White Paper

Seven Steps to Increasing Operational Efficiency with Technology-Enabled 1:1 Learning

Printable Version
Executive Summary:

In Today’s Educational Environment, Improved IT Efficiency Is Mandatory.

While much has been written about the improved learning outcomes associated with 1:1 computing, less is known about this innovative learning model’s effect on operational efficiency. But improved operation efficiency is no longer a secondary benefit. With falling tax bases and escalating pressure to rethink education from top to bottom, adopting 1:1 technology has become a way to improve efficiency and lower cost.

Overworked educational IT professionals, a linchpin to the success of 1:1 computing, consistently function in a “reactive” mode. One reason is the high level of support required. A single IT support staffer handles requests from a mean of 1,320 students.1 This rate is much higher than in the business world.

In addition, escalating regulatory mandates, such as performance testing and benchmarking, The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), demand improved results even against this backdrop of shrinking budgets. For example, an update to CIPA, a federal law which makes schools’ selected technology purchases more affordable, now requires schools to implement a series of specified steps to prevent minors from being exposed to offensive content in the learning environment.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, which is commonly referred to as “the stimulus,” will make available to schools billions in federal funds earmarked for integrating technology into all levels of education. Although this one-time availability is no panacea, it has created urgency around implementing proven teaching technologies. In addition, it has given schools an opportunity to scale technical support to match the proliferation of technology across their operations. To learn more about how your school can use ARRA funds, visit Lenovo’s Stimulus Resource Center at www.lenovo.com/stimulus.

The good news amidst this environment is that pioneering schools with close to a decade of experience with 1:1 computing now report higher productivity and economies of scale related to technology acquisition, deployment and management. Along with those advantages come a myriad of serious technology-driven issues which require ongoing attention, such as data management, security and online safety.

This whitepaper shows how focusing on seven key operational areas advances learning, while managing costs and improving efficiency. Each of these key operational areas offers opportunities to improve districts’ and schools’ operational efficiency as they deploy 1:1 computing:

  1. Optimizing infrastructure to support classrooms
  2. Efficiently building and deploying custom-imaged devices
  3. Minimizing classroom disruptions with reliable hardware
  4. Streamlining PC maintenance and support
  5. Protecting data with off-site backup
  6. Taking a layered approach to security
  7. Assuring online safety with content filtering

Seven Steps to operational efficiency

1. Optimizing Infrastructure to Support Classrooms

Operational efficiency begins with your technology infrastructure. Consider the experiences of two leading 1:1 pioneers: the Department of Education’s statewide initiative in Pennsylvania and Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) in Georgia.

Pennsylvania’s Classrooms for the Future program, a statewide 1:1 computing initiative, transformed the way high school teachers teach and the way their students learn by equipping English, math, science and social studies classrooms with Internet-connected laptops and advanced resources. More than 12,000 teachers and 500,000 students in the state’s high schools now benefit from a 21st Century learning environment called “School 2.0.” Review the differences in the two teaching approaches, School 1.0 (traditional environment) and School 2.0 (the computer-powered 1:1 learning environment), to see the pivotal importance of technical infrastructure in this new learning model.

School 2.0 increases stress on infrastructure

  • Teacher centered
  • Content coverage
  • Memorizing information
  • Lecturer
  • Whole group configuration
  • Single instructional and learning modality
  • Memorization and recall
  • Single discipline
  • Isolated
  • Textbook dependent
  • Teachers teaching to one learning style
  • Learning content
  • Learning isolated skills and factoids
  • Learner centered
  • Learning and doing
  • Using information
  • Facilitator/Co-learner
  • Flexible grouping configuration
  • Multiple instruction and learning modalities to include all students
  • Higher Order Thinking skills – creativity
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Collaborative
  • Multiple sources of information
  • Teachers addressing multiple learning styles
  • Learning how to learn
  • Completing authentic projects

As instructional practices became more rigorous, student-centered and relevant, demands on the computing infrastructure to support School 2.0 escalate as well. In Pennsylvania, schools’ biggest IT challenges involved network capacity—being able to authenticate all those sign-ons at the beginning of class and storing work so that students could resume assignments during study periods. In addition to extensive capacity testing to ensure the network could handle the heavy sign-on load, IT professionals set up an electronic “drop box” on the server where students could store partially completed assignments as they moved from class to class.

A second operational concern in Pennsylvania centered on helping teachers gain the most leverage from the devices—a common hurdle seen in the early stages of 1:1 computing implementation. Pennsylvania’s high school teachers received instructional coaching to encourage them to go beyond traditional teaching techniques and prevent them from simply automating their standard teaching processes. The state’s Department of Education helped underwrite the cost of “hands on” computing programs for teachers; online courses for group learning; and “instructional coaches,” computer savvy teachers who helped their peers re-engineer their teaching methods to make the most of the new technical capabilities.

In Georgia, future network demands were more of a concern than today’s network capacity. GCPS, which is recognized as one of the fastest growing school districts in America, planned to open 16 new schools within 24 months of initiating 1:1. School officials took into account that growth when building the technical infrastructure for 1:1. In addition, GCPS also weighed the infrastructure-related cost and impact of retrofitting 65 elementary schools. Accomplished over an 18-month period, the Gwinnett initiative pointed to its decisions to standardize on reliable hardware and centralize IT support as two keys to the success of its $87 million 1:1 computing initiative.

When GCPS, which operates 114 schools and educational facilities serving more than 159,000 students, implemented its 1:1 initiative, improved operational efficiency was the surprising byproduct. Having an IT support staff-to-device ratio of 1:500, GCPS needed to operate IT with the kind of efficiency seen on aircraft carriers. To do that, Gwinnett chose to standardize on devices from a single manufacturer to lessen the maintenance and support burden on its infrastructure. Today, GCPS can distribute new applications, tools and security updates to its 21,000 Lenovo ThinkPad notebooks, ThinkCentre desktops and ThinkVision widescreen monitors quickly, efficiently and, most importantly, remotely. GCPS estimates that it reduced its annual PC maintenance cost by 30% with this standardization.

Take the free, online assessment from Educational Collaborators to determine your infrastructure’s readiness for 1:1 at www.lenovo.com/education. With assessment results in hand, you’ll know where your infrastructure can “scale up” to accommodate 1:1 and where you’ll need help.

As you build your technical infrastructure to support 1:1 learning, take advantage of the experience of these pioneers and others like them. Today, there are many millions of 1:1 students and teachers, so connect to your peers who’ve implemented 1:1 to see what they’ve learned.

2. Efficiently Building and Deploying Custom-Images Devices

Building a device’s image, that is, loading the applications, tools and security—even hard drive encryption—needed by a specific user group, takes a mind-boggling amount of time and effort. Supporting those images over the lifetime of the device becomes more complex each time a new version of an application is issued or a security patch is distributed. And multiply that complexity every time you introduce and support a new image.

The key to imaging is a form of “mass customization,” selecting a few key user types or personas and then building standardized images for them.

Because districts and schools operate with such lean IT staffs, many are turning to automated imaging systems, such as Lenovo’s ImageUltra™ Builder, to automate the process of creating custom images. Security, authentication and defense filters are built into each custom image. By specifying which images are needed by each group (students, teachers, staff and administrators) schools then receive secure devices pre-loaded with everything each profile needs.

During the lifetime of a device, you can expect a system migration or two. Usually thought of as a highly intensive process, the proper imaging approach can save time and money here as well. For example, when one global concern abandoned manual systems migration in favor of automating the process, it reduced time-to-completion 65%.

After your 1:1 initiative has been up and running for a while, you’ll face an additional deployment dilemma: how to replace older device with new ones without losing data. Dow Chemical replaced 38,000 ThinkPad notebooks and 6,500 Think Centre desktops in 160 countries using Lenovo’s automated System Migration Assistant tool. While you may never face a migration of those global proportions, you can use the same industrial-strength tool that helped Dow cut by 75% the time needed to migrate all that data.

The creation and deployment of standardized imaging solutions is critical to building an operationally efficient IT infrastructure at your school. Over the lifetime of a device, custom imaging saves the school $1799 and that savings happens with every custom imaged device.

3. Minimizing Classroom Disruptions with Reliable Hardware

Consider your computing devices to be engaged in “extreme mobility” every day. Count on students to jostle, bump and drop their computers, and don’t forget to expect the occasional spill as well. To avoid the downtime that stops learning in its tracks, you’ll want to choose durable, reliable computing devices that take everything students can dish out – in the classroom, on the road and at home. In addition to durability, look for devices with glare-minimizing screens that perform as well outdoors as they do in the classroom. Finally, rate your device choices for their energy efficiency. The longer students can go between recharges, the more productive they’ll be.

4. Streamlining PC Maintenance and Support

In North Carolina, some schools have created “Student Technology Teams” to handle minor troubleshooting and leverage overburdened IT staffs. These schools report that the student approach works well and frees the IT staff to concentrate their efforts on more complex issues.

Another way to stretch scarce IT support staff centers on using tools to automate time-consuming but essential tasks such as maintaining a device inventory. A central console running a program such as LANDesk Management Suite for ThinkVantage Technologies allows IT staff to automatically maintain an up-to-the-minute accurate inventory of network hardware, software and users. This advanced technology even “discovers” devices when they are in the “off” position.

Distributing security patches and performing system upgrades also take a great deal of time and require IT support to be “everywhere at once,” a feat usually reserved for Super Heroes. Console-based tools remotely diagnose and repair problems, such as improper BIOS settings, corrupted bootloaders and failed hard drives, “down the wire,” avoiding desk-side visits. In addition, these tools distribute patches and perform upgrades seamlessly. Not only do these tools minimize desk-side visits, they resolve common problems quickly, efficiently and reliably.

5. Protecting Data with Off-site Backup

One of the most compelling operational reasons to implement a 1:1 computing initiative is access to the wealth of performance-related data the system collects. This data can be critical to monitoring and measuring student performance, and fine-tuning curriculum. Finally, data holds the key to satisfying regulators’ need for accountability and transparency in documenting academic progress and areas of opportunity.

As educators become increasingly dependent on this data for decision-making, it is imperative that the data be accurate, up-to-date and available. Rather than buy additional hardware or integrate backup into your existing infrastructure where it would be vulnerable, consider using the Internet for online data backup. You can move data electronically and seamlessly to a secure, off-site data encryption and storage capability. A big part of keeping devices operational hinges on keeping their valuable data secure as well. Students, teachers and staff probably spend little to no time thinking about data back-up but you do. Lenovo’s Online Data Backup, a secure, off-site data encryption and storage capability, uses the Internet to back up and restore files—eliminating the need to integrate a backup technology into your existing infrastructure or buy additional hardware.

Each week in the United States, approximately 140,000 hard drives crash.11 Wouldn’t it save IT staff a lot of time if users could fix this problem themselves?

Now they can. Lenovo’s ThinkVantage Technologies System Toolbox in Windows 7 functions as a self-recovery tool. With one click, students, teachers and staff can restore a corrupted or deleted file, or resolve a complete software failure.

Users simply hit the TVT System Toolbox to activate Rescue and Recovery™. This advanced capability restores users’ productivity two to three minutes. Lenovo users routinely report that using Rescue and Recovery has reduced their support costs by as much as 50%.

6. Taking a layered approach to security

Effectively securing your computing environment requires a layered approach to security which includes endpoint security, lost asset protection and encryption. When it comes to endpoint security, for example, the days of protecting a computer with a password have gone the way of the dinosaur. Today, fingerprint readers, for example, are much better deterrents. Antivirus protection is required, especially given the frequency of Internet downloads in academic pursuits.

To deter theft and protect confidential data, Lenovo recommends schools and districts implement encryption solutions. These protective solutions include integrated software- and hardware-based encryption, password management and fingerprint identity technology. Lenovo’s Full Disk Encryption, a hardware-based solution, protects all the data stored on a notebook’s drive. Hardware-embedded encryption is faster and less expensive than software-based encryption options.

Lost asset protection becomes a high-level concern when you have hundreds or even thousands of computers on campus. However, protecting devices (and their data) doesn’t stop when students, teachers and staff leave the premises.

Using Intel® vPro™ technology, your IT infrastructure can automatically alert you whenever a PC that does not conform to your security standards, tries to log onto your network or even when an authorized PC with a virus attempts to sign in. vPro not only blocks network access, it shuts down the compromised device.

This same capability allows IT staff to lock hard drives remotely, preventing unauthorized eyes from seeing your data. Wi-Fi enabled triangulation serves as a highly precise tracking system for missing computers, allowing law enforcement to recover the devices which usually are found in warehouses full of stolen merchandise.

In these days of “extreme mobility,” lost asset protection has moved from a “nice to have” to a “have to have.” In the event a laptop goes missing, you want to be able to protect your data, recover the device and restore it to full operation.

7. Assuring Online Safety with Content Filtering

There’s device and data security and then there’s online safety—two entirely different but equally important concepts. Districts and schools want to keep students working online safe by protecting them from inappropriate content as well as solicitation, cyber bullying and malicious web proxies.

However, the need for safety goes beyond the school or even the district. For example, the United States government requires schools to protect computer users under 18 from being exposed to offensive content while they are online at school. The Children’s Internet Protection Act of 2000 (CIPA), which was updated to include specific regulatory mandates as to the online safety of minors in 2001, sets out a fairly rigorous test of online safety for districts and schools. Districts and schools that fail to follow the CIPA regulations can lose their E-Rate financial assistance, a federal program which helps defray the cost of technology. For more information about how to comply with CIPA’s regulations and protect your E-Rate funding, visit http://www.fcc.gov/wcb/tapd/universal_service/

Taking into account that student safety calls out for a tailored approach to Internet access, Lenovo has created a flexible toolset to help assure online safety. IT staff can use centralized, web-based administration tools to control Internet access and activity globally, or they can elect to segment levels of access by user group. With proper authorization, teachers can override the controls as needed.

If a student’s academic performance is suffering, IT can step in to provide teachers with detailed reports of a student’s Internet activity. Additionally, IT staff can manage Internet access whenever students are online from any location on or off the network. This capability protects computers from infection and students from online threats anywhere, anytime. This same level of detailed reporting can be used to validate proposed investments in technology, subscription-based content and other “fee-based” services.

In Texas, the need to protect students 24/7 came to the attention of the Katy Independent School District (KISD). Its 60,000 students find themselves “wrapped in a protective cocoon” seven hours a day according to CIO Lenny Schad. “Then for 17 hours a day they walk out of our doors and operate in the adult world,” he explained. KISD enlisted parents in its online safety effort and the parents were more than willing to step up the challenge. Parents wanted to be more than “back-up support” in the district’s efforts to keep students safe online. They saw their role as one of building solid digital citizens.

Schad enlisted parents’ help in protecting students online when he hosted a series of technology showcases. During these after school meetings, high school students demonstrated how students use technology in the classroom and what the district was doing to maintain their safety online. Parents then asked the high school students questions about their experiences. A dominating theme during the question periods, Shad reported, centered on how parents could maintain online safety at home. Shad’s team is now preparing a separate program for parents on the responsibilities of digital citizenship.

Lenovo is your partner for operational efficiency

Overworked IT support staffs at schools and in districts say they have little time to implement technology in the classroom. However, the technologically advanced capabilities of 1:1 computing can add operational efficiency to overburdened IT operations.

A host of automated deployment and management tools can streamline the effort needed to bring up 1:1 computing. Advanced options, such as custom imaging, streamline deployment. A wealth of security measures, built into the image, keep students safe and secure online. Image standardization also minimizes the number of unique computing personas that exist on campus, simplifying support and bringing the cost down.

In addition, managing a fleet of computing devices from a central console helps IT support staff appear to be everywhere at once. Central management allows security patches and system upgrades to occur during non-peak times—even when computing devices are turned off. Plus, IT staff can now solve problems “down the wire,” minimizing the need for desk-side visits.

In these days of constrained budgets, implementing 1:1 computing can appear to be a daunting task. But as more than millions of students, teachers and staff will attest, 1:1 does more than improve learning outcomes. 1:1 helps IT staffs support student learning—efficiently and cost-effectively.