Scaling Up to 1:1

Samsung Chromebooks and Galaxy tablets help Michigan school district expand computing access, achieve greater engagement
By: | Issue: December, 2014 | Case Study
December 24, 2014

Last year, the leadership at West Bloomfield Schools in Michigan was at a turning point in its student technology initiative, recalls assistant chief technology officer Paul Spoor. Having committed to introducing greater digital resources to its curriculum, as well as strategies such as blended learning and flipped classrooms, the district needed a cost-effective solution to get computers in the hands of its 6,600 students. “The technology/curriculum committee researched many solutions and different options,” says Spoor. “We knew that existing classroom technology like student workstations were only addressing a part of the need, and that much higher levels of access were going to be required to achieve our overall instructional goals.”

After a rigorous process that included research, focus groups and pilots, West Bloomfield selected Samsung Chromebooks as the computing platform to support the new one-to-one initiative. Initially the district’s plan was to implement a BYOD environment. However, after the results of a pilot program with Samsung Chromebooks in six high school classes far exceeded expectations, the vast majority of parents and students opted for the district-issued Chromebooks as the best device to support classroom learning.

Central to this decision was the ability for IT to easily manage the entire fleet of student Chromebooks through a web-based console, which helped significantly reduce the workload placed upon their limited resources. “We can manage devicesÑfrom creating user groups to configuring network accessÑthrough the Google Web Management Console without actually putting our hands on the devices,” Spoor explained. “This is essential if you’re going to do any large rollout of devices.” The Chromebooks are also ideal for student use due to their backpack-ready design, clear screen, long battery life and quick start-up time, Spoor says. They are simple to use and update automatically, so they do not slow down over time.

With the success of the Chromebooks in the high schools, West Bloomfield turned to the question of which device was most suited to its elementary school students. “Research showed that younger students are much more touch oriented, so some type of tablet was needed,” says Spoor. “Having seen the value of using Google’s management console with the Chromebooks, it made sense to look at whether we could do something similar with an Android device. Fortunately, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Education was designed specifically to address these needs.” The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Education is a 10.1-inch tablet with a durable Gorilla glass screen and a rugged protective case. Google’s device management console allows for easy management by IT staff, while NFC technology allows devices to be quickly provisioned by tapping them together. Importantly, the integration of Google Play for Education means teachers can access thousands of educator-vetted apps and learning materials. Professional development was key to the success of the one-to-one initiative.

Chromebooks were given to teachers early so they could familiarize themselves with the device, and training was provided over the summer and on an ongoing basis. “West Bloomfield also has the advantage of having a full-time technology integration specialist who works aggressively to ensure success of the overall program,” says Spoor. “She can develop materials, act as direct support or liaison on instructional strategies, or compile data to help the district focus on effective directions for the program.” Today the district is one-to-one with Samsung Chromebooks for students in grades seven through 12. Grades K through 6 have sets of both Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Education tablets and Chromebooks. “This helps address younger students’ need for tablets for learning, and helps prepare them for the transition to Chromebooks once they reach middle school,” says Spoor.

While it is too early to gauge the long-term impact of the program in terms of student achievement, Spoor says that the impact on student and staff engagement has been overwhelmingly positive. “This new age of technology requires all stakeholders to think differently,” says Spoor. “We must be aware that in today’s world, technology is where students live; we must be part of this world so we can impact them at the level they understand.”

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