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Gateway Regional School District is a testament to what can be accomplished in the classroom through a successful 1:1 device program. When the Massachusetts district decided to equip every student with a Chromebook, it was initially in response to state-mandated electronic testing requirements. But the program quickly blossomed to meet much bigger goals for better learning outcomes.

We got to know the technology coordinator, Chris Parker. We were so impressed with his handling of the district’s 1:1 program that we asked him to share insights that other school districts can use.

Throughout our conversation, six core components emerged. Here’s what we learned:

1. Decide what you want to accomplish

Before you can compare prices or provide devices, it’s important to first decide what your schools will accomplish with them.

“If you buy devices that sit there and are nothing more than pen and paper, it’s very expensive pen and paper,” Parker says. “You have to be ready to use them properly.”

On the other hand, if you establish goals for your 1:1 device program early on, the results can be significant. One way to establish objectives is to study what other school districts have done. For example, Parker and his team spent an entire day with students and faculty at a nearby school where Chromebooks were already being used successfully in the classroom. They observed, asked questions and gained valuable insights into what was working well and pitfalls to avoid.

2. Budget before you buy

The biggest indicator of a successful 1:1 device program has very little to do with the actual technology. Instead, it’s all about your budget. Being prepared to cover costs five to 10 years down the road — including things like insurance, maintenance, and teacher training — will help ensure a successful program from the start. This is also the time to consider your warranty requirements for these devices.

“You have to look at it in two phases,” Parker explained. “First, how will you afford them? And then, how will you replace and maintain them? This program is not a one-time budgetary cost. You need to be able to budget for it each year.”

By purchasing his Chromebooks with a warranty, Chris was able to fix his budget for devices, parts, repairs and shipping throughout the 4 year warranty period.

3. Plan for sustainability

It’s not uncommon for schools to buy and distribute thousands of Chromebooks in one fell swoop. But without forethought and planning, those purchases can quickly lead to issues when it comes time to repair and replace them. Rolling new devices out slowly according to a preset timeline can make for a more sustainable 1:1 device program. At Gateway Schools, students receive new Chromebooks in third grade and again in eighth grade: First as an introduction to the 1:1 program, and later to refresh aging devices with new ones that will last them through graduation.

4. Choose the right device

Once you have a budget plan and refresh schedule in place, it’s much easier to select the right devices for your schools. When making this decision, it’s helpful to consider the software you’ll be using. Gateway schools use G Suite for Education, so Google Chromebooks were a good fit. Other considerations in addition to classroom management software may include web filtering options, state-mandated testing requirements and teaching styles.

5. Take time to assess

“For the first year, there were no guidelines or restrictions,” Parker said of Gateway’s 1:1 device program launch.

After instructing teachers to simply use the Chromebooks as they saw fit, he did periodic check-ins to see how the devices were being used. This allowed teachers to figure out how best to use the technology to increase collaborative learning without external pressures.

6. Have a policy in place

Technology in the classroom is changing at a rapid pace, standards for protecting and policing student devices vary dramatically. It’s up to each school to determine its device management policies and make adjustments as needed. Some key issues that Parker recommends addressing include:

  • When will students be allowed to take devices home?
  • What types of education will be provided for parents?
  • Will the students be taught digital citizenship?
  • What will happen when students forget to return devices to school?
  • How damage and repairs will be addressed?

Most importantly, be attentive to the unique needs of your teachers and their students and be ready to adapt to the ever-changing technologies in education.

“I don’t have the answer, but I found an answer that works for us,” Parker says. “It’s going to be a little different for everyone, but this is what works for our district.”

And don’t be pressured to rush through the process. As you can see from the steps above, taking the time to get it right can lead to tremendous benefits.

“Overall, the teachers and students love them,” Parker says. “When I collect them at the end of the school year it’s like taking a toy from a toddler.”

Disclaimer: Re-posted with permission from Anna Lockhart, Product Marketing Manager for LanSchool. Reference to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public, and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Written By:

Chris Parker is the Technology Coordinator/Help Desk Supervisor for the Gateway Regional School System.

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