At Banks County Schools, a rural school district in the mountains of northeast Georgia, it feels like we’re at the end and also the beginning of a very exciting journey. With around 2,850 students in pre-k to grade 12, technology plays an increasingly important role in learning outcomes across all age groups.
While we launched a district-wide 1:1 initiative this year, our journey actually began four years ago when we kicked off discussions about supplementing our aging hardware which, at the time, consisted solely of desktop and laptop PCs. With the full backing of our board, we introduced five iPad carts that teachers had to apply to use.
As classroom technology increased, these five carts quickly grew into 16 and discussions evolved into the viability of rolling out a full 1:1 program.
We set up a working group with members from the technology and curriculum departments, as well as school administrators, to answer a simple question–was a full 1:1 rollout feasible?
We reviewed cost and stakeholder support and, with backing from our superintendent, took one step closer to realizing our vision. We learned several things along the way, including the importance of doing your research, selecting the right tools to manage your devices, communicating your plan effectively, and creating contingency plans.
Critical Success Factors
Next we spoke to other districts with 1:1 programs and consulted with experts to come up with the below list of requirements:
- The right infrastructure
- The right devices for all users
- A good mobile device management (MDM) solution
- A strong communications plan
- A consideration for online safety
- Detailed project planning
- Lots of flexibility
Devices and Infrastructure
Going 1:1 means ensuring each device is fit for the purpose of the student using it. After a full review of requirements we decided to provide students in pre-k through 4th grade with iPads, while students in 5th through 12th grade would receive Chromebooks. We recognized that some additional devices with specific applications or features would be needed in certain environments – the music room for example – and additional carts were made available for such scenarios.
In order to have a successful rollout, we provided the teachers with the same type of devices as the students they teach (in advance of when the students received devices) so they could familiarize themselves with the technology and how best to integrate it into their lessons. This also meant teachers could be the students’ first line of support for troubleshooting or questions.
Making sure our network infrastructure could support additional devices was vital so we upgraded our wireless network to support a 1:1 initiative.