ICCSD considers one-to-one technology initiative

by Wynne Miller

October 30, 2014

As technology is becoming a more important tool for student education, the Iowa City Community School District is committed to advancing the use of technology in students’ education. The district has been considering a plan to give each student a device for every day educational use.

“The one thing thing I will say that seems really clear is simply giving a student a laptop saying ‘Here you go good luck,’ does not insure the program’s success,” Bacon said. “There are two parts: you have to provide the device and also provide staff with appropriate professional development so that they are designing experiences and making the best use of the technology.”

There are thousands of iPads in use around the district, and about 150 have recently been added to City High.

“We have iPads available to check out for teachers planning a unit that involves the iPad as a way to enhance instruction,” City High principal John Bacon said. “We really encourage teachers to plan lessons to use technology as a tool.”

Over 2,000 computers are allocated to computer labs and mobile carts throughout the district. At City High, there have been two mobile laptop labs added to the school for teachers to check out for their classes.

“We’re really trying to increase our student’s access to computers so there’s always an available device,” Bacon said.

The district wide initiative to add a SMART Board, document camera , projector, and hub computer has been completed.

“Naturally, the primary focus for technology in the district is for curriculum and instruction,” David Dude, Chief Technology Officer of the Iowa City Community School District, said.

The district has also made technology more accessible by improving the Wi-Fi network and adding an access point for each classroom along with a variety of other renovations including firewalls, switches, and cabling.

“There are constantly improvements being made to our technology systems, but many of them are behind the scenes,” Dude said.

Some districts have had tremendous success with such initiatives and others have not seen much, if any, return on that investment.”

— David Dude

Student and teacher accounts have been integrated with Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Education.

“The school district has made a concerted effort over the past couple of years to improve our infrastructure, setting the stage to allow schools to add more technology,” Bacon said.

Currently the entire district is at approximately a two-to-one students-to-computers ratio. However, the district is beginning to look at giving schools a one-to-one relationship. To test this, the district will be piloting Chromebooks during second and third trimesters in several 5th through 12th grade classrooms.

“The Chromebook pilot will be one of the pieces of information used to help determine if the district should consider the one-to-one device initiative,” Dude said.

In such an initiative, students would each be issued their own device to use both at school and at home.

“We are approaching it with care to ensure we explore all related issues and make the best decision for our staff and students.”

Members of the district are looking at the pros and cons of an initiative similar to those used by several schools around Iowa that already have one-to-one technologies for their students.


Cedar Falls High School

Cedar Falls High School uses Chromebooks as their one-to-one technology device. The school has about 1200 students grades 10-12. The majority of the students have positive feedback for the device.

“It’s a really awesome device, everything’s organized and all in one, it really helps,” Jamie Becker a senior at Cedar Falls High School.

The technology has been mostly helpful for the school but is still making improvements.

]“Yes I like them, but I can see the downside and the upside,” Austin Anederson, a senior at Cedar Falls High School said.

The Chromebooks allowed for a bigger transition to technology in the students’ everyday education.

“We started to submit a lot of out assignments digitally so it takes a lot of the paper away,” Anderson said. “Notes go ten times faster and computer labs aren’t really used anymore.”

The Chromebook has become an essential tool for many students at the school.

The school has experienced some issues with the device’s physical strength.

“Durability is a problem. People will put the laptops in their bags and next hour it’ll have cracks all over the screen,” Andersen said.

“There’s about a 10% accidental damage rate with our current chromebooks. With a different a previous brand we used, the Acer Chromebooks, 9% of the computers failed out of the box,” Shane Paige Supervisor of Technology Software in the Cedar Falls School district said.

At the school, the devices are issued to the students free of charge but a student does become responsible for financing a new part if the computer needs a replacement.

“We don’t want children to be charged with a cost simply because we’ve changed their learning environment, but if the students break the device then we ask them to take responsibility and pay for it. We don’t charge for labor, just the exact cost for the part or the replacement.” Paige said. “They’re handed the device in good faith and we have a responsible use procedure the students need to sign before they take it home.”

The durability issue of the device brings up many factors of how the district initially chose a device.

“By in large you’re talking about a fairly reasonably priced device.” Paige said. “We just need to go look at what’s out there, we’ve had a good experience with the Samsung but that’s not to say there isn’t something better out there.”

A difference in the Chromebook is that the device doesn’t hold memory; there’s no software. This allows students to access all their work from any computer, since it’s all online. It also prevents viruses and malware from being downloaded and damaging the computer.

“After the students caught on to the device, it’s ease of use, turn it on and go system they responded well to it,” Brian Unruh, Coordinator of the Instructional Technology Classroom in the Cedar Falls School District said.

In the high school, the Chromebooks bring new aspects of equal education

“I can tell you as a father of two high school students I see them use the Chromebooks every night. Their homework is completely based around the chromebooks.”

— Troy Becker, Associate Principal at Cedar Falls High School said.

“With every district all the students have a different social and economic status and it’s interesting to see that there’s a lot of kids who don’t have technology and those kids really value this device.” Unruh said. “Leveling the playing field is a term that gets thrown around a lot but we’ve got where this is the first time they’ve had access to a device this powerful.”

The computers also offer a new set of life skills for the students to learn.

“All the life lessons we want to teach our kids like digital responsibility, time management, problem solving, independent thinking, and communicating are things that are hard to assess or value on a test,” Unruh said. “But they’re so important. We want our kids to be productive citizens and responsible once they leave the system so at some point you’re doing a disservice providing them skills to survive,” Unruh said.

The use of Chromebooks may bring up an issue of parent concern.

“It’s tough because their are some parents who want to raise their kids with restrictions and blocks on information and that’s their right,” Unruh said. “We try to give our parents strategies toward their goal that aren’t technology related. We can add filters but there are great things you can do at home too. It’s more of a thing that crosses over into parenting. It’s a matter of trusting students and giving consequences when rules and respects are violated.”

The district has stressed how much they value having teachers be educated to fully use the devices.

“It’s going to be difficult to successfully utilize the device without ongoing support for personal development teachers,” Unruh said. “We provided building instructional technology leaders to go and work with different teachers. It was a necessity for the one to one initiative.”

The school  initially created technology leader committee including about 10 of the school’s staff members.

“They learned about the device in depth and then educated the rest of the staff in a kind of a trickle down effect,” Becker said.

Xavier High School

Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids also used iPads in a one-to-one program at their school, which they started last year.

“We all learned how to use it together but the freshman this year struggled with figuring out how to use it,” Abby Willey, a junior and Opinion Assistant Editor at Xavier said.

The school started the initiative by touring other schools and investigating other devices.

“We honestly went with the iPad because we can’t afford a tech person and they seem to have the least problems. At the same time there are so many apps that help us with the education,” Kellie Wagner a teacher at Xavier said.

The students have transitioned to a new way of organizing with the iPad and have responded positively.EDIT3

“It’s all together in one place now, the best part about it is the organizational tool, you don’t have to worry about forgetting your homework at home,” KJ Giles a junior and Assistant Sports Editor at Xavier said. “The only actual textbook I use is for math. If I have my iPad I’m good to go.”

With the technology transition there are the occasional difficulties.

“Sometimes the school wifi crashes for a period and we can’t do much,” Willey said.

The students were reported to be struggling with the distractions on the device in the beginning.

“You figure out that it’s fun to not pay attention until you fail your class,” Giles said.

The iPad has been seen as a positive addition to the school over all, according to some staff.

“Students produce work a lot faster. Motivation increased with the iPad, strictly with writing so we’re figuring out how to utilize the tool better in the classroom to increase the student’s learning,” Wagner said.

The one-to-one technology initiative has innovated these schools with pros and cons.

“Even with all the technology problems we have to overcome this is still better,” Joleen Dake, a teacher at Prairie High school said. “It’s helping the students and it’s better.”


Cedar Rapids Prairie High School

Another school using one-to-one technology is in Cedar Rapids at Prairie High School. The school has about 1100 students, grade 10-12; each student is issued a MacBook.

“The computer makes things a lot easier because you have everything you need right with you all the time,” MaeLina Araujo, a Senior at Prairie said. “we need the computers for the majority of our homework; we use it in every single class,”

DSC_9398Like most computers, the devices don’t work as well when there isn’t internet connection which can be a difficulty at the school.

“There’s some areas of the school that Wi-Fi won’t connect to and when that happens we can take notes on a word document but teachers can’t follow their lesson plan,” Katie Hamilton, a senior at Prairie said.

However, the district has many aspects that are used as technology support.

“There are four techs in our department and we’re responsible for just the one to one computers and there’s 1 of us at each school,” Chris Ketchum, the Tech at Prairie, said.

The school also uses a technology called DINO which is a software that monitors students’ computers at school.

“Teachers can see what all their students are doing and also shut their computer down or lock it,” Ryan Fritz the assistant principal at Prairie said.

First the district established a process to initiate the program.

“The year before we started the one to one program we developed a council of people around the district and tested devices. one of the big factors was if the device is a producer of into or a consumer of one, with a MacBook the software suite it comes with allows more production,” Ketchum said.

The initiative was funded by a bond that the school board voted on, and also bought the extended care apple warranty because anything not caused by accidental damaged will be repaired by apple. The way the school handles accidental damage is the school pays for it, there’s nothing out of the student’s pocket unless the damage was intentional abuse. The school also accommodates for the technology support.

“The teachers had built in professional learning days led by digital literacy trainers who had been educated by members of Apple. those trained teachers lead sessions to show how to use the computer the digital literacy trainers are responsible for incorporating technology into lesson plans,” Ketchum said.

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