Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Highlights from AIMS Tech Retreat 2012

BYOD: Three schools from Baltimore (St. Paul’s, Bryn Mawr, Garrison Forrest) are launching similar Bring Your Own Device programs. High school students had to bring either a Windows or a Mac laptop (iPads did not meet the requirement). Each school had about 1 loaner for every 10 kids. Help desks would try to troubleshoot problems but would not crack open the computer to fix it. Middle school students were required to buy a specific laptop because most students did not already own a laptop, and teachers wanted uniformity for that age group.  Kids used either cloud apps or were required to have an Office suite so software differences were not a huge issue.  All schools had dedicated labs for classes that required advanced software, like Photoshop. Schools trained teachers in Cloud software by department in advance. To help with security, students operated on a separate, robust wireless network.

One to One iPad: The BYOD laptop presentation was in sharp contrast to the 1:1 iPad experiment at Green Acres, who require students to bring an iPad, and teachers and students are doing well with it.  More than one way to skin the cat, apparently.
  I was concerned the device may not be sophisticated enough for middle school, but that was not their experience. The common thread was investing time for teacher buy-in, through summer iPad loans and discussions of how to integrate into existing lesson plans. 

School Databases: There was no school that had a single database with one record per child. They have several databases, sometimes with data shuttling between them. Some objected to Blackbaud’s insisting they could do everything for a school and refusing to play nicely with legacy databases. Some were dissatisfied with PCR Educator’s level of service.

Personal note: This year I thought I'd stretch and go to sessions designed for Tech Directors rather than Tech Coordinators. While I learned a bit about the back end of school tech, in retrospect, I probably should have gone to more sessions geared toward teachers. There's always next year :-)

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