5 signs your K-12 LMS needs an upgrade

In the middle of changing times for the K-12 LMS, some administrators wonder if it’s time for an update

k-12-lmsLearning management systems (LMS) are facing changing times, as many K-12 administrators evaluate how their current LMS fits into teaching and learning goals.

The K-12 LMS is quickly becoming one of the main gears that churns day-to-day operations in classrooms and in districts across the nation.

Edsby, a K-12 LMS that connects students, teachers and parents using modern technologies, has developed a checklist to support administrators weighing the benefits of implementing a modern LMS district-wide, or in the evaluation of current systems.

As the pace of modernization in education quickens, some districts risk being held back because their LMSs are slow to evolve with today’s technologies – assuming they even have an official district LMS to begin with.

Here’s a summary of the five signs administrators need to update their K-12 LMS, according to Edsby:

1. It’s not social: Systems that create safe and secure spaces mimicking the look of popular social media channels are attractive to students, teachers and parents.

2. It doesn’t play well with other systems: Seamless integration with other systems, such as a district’s student information system (SIS), makes integration of a modern K-12 LMS easy and powerful.

3. It’s one-size-fits all: No two districts are the same, so why adopt a rigid system that may have been built for higher education when administrators can implement a next-generation, customizable K-12 LMS that meets their specific needs as a K-12 institution?

4. It makes more work for teachers: If teachers are constantly wrestling with the LMS, or having to manage their own personal LMSs, it becomes more of a distraction than a timesaving tool.

5. It’s outdated: Modern technology has come a long way since the turn of the century when most legacy systems were designed. Today’s systems are more intuitive and offer a friendlier user experience, which is particularly important for young students.

Download the full checklist here.

“An LMS is the foundation of teaching and learning,” said Scott Welch, vice president of sales at Edsby. “An LMS should be as dynamic as the district it serves. As schools continue to modernize, administrators need to ensure their systems can address schools’ needs today and are also capable of adopting to tomorrow’s challenges.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Report warns of need for identity, access management tech

CoSN report delves into ways that identity and access management can strengthen student security

access-managementAs school districts nationwide increasingly turn to digital content, the need for robust identity and access management technologies is growing.

This, as well as the benefits of these resources and their current uses nationwide, is the focus of CoSN’s EdTechNext report, Identity and Access Management: Fundamentals for Securing Student Data and Privacy.

“Digital tools are transforming the overall learning experience. The exciting shift, though, risks slowing to a crawl if identity and access management, the foundation for security, are neglected,” said Irene Spero, CoSN’s Chief Strategy Officer. “This paper will help school system leaders address student data and privacy challenges so they can establish a trusted, digitally powered learning environment that’s here to stay.”

Emerging identity and assessment management technologies provide several important benefits:
• Instructional value with safe, secure and efficient access to digital content;
• Improved risk management with password security and heightened control of student data;
• Automation and efficiency with consolidated user accounts and access routes to digital content; and
• Transparency for parents who want to know how student information is used and shared.
Taking advantage of these benefits, as the report details, starts by managing student and staff identities and then providing careful consideration to provision access rights.

To read the full report, and to learn about exemplary districts that are turning to technology to manage authentication, visit: cosn.org/ed-tech-next-reports.

The report is made possible through the support of: Aegis Identity, BestBuy, CDW.G, Cisco, Dell, ENA, Filewave, Fortinet, Google, HP, iBoss Security, Identity Automation, Ipswitch, itslearning, JAMF Software, Juniper Networks, Lenovo, Lightspeed Systems, McGraw Hill, Microsoft, Pearson, Presidio, Promethean, Qualcomm, Safari Montage, SchoolDude, Sprint, and Verizon.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Do online charter schools measure up?

A three-part research study indicates that online charter school performance may be underwhelming

online-charter-schoolsNew research offers evidence that online charter schools post weaker academic performance and struggle more to maintain student engagement than their conventional brick-and-mortar peers.

The National Study of Online Charter Schools, released Oct. 27, analyzed online charter school operations, policy environments, and their impacts on student achievements.

The three-volume study, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, and the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, describes the achievement effects of online charter schools.

Volume 1 analyzed the 200 online charter schools in operation in the U.S. and the 200,000 K-12 students in attendance. It examines the instructional programs of online charter schools; methods used to engage students and parents, along with expectations of parental involvement; the teachers and principals of online charter schools; and the schools’ management and governance.

That analysis found:
• Student–driven, independent study is the dominant mode of learning in online charter schools, with 33 percent of online charter schools offering only self-paced instruction
• Online charter schools typically provide students with less live teacher contact time in a week than students in conventional schools have in a day
•Maintaining student engagement in this environment of limited student-teacher interaction is considered the greatest challenge by far, identified by online charter school principals nearly three times as often as any other challenge
• Online charter schools place significant expectations on parents, perhaps to compensate for
limited student-teacher interaction, with 43, 56, and 78 percent of online charters at the high school, middle, and elementary grade levels, respectively, expecting parents to actively participate in student instruction

“Challenges in maintaining student engagement are inherent in online instruction, and they are exacerbated by high student-teacher ratios and minimal student-teacher contact time, which the data reveal are typical of online charter schools nationwide. These findings suggest reason for concern about whether the sector is likely to be effective in promoting student achievement,” said Brian Gill, a Mathematica senior fellow and lead author of the report.

In Volume II, the Center on Reinventing Public Education examined how state policy impacts the online charter school landscape. Researchers found that online charter schools exist in a number of different policy environments due to variation in state charter law and administrative regulation.

Most of the existing regulation is reactive to controversy (restrictions on growth and autonomy), rather than proactive policies to guide the unique opportunities and challenges of online charters.

The authors found several drawbacks to forcing online schools into the charter context, including:
• Open admission requirements that prevent schools from screening for students who are most
likely to be successful in an online school.
• Authorizing and accountability provisions that are not well suited to the unique challenges of
regulating online schools.
• Funding mechanisms that preclude outcomes-based funding

CRPE director Robin Lake, who co-authored the study, said, “We need policies that address legitimate
concerns without needlessly restricting growth.” The report recommends that policymakers consider
moving online schools out of the charter context, or craft unique provisions specific to online charters.”

Volume III, from the CREDO at Stanford University, examines impacts of online charter enrollment on the academic progress of students.

While findings vary for each student, the results in CREDO’s report show that the majority of online charter students had far weaker academic growth in both math and reading compared to their traditional public school peers.

To conceptualize this shortfall, it would equate to a student losing 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math, based on a 180-day school year. This pattern of weaker growth remained consistent across racial-ethnic subpopulations and students in poverty.

“While the overall findings of our analysis are somber, we do believe the information will serve as the foundation for constructive discussions on the role of online schools in the K-12 sector. We see an
opportunity for the providers to do a better job of documenting the benefits they provide to their
students and to connect with and learn from operators who are doing well,” said Dr. James Woodworth, Senior Quantitative Research Analyst for CREDO at Stanford University.

This mixed-method analysis included data from 158 online schools across 17 states and the District of
Columbia. The data set for online school students is restricted to those students attending public, full-time online charter schools.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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How NGSS transforms science class with hands-on learning

HomeOne classroom learns how NGSS can take students farther than they’ve ever been

Ed. Note: In partnership with Common Sense Education, a national nonprofit, this is being reposted from the Graphite.org blog.

ngss-stemImagine 30 sixth-graders racing to your classroom every day, so excited about learning that they are willing to think critically and problem-solve for the next 49 minutes. This is my world every day. I’ve been teaching for more than 30 years, and this is the most excited I’ve ever seen students. What’s changed? Simply put: We integrated the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) into our curriculum.

My students and I are now so engaged in learning and actively participating in science that we often end up rushing to clean up at the bell. Parents tell me their dinnertime conversations are about science and what their kids are doing and learning. When we have our STEM Fair each year, parents are amazed by what they see and hear from the students. “Doing science” makes for a messy, noisy classroom –- but the students are engaged and thinking critically, guided by the NGSS.

Science practices

Through the eight practices in the NGSS, students get to do hands-on science exploration. As students plan investigations to answer a question posed to them, they conduct tests, record and analyze data, and communicate their results. During this process, students are engaged in their learning and gain a deeper understanding of the science concept being taught. They’re actually “doing science,” not just memorizing terms and concepts for a test.

The practices support interdisciplinary learning, too. Students engage in more writing and reading, supporting literacy, as well as become more accurate with measuring, leading to improvements in numeracy.

Relevant learning

I love hearing the questions that hands-on learning prompts my students to ask, but there’s one question I don’t miss hearing: “Why do I need to know this?” Once students become engaged, they don’t need to be convinced to learn. Studying the “Ring of Fire” doesn’t seem relevant to my students in Colorado, but understanding how buildings and structures survive unexpected movement of the earth becomes relevant when we’ve had minor earthquakes here.

I have students design structures and then test their designs on a simple shake table. They’re totally engaged in the design and testing process and can then go back to the drawing board to redesign, reinforcing engineering concepts and helping them really understand why we need to know about earthquakes.

Natural curiosity

 

Tap into students’ natural curiosity and let that direct their learning. Take a question and turn it into an investigation and project. We asked, “What makes a pillbug, or roly poly, move?” Students followed their natural curiosity as they designed, built, and tested their ideas. Suddenly, some students were trying to determine what food pillbugs preferred, as others were wondering which predators pillbugs must avoid. One group of students wondered if the color of light affected movement and brought in various colored lights to test their hypothesis.

As students become curious and ask questions, I encourage them to find their own answers through planning and testing. Often one question leads to another question, and that leads to more learning!

Looking for more inspiration? Check out these books from the NSTA Press:

Pat Dickerson is a sixth grade science teacher at Falcon Creek Middle School in Colorado.

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Guides help teachers with NGSS transition

Resources include instructional materials, new NGSS transition customization services and free guides

ngss-transitionInstead of having students go to one class for chemistry, another for physics and so on, NGSS-aligned teaching uses disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts to encourage students to think of science as a process rather than a set of discrete facts.

For schools and teachers accustomed to the traditional model of “siloed” classes, the NGSS transition can be complex, but two free guides from science curriculum company Accelerate Learning aim to help them better understand the NGSS transition and to quickly, easily and effectively put solutions into place.

The free guides, “Understanding the NGSS: A Brief on Structure and Purpose” and “Designing NGSS Scope and Sequences,” which are available at acceleratelearning.com/ngssguides.

“Understanding the NGSS” is a five-page PDF that explains the nature of the NGSS and the NGSS transition, including the standards’ focus on inquiry and the use of performance expectations rather than multiple choice testing. The guide provides a list of key terminology to enable educators to understand what is being required of them.

“Designing NGSS Scope and Sequences” is a 15-page PDF that contains a series of scope documents that provide options for schools looking to implement the NGSS.

From traditional four-year models to conceptual progression models, these options aim to provide a framework for structuring classrooms and grade levels as they transition to using the NGSS.

Accelerate Learning’s STEMscopes NGSS preK-12 curriculum, developed in conjunction with Rice University, is based on a proprietary IDEA model — illuminate, do, expand, and assess — that hopes to empower teachers to make sense of the disciplinary core idea.

For states that are adopting the NGSS but then tailoring them to their specific needs, Accelerate Learning has developed customized versions of STEMscopes NGSS.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Free coding kits for the Hour of Code

Educators will have access to coding kits for the Hour of Code this Dec.

hour-of-codeBitsbox, a Boulder-based education technology startup that teaches children how to create their own apps, will donate 1,000 coding kits to educators around the world for the Hour of Code during Computer Science Education Week (December 7-13).

After closing a $500,000 seed round this past August, the startup will train 1,000 teachers around the globe to run an Hour of Code event for 30,000 students.

“Our mission at Bitsbox is to teach every kid to code, and the Hour of Code is a critical introduction for so many children. By offering free classroom kits to teachers, we’ll be able to reach tens of thousands of kids,” commented Bitsbox CEO and co-founder Scott Lininger.

Educators in the U.S. and Canada receive a free physical kit in the mail, and teachers throughout the rest of the world that sign up gain access to a digital kit.

This startup’s most recent corporate social responsibility initiative overcomes the dual challenge of computer science education: It is not simply that many kids are unfamiliar with writing Javascript; many teachers themselves are not trained in teaching code.

The 1,000 teachers that will host a Bitsbox Hour of Code with 30,000 students this December will be able to teach Javascript to future students after CSEdWeek, allowing this initiative to snowball and potentially reach hundreds of thousands of students in the coming years.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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New science award urges cancer research among high school students

PBS LearningMedia, Stand Up To Cancer launch inagural Emperor Science Award to engage high school students in STEM research

science-awardStand Up To Cancer (SU2C), a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, and PBS LearningMedia, a media-on-demand service designed for K-12 classrooms, announced the opening of applications for the inaugural year of The Emperor Science Award program.

The Emperor Science Award program is an initiative designed to encourage high school students to explore careers in science, specifically cancer research and care, through a unique mentoring opportunity. The education initiative was first announced in spring 2015 by SU2C co-founder Katie Couric at Columbia University in connection with a new three-part film on the history of cancer that recently aired on PBS (it can be streamed online here).

The program aims to empower high school students to become the next generation of cancer and health researchers and will award 100 students each year, for at least three years, with an opportunity to work alongside an esteemed scientist on a rewarding multi-week cancer research project.

“The documentary Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies was an incredibly powerful event and its impact continues through these science awards, which will encourage students today to explore the possibility of becoming the next generation of cancer researchers,” said SU2C Co-Founder Sherry Lansing who led the committee, which conceived and implemented this plan. “From the outset, it was an important goal for the documentary not only to inform, but also to engage and empower young people to pursue scientific careers, particularly in cancer research.”

The program is open to students in the 10th and 11th grades living in the U.S. who have a strong scientific interest, especially in cancer research and care. Special emphasis will be focused on students from economically disadvantaged high schools.

Entries to apply for the program will be accepted through November 1.

In addition to the mentoring opportunity, students will also be awarded a Google Chrome Notebook to enhance their studies and to extend the reach of mentors to students living in rural and suburban communities, a $1,500 stipend for expenses, and the opportunity to continue the mentoring program, through high school, to further their academic pursuits. Students, including those who receive Emperor Science Awards, will be eligible to reapply in subsequent years.

Students, teachers, guidance counselors and parents can visit The Emperor Science Award website (www.EmperorScienceAward.com) to learn more about the program and to apply. The webpage contains an overview of the program and associated resources for students. To enter, students will be asked to submit a 750 maximum word essay on the following topic:

“Cancer has been referred to as The Emperor of All Maladies and millions of people around the world are looking for a cure. In America, more than 1600 people die each day. Tell us why scientific research is so important in helping to find a cure for cancer. And if you could be a scientific researcher, what would you study and why?”

Essays will be judged on sincerity, creativity, clarity and persuasiveness.

Winning students will be connected with science mentors from a host of high-profile medical research centers, including more than 100 SU2C-affiliated institutions, universities and industry leaders in cancer diagnosis and treatment.

The Emperor Science Award Program has been made possible by generous support from Founding Donors Genentech, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Novartis. Their support will fund a total of 300 awards through the first three years.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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How 2 states are making school broadband a priority

As digital tools play an increasingly larger role in learning, states are targeting school broadband access for all students

school-broadbandAs high-speed broadband internet becomes critical for student success in and beyond the classroom, a number of state education leaders are forging partnerships to strengthen school broadband throughout their districts.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock have both announced partnerships with the nonprofit EducationSuperHighway in order to bring high-speed internet to every classroom in their state.

Working with state leaders is a key factor in pushing these school broadband partnerships to success, said EducationSuperHighway founder and CEO Evan Marwell.

“States are key to finishing the job and getting schools upgraded,” Marwell said. “When you can work with governors, you can clear roadblocks to going to scale.”

In forging school broadband partnerships with state governors, the EducationSuperHighway team helps them identify the problems and obstacles around high-speed school internet connectivity, and then helps each governor formulate a plan guided by three steps.

“We tell governors to get fiber or a scalable connection to all schools lacking one, to put wi-fi in every classroom, and to make school broadband more affordable. If you solve those three problems, all your kids and teachers will have access,” Marwell said.

In New Mexico, more than 30 percent of state districts lack high-speed school broadband. Gov. Martinez plans to leverage $49 million in appropriated state funds, along with support from state agencies and EducationSuperHighway, over the next several years to connect every classroom to high-speed internet by 2018.

“I have always believed that every child can learn – no matter their circumstances or background. But as leaders, we must also give our students the tools they need to succeed. In 2015, that means providing every school with access to high-speed internet,” Gov. Martinez said in a statement. “For many of New Mexico’s kids, this commitment will be a game-changer, allowing our students to access tools and content where it matters most: in the classroom.”

Part of the state’s plan to connect classrooms include building fiber-optic connections in districts, upgrading wi-fi inside schools, and buying internet bandwidth in bulk.

Montana state leaders are working to address the challenges the state’s rural areas pose for education and broadband connectivity. The state will issue a report on the challenges and opportunities for broadband within K-12 schools, and EducationSuperHighway will work with state offices to create an action plan to put high-speed internet into all the state’s schools.

“We are committed to making sure each school – rural or urban, big or small – has equal access to the promise of digital learning,” Gov. Bullock said during a September press conference.

Initial data shows that upgrading to fiber optic connections could help more than 160 state schools. EducationSuperHighway is already working with Montana’s Missoula County Public Schools to help upgrade the district’s broadband.

“We simply cannot continue operating with 500 elementary students sharing 100 Mbps of bandwidth. We are excited to receive the support of EducationSuperHighway to help us meet new bandwidth targets,” said Hatton Littman, Director of Technology and Communications for Missoula County Public Schools.

The nonprofit worked to create awareness around the issue of school broadband connectivity, including working with President Obama to launch the ConnectEd initiative and to urge the Federal Communications Commission to modernize the E-rate program.

“We’re now in a position to actually start driving upgrades,” Marwell said. “There are a whole bunch of schools that are doing a lot better; I attribute a lot of that to the FCC, to President Obama, and to ed-tech organizations making a big deal out of this and releasing connectivity standards. We have to get every school to 100 kbps per student–that’s the minimum. School broadband affordability is critical. But there are still plenty of districts that don’t know where to start.”

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Platform will beam lessons to rural schools via tablet

High-quality teachers, textbooks, and research are now accessible to rural schools

rural-schoolsMobiliya Edvelop, a digital classroom platform, is delivering remote lectures to rural schools in some corners of the world — providing tablets that help rural students tap into lessons taught in urban areas.

The platform is helping governments, schools, and research wings in India and China bridge educational gaps, deliver advanced technologies for digital learning and further research-oriented programs with the help of remote teaching, offline learning tools, unique content authoring and virtual bag features.

Western China shows great educational and technological divides between its urban and rural centers. While the cities have all the learning resources, the rural schools lack quality teachers and standardized pedagogies. In a bid to resolve this skewed education scenario, the China Development Research Foundation (CDRF), a think tank of the Chinese Government, launched a rural education initiative.

The CDRF envisioned using digital technologies to connect urban centers that had access to quality teachers and learning resources with distant rural schools and areas. Under this initiative, 14 classes from eight rural schools were given tablets powered with Mobiliya Edvelop. When a teacher in a city school delivered a lecture, it was relayed to the remote rural school using the Mobiliya Edvelop platform. Audio and video sessions were recorded in the city school using camera and wireless headsets, and transmitted to rural classes in real-time.

Mobiliya Edvelop ensured that teachers could teach and interact with two classes simultaneously. Teachers could also share learning resources, tests and assignments to both the classes at the same time, ensuring that both the classes were at the same level.

As with China, Mobiliya Edvelop is also disrupting the education sphere in India, a country with the largest student populace in the world. The Sri Chaitanya School, a leading K-12 network in the country, partnered with Mobiliya Edvelop to replace books with tablets. The school distributed Mobiliya Edvelop powered tablets to more than 14,000 students and teachers in more than 90 schools.

Students and teachers accessed rich and interactive content, along with curriculum materials, through the Mobiliya Edvelop platform. A unique Edvelop-only feature, the virtual school bag enabled the users to access all textbooks and curriculums in an offline mode.

In addition to K-12 education, Mobiliya Edvelop has also been driving innovation and futuristic online learning in the Army Institute of Technology (AIT) in Pune, India. Mobiliya Edvelop is driving a research-oriented mentoring program on the AIT campus. The platform has effectively connected corporates with students to drive research in technologies like wearables and Internet of Things, and is helping students to access them and build their own prototypes and applications based on these technologies. Students can submit their models through the Edvelop platform under the guidance of tech mentors, experts and academicians on the Mobiliya Edvelop platform.

Krish Kupathil, CEO of Mobiliya Technologies, explains, “India and China, two of the world’s biggest economies, are on the verge of major education technology reforms. Both countries are relying on digital technologies to accelerate the education pedagogy and create a future-ready workforce. They have a special focus on education and skill development, and Mobiliya Edvelop has come to be the perfect solution that delivers personalized, collaborative and social learning tools, shaping the generation of tomorrow with office-ready skills.”

The platform offers a bouquet of features including LMS, content authoring tools, course builder, virtual school bag, a third party content store and daily teaching workflows consisting of assignments, tests, notices and events, offering a pre-class, in-class and post-class blended learning environment.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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This software turns old laptops into new Chromebooks

Using device-agnostic software called Neverware, districts are breathing new life into old laptops

neverware-laptopsWhen Waller Independent School District of Waller, Texas, decided to start upgrading its laptops and desktops to Windows 7 in 2014, the district had one big concern: time. After years of using Chromebooks alongside its traditional laptops, school leaders were anticipating lightning-fast boot up times from their new investments.

What they found was less than encouraging—even newer laptops, they learned, require a good 60 to 90 seconds to boot up. “In education, that just doesn’t work,” says Rosa Ojeda, technology director for the 8-school, 6,700-student district. “When a teacher is working with 30 students, and when each needs a minute-and-a-half to boot up, you’ve lost that educational moment.”

In addition to its hardware challenges, Waller ISD also faced funding issues. “Our teachers are at the innovative state and ready to start using technology in the classroom,” Ojeda explains, “but our current budget doesn’t support that. We’re buying computers, but it’s still difficult to purchase as many as we really need.” She adds that the district has been able to leverage grants and support from programs like Computers for Learning and federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security.

With thoughts of lengthy boot-up times, budgetary woes, and obsolete hardware swirling around in her head, Ojeda found the answer to all of those issues at an educational conference she attended in 2014. “I ran into Neverware,” says Ojeda, “and saw a demo of an older Dell 640 running Windows 7 and booting up in about 30 to 45 seconds. It was definitely an improvement (in speed) over what we were dealing with.”

Neverware, a New York-based startup, makes software that lets older computers run newer operating systems without compromising speed. When the company released CloudReady—a full operating system that makes a computer function like a Chromebook—Waller ISD decided to invest about $100 per device (to cover the cost of a new solid state drive for the computer) in its fleet of 6- to 8-year-old Dell desktops and laptops. “We bought new batteries and loaded the machines with more memory and waited to see what would happen,” Ojeda recalls. “We wound up with 14-second boot-up times.”

Even more impressive, says Ojeda, is the fact that 95 percent of the laptops that would have otherwise been rendered unusable once Windows 7 was installed were now back in service in the classroom. “We’re able to keep these devices and extend their life out a few more years,” says Ojeda, whose district has acquired 1,000 total licenses for CloudReady. “That’s a thousand machines that we would have had to pull from our fleet.”

What’s old is new again

Waller ISD has seen good things come from its efforts to recycle older computers into usable machines. Take annual student registrations, which are typically held over a 5-day period at the start of the school year. Until recently, the district fielded a number of complaints about the small screen size of students’ 11-inch Chromebooks. “Parents didn’t like filling out all of the paperwork on that small screen,” says Ojeda. Today, the same process takes place on the Dell 830’s or 840’s 14- to 15-inch screens. “We’re able to meet the needs of the community,” says Ojeda, “and in a very fiscally-responsible manner.”

Aside from the $100 investment in solid state drives, Ojeda says the time and cost involved with converting the older equipment into usable devices has been “fairly minimal.” The drives were ordered in quantities of 100 and installed over the summer—a task that was handled by the district’s network staff, campus technologists, and students. To ensure a smooth transition to the new operating system, three of the school’s technologists received their Google certification (on the administration side).

Fountain of youth

According to Andrew Bauer, president of New York-based Neverware, the company offers a free version of CloudReady for individual users, be it a student’s laptop or a home-based desktop. In differentiating the paid version from the free option, he says the former includes technical support via phone, chat, and email, and the ability to integrate with the Google Management console.

At Huntsville School District in Huntsville, TX, Director of Technology Tracie Simental says the district explored various ways to keep aging hardware in service. “We had a lot of older Netbooks and laptops that were going to be removed from circulation because they couldn’t survive past the Windows XP upgrade; their lifecycle was over,” Simental explained. On a positive note, those machines had been well cared for because most resided on carts. “They still had some life left in them,” she added.

To stretch the lives of those 4-year-old machines, Huntsville SD installed CloudReady on 300 of them. Simental says the learning curve was minimal because students and teachers were already using Google, Chrome, and Chromebooks in the classroom. After installing the software, she says boot-up times shrank to 12 seconds and battery life doubled. Now going on six years old, those 300 devices are still running CloudReady and are only retired “when the wheels actually fall off of them,” says Simental.

To other schools considering a similar move, Simental warns that Chrome can be a “pretty meaty program that heats up the bandwidth.” Put simply, make sure your network can support the additional 200-300 computers before setting those devices loose in the classroom. “These days everything seems to have a trickle-down effect on our wireless setup,” says Simental. “Before we passed the computers out, we made sure our network could handle it.”

For example, she says any rooms or spaces that lacked a dedicated wireless access point (WAP) were outfitted with one. Simental sees this as a particularly important strategy because “when users can’t get connected, teachers and students will get frustrated and will stop using the technology that you just rolled out.” Ultimately, Simental says students really want computing power and internet access and are less concerned about the equipment itself.

“The kids really don’t care if they’re using older laptops,” says Simental, who recently used CloudReady to resurrect a set of 30 “forgotten” laptops that were stored on a cart. “That’s just one example of how we’ve been able to give new life to older technology that in the past would have just been left idle.”

Bridget McCrea is a contributing writer for eSchool News.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the location of Huntsville School District. It is located in Huntsville, Texas.

 

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