Sunday, December 13, 2009

1:1 Laptop Learning at Our School Next Year

The 2010-2011 school year will be the first year that all students at my school will be required to bring a laptop to school each day. I'm excited about the model that we've selected because we are not mandating that students purchase a particular model nor are we mandating that they purchase software at this point. Students may use laptops that they already own, which is great as 60-70% of our students already own a laptop (see our 1:1 FAQ doc for the complete details on our plan-we also have some of our work posted at our 1:1 planning site).

The model that we selected gives individuals the element of choice, which I think will lead to some innovativation in and of itself. For example, some kid might choose to purchase a low cost netbook, which leaves extra money available to purchase an eReader and an inexpensive video camera. It also prevents us from locking into a particular platform and model so that when a new innovation comes out (eg, the apple tablet/eReader), we're able to consider integrating this new technology.

A thread about 1:1 learning recently circulated around the California Independent Schools Listserve (of which I'm not a member) and our head of school, Joan Lonergan, responded to a question from one school leader about our 1:1 learning plans. Joan shared her reply with me and I thought she absolutely hit the nail on the head in her description of our 1:1 learning model that we'll be deploying next year. So I asked Joan if I could republish her excellent work in this space and she obliged. Joan's answers follow and any comments that I added are  highlighted below in orange.
Q: Do you have any WRITTEN policies I could review? Contracts with parents?

A: None. We have said we are initiating a 1:1 device program, issued some minimum specs that are desirable for all devices to be used in classes, and said we will support both Macs and PCs on minor repairs in school and provide low end loaners while families take care of major repairs. We have predominantly Apple platform here and an Apple store downtown so we think this will work. We already have a large majority of our students bringing computers of some sort to school with no issues about service, etc. We are now looking at infrastructure issues to make sure we have wireless and electrical capacity campus wide.

Q: What to do is computer is lost, stolen or broken?
A: We have loaners (for loaners we are using low cost, yet powerful HP 5101 10.1" Netbook computers running the Ubuntu Netbook remix-all software is free and open source)

Q: Who purchases the computer? 
A: families independently, not through school

Q: Controls on what is downloaded on the computer?
A: We have a minimum expectation of software and applications should be on all student computers, but we are making a very conscious effort to use as much open source software as possible.

Q: Anything else you considered as you made this decision?? 
A: We have considered every option to be a 1:1 school and opted for the easiest for us and the least restrictive for our families. We are piloting this second semester so will have more to share in June. Matt Montagne is our Academic Tech person whom I have copied. You might want to touch base with him in a few months.


  1. We are following a similar program which we started this year. One thing we have done is required insurance which we offered very cheaply through student insurance and covers theft and accidental damage. It has already paid off for the students and families. We have mostly netbooks and the insurance is $44 dollars with a $25 deductible. Kids are kids and they have broken two screens already.
    I wrote a related approach for LeaderTalk this month.

  2. Very cool. I used to run Xubuntu and Fluxbuntu on some really old machines at my last school. Our student population is very low SES, so the best solution turned out to be blending Ubuntu alternatives with cloud computing and using Puppy Linux on flash drives (so that they could use it at home when they had a computer).

    Netbooks have gotten so cheap that I thought it would be cool to develop a sort of education-centered (constructivist-based) distro similar to Jolicloud. I have a few Linux geek friends who I've been talking to.

    My biggest barrier, though, is the school district. Everything we get has to be Apple. No one is allowed to question that. So, it's been a real battle.

    Anyway, this seems pretty exciting. Congratulations.

  3. @John-Thanks for the comment. Keep at it...the "one size fits all" approach to school IT management that has proliferated will not continue to do so. I'm an ardent mac fan, but it is hard to argue the merits of fast, powerful and HIGHLY portable netbooks that run on entirely free software. At some point it will be considered irresponsible not to include linux and FOSS solutions in school computing systems. I like your idea to create some type of constructivist linux distro-kinda reminds me of the edu-buntu project, which seems to have died off.

    @Barbara-I left a long, lengthly comment over at your excellent blog post. Funny how we both posted something related on the same day. I agree entirely-schools should have a strategy for getting away from being the suppliers of computers to not only students, but teachers as well. Give teachers a stipend every 4 years and let them choose their own system-if they want to purchase software, they can. Those who use open source may then either save their stipend or spend it on something that might be useful to them (eg-a video cam, ereader, music midi interface, iPod, cell phone, etc).

  4. I've been lobbying my district and they finally gave me permission to run a one-to-one program using Linux. I get to choose the distro (I'm leaning toward a variation of Linux Mint but I've also been talking to some Linux geeks about reworking Ubuntu to use other features, like tags instead of folders - we'll see how that goes.)

  5. way to go, John! Persistence pays off! I'm looking forward to hearing about your progress with your program and the linux distribution that you choose. I like the notion of being able to organize files on the computer with tagging versus folders-that is brilliant.