Preparing for Large Scale Tech Rollouts
Director of Technology
Goddard USD 265
Carson City School District
Carson City, Nevada
DOUG PEARCE, Director, Technical Services
ANGELA COLUZZI, Director, Network Integration
Broward County Public Schools
Broward County, Florida (235,000 students)
Director of IT Services
East Side Union High
San Jose, California
1-to-1 and BYOD initiatives appear to be gaining momentum with more and more districts putting plans into place for the 2014-2015 school year. To what extent has your district begun to implement either of these initiatives?
MITCH KRUEGER, GODDARD USD 265: We have just implemented a BYOD policy, but even before that, students were using devices. Our official policy states that when students come to our network, they must abide by our acceptable usage policy. We have put a more robust infrastructure in place and encouraged users to start bringing devices for academic use. Curriculum is being transitioned to support BYOD in the classroom.
JANICE ARTHUR-TOWNS, CARSON CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT: We have started implementing 1-to-1 based on the goals of our strategic plan, internal technology plan and the state 1-to-1 plan. Teachers had to apply to be a part of our pilot, stating how they would use Lenovo® Think Pads® to improve reading in the classroom. Our pilot involved 20 teachers,. Now all sixth through eighth grade students have a device that they can take home.
DOUG PEARCE AND ANGELA COLUZZI, BROWARD COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Our District has a vision of increasing personalized instruction, supported in part through the integration of digital tools. This year we’re rolling out a BYOD program for high schools and some of our technical centers. We’re also expanding a pilot project that incorporates a 1-to-1 strategy called Digital 5. Over 3,200 fifth graders from 27 elementary schools were given Lenovo ThinkPad 2 laptops this past year as a starting point for the project. We are already looking to increase the number of Digital 5 schools for the 2014-2015 school year.
RANDY PHELPS, EAST SIDE UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT: We have three pilots for 1-to-1 underway and we completed a teacher 1-to-1 last spring. BYOD has been in place for the past 15 months with some provisions. In August 2012, there were about 1,800 devices on the network; currently there are more than 15,000.
What were your objectives or goals for making that decision? Did upcoming statewide online assessments affect your decision to move forward?
KRUEGER: Upcoming assessments did play a small role in the need for the network upgrade that was necessary for BYOD. With BYOD, we knew students would be accessing more media-rich, web-based apps and videos that consume a lot of bandwidth.
ARTHUR-TOWNS: While online assessments were not the primary driving force behind our 1-to-1 initiative, we did want to make sure the devices complied with the SMARTER Balanced technical requirements. Our district assessments are currently computer based.
PEARCE AND COLUZZI: Under the leadership of Superintendent Robert W. Runcie, Broward is built on the pillars of providing high quality instruction, improving business and educational processes and communicating effectively with stakeholders. These pillars rely on highly available and high quality technology. Florida’s high stakes assessments are also conducted online. We need to replace and modernize old technology whenever and wherever possible to give students the tools they need to attain the 21st century skills required for success in either their college or career paths.
PHELPS: We are supportive of the Common Core movement and believe it fits with our district strategic plan beautifully. Additionally, we wanted access, opportunity and resources equitably distributed and available as needed through 1-to-1 and BYOD. An effective implementation plan is critical to the success of any technology initiative.
What steps have you taken to prepare teachers, parents and students in regard to your 1-to-1/BYOD? (Considering areas such as professional development, parental buy-in, pilots, staggered implementations, etc.)
KRUEGER: We have building-based technology committees, teacher-based committees and district technology steering committees that met over 18 months to outline goals for BYOD. To prepare teachers, we have held peer-led professional development, including our Happy Appy class. Teachers joined together after school to share apps they had discovered that their peers might find helpful. Our assistant superintendent of curriculum attended and even showed how an app related to Common Core State Standards.
ARTHUR-TOWNS: When we first looked at 1-to-1, I said we could not go any further until we had a firm professional development plan in place. Our Technology Implementation Specialist led 45 hours of PD for teachers and Administrators. Part of the training included professional learning communities and peer observations. For students, we gave “Digital Drivers Lessons.” These classes focused on digital citizenship and the proper use of the devices. If students misuse their devices, they get their device taken away and must take Digital Drivers Lessons again before they get a device back. Parent and community meetings were held for the public.
PEARCE AND COLUZZI: We did professional development for our technology support staff and teachers last summer prior to our 1-to-1 personalized learning roll-out. Parents attended open houses to learn about the meaning of BYOD, student responsibilities and responsible use guidelines. Teachers meet on an ongoing basis in professional learning communities to discuss what is going right—and wrong—in their 1-to-1 or BYOD classrooms.
PHELPS: Our proposed tech bond will really help us with providing staff development that is recursive and constant, addresses growth and change, and inculcates the notion that change really is the constant. Already, 12 staff members have gone through a training program that qualifies them to be trainers. Our goal is to have 10 qualified trainers per campus by the middle of next year. This is ambitious, but we know we need constant training and we need to help our teachers become self supporting. The self support model will empower teachers.
Increasing bandwidth is a key consideration for preparing for a 1-to-1 or BYOD. What steps have you taken to build out your network and bandwidth? What were key factors in your considerations?
KRUEGER: About 80 percent of our fifth-through twelfth- graders bring devices onto our network. And without the right infrastructure to support that, you cannot do BYOD. We worked with AT&T to install Aruba Networks® enterprise solutions. This summer, we’re going to double our bandwidth from 200MB to 400MB. Students and guests sign onto an isolated area of our network and are authenticated with a username and password, or name and email address. They must re-authenticate after four hours. Each campus in the district has its own internet circuit so we can more closely monitor where the most bandwidth is being consumed and adjust accordingly.
ARTHUR-TOWNS: Our district allocated money to redo our enterprise wireless to support a 1-to-1 deployment. Our previous network was built on providing coverage, with little concern for density, and supported older wireless standards. We were already a technology-rich district, but now we are using the internet in a different way and are positioned to support the new wireless standard of 802.11ac.
PEARCE AND COLUZZI: Without the right infrastructure in place, you just can’t support the cloud-based programs students need to access from their devices. We’re in the middle of a multiyear bandwidth expansion. Currently, most of our sites have bandwidth ranging from 50MB to 100MB, but plans are in place to move to Switched Ethernet from AT&T and increase our bandwidth to 1GB
at all schools as driven by increased demand. We are also increasing the size of our internet connections that go to our hub at our data center where traffic is prioritized and managed. E-rate funds and related competitive bid processes are supporting this effort to rapidly expand bandwidth.
PHELPS: Beginning in the fall, we’ll be expanding our bandwidth exponentially. What we are excited by are the new services offered by companies such as AT&T, which are redrawing the landscape n terms of massive bandwidth. We know that “media rich” means more bandwidth. If we are going to have all students with device and if we truly train our teachers and students, the growth will be well beyond what we have seen in the last 18 months. We have plans to migrate our network to Switched Ethernet from AT&T to increase our bandwidth to 10GB at our District Office (Hub) and 1GB at our 13 schools.
What is your expectation for the growth of WAN, WiFi and internet bandwidth over the next few years at your district?
KRUEGER: While we do not expect to double every year, we know we will need to increase our bandwidth, as many students continue to use multiple devices. We are also in the process of putting trays of five iPads in classrooms, which we know will consume bandwidth.
ARTHUR-TOWNS: Our WiFi will be up to 1-to-1 standards by the end of the summer. We are now in the process of upgrading switches and AP’s. If anything, we may need to adjust the AP density, but feel we are positioned to accommodate growth for the next two to three years. From a WAN standpoint, we are using AT&T OPTE-MAN(SM) with a mixture of 1GB and 100MB ports with various Committed Information Rate (CIR) options under those ports.
PEARCE AND COLUZZI: As far as WAN, we will monitor usage on a continuous basis, and with Switched Ethernet from AT&T we can increase the size of the pipes as needed. Because of the size of our district, we do not have the same demands everywhere all the time. We have the flexibility to adjust as needed from our network operations center.
PHELPS: We are excited by new technology and expect our WiFi access to grow by five times its current size. Our WAN access will increase by seven times its current size in the next three to four years.
What role do you see advanced speeds via LTE mobile networks playing in your future plans? Are you considering LTE to support any of your in-school connectivity needs?
KRUEGER: At this point, we are not using LTE networks, but can see a potential application where a student does not have wireless at home.
ARTHUR-TOWNS: We are using LTE as a backup to wireless. We also provide it for students who do not have Internet at home to provide equal access.
PEARCE AND COLUZZI: We see LTE technologies playing into our overall network solutions suite in a couple of places. We are looking at piloting a “TYON”, or Take Your Own Network system this coming year in which students without Internet connections at home can check out, as needed, an educationally appropriate MiFi device. Our media specialists can set the device to be operable during certain hours and to allow access to certain sites. We also can provide District WAN connections through LTE and Aerohive Branch Router WiFi edge devices for temporary or hard to reach spaces.
PHELPS: Currently, we are not planning to extend LTE use beyond key administrators, school-at-home teachers and special education students. WiFi is prevalent enough in our community.
What results have you seen so far from your 1-to-1/BYOD? Any benchmark improvements in areas such as attendance, student engagement, testing outcomes, etc?
KRUEGER: We have seen a lot more student engagement in the learning process. BYOD gives teachers an easier way to make learning more fun. Through their devices, students can have rightnow access to information.
ARTHUR-TOWNS: Through observation, we have noticed increased engagement. Students who normally do not have a voice are now collaborating and contributing to lessons. We have an outside evaluator looking at our 1-to-1 project. She is doing data analysis on attendance, student achievement and engagement. Findings will be presented at the end of this year.
PEARCE AND COLUZZI: In the first school where we piloted BYOD, the principal mentioned how transformational BYOD has been for his school. Where we’ve deployed 1-to-1 has seen a marked increase in attendance and student engagement and a significant drop in behavioral issues. Students in the personalized learning program have taken ownership of their devices and we have had few issues with breakage. The academics department has engaged an outside evaluator to analyze the student achievement results and project goals of the personalized learning program, and results will be shared with the educational community by July 1.
PHELPS: One of our pilot sites was scoped for students who had failed courses but had never been in trouble for behavior other than not coming to school. In the first semester with 1-to-1, attendance increased substantially and 75 percent of the students were not failing even a single class.
What words of advice would you offer to colleagues who are still evaluating 1-to-1 or BYOD initiatives?
KRUEGER: Plan and then plan some more. Make sure you put the necessary policies in place, and get buy-in from your users. If going 1-to-1, have a good idea of how your device works. However, it’s not about what device you use, it’s what you want to do with it.
ARTHUR-TOWNS: Let instructional goals drive decisions. Don’t try to make instruction fit around a device. Professional development is key to the project’s success and needs to be ongoing and sustainable. Plan, but be ready to adjust. It is both an exciting and trying process.
PEARCE AND COLUZZI: Make sure everyone understands that the devices are support mechanisms that help drive high quality instruction through the personalization of learning. District strategic plans and academic goals should drive the digital initiatives. Buyin from all stakeholders, including IT staff, instructional staff, principals, the superintendent and the school board, parents, teachers and students is essential for success.
PHELPS: For the students who are used to having access anywhere, not having access at school is alien and makes school a strange and backward place. For the students who aren’t used to it, providing resources and access is a great equalizer. For teachers, it is the change from a class of students to each student as an individual. Those individuals can work collaboratively. The potential in this is far greater than the fear of failure. Our motto is failure is an option; it is the next step toward success.
For more information, please visit www.att.com/k12bandwidth.