A Plan for Providing Equitable Anytime/Anywhere/Any Device Internet Access to All Students

School districts wrestle with ways to provide equitable internet access to all students, a challenge magnified for districts with a 1:1 Chromebook or laptop initiative. Using data from local surveys  and determining pockets of limited bandwidth, there are some common actions.  Many districts extend school hours to keep labs open and wifi accessible, share a list of community resources with broadband access, or provide internet access at home through cellular modems (i.e. Kajeet, MiFi). None of these approaches provides the same level of broadband access enjoyed by other students.

In many areas, cable companies provide wifi hotspots to their customers at no extra charge, something school districts should leverage, particularly since the infrastructure and hardware is already in place. In the spirit of a community partnership, cable companies can provide wifi hotspot access to any student or teacher who has an email address with the school’s domain (i.e. jsmith@myschooldistrict.org).  Access to website categories or devices not allowed by the district can be filtered through web based tools such as Go Guardian or Securly.
Continue reading

Posted in _GAFE Chronology, General Commentary, School 2.0 | Leave a comment

Student Involvement in the Chromebook Distribution Process

Students assist in Chromebook distribution. Distributing more than 1,900 Chromebooks in week’s time requires careful planning and plenty of collaboration!  For the majority of the distribution process, students at BHS and CVS have been actively engaged in the assisting in this extensive endeavor. More that 20 students at BHS participated in training related to the steps necessary to setup, enroll, and register the devices and were a central point in the success of the rapid deployment. Nine students at WMS worked with Peter LaMoreaux and John Castellano from the Department of Technology and Innovation to assist in the unboxing and coordination for distribution. At WMS, time was at a premium and more than 680 devices were distributed and enrolled by students in less than three hours over two days! Once the devices are fully deployed, a group of students from both schools will serve in an advisory capacity and provide feedback and student perspective to the Department of Technology and Innovation.    

Posted in _GAFE Chronology, My posts from Brewster Schools | Leave a comment

A Bit About Our District’s 1:1 Chromebook Roll-Out

Chromebook distribution at WMSMore than 1,325 teachers and students in the Brewster Central School District have received a Chromebook over the past five days,  fulfilling an integral part of the district’s Strategic Technology Plan.  The district’s vision is quickly becoming a reality, and the enthusiasm around ubiquitous access is palpable!  Today it took less than 90 minutes for more than 450 middle school students to pick up and configure their devices in the auditorium.  “It was busy, but the process went very smoothly and the roll out was a great success,” said Peter LaMoreaux, the district’s instructional technology specialist.  WMS Principal John Clark agreed, adding, “I think the collaboration was incredible.  Everyone stepped up, pitched in, and got it done.”

The NYS Smart Schools Bond Act funded the purchase of a Chromebook for every teacher and every student in grades 6-12.  During the 18 months leading up to the rollout, there were many professional learning opportunities for teachers, a district-wide move to G-Suite (formerly Google Apps for Education), a broad implementation of Google Classroom, and a summer learning week for teachers that focused on strategies for using technology to thoroughly engage students in their learning. Teachers in all schools have participated in professional learning activities including skills based workshops (how to use the various hardware and online tools) as well as powerful ways ubiquitous technology can change learning opportunities in the classroom and beyond.  Using the SAMR Model as a framework, district staff and outside experts have worked with teachers on unit and lesson design, as well as strategies for increasing student engagement, collaboration, and achievement.  The overall model is tightly aligned with the district’s Strategic Coherence Plan.

Posted in _GAFE Chronology, My posts from Brewster Schools, School 2.0 | Leave a comment

More Than 190 Chromebooks Distributed; Hundreds More (for students) Next Week!

Chromebook Survey (success!)This week has been an exciting one in the district, as teachers in all schools received their Chromebooks as part of the planned distribution defined in our Instructional Technology Plan.  Over the course of several days, the Department of Technology and Innovation worked in each of our four schools, leaving 194 excited teachers in their wake–each with a new Chromebook fully configured and ready for them to use anytime and anywhere!  One teacher in C.V. Starr who received her Chromebook yesterday commented, “Efficiently done. I was concerned about how long the process would take, but everyone was so helpful and the process was quick and painless.”

The process was very efficient, and it took teachers less than five minutes to provision their Chromebooks to the network, register the device, and head back to the teachers’ room.  Team members John Castellano and Peter LaMoreaux coordinated the district-wide efforts, and were assisted by professionals in each school.  Their work was well received,  The Department of Technology and Innovation used a feedback survey to help refine the process and prepare for the distribution next week of more than 825 Chromebooks to high school students and another 750 in the middle school the following week.  The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and teachers also provided suggestions for improvements that we are implementing to ensure we are properly perceived as resources in service to students and teachers.

Posted in _GAFE Chronology, My posts from Brewster Schools | Leave a comment

Conversations with Google: Partners in Excellence!

Screenshot of Google HangoutOn Wednesday afternoon, Director of Technology and Innovation John Krouskoff and District-wide Instructional Technology Specialist Peter LaMoreaux participated in a Google Hangout with staff from the Google Education team and a several experts from a national research firm.  The hangout (a multi-participant video conference) was designed as a one hour conversation in which technology leaders could reflect on experiences with Google implementations, make suggestions for improvements, and provide real world vision to the Google team members to bring back to the larger team and use as information in their continuing cycles of improvement.  Educational technology leaders from South Carolina and Illinois actively shared their experiences, and the group spent time discussing the ways online tools can transform student learning, as well as barriers to the effective implementation of such tools.  Managing 1:1 environments and maintaining a low total cost of ownership (TCO) was part of the conversation, but at the heart of the questions and the discussion was teacher and student readiness, professional learning, and strategies for identifying and removing obstacles to innovative learning opportunities for students.

Posted in My posts from Brewster Schools | Leave a comment

Conversations with Google: Partners in Excellence!

Screenshot of Google HangoutOn Wednesday afternoon, Director of Technology and Innovation John Krouskoff and District-wide Instructional Technology Specialist Peter LaMoreaux participated in a Google Hangout with staff from the Google Education team and a several experts from a national research firm.  The hangout (a multi-participant video conference) was designed as a one hour conversation in which technology leaders could reflect on experiences with Google implementations, make suggestions for improvements, and provide real world vision to the Google team members to bring back to the larger team and use as information in their continuing cycles of improvement.  Educational technology leaders from South Carolina and Illinois actively shared their experiences, and the group spent time discussing the ways online tools can transform student learning, as well as barriers to the effective implementation of such tools.  Managing 1:1 environments and maintaining a low total cost of ownership (TCO) was part of the conversation, but at the heart of the questions and the discussion was teacher and student readiness, professional learning, and strategies for identifying and removing obstacles to innovative learning opportunities for students.

Posted in _GAFE Chronology, Google Apps, My posts from Brewster Schools | Leave a comment

Our 1:1 Chromebook Initiative is Becoming a Reality!

The ordering, delivery and distribution of Chromebooks purchased through the Smart Schools Bond Act (SSBA) continues to progress smoothly.  Last week, the Department of Technology and Innovation distributed Chromebooks to teachers at the high school and middle school.  Instructional Technology Specialists have been hosting “Getting to Know Your Chromebook” sessions to supplement the brief instructions provided at the time of device registration, and additional dates have been added based on feedback from our follow-up survey.  Topics in these sessions include how to print, how to work offline, various settings and customization, installing extensions, and more.  The District’s YouTube channel also features a “Professional Learning-Chromebooks” playlist with helpful videos, underscoring our commitment to anytime/anywhere/any device learning.

Another 855 Chromebooks are scheduled for delivery later today (Wednesday February 22nd) and these will be distributed to teachers in CVS and JFK on Thursday and Friday.  Starting next week, we will begin the distribution of Chromebooks to students at the high school!  Students will receive their Chromebooks in the iLC during study hall periods, and must submit the required form with their signature and a parent’s signature in order to receive the device.  The Chromebooks will be delivered on a rolling schedule, dependent on the staggered delivery schedule.

Posted in _GAFE Chronology, My posts from Brewster Schools | Leave a comment

Chromebook Distribution Update

Chromebooks will be available to WMS teachers who requested one, and the distribution will take place today–February 16th–during periods 2-7 in the Library Conference Room. Based on delivery schedules, the district anticipates distributing Chromebooks to students as early as late next week. Details regarding logistics (i.e. distribution, usage guidelines, insurance) will be distributed, and online support resources will be introduced shortly.
Members of the BHS National Honor Society have volunteered to help register and distribute student Chromebooks as part of of our 1:1 initiative. The distribution is scheduled to take place in the Innovation Learning Center late next week (based on the anticipated delivery date) . “Student volunteers are going to be a great help in getting the devices out to the BHS student body,” said Library Media Specialist Brendan Breen, who will lead the distribution effort.

Posted in _GAFE Chronology, My posts from Brewster Schools | Leave a comment

First SSBA Chromebooks Distributed in District!

Teacher receives first SSBA Chromebook!The first delivery of more than 2,000 Smart Schools Bond Act (SSBA) funded Chromebooks arrived in the district last week, and the department of Technology and Innovation began the planned distribution on Friday afternoon. By design, teachers are receiving the first Chromebooks so they may further prepare for the 1:1 environment that will be the new reality of our grade 6-12 classrooms in the next few weeks. During the week of February 13, 2017, each teacher who requested a device will be provided one, and the second phase of distribution–providing the devices to middle and high school students to use in school and at home–will take place the following week. The New York Smart Schools Commission Report underscores the need to“extend connectivity beyond the four walls of the classroom so students from all backgrounds have equal access to the information superhighway.” Providing Chromebooks for students to use in school and at home is an important step for the district to achieve that goal.

Friday afternoon’s distribution to 45 BHS teachers went without a hitch. Unlike challenges in past years with various other devices, the Department of Technology and Innovation team–working with the business office–was able to design a streamlined process to inventory, deploy, configure and register each device. It took each teacher approximately five minutes to unbox the Chromebook and have it fully enrolled and configured, with the appropriate security safeguards in place as well as listed in the district’s inventory.
Access to devices and resources are a vital ingredient in our students’ success as learners, but it’s only part of the equation. New York Smart Schools Commission Report also emphasizes the need to “provide high-quality, continuous professional development to teachers, principals, and staff to ensure successful integration of technology into the teaching and learning experience.” Professional learning opportunities are an essential part of our district’s fabric. For well over a year, our teachers have participated in various learning cohorts (i.e. Brewster Digital Educators, Google Certified teachers) and dozens of formal learning workshops available to instructional and non-instructional employees before, during and after school hours, as well as a popular week long summer institute.

Posted in _GAFE Chronology, My posts from Brewster Schools | Leave a comment

Leveraging the Value of “Launch and Iterate” in Our Classrooms  

In conversations with colleagues outside of education, “Launch and Iterate” is a successful business model, one which will benefit our students now and in the future.  It also aligns perfectly with our Strategic Coherence Plan.  For example, Google Education Adviser Jake Shea explained how the technology giant creates a “Minimal Viable Product (MVP)” and then leverages user feedback to determine what new features to build and add to the product.  As our district actively engages in the shifts of that benefit today’s learners, it’s clear that the days of completing an assignment, handing it in, and moving on to the next assignment is not a model for engaged student learning.  Through purposeful planning and access to a variety of real-world technology resources, student learning becomes a dynamic process with students exploring various iterations to their work based on feedback from peers, teachers, and–at times–individuals outside of the school district.

Posted in My posts from Brewster Schools | Leave a comment