Sunday, July 11, 2010

Preparing for a Netbook Rollout


As we make plans for the Manaiakalani netbook rollout to the Year 5-13 students in our cluster, one of the priorities for learning at the ISTE conference was what schools, districts and states in the USA who began similar projects several years ago have learned from the experience. We were particularly interested in state schools and anyone who had implemented a project like this with lower decile students. If you don't think this distinction is important, let me tell you that whenever we talk to people outside our cluster about the Manaiakalani Project vision, the first thing more than 50% say back is, "But what about theft and damage?" A response to that question is a post on its own!

We attended a presentation titled "How to Design a Successful 1-to-1 Program".
The brief included:
"The Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) is the largest and only statewide 1:1 initiative in the USA. Encompassing every public school 7th and 8th grade student and every educator teaching grades 7 through 12, MLTI has 70,000 laptop computers deployed across the State.... Maine has deployed over 155,000 laptops and 800 wireless networks in the last 8 years. If there are mistakes to be made, we've made them. Learn from Maine's successes and failures to help ensure a successful 1:1 program in your school."

This session provided a wealth of information and I have noted down practical ideas here which we think will be very useful to the Manaiakalani Project netbook roll out. So, in no particular order, here goes.....

Teaching and Learning thoughts:
  • Teacher Preparation is essential
  • One year before students have the devices the teachers need a laptop and a data projector of their own
  • BUT don't wait until staff are fully trained to give the kids their netbook - they will never be fully trained for what is around the corner!
  • Use online communication tools with teachers to support their learning, to collaborate and co-ordinate eg Google Apps
  • Hold regular teacher meetings where these questions are asked; "What are you doing that's working?" and "What are you doing that you are having challenges with". And record the answers in an online space.
  • Get teachers out of school to state and district (cluster) meetings to share their learning and needs
  • Every staff meeting book 10 minutes to have a teacher show something that is working
  • Don’t teach software - teaching learning, using the software
    Principals need to be attending the professional development alongside the teachers
  • It won’t make a bad teacher better, but once you have taught a 1:1 class you will never want to teach in another way again
  • The pedagogy must be different. Putting a device in the hands of every student and continuing to teach in the same way we were taught is not going to work.
  • In the US they found that 60-70% of the text books they used were available online or as pdfs or podcasts
Parent and Community (Whanau) thoughts:
  • Insist that parents come in to school for training before the individual student is allowed to take a netbook home
  • Newsletters in a variety of forms are essential for communication
  • Ongoing training of parents (at school) should be done by children - but always mix it up. Don't have kids train their own parent!
  • By product of this is that PARENTS use technology more at home
  • Send the netbooks home. Research shows that sending the netbooks home results in improved test scores.
Technical Support issues:
  • Less breakage occurs in netbooks that are being used all the time than those that are stored a lot!
  • Breakage is inversely related to HOW the technology is being used
    What they are being used for makes a huge difference. If the kids see classes/learning as boring.... breakage and theft goes up
  • More breakage occurs with laptops than netbooks
  • Need a regular weekly meeting to review challenges and highlight those that need to be urgently fixed
  • Infrastructure - always double the bandwidth you think is necessary.... and double it every year. You will never have too much
  • Every classroom needs its own managed access point for wireless
  • Students MUST be used as technicians. You will never be able to employ enough adults.
  • After trial and error, student technicians fell into two layers; kids who enjoy 'fixing' and problem solving, and kids who organise and administer the requests for repairs
  • All netbook issues are logged with the kids who organise the repair scheduling - they cope with the stress being generated by kids with dysfunctional netbooks
  • The hands-on techie kids liaise with the adult technicians and work through the job schedules. This way they are not having to interface with aggrieved peers
  • Have two old desktop computers in the back of the room as fall backs for kids who left netbook at home or have it in for repairs. Don't replace with another netbook!
  • It is not worth insuring netbooks. Cheaper to replace them.
  • Use old laptops (especially those with dead batteries) as desktops in back of classroom - for when a kid has one out for repairs OR when kid has been inappropriate - give them one of those :)
  • Filtering/Firewalls solution: The best solution they have found is the one they call the GOYA solution (Get Off Your A***) “Teach your teachers to get up and walk around the room” to actively monitor what students are looking at on their screens!
We would appreciate any other useful and practical tips from folk who are further down the track than us.

NB: This post clearly does not address the huge pedagogical shifts we are having to make to prepare for a netbook roll out. There are many other posts in this blog which reflect our thinking in that area.

***Update: Russell Burt has shared his notes after attending several 1:1 sessions at ISTE on a .pdf which can be downloaded from this link