Today the Lake Park Audubon School District in Minnesota is known for its technology, but it didn’t earn this reputation overnight. Six years ago, the 700-student district carefully planned an ambitious one-to-one initiative and worked through significant challenges along the way.
Lake Park Audubon launched a one-to-one program in 2012 to provide equity for students. A significant number of students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch programs and many don’t have computers at home. The district believed that providing devices for every student—and allowing the high school students to take the devices home—would level the playing field by giving all students equal access to technology.
I served as Lake Park Audubon’s technology director from 2008 to 2017 and shepherded it through the one-to-one planning, development, and implementation. Along the way, we encountered several roadblocks: How do we pay for the devices? How do we get buy-in from the school board? Those issues have to be addressed before you can even begin to address a third question: We’ve got these devices; now what?
Here’s how we implemented our technology initiative and some advice for other districts in this position.
Find the right partner
It is critically important to find a tech partner that can provide you with equipment as well as school-focused warranties, support, and service, all within your budget. For us, CDI Computer Dealers was a one-stop shop. It offered a leasing program, high-quality recertified devices, servers and networking equipment, and planning and implementation support.
Look into recertified instead of new
To save money on the student devices, we bought recertified computers. There’s nothing wrong with new if you can afford it, but we’ve found that recertified devices are just as good or better. We also decided to lease the devices. Leasing allows you to space the payments out over time to make the initiative more budget-friendly and more palatable for your board members. Making these two decisions was the only way we could afford this undertaking.
Get buy in from your board
Our school board fully supported upgrading our infrastructure but was skeptical about using recertified equipment. To alleviate their concerns, we set up a pilot lab, allowing them to compare the performance of the CDI recertified computers and notebooks with new ones. The recertified equipment outperformed the new ones, which impressed our board members. The devices also came with post-sales support, a service plan, and a warranty.
Look beyond the initial devices purchase
Make sure you also have a plan and a budget for making the most of your devices once they are in the classroom. You’ll need to train teachers, purchase the appropriate curriculum, and refresh your equipment on a regular basis.
Today Lake Park Audubon provides many opportunities for students who are interested in technology. It has a robotics team and partnerships with tech and manufacturing companies that offer internships for students. The district also continues to focus on providing equity by opening common areas in the afternoons and evenings for students who don’t have internet access at home.
Going one-to-one also expanded our curriculum. Everything we purchase has a digital component. Classrooms have shifted from a lecture-style environment to a self-paced learning environment. The teachers record lessons and concepts and share them at the beginning of the year. Students work at their own pace. When they master a concept, they can move to the next one. If they are struggling, the teacher works with them individually. This personalizes learning and teaches students time management. Going one-to-one has helped us create an entire new learning ecosystem that wasn’t possible before.
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