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Chicago Manages iPads: Talha Basit

Talha Basit2Reviewer: Talha Basit

: Client Computing and Software Systems Manager

District: Chicago Public Schools, IL.

Number of Students in District
: 400,000

: Absolute Software — Absolute Computrace, Absolute Manage and Absolute Manage Mobile Device Management


As our school district values integrating technology into the learning experience of our K-12 students, we have deployed more than 10,000 Apple computers. Our students have the opportunity to use technology in the classroom to enhance their learning across our 675 elementary, high school and charter schools. The challenge for our IT staff was how to manage these computers, as well as an initial deployment of 5,000 iPads.

Our goal in using Absolute Software’s three products was to enable our IT administration team to deliver a fast, cost-effective and secure computing experience for our users – freeing our administrators, teaching staff and students to focus on actually using the technology for education purposes. We needed to be able to quickly pinpoint the locations of our devices, administer software and patch management, implement a power management policy and download quick reports on all of our devices. Overall, our goals were to keep track of our mobile inventory, secure our assets, update them, distribute software and reduce IT support costs and time.


Before Absolute Manage, the whole process of managing our devices was painful. Our Help Desk would receive a large volume of support calls, and this all changed when we started using the suite of Absolute products. We can now remotely manage, patch and totally remediate a system, we’ve been able to reduce support calls by 70%. I would say Absolute’s solutions have been well received not only by our IT staff, but also by the students and teachers who use each device.

Further, with the aid of Absolute Software’s Computrace product, we have successfully recovered over 350 laptops. This has directly resulted in substantial cost savings, and we’re able to show this value directly to board members and administrators as well.

Learning Curve:

Absolute Manage is very straightforward to use. That was one of the reasons we chose it over other products in this category.

How We Use It:

We use Computrace to help track, secure and recover the 40,000 Mac laptop computers deployed across our network of schools. We’ve already seen the ROI of installing Computrace, with more than 350 laptops returned to us.

We use Absolute Manage as our computer lifecycle management solution on all of our Mac computers. We are able to use Absolute Manage as a full-featured asset management solution, allowing us to provide a lightning fast rollout and even implement a Power Management policy.

We also keep track of our entire 5,000+ iPads that are distributed district wide to students, teachers and administrators using Absolute Manage Mobile Device Management. Having access to this type of tracking software for the iPad was one of the reasons we were able to commit to using iPads in our district.

What’s Ahead?:

In addition to our major rollout of iPad devices, we plan to integrate our data into our largest asset inventory database so that our IT staff and school staff can easily see all of their assets, including their iPads. We will also be expanding our usage of the Absolute Software product line to more Macs, and potentially PCs as well.

Goodbye Textbooks—Hello Netbooks: Gary Brantley


GB_1 copy Reviewer: Gary Brantley

Position: Chief Information Officer

District/School: Lorain City Schools, OH

Number of Students in District: 9,600

Product: Acer Aspire One Netbooks running eReaders


We want to make sure our students and staff have the ability to access content and data on demand. We wanted to replace traditional textbooks with digital experiences.

Reviewer’s Notes:

We worked as a team, and included all stakeholders in this netbook initiative. We wanted everyone at the table, which allowed everyone to feel that they had some ownership in this project.


The community and stakeholders were very excited when we rolled out this 1:1 program. Support has always been very positive, and we expect this to continue.

Learning Curve:

Students transitioned into this program relatively smoothly. The learning curve for our teachers was somewhat steep. We provided professional development. We will continue to provide opportunities for staff development, both now, and in the future. We are committed to digital learning and the tools necessary for student success.

LS_5 How We Use It:

The netbooks have replaced books for our students and staff. We’ve eliminated our traditional textbooks. All of that content now resides on the Acer netbooks.

What’s Ahead?:

Our program now runs in grades 6-12, so we would like to expand it to more grades. We will strive to put the best tools in the hands of students and staff.


RM Slate 1:1: James Monti

RM Slate
Jim2 Reviewer:
James Monti

Position: Director of Technology

District/School: West Warwick Public Schools, RI

Number of Students in District/School: 3,500

Products: RM Slate


We wanted to move toward ubiquitous wireless access everywhere in the district.

We knew that touchpad technology was the direction we wanted to move towards, but we were skeptical about moving to a non-flash environment. We also wanted a tool that we could use with Aspen, our SIS.


Students as young as kindergarten age have been using RM Slates. We know they're getting used extensively, because the most popular message our helpdesk has received is: "How do we clean dirty finger prints from the screen?" We love that type of helpdesk question.

Learning Curve:

By using the RM imaging services we were able to simply hand the tools out to students and teachers after a minimal run through for each machine. Students and teachers were able to use the machines qiuickly, and the Slates were pretty intuitive, regardless of user age.

How We Use It:

The Slate fits perfectly onto tabletops for our wheelchair bound students. It was fabulous that we could use existing assistive technology software. We started to use the RM Slates for some state testing at the 4th and 8th grade levels. Then we dropped the Slates into the classrooms, where they've been used non-stop by the teachers and students.

What’s Ahead?:

We want more! We want to find funding sources to purchase a Slate for every teacher and administrator for use with Rhode Island's new Educator Evaluation System.

KUNO 1:1 Android: Drew Markel Assist. Principal

  Drew Markel

Position: Assistant Principal

District:  Crothersville Community Schools, Crothersville, IN

Number of Students:  550

Product: KUNO Tablet with CurriculumLoft Explore 1 to 1


We wanted Android-based tablet environment for 1:1 to give each student a managed Internet and network capable device. We also wanted teachers to upload their current curriculum in a cloud environment so that building lesson plans will be as easy at home as it is at school.


All stakeholders were excited about the plan to implement a 1:1 initiative. The project is fully supported by the Board as well as teachers and students.

Learning Curve:

Many students are already acclimated to using touch-screen-based technology. The use of the KUNO was not a hard transition for the students to make at all. We added school-wide wireless in preparation for the project. We want our students marketable in today’s workplace.

How We Use It:

We are a rural, high poverty area. This means that many students don't have the means to obtain WiFi, or broadband access due to cost as well as location. We needed a way to allow for students to have their curriculum downloaded to a device that could be taken home with them and accessed later. The KUNO and CurriculumLoft Explore1to1 allowed for that “sync” to take place in the school where Internet access is available. The students can later return home and access that information, even if they don’t have Internet access.

What’s Ahead?:

We will be running a project parallel to the KUNO tablet project installing a complete VDI (Virtual Desktop) Solution. We will utilize CISCO UCS servers running virtual clients. These virtual instances will be available both on the students Wyse thin clients in a lab or classroom setting and in virtual instances on the KUNO.  All virtualization will be managed using the VmWare suite of products with an EMC storage array.

"Did you write this?": Susan Marsh's Answer

Susan2 Reviewer:
Susan Marsh

Position: 9th Grade Civics/Humaniies Geography Teacher

District/School: Shakopee Junior High School, #720, Shakopee, MN

Number of Students in District/School: District/7,000; School/1,000 (Grades 8 & 9)

Product:  Turnitin



I wanted to find a way to check for plagiarism and also to get rid of paper copies.  Answering the “Did you write this?” question can add hours to the essay correcting process


I think the only group that didn’t appreciate it were the students who were plagiarizing. Overall, I see more organized papers, fewer technical errors, and desire to get more good comments. Students enjoy the feedback.

Learning Curve:

It is very easy to learn how to use. I used to spend 3-5 hours for each assignment just checking lines through Google. Now, I am more focused on content, and whether or not students understand concepts, and questions asked. 

How We Use It:

My honors students have four major essays to turn in and regular students have two. All major essays in my class are turned in through Turnitin. This checks papers against the Internet, as well as other students using Turnitin—anywhere in the country.

What’s Ahead?:

I understand the middle school is looking at using it. The high school already does. The high school doesn’t have to teach students how to use it because we’ve already done it, and have set student expectations.

Reviewer’s Notes:

Students now type their essays, and think more carefully about using their own words. It organizes all of their papers on line so that paper is not wasted printing at school. Students have become better editors. When the essay is returned, they note where their technical writing skills need improvement.

Student-Driven Learning with Tech: Judy Bragg


Judy Bragg1Reviewer: Judy Bragg

Position:  Language Arts Teacher

District:  Ritchie County, Ritchie County Middle School, West Virginia

Number of Students:  400

ProductsSchoolKit TechSteps, Microsoft Office Word, Excel, Publisher, PowerPoint, Windows Movie Maker, SMARTBoard, and Webcam.


1.  Help students develop computer literacy through research and citing skills

2.  Maintain an active learning environment

3.  Initiate critical-thinking and problem-solving skills about real world issues

4.  Integrate technology with core curricula for long-term retention of knowledge


Each year our middle school students complete challenging bundles of TechSteps tasks designed to stimulate student-driven learning by integrating technology into core content areas of study. TechSteps is our great “equalizer” among different levels and styles of academic and social development. As students create the wide range of projects, “followers” become leaders when they realize potential for success. One student actually stated:  “ I loved doing this. I looked at myself from the inside out and liked what I saw.”  (Digital Story Project)

Learning Curve:

TechSteps is a user-friendly program for students and teachers.  As one who began using TechSteps with limited technological literacy, I found myself quickly grasping each new level of creative instruction. An Activebook, complete with step-by-step instructions, is provided for each grade-level project as well as a rubric for evaluating completed work.

While supervision of our middle school students is an inherent part of our instruction, we often become “moderators” as students instinctively assume instructional roles with classmates.

How We use It:

TechSteps is used at our school to successfully integrate technology into core content classrooms so that “what” and “how” students learn relates to the world around them. Each grade level completes six different projects relevant to language arts, social studies, math, and science. Each grade’s projects build upon previous levels of difficulty so that our students enter high school with a solid assortment of technological skills. They are adept at using Microsoft Office applications, and they can readily collaborate on multimedia projects in and out of the classroom (8th Grade Graduation Ceremony).

All students complete written, oral, and visual components that are evaluated as a class grade.  TechSteps provides opportunities for our users to become “digitally savvy” while studying the world around them.

What’s Ahead:

In the future we will continue our partnership with TechSteps. Cross-curricular completion of some projects is planned. For example, my language arts classes will collaborate with our social studies classes to complete a digital story celebrating Veterans Day (shown at a community reception). We will continue to incorporate skills learned through TechSteps to other projects unique to teacher content and style, and, by doing so, we will challenge our students to take their learning to an even higher level.

Reviewer’s Notes:

Due to our high participation, Ritchie County was awarded the K-8 Activity Library as an additional resource to be implemented in our curriculum. This resource provides us with over 150 additional classroom ready technology integration activities to use.

Students Cheer 1:1: Dennis Villano

DennisVillanosmall Reviewer:  Dennis Villano

Position:  Media and Technology Specialist

District/School:  Burlington Public Schools - Burlington, MA

Number of Students in District/School:  1100 students at Burlington High School

Product:  iPads (Apple)

When was the last time you brought a cart of devices into a classroom and actually heard kids cheer? When was the last time your students displayed incredible excitement for the chance to use a device for educational purposes? ~ Dennis Villano


We are providing every high school student with an iPad in order to build a learning environment that will best prepare our students for college and the work place. The use of the iPad will allow for the infusion of a digital curriculum and the extension of learning beyond the classroom walls.


Any 1:1 initiative has the potential to be an incredibly successful educational program, however, success comes from the results of many factors. Teacher support may be the most critical factor. Helping teachers feel comfortable, allowing collaboration time, and providing ongoing guidance are important throughout the entire process.

Students are very excited. They realize that a 1:1 environment can be very beneficial and they certainly think the iPad is a great device. I love that they are so engaged when using the iPads. The coolness factor is definitely a plus. The Burlington community has been very supportive. We are lucky to be working in a community that sees the value in the 1:1 initiative. The teachers are excited, too, but they need a lot of support with digital curriculum creation.

Learning Curve: 

The learning curve is one of the major reasons we selected iPads for our 1:1 device. I have trained students and teachers on many technology products and I have never found one as simple to introduce, simple to teach people about, and easy to explore. While we ultimately want the 1:1 environment to include students bringing in their own devices, we felt that having one device to start would help facilitate an easier transition for teachers into a digital curriculum. We were concerned that having several different devices in a classroom could be overwhelming. The iPad’s powerful simplicity creates a positive foundation for teachers to learn and collaborate about digital curriculum.

How We Use It: 

The iPad truly serves as the ideal, all-in-one content delivery and creation device. Students can use iPads for nearly every task needed in class. The iPad enables teachers to develop and distribute digital content to students. The diversity in available content, whether through web resources, apps, or ebooks, provides our students with the instructional materials and collaboration opportunities that we hoped to achieve in the 1:1 learning environment. The available iOS apps and built in cameras also enable students to create their own digital content without the need for peripheral devices.

What’s Ahead: 

We are planning extensive-ongoing teacher support and training opportunities to help facilitate the creation of digital curriculum content. We will have a large team of students helping as a tech crew supporting their peers and teachers as part of a new Digital Industry course. We are building a Cyber Café for students and teachers as a comfortable place to relax, collaborate, and continue classroom discussions. Students will even be developing apps for curriculum and school related information.

Reviewer’s Notes: 

Teaching with iPads provides fast and easy access to the Internet, great apps that can often be tied directly into curriculum, and a truly hands-on approach to learning. I also don’t think there is anything wrong with incorporating a device that helps get kids excited to learn—partially because it’s so cool.

My favorite part about students using iPads in a 1:1 environment is how engaged and excited students are about learning. I have never had students so engaged using a technology product in class. Nothing even comes close.

PC 1:1: Dave Ehlers Director of Tech

LIFEBOOK T730a Dave Ehlers2 Reviewer: Dave Ehlers

Position: Director of Technology

District/School: Weston County School District #1, Newcastle, Wyoming

Number of Students in District/School: 790

Products: Fujitsu LIFEBOOK T730 tablet PC, SMART Boards, Cisco Access Points/Controller, and Microsoft Windows Virtual Server Solutions


We are moving into our 4th year with our 1:1 initiative in our grades 9-12. During an extensive process of LIFEBOOK T730b comparing several types of laptops/tablets/slates for our students, it was determined that the Fujitsu LIFEBOOK T730 tablet PC was the best fit for our needs.


We included staff members, administration, students, parents and board members as part of the tech-choice process. We felt that even though the Slate/Ipad technology has some advantages (costs, ease of use, lower profile) it also has, in our opinion, significant disadvantages. It was pointed out that most of the features on the Slate/Ipad are applications that a consumer would use. We felt it important that we strive to mold solid student producers of materials/programs/and even Apps that others can use. Overall the product we chose received solid reviews from all our testers/evaluators. The LIFEBOOK T730 tablet PC featured solid construction, high display resolution, hard drive disk suspension, and optical drive flexibility for additional battery.

Learning Curve:

Since this is our second generation of tablets in our school district the Learning Curve is mush less than our initial deployment. Professional Development was offered and supplied by Fujitsu at no additional cost to our district. A 3-year accidental protection plan was purchased with the units, and qualified Fujitsu-trained technicians handle all support in-house. Fujitsu has offered to train additional technicians as needed.

How We Use It:

The Fujitsu LIFEBOOK T730 tablet is just a part of our overall technology deployment, for our students’ educational experience. Other devices include SMART Boards in every classroom, Cisco wireless access points with controller, and a Windows Virtual Server Solution that ensures a solid infrastructure. We pride ourselves on providing our students and staff with a consistent and reliable technology presence in each classroom. With full-time Help Desk technicians, classroom integrationist, and a focus on strong implementation we’ve created an environment for success in Weston County.

What's Ahead?:

Deployment has begun. Our staff received their LIFEBOOK T730 tablet PC prior to leaving for the summer months to become comfortable with the new unit, and students will receive theirs in the fall. There will be Staff Professional Development follow-ups this fall as part of our district's Welcome Back to School Professional Development Days. The development topics will include hardware and software updates, classroom management software, as well as Internet and Network Securities.

Tablet PCs Dynamic Change: Ken Collura Tech Director

Ken Collura Reviewer: Ken Collura

Position: Director of Technology

District: Diocese of Columbus, Columbus, Ohio

Number of Students in District/School: 42 elementary schools; 11 high schools; 17,000 students



Products: Hp2

Primary Hardware:
HP Compaq Tablet PCs

Primary Software:            
DyKnow Vision
DyKnow Monitor
Agilix BrainHoney
Camtasia Relay


Our goal was to incorporate technology into our learning environment that facilitates interactivity in the classroom, and enables students to learn in the way that best suits them. To accomplish this, we needed a technology partner like HP to work with us through every step of the process.


The integration of HP Tablet PCs into our classrooms received a fantastic response from students and teachers alike. In fact, the tablet PCs were so popular that we expanded the program a few years later, so that more students could participate.

Students say that tablet PCs help them make better use of their time. With the HP Tablet PCs, students receive course materials from the teacher, submit homework assignments and get them back over the school’s wireless network—all in real-time. As a result, students can use their time more productively – doing work during breaks, over lunch, or before afterschool activities start. They don’t have to wait until they’re in a computer lab, or at home. Students can study and learn practically anytime, anywhere.

Teachers say that HP Tablet PCs have changed the classroom dynamic in a positive way. Classes with tablet PCs are no longer taught primarily with lectures. Instead, they’re more like interactive laboratories. The “Guided Notes” feature allows teachers to provide a detailed outline, rather than all their notes for the class. This way students need to listen in class to fill in the gaps. It not only delivers the subject matter, but also teaches students how to listen and take notes more effectively.

Learning Curve:

HP Tablet PCs are easy to use – students and teachers took to them quickly. I’ve seen virtually every tablet out there, and think the HP Tablet PCs have a great form factor; a quality screen, user-friendly stylus, and they’re durable to take day-to-day use by the students.

How We Use It:

Tablet computing allows us to tailor instruction to the individual needs of our students, across the curriculum. Teachers are able to hone in on the learning style that gets the best results from each student. For example, one student was failing English until he decided to read a short story into the Audio Notes Recorder on his tablet PC. Then he listened to the story. His comprehension—and ultimately his English grade—improved dramatically. That student is what we call an audio learner. The tablet PC is key to his success in the classroom. Similarly, students with physical disabilities might not have the motor skills to type well. Tablet PCs allow them to dictate their essays into the computer, and use voice recognition software to turn the sound file into a document for the teacher.

What’s Ahead?:

We’ve had a phenomenal response to the tablet PC program at the two high schools where the program is underway, and hope to expand it to additional schools and students in the future.

Tech Creators: Pat Yongpradit Computer Science Teacher

  Title Start
Pat Yongpradit HeadshotReviewer: Pat Yongpradit

Position: Computer Science Teacher

District/School: Montgomery County Public Schools, Springbrook High School, MD

Number of Students in District/School: ~140,000 , ~1,700

Products: Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, XNA Game Studio, Windows Phone Developer Tools, Windows Phone 7 phones


Windows-phone-7-front I want to develop students into creators of the technology they use, not merely users. Students with various programming backgrounds learned and applied computer science concepts to create video games and applications that address social causes. Some students have even put their programs on the Windows Phone 7. XNA Game Studio, packaged with the Windows Phone Developer tools, is a framework written in the C# programming language and edited in the Microsoft Visual Studio environment. These software tools allow students to create games and applications for Windows Phone 7 hardware.


Everyone loves it!  Parents are grateful to see their kids engaged wholeheartedly in school projects. Administrators love the real-world emphasis, and board members have invited us to speak about the projects at conferences. Students really see that their work can have an impact outside of school. In two years we have doubled the number of introductory and Advanced Placement Computer Science courses.

Learning Curve:

We already teach Java in Introductory and Advanced Placement Computer Science at Springbrook, so transitioning to a similar programming language like C# was easy.  We used a lot of the curriculum Microsoft provides and kids found the video tutorials very helpful.  The school and district administration has been very supportive and our school’s technology support specialist has been flexible in installing the software on the network.

How We Use It:

We create games and applications for the Microsoft Imagine Cup, a worldwide student technology competition centered around creating technology to address the UN Millennium Development Goals. One group of students made a maternal health game in which a young man must come to the aid of mothers in his village by bringing them medicine, food, and transporting them to the hospital.  Videos of games created by the students can be found here.

Reviewer’s Notes:

Video game creation develops computer programming technique, communication and collaboration among different roles, and allows students to create a real product that they can be excited to show their peers. 

What’s Ahead?:

More curricula need to be written to address higher-level computer science topics, to allow students to continue advanced computer science studies while creating fun games. A local step is to spread the message around my immediate district and provide professional development for teachers who are interested.  There is already a cohort of teachers around the nation who are working with XNA Game Studio.




Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Best in Tech Today are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.