A Small School Big Tech Intervention

small school big tech logo (600W)

This past weekend, Mike Vollmert, my co-host on rebootED podcast, and I helped a one school district jump start their journey into the 21st Century. People that follow my smallschoolbigtech.com podcast know I’ve got a soft spot for small schools. I’ve spent the majority of my edtech career helping small schools go big with technology but the last few years I’ve found myself at larger districts with different challenges. It was refreshing to get back to basics this weekend and really make a difference.

So what does a small school big tech intervention look like? Well, first we had to do some basic digging to see how things were setup. The district had been contracting support with a local tech company that didn’t know much about education. In my experience, what often comes from that is just enough support to keep things going with no forward movement in supporting or enabling the classroom. And that’s about what we found.

With a basic assessment done, we went to work on a complete wireless system upgrade and expansion. To provide wireless in every classroom, we installed new Meraki access points. The Meraki cloud based management system is so simple to setup and use, we ran the local techie teacher (no offense Jon) through it in just a few minutes. For districts without super tech admin skills, it’s the best investment in wireless that can be made.

We also setup 60 Acer B113 notebooks with Ubermix for the 6th and 8th grade classes. We opted for Ubermix because of the rural nature of the school and the limited internet access at home. Local apps still make sense in some places and the ease of support, setup and management of Ubermix still can’t be beat when you really need a full blown Operating System. In fact, installing Ubermix is so easy that when I say we setup 60 devices, what I really mean is that the students rotated in throughout the day and installed it themselves. We also had student helpers installing power supplies in carts, unboxing devices and assisting with teacher laptop updates. It was pretty awesome.

This was all possible because the district had already gone down the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) road. That meant no windows accounts to mess around with, no network folder mappings, no joining of devices to a domain. They just had to connect the Ubermix devices to the wifi and off they went. But even if they hadn’t already been on GAFE, it would have been straight forward enough to get them onto it.

In a weekend, we laid the basic foundation for possibilities in the district’s classrooms. Possibilities that did not exist the week before. This isn’t rocket science. Setting up a technology environment focused on learning that provides affordable, supportable and sustainable access for teachers and students is easier than it has ever been. Going 1:1 really is within the reach of any district willing to commit to embracing change and focusing on teaching and learning in the 21st Century.

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