One-to-One Laptop Schools/Bombay, India

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One-to-One Laptop Schools


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American School of Bombay - One to One Program[edit]

Background[edit]

The American School of Bombay,[1] is an American overseas school located in Mumbai (Bombay), India. American overseas schools [2][3] are institutions that have U.S. sponsorship through private businesses, churches, parent groups and/or government agencies. These schools serve eligible U.S. students in foreign nations but are not limited to just US citizens; anyone seeking a US based curriculum may send their child to a US overseas school. Some of these schools are governed by the Office of Overseas Schools in Washington D.C. and their mission is to promote quality educational opportunities at the elementary and secondary level for dependents of American citizens carrying out our programs and interests of the U.S. Government abroad.(state.gov). American schools can range from small primary schools to larger institutions housing kindergarten (or pre-kindergarten) through grade twelve classes.

The student body at the American School of Bombay (ASB) has 47 different nationalities currently attending. Only twenty five percent of the students are from the US. Ten percent of the students are English as a Second Language (ESL). Most of the parent community within American overseas schools comes from a business or a diplomatic community. Since Mumbai is the financial capitol of India, the majority of families come from the business side. These families tend to move from one country to another so the American overseas schools provide American standards of education to them. In general, ASB has a very transient population. One third of the student and parent population moves every year plus faculty and staff tend to move every 3 years, so there is always turnover.

Initiative and Importance[edit]

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The American School of Bombay began investigating student laptop programs in the United States in 2000 and initially began their program during 2001 with IBM laptop carts available to students and teachers to share. In 2003 Microsoft and Toshiba launched their “Anytime, Anywhere” learning initiative [4] and ASB was one of the first schools to join this one-to-one program. At this time, all students from grades 7 to 12 were asked to buy tablet PC’s. If the student already had their own laptop, the school offered to buy them back so students could all buy the school approved and required Toshiba tablet to be on the same page. Now in its 7th year, the American School of Bombay’s one-to-one program has grown considerably to include all students in grades 6 through 12. In addition, all students in grades 3, 4 and 5 are in a one-to-one program. However, the Elementary School laptops are provided by the school and remain on campus. Students in grades 1 and 2 share one laptop between every 2 students, Kindergarten has a three to one ratio and Pre K has a four to one ratio.

Dr. Shabbi Luthra [5] became the Director of Technology at the American School of Bombay in 2005. Previously she had been the IT director at the Dubai American Academy and the Tech Coordinator at the American Embassy School in New Delhi. This is in addition to being an adjunct professor at the State University of New York, Buffalo and Boston University. During the course of her four years at the school, she and Dr. Paul Fochtman, the Superintendent of ASB, led several systemic changes in technology use at the school. Their forward thinking and the ASB leadership team’s dedication to meaningful professional development is continuing to ensure the success of the one-to-one program at this institution.

ASB is one of the only American overseas schools to have a Pre-K-12 tablet and laptop program. Many schools begin a one-to-one program in the middle school but few offer programs that include the lower grades, much less Pre-K. ASB recognized that rapid changes in technology are constantly shaping the world and changing the way students learn. The school leadership and the technology department foster the one-to-one program at this institution by setting goals that do not just keep pace with these technological shifts, but encourage the teachers and students involved to take ownership and look forward to what is coming many steps ahead. Providing an environment where students can engage in the lessons they are presented using valid technology required for success in the future is why one-to-one programs are growing in popularity.

Succesful Engagement[edit]

Dr. Luthra cited the greatest success of the one-to-one tablet program at ASB as the high level of engagement in learning that has emerged for students through integrating the tablets into the classroom. True engagement occurred for teachers, parents and students at ASB. This was achieved by ASB’s extensive approach to professional development and by providing a sense of inclusion and ownership for all parties involved.

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ASB has a Technology Leadership Team made up of 32 people including parents, high school students, faculty, and staff members with representation across all divisions. This team is responsible for macro-level thinking and planning about how technology should be integrated into the classroom. They are not responsible for actual implementation, only for providing the vision, writing the plans, discussing potential implementation issues that may arise, and suggesting solutions to these issues. This team develops a 5-year vision for where they see the school technologically and then prepares a 2-year technology plan to help them get there. This plan becomes a recommendation to the administration and the technology department, and the exercise engages all included parties deeply. The diverse cross section of team members ensures that all angles of technology integration are addressed.

Dr. Luthra observed that students in many schools are more comfortable with technology than the teachers are; most times the students and teachers use technology in different ways. However for successful integration to occur, the teachers must become the innovators while exploring and engaging with new technologies. ASB has set up a wikispace listing a handful of appropriate, approved tools for secondary school teachers to use in the classroom. These tools are listed by subject areas and include research on tech integration in each area and offer ideas on how to integrate. Teachers are encouraged to explore these tools and choose which ones they want to use. Some of these tools include blogs, wikis, podcasts, discussion forums, E-portfolios for English or Language Arts departments and Dyknow, Geometer’s Sketchpad, Math Type, Diigo, and Graphing Calculator for Math departments, among others.

Another way teachers engage with the technology is through "Tech Cafés” held every Monday where many teachers come together and discuss technology integration or other particular technology topics. These meetings are informal and do not focus on how to use the technology but provide more of an open idea forum for teachers to discuss different tools and where it may or may not be appropriate to integrate technology into their lesson plans. Interacting with their peers in this format has proven successful as teachers gain new insight and stock their bag of tools with fresh, proven ideas.

ASB has adopted the ISTE [6] standards and devised a plan to allow each division (Upper, Middle, and Lower) to choose one standard, then write up a plan on how they would like to implement the professional development for all the teachers to achieve that standard. For example, this year the Middle school chose standard 5; Engage in professional growth and leadership. The goal of this standard is to build professional leadership as a community/faculty giving every person the opportunity to become a technology leader. Each division will be evaluated every year to see how successful they were with their professional development plan implementation. Each division will choose another tech standard for the next year so in five years, each department will have implemented all five ISTE standards. Each school principal is also required to present a yearly technology goal to the superintendent. In fact, the superintendent also sets a yearly technology goal ensuring that technology integration is totally embedded in the school culture.

Challenges and Limitations[edit]

According to Dr Luthra, there were a few factors that hindered the immediate success of the one-to-one project at ASB. One was the lack of available educational software for the tablets at the time the project was rolled out. There simply were not many educational packages in production that assisted teachers in integrating the tablets into their lesson plans. The tablets were once only used with programs like Microsoft Office, OneNote and Windows Journal. Another hurdle related to the hardware end of the program. The Toshiba tablets were first generation and tended to be clunky and problematic for the students. The tablets were different from the PC’s and laptops the students may have been used to working with in the past. In addition, the school infrastructure at ASB proved to be inadequate.

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Wireless technology was relatively new to the school and the existing access points were not robust enough to handle the extra traffic generated by all the new wireless hardware. Fortunately, the Superintendent and the Board of Trustees recognized the need for a strong backbone and the funds were approved to upgrade the school infrastructure. The wireless network was upgraded from a B network to a G managed wireless network. The servers were upgraded along with firewalls and antivirus systems. Consultants were brought in to complete site surveys and Microsoft was contracted to address wireless security issues. These important upgrades addressed security concerns, expanded bandwidth and created redundancy for the growing school network.

One issue with the program early on was that the focus was initially on the technology itself rather than on technology integration. Just having the latest and greatest in tablet technology does not guarantee a successful program with true integration and support. The shift was made to invest time and money into the people responsible for making the one-to-one program work. ASB invested heavily in human resources to support the school infrastructure. The school sought to hire technical support professionals from outside corporate environments rather than those with educational backgrounds to change the dynamic and knowledge base of the support team. All six people in the main support team were trained to handle each other’s job responsibilities to ensure redundancy. ASB committed to reducing network downtime to ensure the teachers and students remained engaged with the technology.

Summary[edit]

When she arrived in 2005, Dr. Luthra believed ASB was doing a fine job of integrating the tablets and laptops into the classroom, but things were not running at an optimal level. So as a result, teacher buy-in was not 100%. She believes that a teacher’s belief system will not change until they have had a series of experiences that are successful with using technology. Strengthening the backbone and building faith in the integration of technology was an ongoing process but proved successful as time progressed. Keeping parents, students and teachers invested in the technology integration process truly forms important connections and innovations that might not exist if not for the Technology Leadership Team. Providing freedom to share and explore, ensuring optimal operating conditions, and valuing the input of the end user are all reasons why the one-to-one program, has proven successful at ASB. This institution is attempting to stay ahead of the technology curve and to provide their student, parent, and teacher communities with the tools required for success.

References[edit]