From the moment it opened its doors in 1997, Cary Academy has been a model of using the one-student-one- computer approach to improve student learning. Through the years, the North Carolina prep school’s 1:1 strategy has evolved in tandem with the evolution of technology itself.
In the beginning, students and teachers had desktop PCs, and a primary goal of putting the devices in the classroom was to ensure that students mastered the applications needed for success in college and beyond. In recent years, the school moved to tablet PCs to gain increased mobility. Then, in 2009, Cary Academy teachers stepped up to the Lenovo ThinkPad X200 Tablet. Now, students are using the ultraportable, reliable and durable ThinkPad X201 Tablet PC. Cary Academy’s 1:1 strategy no longer targets technological proficiency, but instead focuses on using the leading-edge technology as a tool to accomplish educational objectives anywhere and anytime.
“Ten years ago, it was all about desktop applications. Fast-forward to now, and that’s the least of what we do,” says Sam Morris, Cary Academy’s Instructional Technology Director. “Our shift of focus has become more about student creativity and individualized learning.”
Head of School Don Berger says promoting successful learning outcomes is the reason Cary Academy puts a computer in the hands of every one of its students: “Ultimately, 1:1 computing allows students to learn they way they learn best.”
The evolution of Cary Academy’s 1:1 strategy meant viewing the technology in an updated way — as a means to an end, rather than the end itself. But it also meant ensuring that the technology in the classroom mirrored tech tools available in the wider world and could stand up to real-world conditions.
In other environments, students aren’t tethered to an immobile device such as a desktop computer, Morris says. So it made sense to provide them with the same level of mobility on campus. “Technology is not something separate in the outside world,” he says. “People move around with their cell phones and computers and other devices. Why should it be any different in school?”
But the PCs had to be more than mobile. They also had to be durable and reliable enough to withstand constant use by students.
“For a 1:1 program to be successful, the hardware has to be reliable,” Berger says. “The program cannot be successful if students’ machines have to be repaired on a consistent basis.”
Arm each student with a Lenovo ThinkPad X201 Tablet — a convertible tablet PC that can be operated with a stylus or a keyboard. The X201 Tablet weighs in at just over 3.5 pounds and is easy to use while standing or walking, meaning students can do research, create presentations or read source materials as easily at home as they can on Cary’s Academy’s wireless-enabled campus. What’s more, the X201 Tablet is reliable and durable enough to go wherever Cary Academy’s students go: on soggy treks across the school’s 65-acre campus, on bumpy bus rides, even into the cafeteria, where spills can — and often do — happen.
Berger says Cary Academy carefully researched which devices could handle such constant use and occasional abuse: “We chose Lenovo because it had the best record for reliability.” “Kids are really tough on computers,” Morris says. “The most important things for us were durability and reliability, and the X201 Tablet really stands out in those areas. The X201 is really good for us because it has durability as one of its cornerstones of computing.”
The students’ move to ThinkPad X201 Tablets is helping Cary Academy stay true to its evolving 1:1 strategy, which is focused on learning outcomes and is reliant on anytime, anywhere computing.
The ThinkPad tablet’s durability and reliability ensures it works as hard as students do. The tablet’s eight-hour battery helps Cary Academy students take full advantage of the flexibility of their school’s 1:1 environment — and get everything accomplished.
“Lenovo Tablets turn the campus into an outdoor classroom,” Berger says. “You’ll see student athletes using their PCs to get work done on bus rides to sporting events.”
“The ThinkPad Tablets allow for a more authentic learning environment,” one in which technology is simply a way to get things done, Morris says. “We know we are doing 1:1 right when we don’t think about the technology — when the technology is a tool just like anything else.”
“Cary Academy is a leader in 1:1. The school realized right from the start the power of putting a PC into every student’s hands,” says Michael Schmedlen, Lenovo’s Director of Worldwide Education. “The 1:1 computing environment enables individualized learning and unleashes each student’s creativity.
“The ThinkPad X201 Tablet is an ideal mix of portability, functionality, reliability and durability that has allowed Cary Academy to take another step in the evolution of its 1:1 strategy,” Schmedlen says. “That combination allows the technology to take a backseat to what students are able to do with it.”