Just less than a year ago the 6th grade students and teachers at Graded: The American School of Sao Paulo kicked off a 1:1 laptop pilot program. I’m pleased to say that the term “pilot” is now gone and the initiative now spans grades 6 and 7. At that time I was the high school principal to be. Prior to rolling out the laptops the school made a decision that, at the time, I thought was unorthodox, uninformed, and crazy. The school’s “Y’all come…” model is one where students can bring any laptop they choose as long as it meets the minimum requirements. I was flabbergasted when Derrel Fincher, the director of technology, first explained the plan. It was not what I was used to and it just didn’t make sense to me. I started brainstorming reasons why this would not work. How will teachers deal with having multiple operating systems in their classrooms (including computers from Korea)? What will teachers and students do with specialized peripherals that requires specific software? Who will repair the machine when it goes down? Won’t they be limiting their resources by not purchasing standardized software? I even searched around and I only found one other school that was using a similar model.
But, in keeping an open mind I vowed to take a wait and see approach and explore the possibilities.
I learned early about the factors that led to the “Y’all come…“model.
1. Looking to the future — With the explosion of web 2.0 tools it seems that we continue to rely less and less on traditional software packages. More and more of our time is spent using free online tools. The school believes that this is a trend that will continue and that these learning tools will support learning. In addition, the hope is that teachers and students will rely more heavily on open source options in the future.
2. Google Education Tools and The Cloud — To standardize some of the productivity tools the school invested in Google Education tools for collaboration. Students and teachers can communicate via e-mail, calendars, documents, sites, and video sharing. This has become the foundation of the program and the one that teachers have spent the most time trying to leverage.
3. Dependability of Hardware — Today’s machines are becoming more and more dependable which means that there is less of a need for onsite tech support. If a student’s machine breaks down the school will provide a loaner while the family gets it repaired.
4. Cost of Laptops in Brazil — Due to import taxes the cost of technology in Brazil is staggering. Just to give you an idea: The Dell Vostro 3500 that costs $539 in the United States costs over $1100 in Brazil. This option lets parents spend as little or as much as they desire to support their child’s learning (as long as they meet the minimum requirements). As Derrel puts it, “ One goal is avoid any mandatory expenses on parents beyond what comes “standard” on an off-the-shelf computer.”
So, after 3 months at the school I see the possibilities and potential. Do we have everything figured out without any kinks? No, but who does after 6 months of a 1:1 program. As with any 1:1 program we are continually looking for ways to provide all of our students with these new tools for learning. We just take a different approach than those who are using a standardized model. With that said, the faster the technology changes, the more that I think the forward thinking educators at Graded had the right idea.
Anyone else out there using the Y’all come… model? If so, what can you share with the rest of us?
Image credit: James Fallon High School, NSW