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1:1 25 years on! Refelections by Leon Guss, Methodist Ladies College
Author: Leon Guss, Methodist Ladies College | March 2nd, 2015

Wow! Hasn’t the last 25 years gone so quickly!

When asked to write an article for the foundation on the 25th anniversary of 1:1, I did a quick check of an article I wrote for the AALF on the 20th anniversary of 1:1, found here.

To summarise the key foundations of 1:1 I mentioned in the 20 year article:

* Strong support from the school board.
* Robust debate and discussion from a technology steering committee with a clear technology strategic plan.
* Support from key teachers as Learning Technology Consultants (LTCs) to assist classroom teachers with integrating technology into their classrooms.
* Continuous professional development for technology.
* Lessons extended so that project based learning can occur together with an emphasis on student based learning.
* Support to all stakeholders (students, teachers, parents and visitors to MLC) from a professional IT department.

Seems pretty easy listed as a series of six bullet points; very complex in reality.

So at the 25 year point in the 1:1 journey, what further comment can be made?

When asked to reflect on 25 years of laptops my first comment in summary is “it’s not just laptops!” Where has the time gone, seems like just yesterday that technology in learning was turned on its head. So to speak.

Firstly, a number of questions, comments or issues come to mind:

*Technology is leading edge not bleeding edge.
*Evolution not revolution.
*How has technology been sustainable over such a long period of time?
*How has technology innovation continued over the journey?
*What has changed and what is different?

David Loader took a huge risk in 1989/1990 introducing laptops to the MLC learning environment. From the original trial classes this has grown to computers provided to all students in Years 5 to 12. Year 5 and 6 are the last two years of Australian primary schooling. I remember vividly the push back from parents in those early years of being asked to purchase a computer in addition to private school fees. Many parent information evenings were conducted to explain the rationale for this change in teaching and learning. The need for parent information sessions has disappeared as it is just accepted as a part of a student education at MLC. Also, 1:1 is an accepted part of many school’s programs globally. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is also very common. More later on BYOD. Operationally, the 1:1 program has changed in three major ways over 25 years. Initially, parents were asked to purchase a computer outright or through a hire purchase plan. Parents were expected to refresh the computer once every three years. Two issues with this strategy: 80% of parents followed MLC’s recommendation, 20% provided something else! Secondly, there was a mis-match between MLC students from Year 6 Year 7 and new students starting at this time. This imbalance continued through to Year 12.

A move to a school owned program occurred in 1998 where all students in Year 5, 7 and 10 were issued new computers. This standardised technology within a year level. A “technology levy” was included in the tuition fee for all students in Years 5 to 12. Computers were under a rental agreement and parents could elect to purchase the computer outright at the end of the rental period. Otherwise computers were returned to the financier. Of course the financier expected computers to be returned in a “fair and reasonable” condition (read nearly new) whereas parents would have the opinion its “three years old, I’m not paying for that repair”. A significant and costly hand back process was part of this process.

In 2012, the MLC Board accepted a proposal to restructure the 1:1 program for Year 5 to 12 students to a two year school owned program. Students are issued a new computer in Years 5, 7, 9 and 11. There is no residual at the end of the two year cycle. Families own the computer at the end of this 2 year period. The two year refresh cycle allows the College to adopt new technology at a faster rate, and aligns the refresh cycle to the sub school structure within the College.

To support the 1:1 program the College has negotiated spare parts on site, loan computers and a vendor technician on-site. There is a customer service goal of repairs being performed within 24 hours. No student or staff member should experience downtime – being without their computer. Similarly, insurance for loss or theft is a component of the operation of the program.

For 2015, the 1:1 program will extend to P-12 in the following way:

*Prep -2 students will each be issued with an IPad. These will be used in class, and will not be taken home.
*Year 3 and 4 students will have access to a notebook computer. These will be used in class and not be taken home.
*Year 5 to 12 students will continue in the traditional manner of using the computer anywhere and anytime.

The introduction of IPads in P-2 follows on from trials of IPads in 2012 and 2013. The changes in technology direction in Prep to 6 follows lengthy discussion, debate and planning with relevant stakeholders and support from the College’s Future Technology Directions Group. In fact, the move to a 2 year refresh cycle has allowed the College to use a range of different devices in 2015 – IPads in P-2, Toshiba notebook computers in Year 3 and 4, Microsoft Surface Pro 3 in Year 5, Toshiba Ultrabooks for students in Years 6 to 12 and Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga S1 for staff.

Given the statements above it is timely to comment on BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. Many schools are now operating a BYOD program. Schools inform parents that a mobile device is required for learning. There may be a recommendation as to the type of device, or choose between a number of options – IPad, Android slate, notebook computer (Windows PC or Macintosh) or tablet PC. The question to ask is “How is this supported?” What happens when it doesn’t work? With BYOD, there is no commonality. The MLC program provides equity in that each student has the same device, same software tools and is proactively supported. BYOD does not answer the equity issue, but may answer the accessibility to some technology.

In fact, MLC now operates a BYOOD program – Bring Your Own Other Device. MLC provides students with their core technology device, currently a device as described previously. Importantly, staff and students bring their own “other” device. This may be a smartphone (IPhone or Android), IPad or Android slate. The College wireless network now is divided into two networks – one for College owned notebook computers and Tablet PCs and a second for IPads and smartphones. The second wireless network provides access to the internet but no College network services. In addition, the College has developed a mobile version of its portal with versions for staff, students and parents.

It is very common for students to access their MLC email from their smartphones as well as using this device for other learning purposes, such as reading documents, eBooks and internet browsing. This brings me to the issue of online safety. The College is committed to providing a safe digital environment for students in the internet age. A wellbeing program of Online Safety and Ethics (OSE) is provided to students through Tutor and Home group sessions. Activities are developed by a group of staff and students.

The internet, or more particularly Web 2.0 has been an interesting challenge to consider as an organisation. Early on, there were not too many choices in terms of applications. Each sub-school has a software configuration that includes Microsoft Office, Adobe Web and Design Studio and a wide range of curriculum software. A software image is created for each sub-school. Staff and students have the ability to install other software on their computer. Web 2.0 now provides many alternatives. One simple example is Prezi. Why not use Prezi rather than Microsoft PowerPoint? Prezi appeals to teachers due to the collaboration aspect and slide shows are available through the cloud. Web 2.0 also provides opportunities in terms of many web based tools. Although MLC developed and then commercialised and uses a learning management system. It has not prevented some teachers from exploring alternatives such as Schoology or Edmodo.

The College has been conservative in adopting social networking tools such as Face Book, Twitter and Instagram. The College’s primary concern is providing a safe digital environment for students. This is also discussed later in the document in relation to cloud technologies.

A core value of the College is the wellbeing of students. A project under development for 2-3 years is to develop a wellbeing system based on Microsoft’s CRM dynamics. MLC’s version of CRM is Community Relationship Management. CRM ties into Microsoft Outlook and is very easy to store emails and other digital information about a student. Notes on calls from parents, teacher concerns etc. follows a student throughout their time at MLC. This is a powerful system that unifies many paper based and analogue processes. In trial until now, the system will be rollout out in 2015. CRM also compliments myMLC.net which is a portal that has existed since 2002. myMLC is a database driven information rich resource. It is continually expanded as stakeholders suggest new ideas for improving the way the College conducts its business. Two recent developments are a learning dashboard which visually gives teachers and coordinators an insight into academic progress. Associated with the dashboard is a new facility for students to create their own digital portfolio.

2015 is another milestone year for the College in terms of technology. As previously mentioned there has been the change in the 1:1 program with differentiation of devices and extension to all levels of the school. In addition, the College is rolling out Microsoft Office 365 (O365) and Google Apps For Education (GAFE). Prior to rolling out these cloud solutions/services there has been debate and discussion on privacy, security and data sovereignty. Australian privacy laws have changed recently. There is concern about data being stored on servers located in other countries. Which laws apply? To assist staff in selecting and using cloud technologies, a policy and guidelines have been developed and disseminated to all staff. The guidelines followed an extensive consultative process to provide a tool that assist staff in making decisions in using different solutions/applications. Also in 2015, an eBook trial will be conducted following research into this area in 2014. It is intended that in 2016, all text books will be digital rather than paper. The cloud provides an interesting development in terms of “control” of technology. Individual or small groups of teachers can initiate new technology projects, for example, using Google Docs in a class. They do not have to wait for the IT department to set up servers create permissions before any creativity by an end user can occur. Potential for tension here! All stakeholders work hand in glove to provide good learning outcomes for students. The College has 2173 students from early learning to Year 12. There are 230 teachers (equivalent full time) and 171 educational support staff (equivalent full time). A large organisation. Mobile devices have been mentioned, but this is supported by other technology. There is extensive infrastructure through cabled and wireless networking, servers both real and virtual, data projectors in all classrooms and large venues. Mobile devices, desktops, infrastructure and applications / solutions are supported by an IT department of 14 people split into three teams of Helpdesk Services, Network Operations and IT Solutions.

New technology is introduced through trials to ensure a successful outcome when deployed widely across MLC. It is fair to say that new technology is introduced through evolution not revolution. A core value has been that technology must work!

Although this paragraph appears towards the end of this article it has no less importance than the statements made until now. Support for staff and non-teaching staff is extensive. There are a number of teachers who have time release to support technology integration into teaching and learning, either through their sub school allocation or through association with a number of subject departments. The Learning Technology Consultants (LTCs) provide training and professional learning activities. The LTCs meet with the College’s e-Learning Coordinator who works closely with the Director of Learning and Curriculum. There is a close relationship between LTCs and the College’s IT Department. There is a holistic/unified approach between technology for curriculum and technology for administrative purposes. Many structures and processes have been put in place that focus on technology and sharing. These have ranged from face to face skills acquisition, computer based training, classroom visitation programs, and currently a professional learning program (PLP). MLC’s technology strategic plan is developed and approved by the Future Technology Directions Group (FTDG). The committee is representative of curriculum and learning, LTCs and IT and senior management of the College.


I hope I have conveyed some of the technology directions that have arisen over 25 years. Reflecting back on the Toshiba 1000’s running DOS, logo and Works (monochrome screen, floppy disk, no wireless, no internet) to today’s powerful notebooks, Ultrabook’s, multimodal slates and other devices. That comparison sums it up – such divergence between then and now in terms of capability. Technology is so much more than a single function laptop. 1:1 allows creativity, collaboration and communication. They are such a part of students’ lives for learning and life. So much has changed. And so much more will change! I’ve been fortunate to be a part of the ride as the journey has unfolded.

Author’s note

Leon has been a part of the technology environment at MLC from 1994 until now. He is retiring in April 2015 to pursue all those interests that have been waiting for some free time! While at MLC, Leon has been a Multimedia Consultant, Director of Computing and Multimedia and lastly as Director of Educational Technology. Prior to MLC, Leon has worked as a Maths/Science teacher and as an educational consultant with the Victorian Education Department and Apple Computer Australia.

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