Tag Archive for learningwithlaptops

Always developing process improvements

If we add a responsibility to our plate, then we must remove a responsibility, right? It rarely works out that way. Not only do people expect us to continue to fulfill our existing responsibilities, but they also expect us to take on new responsibilities. Particularly for technology, current practice is always evolving, and new platforms and techniques appear at a rapid pace. Sometimes, we actually can let go of previous responsibilities that are now less important. More of the time, we must find a way to fit the new responsibilities into our existing, busy lives.

Perhaps a better way to make space for new work is to become more efficient at the old work. Each summer, our IT team performs routine maintenance and upgrades on all of the school and high school student computers. This is extremely time-consuming, but we have found it the best way to ensure that everyone has the correct settings and properly working machines for the start of the school year. We have given some consideration to doing away with summer maintenance completely but have consistently felt that this would cause more work during the school year, when people really need their computers to run smoothly.

Instead, we have worked each year to improve the summer maintenance process. We ask ourselves:

  • What summer maintenance tasks are essential?
  • How may we simplify our network systems to make annual maintenance easier?
  • How may we automate the summer maintenance process, so more happens automatically?
  • How may we get students involved in maintaining their own computers?

This year, the IT Team came up with a superb solution that accomplishes many of the above. We mailed a self-running DVD to each student. Over half of them ran the installer, performing the most easily automated and time-consuming tasks at home before bringing their computers into the office. The application is written in XCode using AppleScript, and the DVD includes the large installer files needed. This dramatically cut down maintenance time, allowed us to return machines to students quickly, and created more time for other IT summer work. As a result, we were more prepared for the start of school than ever before. Kudos to the whole team for inventing this process. Next year, we plan to make it entirely online and eliminate the DVD.

Laptop Program Report: Effectiveness and Impacts

In the spring of 2008, IT staff conducted a survey of students, teachers, and parents to better understand opinion about the effectiveness and impacts of the 1:1 student laptop program. The survey format followed a similar study of 2003, so that the school could compare the results over this five-year span. The school has published a 20-page report detailing findings of the study.

Major Findings

Laptop use in English and computer science classes is nearly ubiquitous. Among other subjects, students use laptop computers more often in history and modern languages classes and less often in math and art classes.

Laptop computing has increased student access to computers at home. Parents felt more strongly about this effect in 2008 than in 2003.

The survey found a small impact of the laptop program on teaching methods and curriculum. Respondents felt that the laptop program had significantly improved writing skills, improved collaboration, and increased communication overall.

Teachers feel that girls are more willing to use computers and demonstrate stronger computers skills as a result of the laptop program.

The survey suggests that the laptop program support the ability of students to learn in a way that matches their learning style.

Students and parents feel that laptop computers help students keep their academic lives more organized. Teachers feel the same way about their use of laptop computers.

Respondents expressed concern about a decrease in face-to-face communication as a result of the laptop program.

Students found great value in the ability of social network sites to overcome separation from their friends by distance or time.