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Tue, 01/08/2019 – 13:10
Anyone involved in a one-to-one initiative knows it can be much more complicated than just rolling out a cartful of Chromebooks and logging on to a Wi-Fi network. As IT director for Arizona’s Humboldt Unified School District, about 90 minutes north of Phoenix, Patrick Keeling has experienced this challenge firsthand.
HUSD is working toward what Keeling calls a one-to-one access program: The district’s 5,800 K–12 students don’t carry devices with them all the time, but they can grab one off a charging cart and use it whenever they need to.
Before the transition, Keeling decided the district could use some help moving to Google apps. So HUSD called on Amplified IT, a Norfolk, Va.-based firm that specializes in helping K–12 schools implement Google for Education.
“There’s such a depth to what you can configure in G Suite,” he says. “Amplified helped us get through that. They even provided some deployment tools so we could get the machines set up and onto the network.”
Amplified also helped the district migrate from its mail server and “provided a multitude of other services in the G Suite,” he says. The company continues to provide ongoing support; Keeling says the district probably calls them two or three times a week.
“It’s typically something like, ‘We want to roll out this service — what do we do?’ ” says Keeling. “Or it’s, ‘A teacher stumbled across this feature. Can you help us figure out why it isn’t working how we think it should?’ ”
The need for tech help varies greatly, says Leila Nuland, managing content director for K–12 at Hanover Research, which surveys school districts across the U.S. to help them assess their technical and professional development needs.
Some of the variables include grade level, teachers’ comfort with technology and how far along the district is in its one-to-one program.
“Your elementary teachers might be further along than your high school teachers,” she says. “We try to get districts to slice the data in different ways so they can figure out how to target and customize their professional development initiatives.”
K–12 Professional Development Is Constantly Shifting
When it came to getting educators up to speed, HUSD turned to another professional services company, EdTechTeam, to develop a cadre of Google Certified Trainers who could share their expertise with the rest of the district.
Humboldt started with a cohort of 30 instructional specialists and teachers who showed a passionate interest in technology; they then set out to train other educators across the district.
The goal was to expand what the tools could do for instruction and see how they impact the classroom. At publication time, more than 75 percent of HUSD’s teachers were Level 1 Google Certified Educators.
“The double-edged sword of G Suite is that things are constantly changing — functionality is being added, buttons are moving,” Keeling says. “So, the training was less ‘Here’s exactly how to do this’ and more ‘Here’s how you can use this set of tools in your classroom.’ ”
Keeling says partnering with an experienced professional services firm saved the district a lot of time and troubleshooting. “If you try to do this yourself, and you’re not meticulous about how you set it up, you’re in for a lot of headaches and stumbling along the way,” he says.
What To Do When Technology Training Resources Are in Short Supply
In small rural districts like Hoxie Public Schools, technology resources are especially scarce. Located two hours northeast of Little Rock, Ark., Hoxie features a single K–12 campus with 900 students and roughly 1,200 laptops and desktops, including computer labs and staff machines.
Hoxie is now a one-to-one school district, featuring low-cost laptops such as the Lenovo 100e or convertible touch-screen tablets like the Lenovo 300e. But it took five years and a lot of effort to get there, says Technology Coordinator Darrell Parks.
“In rural Arkansas, the poverty level is really high,” Parks says. “You have problems getting bandwidth, and funding is a constant issue. As a small school, we didn’t have the money to go in and do one-to-one in a single year. First, we had to get our wired infrastructure up to par, then our wireless, and then we started buying laptops. It’s been a really long game.” Another thing in short supply was technical training, he adds.