Thursday, May 1, 2014

Refreshments anyone?

We (in my school district) have been struggling with what technology to provide staff. Five years ago, we "refreshed" all the Exceptional Children Staff laptops.  That was thanks to the Stimulous Funding, which provided several hundred MacBooks and PCs. We knew that we would have to revisit the issue in 4-5 years, as best practice suggests replacing laptops around that time frame. We knew it would be painful. Now, here we are.

Historically we provide our Elementary and Middle schools with Macs, and the High schools get PCs. Not sure who decided that, but it occurred long before I arrived on the scene. The Macs cost us around $950. The "Business Quality" PCs we purchase cost around $900. Lets guess I replace 250 devices. That is $231,250. Sheesh.

So, we've been exploring different options. One option is the Chromebooks.  The brand our district would use retails for about $325. That is $81,250. Obviously significantly cheaper.  I've been using a Chromebook exclusively for several months to see how it would work in our environment. There are a lot pros (price, simplicity, speed, and price).  These devices would be ideal for our students in a 1:1 situation, but unfortunately, I'm unconvinced they will work for our EC staff. The problems include the following: Chrome doesn't work with our complicated Microsoft Word forms, does not work (well) if there is no wifi present, will not run educational software our teachers are already invested in (both financially and time-wise).  Some of these issues might be manageable, for example, move away from the Word forms... maybe, but not happening anytime soon. And there are some great educational apps for Chrome, but just not enough to replace what we have with out tremendous training.  Also, we have a lot of money invested in Smart Boards, and the Chromebook won't run Notebook, even the web-based beta product.

Another option we have looked at is iPads. By themselves, they are not a viable workstation. But, with a bluetooth keyboard, and a Microsoft Office subscription we might make it work. But at the end of the day, we are spending roughly $700 to outfit such a device, which would be about $175,000 for the district. The biggest issue we face in our district is getting them to print effortlessly. Sure I can print, but all of our staff (even the least tech-wavy) need to be able to print effortlessly. So, this won't work either.  Not yet.

So, I'm wondering, any great ideas out there? What are other school districts doing? People making iPads or Chromebooks work? I'd love to hear success stories!


  1. I have loved my 'stimulus money laptop'. Thanks! I'm forever in your debt.

    Given the fact that all of our paperwork is now online, and we need to make customized classroom materials, my laptop is my workhorse. An iPad wouldn't cut it. Printing quickly is key too. I'm not sure how others feel, but I couldn't live without something to fit my needs efficiently. If the school district didn't provide it, I'd be forced to purchase out of pocket.

    1. Great feedback! Thanks Ruth. If your not ready for a straight iPad transition, than likely no-one would be!