Friday, August 7, 2009

1 to 1 Laptop Initiative... Why are we doing this?

We are excited about the opportunity we are providing for our students at Van Meter Schools. Not only will all students in grades 7-12 have the opportunity to use a MacBook 24/7 during the school year, elementary students will have close to a 2:1 student to computer ratio meaning the K-6 students will have many opportunities to use technology as well. Many questions have been asked about why Van Meter has decided to go to a 1 to 1 laptop initiative. The most important thing to remember is that it is about student learning, not the laptops. We want to give our students the best opportunities we can to be successful in the globally competitive world that they will live in. I will post my reasons, and I hope that you will respond and ask questions on this blog.

Though this list is not all encompassing of the reasons why we are moving to a one 2 one, it provides a background for the move:
  • Improve student achievement and increase student learning.
  • Improve student engagement.
  • Complements project-based learning driven by research, collaboration and production of a final product.
  • Broaden learning beyond the classroom.
  • Takes advantage of teachable moments.
  • Preparation for tomorrow’s workplace.
  • Allows teachers to more easily differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all students.
  • Opens up more opportunities for teachers and students to collaborate with other educators, students, and professionals throughout the world.
  • Instructional tool to help teach the Iowa Core Curriculum
  • Give students a tool to help them become self-directed learners
  • Levels the playing field for all students
  • Make technology integration more efficient; more time spent on instruction
  • Teach digital citizenship and technology usage to students
  • Schools need to change and this is one tool that will help


  1. I have heard that this is a two year pilot program, is this true? Also, can you provide what the Iowa Core Curriculum includes? What is the $35 technology assessment fee for and how is it attached to Iowa law? For the deductible fees and such, what if a family cannot afford those fees due to loss or accidental damage? What type of software will be loaded/removed remotely? Is there a GPS locator on these laptops? I'm concerned about the large responsibility this places on the students and their families for liability. Will the students still be receiving regular textbooks? What if a family decides not to have their student partake in this initiative, what will they be needing in place of these laptops?

  2. Thanks for your post. Great Questions. I will do my best to answer them here, but if you would call me or stop in and see me we could talk in more detail.
    1) No this is not a 2-year pilot program, we have agreed to a 4-year lease with Apple.
    2) I can give you the address to the Iowa Core Curriculum site, but it is too lengthy to include all its information
    3) We are charging a $35 technology/software assessment which districts can do according to Iowa Code § 301.1 which basically allows districts to collect money to support technology in the district. this site will help clarify.
    4) We understand there is a cost to the family, but the District has made a huge investment into the one to one program and is covering the laptops with its own insurance, which includes a $250 deductible for each machine. Families can opt out of the program, but the District is willing to work with those families that need assistance for covering the potential expenses and strongly encourages all students to participate.
    5) Software updates and improvements will be load remotely.
    6) We currently do not have a GPS locator on the laptops.
    7) Yes, students will be receiving regular textbooks this year.
    8) Again, we want all students to participate in this program, but if someone chooses not to participate, they will be expected to find alternative means of access to technology, such as the school library and home computers.
    I hope this helps and I look forward to talking to you in person.

  3. I am concerned about the time taken away from actual learning in the classroom. Each change in class will require the students to set up and take down their laptops. Each period is short as it is, this will eat away at probably 10-15 min. of each class.

    Battery life on a computer is 3-4 hours. School is obviously longer than that. How is that being addressed?

    Please indicate to me what studies have shown that laptops enhance learning as opposed to software? I understand that there are no subject specific software loads planned. The only studies that I am aware of, regarding computers have shown only in the area of math do computers offer enhanced learned for the students.

    You are providing our children with access to the internet and yet expecting parents to be responsible for sites they access. - I would have to say that it would be the school's responsibility if pornography sites are reached - whether intentional or not.

    What sort of information is being provided to the parents regarding the goals and uses of these computers? It is very difficult for us to make an informed decision regarding a potential investment for $4500 per student(if and when the computers are damaged) when we've not been given any plan as to how they are to be used.

    If text books are going to be used, I really can not see the purpose of using the laptops.

  4. Will tools be loaded on the laptops, or available for install, to enable parents to monitor usage?

  5. Will parents be required to provide internet access for their children outside the school? If a family does not have internet access, have arrangements been made with the public library to offer this access with extended hours? Or will the school have a room available for such usage after hours?

    What are the specific goals and measures for success of this program?

    I wonder how well you will be able to monitor access to computers that are in the possession of the students when it was proven last year in school that students were able to get around the firewalls and access sites that the administration was "blocking".

  6. I will try to answer some of the questions asked in the previous three posts with one response.
    1) Set up and take down is quick less than 1 minute, so time setting up or putting away should not be an issue in most cases.
    2) Students will have opportunities to charge computers if needed, but depending on programs being used, the MacBooks can last up to 6 hours.
    3), this site has some information on ways technology can improve student learning.
    4)We only provide access to the internet here at school, and our filtering system will keep students from accessing inappropriate sites and will notify us if students try to access them while here at school.
    5) I included our goals and use of the computers in an earlier blog comment above. If you need more information in regards to goals, you can reach me at 996-2221 ext. 101.
    6) We do plan on moving away from textbooks within the next 4 years. It has been found that any information in a textbook can be found on 12 websites on average.
    7) During orientation, parents will be informed how they can monitor student usage. We can also monitor student usage as a district.
    8)No parents will not be required to provide internet access at home. The internet can be accessed from the school parking lot, but at this time no arrangements have been made for after hours use in the building. We have not contacted the library to make arrangements for use of wireless internet there either.
    9) We are working on creating the appropriate assessments and so far discussion has been around creating our own tool that will allow us to measure student mastery of the Iowa Core as well as other factors including, levels student engagement, and more traditional assessments such as ACT and ITEDS/ITBS.
    10.) We have a great system to monitor student computer usage. We can access any students computer at any time via CASPER. Mr. Linde can give your more information about this tool.

    I hope this helps, but if you have any other questions, don't hesitate to call or email me at

  7. Why wasn't a meeting held with the parents of students in determining whether to use this initiative prior to the district investing in it? I understand the school board may have agreed to this without knowing all the details at the time.

  8. I believe the Board knew all of the details at the time it was approved. It is my understanding that this initiative was discussed for over a year by the board, administration, and the community. I don't know if there was a formal separate meeting other than public Board Meetings with the community about the 1 2 1 initiative, but John Carver, Van Meter Superintendent can be reached at or 996-2221 ext. 216. I am sure he would answer all of your questions, if you are not satisfied with my responses.

    Most people I have talked to a very excited and love the fact the district is doing all that it can to provide the best education possible for its students. If you would like to set up a meeting with me, so we can discuss this in more detail face to face, call me at 996-2221 ext. 101. I appreciate your willingness to post comments on my blog, but a face to face meeting may be needed for us to work through some of your concerns. I hope to hear from you soon.

  9. I am excited for my child to be a part of this new program. If not for the school providing him with a laptop he would still be using the "home" computer that we all share connected to the broken printer :) Best of all, it is an opportunity for him to demonstrate his maturity and gain some responsibility. In my opinion the benefits of the 1 2 1 program will far exceed any negatives. AND lastly, we can all proudly say that the Van Meter School is leading the way in establishing a technological revolution in schools. Yeah US!

  10. Why was a MAC computer chosen for this initiative? One of the reasons you stated in support of the initiative was preparing students for tommorrows workplace. Mac only has a roughly 8% market share in the US and a roughly 3% market share worldwide. I do not intend to debate the merits of a MAC vs. a PC but it appears to me that the students will most likely be using a PC in the majority of the careers that they choose. Also, the MAC is more expensive than a PC, so the available dollars would have provided more units for student use with the purchase of PCs. Your thoughts?

  11. Bob, Great question. I understand that currently, more PCs are used than Macs in the business world, but we are not as concerned with the machine as we are with the skills that we hope to develop within our students. Our machines all have Microsoft Office Software as well. But a big part of going with Mac was Apple's program for implementing one to ones in schools. The PC vendors we talked to were only going to drop off the machines and then leave it up to us to make it all work. Apple provides all needed infrastructure and support for our IT Department. The likelihood of getting a virus is very limited in comparison to PC. Also, we liked the fact that we could get Professional Development for our teachers and Apple Support for parents and teachers for the life of the lease. Though the machines are more expensive we felt they were better suited for our needs at Van Meter. Apple really is just currently ahead of the game in implementing one to one programs in schools. If that changes at the end of our lease, we may consider another platform. I hope this helps.

  12. Good Afternoon.  The decision to go with Macs was the result of a four year process.  Lots of research and investigation went into this selection and direction.  Representatives from the Van Meter Education Foundation (VMEF), teachers, administrators and school board members  conducted onsite visits to colleges, universities and public schools operating 1 2 1 programs.  Additionally we “tap into” patrons who have an expertise on this topic.  The consensus and recommendation was that we go forward with Apple and that we lease the hardware.  Apple was selected because of its history training both students and staff, and for their ability to support technology in a school environment.   Our lease with Apple is for 4 years.  The thinking is that four years from now, the landscape of technology will have changed.  At that point we will revisit and evaluate what our next step will be.  It is interesting to note that May 1 2008 Business Week cover story, titled “The Mac in the gray flannel suit” speaks to the question of Macs in the work world.