The right one for the job

By Director of IT Services Bill Westrick

As the plan for 1:1 student computers for the secondary schools began to take shape several years ago, we collected information from our teachers and students on what the ideal 1:1 device should have:

  • Long battery life.
  • Turn on instantly.
  • Touch-screen tablet mode.
  • Laptop mode with keyboard when needed.
  • Support full-features of office productivity suites like Google Apps or Microsoft Office.
  • Cameras for photo and video.
  • Allow access to adopted electronic curriculum resources.
  • Ability to print, when needed, to existing building printers.
  • USB connectivity.
  • Light weight.
  • Ability to use a projector.
  • Wi-Fi connectivity to access the nternet at school and home.

South High School sophomores use the first-generation devices, laptops, in their biology class.

It turns out that our teachers and students were well ahead of the curve on this one. A single device that could do all of these things didn’t exist. As we moved forward in our planning for 1:1, now named “The Glass Paper Project,” we decided to delay the decision on a device until we were closer to implementation and new types of devices were made available to ensure that we had the best features available for the budget. In the meantime, teachers to be involved in the first phases of device deployment were encouraged to begin contemplating what they would do in their classrooms once each student is assigned a computer, and planning and professional development sessions were held.

This fall, all of the major device makers came out with their latest innovations. As we evaluated them, we found that Microsoft’s release of the touch-friendly Windows 8 operating system coupled with Intel’s introduction of a new low power-consumption computer chip (codenamed “clover trail”), has allowed vendors to create a new type of “hybrid” tablet/laptop device. These devices are now hitting the market, and they meet all of the requirements set by our teachers and students. We have shared samples of this type of device with some of our schools, and teacher and student feedback has been extremely positive.

All of the major PC makers have released their versions of the “clover trail” devices and we have selected a device. During December, Fargo Schools put out a competitive bid request to provide 900 devices in January for one half of our 6th grade classes in the middle schools and the sophomores at North High. Each vendor had a slightly different physical design, but the requirements for the “clover trail” chip and Windows 8 ensured that the winning vendor will provide a product that meets all of our needs.

After reviewing the vendor bids, the Dell Latitude 10 Tablet with a Kensington keyboard case was selected. As a tablet, it runs a full version of Windows 8 on a 10.1” touch screen. The added case provides not only a good quality keyboard, but also some protection for the tablet itself.

We will be receiving these devices at the end of January, and plan to distribute them starting in the middle of February. Let the next phase of The Glass Paper Project begin!

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