Computer Science Department’s expanded curriculum will result in less open access to MS and HS computer labs as more departmental courses are taught there.
• The new High School schedule means that more periods overlap the Middle School schedule, constricting iCart availability during those times.
• The Schools’ recent shift to conducting ERB testing online requires iCarts to be diverted from classroom use for testing purposes at least 10 of 168 instructional days each academic year, disrupting the orderly progress of instruction for students not being tested.
• Laptop cart usage has grown each year since inception, even following years in which laptop carts were dedicated to heavy-use departments for their internal use. The biggest single-year jump, some 20%, followed the addition of 9 laptops to each cart to make them full class sets of 24 two years ago.
The fall 2009 launch of LabNet, the Schools’ password-protected web portal, has made it easy for increasing numbers of Middle and High School teachers to disseminate class information and resources online. As of this writing, 48 teachers now do so.
• The emergence of e-books, electronic textbooks, and ancillary online resources run by textbook companies has started to affect Lab. Students will need readily available computers to access information they now get from paper texts.
• The school is planning the largest expansion in its history. The High School will be adding 100 students over time, and Middle School plans include adding up to 60 more students. The number of Middle School sections will also increase.
What's the Process for the Readiness Assessment?
Three categories of assessment tasks will run concurrently through the rest of this academic year: curricular, administrative, and technical.The timeline for these tasks is staggered over the next four and a half months, but all need to be completed for the assessment report.
Activites for each of these categories include, but are not necessarily limited to:
Gather data from departments: Determine what technology resources teachers currently use to meet instructional goals. Identify which of those resources are used directly by students, and what instructional objective(s) is/are associated with each. Ask teachers what new resources they anticipate using in the near future (3 years out and under).
Analyze data from departments: Identify a core set of technology tools that students need to access to meet course requirements across departments. Identify any subset of those tools whose requirements (application cost, processor power, local install, etc.) present unusual challenges to a 1:1 model; generate options for addressing the need for access to such tools.
Gather/analyze data from students: Identify what technology resources students use in their school coursework and why. Identify what technology resources students use for academic work that are not part of what the school offers. Seek their opinions about the value/utility of computer resources currently provided at school. Gather data on how many students use a device they own at school for doing school work, both in and out of class.
Gather information about technology-specific curriculum: Determine what instructional activities currently exist to prepare students for ethical, efficient, effective use of technology in scholastic tasks (online safety, evaluating online resources, organizing files, managing online profile/personal privacy, etc.). Identify any gaps in content or coordination of current efforts and potential means of addressing them.
Administrative Tasks :
Considering Consensus: Separate focus groups of parents, teachers, and students will be convened to identify stakeholders' concerns and opportunities regarding a potential 1:1 implementation. Focus group information will be used to generate an online survey for each stakeholder group so all will have an opportunity to be heard.
Professional Development: Determine what unique challenges and opportunities there are when teaching in a 1:1 environment, and what are we doing currently in professional development efforts that can transfer. Identify strategies might we consider if we decide to move to a 1:1, how might they best be implemented, and what they might cost.
Fiscal Sustainability: Estimate costs associated with different models for implementing 1:1 (school owned, joint ownership/lease with families, family ownership) in terms of hardware, software, online services, device accessories (cases, adapters, etc.), repair/extended warranty/insurance costs over the life of the device. Determine any additional support and infrastructure cost drivers.
Security: Identify current and/or needed resources to ensure that students and devices they use will be safe, both in and out of school.
Impact Analysis, Special Use Cases: Determine impact of 1:1 on ERB testing, Summer School, After School, and the High Jump program Lab supports. Identify options for addressing issues created by the impact.
Financial Aid: Identify the financial aid implications of different 1:1 implementation models for MS and HS families, identify strategies for addressing them.
Best Practice Research: Identify successful 1:1 implementations in other schools, consult with them, ISTE, CoSN, and other K-12 experts/organizations to distill best practice recommendations for structuring and launching 1:1 programs.
Enhancing Cloud-Based Toolkit: Complete registration and launch of Lab School domain in Google Apps for Ed. Devise strategy for notifying parents/students of need for/collection of permission to use online tools requiring it (Google Apps for Ed, Evernote, Mindmeister, et al.)
Device Range: Within reasonable limits, identify devices that can support a preponderance of students' and teachers' stated academic technology needs.
Support Boundaries: Depending on the 1:1 model, define scope of support services to be tendered for 1:1 devices.
Loaner Policies/Practices: To ensure students have access to computers at all times in school, loaner computers must be available. We need to determine how that service will be structured and how it could operate. Policy/practice will vary by model of 1:1.
Network Security: Confirm with UC IT Services that current security precautions are sufficient to cover move to ubiquitous computing.
Server Capacity: Determine impact of 1:1 on server-based functions and load bearing capabilities.
Audiovisual: Identify supported A/V formats and accessories/adapters needed to access a/v resources.
Electrical Power : Identify possible locations for charging stations, determine practical battery life for a range of devices, generate power saving strategies to share with users.
Printing: Engage Xerox in planning for individual printing accounts for students; plan print driver distribution strategy, determine limits for printing options when considering a broad range of devices.
Software: Identify options for providing access to locally-installed software packages over the network; identify parallel/open source software alternatives to core software components; examine 1:1 friendly licensing agreements for home and school use of software we use.
What Plans Are There to Keep Stakeholders Informed During the Assessment Process?
Then web page you are reading right now is the primary source of information about the assessment process. Additional content will be added regularly, including a blog fed to the IS main page that will be updated regularly so you can stay apprised of the project's status. News items in Tech Talk, the IS biweekly newsletter, and Lab's biweekly e-news will also be featured.
Director of Information Technology Curt Lieneck is also happy to meet with individuals and groups of faculty, students, and parents to answer questions, address concerns, and report on project status, and will be actively seeking opportunities to do so.
Why Not Buy More Laptop Carts?
Buying more laptop carts might have some short term value, but in the long term, the cost/benefit ratio for pushing a shared computing model beyond its inherent limitations doesn't work for students or the Schools.
A shared computing model constrains the student's user experience. Support efficiency demands that shared computers be configured in a standard way with no individual customization permitted. Standard configurations also ensure a uniform computing experience for all users. Yet learning is a highly personal experience, especially so at the Laboratory Schools. Technology works best for learning when it can be configured to reflect the idiosyncratic ways each of us organizes and shares our thoughts, ideas, plans, files, and other learning resources. A shared computing model constrains what's possible for students in ways we ought not accept if other viable options are available and/or indicated. Adding more carts does nothing to resolve this issue.
Another disadvantage of a shared computing model is the ponderous support overhead associated with sharing mobile assets on a campus the size of a small liberal arts college. Significant amounts of support staff time are spent delivering, picking up, and maintaining carts each day. During school break times, support staff spends many hours cleaning cart-based laptops, reattaching power cables that have worked loose, and repairing components on the carts themselves. Software costs are higher than they need to be since all shared computers must contain the same applications regardless of where and how they might be used. Each cart also contains a wireless base station and printer that must be maintained and properly secured. There are also a number of carts assigned to specific locations (Math, Science, Middle School Learning and Counseling, and most Middle School Humanities classrooms) that require the same kind of attention. This is a lot of effort to expend for a constrained outcome.
Tech support staff time is not the only overhead. Teachers spend valuable time reserving the carts online and following cart security procedures for each delivery and pick up. They must also forfeit at least some of the spontaneity common to progressive pedagogy by having to reserve the carts ahead of time, sometimes weeks ahead of time during peak demand time. Students take valuable class time retrieving and storing documents stored on remote servers since they can't save to the shared laptop hard drive.
We have reached the limit of the number of carts we can reasonably support with the resources we have. Adding more carts would mean adding more staff, increasing overhead costs yet again in support of a model with a known, hard ceiling on the value it can return to our students. That doesn't seem like a wise course of action fiscally, operationally, or pedagogically unless no other viable option is available.
Who would own the computers if Lab went 10 a 1:1 model in Middle and/or High School?
The Readiness Assessment should yield some useful data to help arrive at a recommendation for this question. As of this writing, that information is still being gathered and analyzed. The ownership decision is probably the most important decision to make for schools serious about moving to 1:1, so it should be made with the utmost care. There are some distinct advantages and disadvantages for either model. There are also developmental issues to address when considering 1:1 recommendations for Middle School vs. High School students.
To what extent would computers need to be standardized, either on hardware, software, or platform?
The answer to this depends on what it is students need to do with computers in the classes they take. Information about these curricular needs has been gathered from all departments,, so it should be possible to identify a core set of functions any device would need to perform.
Once that core set is determined, one can begin to determine what devices and configurations can meet those needs.
At the same time, it should be noted that there will always be some special use cases for instructional technology that require specialized hardware and/or software. Any plan to move to 1:1 will include strategies for continuing to provide those resources in computer labs, the libraries, the Electronic Music Studio, Fine Arts classrooms, and other special use-case areas.