1:1 initiative successful, but changes under way

In recent years, countless technological changes have taken place at Carmel Unified, but the most promising development yet came in 2013 with the development and expansion of the 1:1 computer-to-student program, which provides a Chromebook to all students in the 9th, 10th and 11th grade.

CUSD webmaster and educational technology trainer Colin Matheson is optimistic about the achievements of the 1:1 initiative, noting that the best indicator of success is the image of students scattered about the library conquering schoolwork together with their Chromebooks as the main tool.

“The tech department, high school administrators and above all the CHS teachers and students have made this a great first year of 1:1,” Matheson says.

Math teacher Michelle Pollock admires the Desmos calculator app installed on her students’ Chromebooks. Pollock notes that the app prevents students from taking their phones out and getting distracted. Now, she says, students need not carry a calculator.

“They’re very rigorous about checking their grades now,” Pollock says. “They use [Chromebooks] as a great tool, all across the board. I think it was presented really well to them, so they understood it’s a privilege and that very few schools roll out this type of tool to their students.”

Spanish teacher Bridget Randazzo thinks the Chromebook is a great organizational tool for managing files.
“I recently figured out how to push out documents through Teacher Dashboard, which has been really helpful,” Randazzo says. “Being able to direct students to all the resources on MySchool at their own pace has been helpful.”

But even for all its successes, 1:1 was not perfect right off the bat. Nonetheless, CUSD is making every move to learn from this year’s sidesteps in order to make next year even more successful.

Pollock thinks the biggest problem is that her freshmen students are simply forgetting to charge their Chromebooks.

Matheson points out that another serious issue with 1:1 was the rate of screens breaking. Another common complaint is that Internet connectivity and Wi-Fi can slow down during periods of high traffic—with some unlucky students even losing their signal in the middle of a valuable test or a timed assignment.

In response, CUSD hopes to follow through with some remedial plans. To begin with, the purchase of new Chromebook models and additional protective hard cases is intended to decrease the amount of screens breaking. The new Chromebook presented to the class of 2020 will be a 4 GB Acer, which has a fast central processing unit and a specially reinforced top-panel in order to prevent screen damage.

Additionally, due to troubles with web connectivity, CUSD plans to increase the internet bandwidth by 10 times— and even to “super-charge” MySchool with a new set of virtual servers.

Still, one key issue that remains is the return of laptops to the school (and the process of reissuing these Chromebooks for the 2015-2016 school year). The conflict lies in the fact that many students will need to utilize Chromebooks during finals week, which means that the check-in operation requiring a thorough inspection of every laptop for damage could be pushed right up until the very last days of school, making it a difficult deadline to
adhere to.

Also, some teachers hope students will be able to use Chromebooks on the first day of the 2015-2016 school year. CUSD’s technology department is currently solving the dilemma of how to issue such a large quantity of expensive devices within a matter of hours.

But aside from 1:1, the CUSD technology department’s key goals at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year included installing a comprehensive data program to minimize the risk of a security breach, establishing wireless access points at CMS and CHS for student internet use and carrying out a 3rd through 8th grade computer programming curriculum—all of which succeeded on varying levels.

Looking to the future, the CHS tech department plans on developing the 1:1 program even further.

As Matheson says, “We are going to continue to offer a summer institute for teachers to find ways to use the Chromebooks in class, which is an important part of the success of the program.”
-Daniel Orlov