Needs Assessment_Anneke Emerson

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Needs Assessment_Anneke Emerson

  1. 1. Needs Assessment 690 Issues in Ed. Technology Anneke Emerson 12-3-08 BACKGROUND: Chandler School is a secular, independent, Kindergarten through eighth grade school in Pasadena, California. Thomas and Catherine Chandler founded the school in 1950. The school’s mission is to provide each student with the highest quality and most academically challenging education in a nurturing, balanced and diverse environment. Chandler currently enrolls 420 students and employs a faculty of 48. Chandler is an academically challenging school with a highly selective admissions process. Chandler charges an annual tuition of between $14,300 (K-5th) and $16,600 (6th-8th). Chandler is ethnically diverse, its enrollment breaking down to approximately 48% Caucasian, 22% 12% multi-racial, Asian 8%, 6% Hispanic, and 4% African American children. Chandler is a traditional school in which students wear uniforms and work hard to meet challenging classroom expectations. Currently, Chandler is evolving to meet the needs of 21st century learners. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the launch of the one-to- one laptop program in the 2008-2009 school year. CURRENT SITUATION: Dual Platforms: In Fall of 2008 Chandler launched a dual platform (Mac and PC) laptop program in the Middle School (6th-8th). The school did not purchase these laptops, nor were the laptops “imaged” by the school. Instead, Chandler’s technology department recommended families purchase one of two laptop models, either Apple’s Macbook or HP’s Compaq Business Notebook. If Chandler families already had a laptop, they were provided with a list of technological specifications that this laptop must meet, dependent on grade level. (See chart below.) Laptop Specifications for Spring 2008: Class of 2009 Class of 2010 Class of 2011 Apple / Macintosh Intel Macbook Intel Macbook 2 Ghz Intel Macbook 2.2 Ghz 512 MB Memory (1 GB 2 GB Memory 2 GB Memory highly recommened) 80 GB Hard Drive 120 GB Hard Drive 40 GB Hard Drive SuperDrive (DVDRW) SuperDrive (DVDRW) Combo Drive (DVD/CD) NeoOffice or MS Office 3 Year Applecare NeoOffice or MS Office OSX Leopard MS Office 2008 Windows-based Intel P4 1.8 Ghz Intel Core Duo 2Ghz Intel Core Duo 2.2Ghz — 1 GB Memory 2 GB Memory 2 GB Memory HP / Compaq 40 GB Hard drive 80 GB Hard drive 120 GB Hard drive Dell DVD/CDRW DVD RW DVD RW Lenovo Wireless 802.11 b/g Wireless 802.11 b/g Wireless 802.11 b/g Toshiba Microphone Microphone Microphone Sony, etc. Windows XP w/ SP2 Windows XP w/ SP2 3 year warranty OpenOffice or MS Office (OpenOffice or MS Office Windows Vista, MS Office 07 Anti-Virus Anti-Virus Anti-Virus
  2. 2. This laptop distribution system was meant to appease families that already had a working laptop, and to allow families to choose the platform they felt best suited their child. Given the choice, 60% of our eight grade students came to school with Macintosh computers, 40% chose a Windows platform. In the seventh grade, 75% of students are working on Macs, 25% on Windows. And in the 6th grade, 95% of students have brand new Macbooks, 5% have new Windows machines. Dual platforms, varying specifications and lack of “imaging” means that student laptops on campus are far from standardized. Chandler has at least four different Windows-based computers on campus, including HP, Dell, Toshiba and Sony. At least three different Macbooks can be found in student backpacks, including old Powerbooks, more recent Macbooks and the newest Macbook Air/Aluminum models. These different computer models mean that students are using any one of four operating systems, including Leopard and Tiger on the Mac, or Vista and Windows XP on a PC. And, to complicate matters further, two different versions of Microsoft Office are in circulation in the school, often resulting in confusion as students, parents and teachers convert between Word (.doc vs .docx), PowerPoint (.ppt vs .pptx) and Excel (.xcl vs .xclx) files. Different web browsers (Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox), audio recording software (Audacity, Garageband), movie editing software (iMovie HD, iMovie, Windows MovieMaker) and photo manipulation software (Picasa, iPhoto, GIMP, Paint.net, Seashore) complicate matters further for classroom teachers and tech support specialists. Technical Support Situation: Chandler’s Technology Department consists of three full time staff -- a Director of Technology, a System Administrator and an Academic Technology specialist. (There used to be a fourth member of the technology “team,” but the Lower School Computer instructor left Chandler just before the ’08-’09 school year started, leaving a hole in the technological support staff in the lower school.) Currently, these three individuals are responsible for: a) supporting hardware and software issues on 50 faculty Macbooks and 20 staff desktop computers b) supporting hardware and software issues for 175 student laptops – both Mac and PC c) maintaining and upgrading 9 servers, 28 Aruba wifi access points and 2 internet connections (AT&T T1 and Charter Fiber) d) providing tech support for 60 laser printers, 25 LCD projectors and 2 copy machines e) teaching (or co-teaching) technology classes to students f) training faculty on software and hardware for the classroom (day long workshops and on an “as needed” basis) g) holding parent seminars on FirstClass (course management software) and advising parents on “Parenting With Computers” h) advising faculty and administration on ways to integrate technology into the curriculum Needless to say, the tech department has its hands full. It is not uncommon for our Technology Director to be in a meeting with administration, our System Administrator to
  3. 3. be trouble shooting a faculty issue in the Lower School and for the Academic Technology specialist to be in a Middle School classroom training a teacher or teaching a technology elective. And this is a normal day -- imagine what happens when the server goes down and the tech team is running around like “chickens with thier heads cut off” trying to re- establish the connection. Bottom line is, often the tech “help desk” is empty when a student or teacher comes for support. This happens quite often because most teachers are unable to troubleshoot minor student issues on the laptops. This is largely a result of the dual platforms and countless variations of software mentioned above. Faculty Training: Currently, all faculty have new Macbooks and are running Office 2008 for the Mac. Faculty have been trained on our course management software (FirstClass) and have received introductory lessons on “navigating” their new Mac. Professional development funds are allocated for Apple Store trainings or other technical trainings on an “as needed” basis. The bulk of technology training has come in day-long “technology in-service” seminars, which are devoted to subject specific technology training, provided by the Academic Technology specialist. For example, the English department is taught about Google Lit Trips, or how to “Track Changes” in Word so they can edit a student’s work digitally. The math department, on the other hand, will be taught the basics of Excel, how to graph equations on the computer and given a list of useful digital tutors and arithmetic games. All teachers are trained on their new Macbooks, meaning they have experience only with certain software. For example, teachers know the new version of iMovie, but many students have iMovie HD or Windows MovieMaker. Teachers may practice graphing charts in Office 2008 (for the Mac), but have trouble supporting students as they try and work in Office 2003 or Office 2007. Our seventh grade English teacher expressed frustration over the difference between the three different types of movie making software she was receiving queries about when she assigned a digital book report. Our 8th grade science teacher was concerned that he could not help student graph their lab results in Excel 2003. Programs designed for only one platform, like Garageband or iPhoto are even more troublesome. Students using Windows machines need to download Audacity or Picasa to replicate the functions of the Mac software. Often, this means that teachers will avoid teaching lessons using this software because of the complication of the dual platform. Our 7th grade Spanish teacher was frightened to try a lesson involving student made Spanish podcasts because of the two types of software she would need to be familiar with. Bottom line: For all software, assignments and activities presented in the classroom, teachers must be prepared to address dual platform (i.e. Mac vs PC) and “versioning” concerns (i.e. Office 2008 vs Office 2003). This is even true for some web- based activities, which behave differently in different web browsers. Student Training: Currently, students take a “crash course” in technology the Fquarter. This class, called Tech Skills, is an introduction to FirstClass (our course management software), responsible web behavior, basic operating systems, and some software, including the basics of Word, PowerPoint and iMovie/MovieMaker. This course must be relevant to the wide variety of platforms, operating systems and software versions mentioned in the paragraph above. Tailoring lessons to these broad specifications means
  4. 4. that there is little depth or detail in the lessons. To add to the challenge, the class only meets seven times, for 45 minutes each session, meaning there is precious little time to get through the all the content mentioned above. After this introduction to technology, it is expected that students will hone their skills through and practice in their academic classes, as it is called for in the curriculum. Yet as described previously, many teachers are not prepared to deal with dual platforms and differing software in their lesson plans. This means it is often up to the students and the tech support desk to trouble shoot errors. Yet many times the tech support desk is empty, because the technology department is stretched so thin. This lack of support causes students and teachers to become frustrated when experimenting with technology. This experimentation period is a time when teachers and students need the most support, so they build confidence and are encouraged to push the boundaries of their curriculum and diversify their teaching methods. SINGLE PLATFORM SOLUTION: To solve many of the frustrations mentioned above, Chandler should mandate a single platform for all students entering our Middle School for the 2009-2010 school year. I recommend this platform be Macbooks, and include Office 2008 for the Mac. Chandler students are already trending toward Macintosh computers. In the 6th grade, 95% of student are using Macbooks. (In the seventh grade, 75% are currently using Macbooks.) Chandler administration has already made Macbooks a foundation in the lower school thanks to the two Macbook laptop carts currently in use in the 5th grade classrooms. In addition, all faculty have been issued Macbooks and are expected use them on a daily basis. But beyond the sheer number of Macbooks in circulation in the school, there are many other advantages of supporting only Macintosh laptops at Chandler. Below are a few of the most significant. Apple Software: Apple’s integrated software package makes it a more effective teaching tool. Photos, music and video can be easily swapped between iMovie, iTunes, iPhoto, Garageband, Photobooth and Safari. This makes it much easier for students and teachers to fully utilize the laptop as an effective teaching tool. For example, students can easily transfer online images from Safari to an iPhoto library. These images can be easily imported into iMovie, making it fast and easy for even young students to create a digital movie. Similarly, music or audio from iTunes or Garageband can easily transformed into a student podcast or music project. This music can then be placed easily into an iMovie. This simplicity and ease of use is especially important in an elementary and middle school setting. Teacher Training: Currently, all teachers have Macbooks, but must also be ready to support the Windows version of certain software, such as MovieMaker, Audacity or Picasa. Often, teachers are scared away from introducing classroom projects that require them to support multiple software programs. The more confident a teacher is with a software, the more likely they are to effectively integrate it into the curriculum. Much of the simplicity of the integrated Macintosh technology that teachers are trained on is lost
  5. 5. when Windows machines are also supported. Training teachers effectively on one platform will result in higher quality use of education technology. Less Technical Support Needed: The technology department does its best to support students, but the tech desk can be empty because of its vast number of responsibilities. If the school eliminates support for dual platforms teachers will have been trained on the same hardware and software as the students, and will need to rely less on the tech department for assistance. Rather then relying on the technology department for all minor issues, students and teacher will more readily be able to support themselves in a “Mac- only” environment. And the technology department will be more effective and efficient in supporting students if they only need to solve “single platform” problems. Rather than troubleshoot a variety of software and hardware issues, the tech department will become experts on the operating system and software native to the Macintosh platform. Time Saved in Tech Skills Class for Students: The current “crash course” in technology must cover material relevant to both Macs and Windows, meaning that much of the more nuanced “ins and outs” of each platform are not covered. Students also waste much of the class downloading software that is essential to “smooth” dual platform operation in the classroom. For example, Mac users must download “Flip4Mac” and PCs must download “Quicktime.” Both must download Adobe Reader to view their online textbooks and either Paint.net, Seashore or GIMP to use in art class. Microsoft Office 2003 users must download a “patch” to be able to view .docx, .pptx, and .xclx files. Multiple software downloads and fuzzy generalizations about web browsers, software features and operating systems make it harder for students to learn effectively. Children in a middle school setting need clear, specific guidance when learning new technology. With a single platform, technology classes can be much more practical, efficient and effective. Student Collaboration: Students can share documents and work together more collaboratively if they are working on the same platform. Students working on a Windows machine often cannot pair up with their by peers working on a Macbook due to compatibility issues. And peer-to-peer instruction is inhibited by dual platforms. Students using Macbooks are unable to instruct their Windows-using friends, and vice versa. This creates walls between students and makes cooperation more difficult. Anti-Virus: Macintosh computers are less vulnerable to computer viruses than Windows machines. Newer Macintosh operating systems are built on the Unix kernel, which is one of the oldest and most secure operating systems available. Most of the virus writers are familiar with the IBM platform and Microsoft Windows, and therefore are only going to be able to create a virus for that platform. Many of the tools and scripts used to help users create viruses are designed for Microsoft Windows. And finally, Microsoft Windows is used by a lot more consumers, therefore it is a lot bigger target than Apple Macintosh computers. In fact, many students using a Windows machine arrive to school with a computer literally “crawling” with viruses. Often their anti-virus software is out of date and their computer must be “de-bugged” before they are even allowed on our network.
  6. 6. COST/BENEFIT ANAYLSIS: Costs to Families: To mandate a single platform Chandler will have to take into consideration the extra cost to Chandler families. Macbooks tend to be $300-$500 more expensive than their Windows equivalent. For example, HP’s Compaq Business Notebook is $1249, but the Macbook equivalent is $1599. In a time of economic uncertainty this may be too much for some families to swallow. The addition of a Macbook to a “Windows only family” may mean additional costs, like new home network router equipment, new software or additional hardware like chargers and external hard drives. In addition, parents or siblings may be unwilling or unable to help their child troubleshoot technical issues on an unfamiliar Macintosh platform. Lastly, Chandler is a middle school. Some of the high schools that our students enroll in only have Windows-based computer labs, which may cause headaches for students working on Macs at home. Cost to School: The switch to “Mac only” school may drive away some families who strongly prefer Windows. The increased cost of the Macbooks effectively means a tuition increase, which may discourage some families from applying to Chandler. Benefit to Families and the School: The school will be able to reach new levels of technology performance with a single platform. Teachers already are familiar with Macbooks, and fifth grade students are being trained on Macbooks in their current classrooms. Teachers can better educate, support and police on a platform they are comfortable with and clearly understand. The highly integrated Macintosh software package will encourage teachers to incorporate technology into the academic curriculum, and will help make that transition a smooth one. Teachers will be better equipped to offer basic tech support to their students while teaching lessons they have practiced on their own Macbooks. Students will be better able to teach each other and work cooperatively in a Macintosh only environment. Fewer viruses will find their way into student computers or the Chandler network. The technology department will be more effective and efficient when teaching technology classes to students and teachers as they can focus their training and expertise on one platform. The bottom line is that the standardization on a Macintosh platform will better meets the needs of Chandler students and teachers. IMPLEMENTATION: To begin implementing this solution, all students entering the middle school in the Fall of 2009 must purchase a Macbook that meets minimum technical specifications. Families must also purchase Microsoft Office 2008 (for the Mac) and install a certain package of freely downloadable software, such as Google Earth, GIMP and Adobe Reader. (This to avoid using class time for simplistic tasks like downloading software.)
  7. 7. The 5% of students in the rising 6th grade class could be given the option of switching to a Macbook. Perhaps the school could buy the student’s current Windows laptop from the family, and keep it as a “loaner” laptop when repairs are being made to a student’s Macintosh computer. This solution would leave only 25% of the rising seventh graders with Windows laptops. By the 2010-2011 year, the school would support only Macintosh computers. Alternatively, the school could purchase the laptops for the incoming middle school students, “image” those laptops and distribute them to all incoming students at the start of the 2009 school year. (The cost of this purchase would be wrapped into a tuition increase.) The advantage of this method if that every laptop will be identical. The problem with this method is that many families want to purchase laptops as Christmas presents or birthday gifts before the school year begin so their children have early access to their own laptop. This would be impossible if the school purchases the laptops and hands them out at the start of the school year. If Chandler purchases the laptops, it also places the impetus for repairs on the school rather than the families. Additional questions would be whether or not to “collect” the laptops each summer and “re-image” them. This would eliminate the ability for student to easily carryover files from year to year, but each laptop would be updated with the latest versions (or patches) for software and remain virus free in this scenario.

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