• Overview

    From the Field


    “Decisions about student device selection should stem first from the academic learning goals and include considerations related to educator effectiveness, budget and technology support. It is not about the device, it is about how the device will support the learning.”

    – Alex Macdonald, Idaho Department of Education

    Choosing the correct device is critical to the success of a digital learning environment. As with any planning process, it is crucial to understand the baseline implementation before preparing effectively for the future, and this is especially true with comprehensive education planning that includes digital devices. During the planning process, districts typically look at the demographics, achievement and technology skills of the students and teachers, the teachers’ professional learning history and their general comfort with using technology to meet individual needs. Clearly defined district needs from the planning process can help to identify the best devices to access the content and applications required to meet program goals. A district may be focusing on a variety of needs ranging from increasing student achievement to decreasing discipline issues to shifting learning to a project-based approach and each of these areas may impact device-purchasing decisions.

  • Device Policies

    As districts make decisions regarding technologies and approaches to deploying technology, all based on the vision and needs assessment, districts need to have policies in place for implementation. While there are many areas to consider for policies related to student devices, schools implementing high access, digital learning environments should consider policies related to responsible/appropriate use of devices and the network.

    Acceptable Use Policies

    Schools and districts typically implement acceptable use policies (AUP) for students, parents and faculty members that have access to school devices and/or the school- based software or broadband services to help ensure student safety and security and to help protect the school’s equipment and servers. AUPs vary based on school and district implementation programs, and should be customized based on the user groups. Each school or district should review current policies, templates and supporting documents related to device usage and management, broadband access and permissions and contact forms. These policies should be reviewed at least annually.

    Below, are sample documents that may help to manage user expectations by establishing policies for responsible device use.


    Federal Policies

    Three federal laws are crucial as a base for local policies on student data privacy and they also play a role in considerations for policies related to appropriate use of technology. Those federal laws are The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and Children’s internet Protection Act (CIPA).

    Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

    The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. New regulatory changes for FERPA became effective on January 3, 2012. Within the National Center for Education Statistics, the Department established a Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), which serves as a “one-stop resource” for the P-20 education community on privacy, confidentiality, and data security. Since its launch, the center has developed a PTAC Toolkit that provides resources on data sharing, security best practices, and other relevant topics. Among other things, the 2012 changes to FERPA expanded the requirements for written agreements and enforcement mechanisms to help ensure program effectiveness, promote effectiveness research, and increase accountability. In February 2014, additional guidance summarized the major requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) that relate to educational services, and urges schools and districts to go beyond compliance to follow best practices for outsourcing school functions using online educational services, including computer software, mobile applications and web-based tools.

    Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

    Congress enacted COPPA in 1998. Most recently, it was amended in December 2012 to take effect on July 1, 2013. The goal of COPPA is to put parents in charge of what information may be collected online about their children under the age of 13. The rule applies to operators of commercial websites and online services (including mobile apps). COPPA allows schools to act as “intermediaries” between website operators and parents in providing consent for the collection of personal information in the school context. For example, when a district contracts with a vendor for homework help, individualized education modules, online research and organizational tools, or web-based testing services, the vendor doesn’t have to obtain consent directly from the parent; the school is authorized to speak on behalf of the student. However, the Bureau of Consumer Protection Business Center also advises schools to inform parents of its practices in their acceptable use policy. When student use of a web service extends beyond school activities, the center adds, the school “should carefully consider whether it has effectively notified parents of its intent to allow children to participate in such online activities.

    Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA)

    Schools with E-Rate funding must enforce a policy of internet safety and certify that they are enforcing a policy of internet safety that includes measures to block or filter internet access for both minors and adults to certain visual depictions. CIPA requirements include maintaining an internet Safety Policy, a Technology Protection Measure and a public notice or hearing. A technology protection measure is a specific technology that blocks or filters internet access. The school or library must enforce the operation of the technology protection measure during the use of its computers with internet access, although an administrator, supervisor, or other person authorized by the authority with responsibility for administration of the school or library may disable the technology protection measure during use by an adult to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purpose.

  • Preparing Teachers

    The most crucial component of preparing for a technology-rich implementation is ensuring that educators are not only comfortable with the technology and have had training on the basic technical parts of devices, but also they are comfortable in using the technology as an integral facet of their teaching. This entails both training in the various programs, content and applications for classroom use and also ongoing, sustained support for teachers through approaches such as on-site instructional technology facilitators or coaches.

    Instructional technology facilitators or coaches have proven to be a powerful lever for providing just‐in‐time support to educators as they shift to new instructional practices and the use of online assessments. This direct one-on-one and small group instructional assistance can show teachers how to modify and deliver their lessons to take advantage of new technology resources. The rule of thumb among leading schools and districts is to assign at least one instructional technology expert to each school (depending upon size) in order to accelerate the adoption of new forms of instruction and assessment.

    There are many other approaches to getting teachers ready to use devices such as Communities of Practice, Personalized Learning Networks and courses that teachers can take by themselves or with other teachers. These and others are addressed in the Professional Learning section of The Guide to Digital Learning.

  • Deploying Devices

    From the Field


    Lamoille Union Middle/High School

    The goals of the Lancer One Project; Universal Access, Spontaneous Learning, Equity, and Personalized Learning, were established to help meet the needs of students in rural Vermont where 48% of the population qualifies for free and reduced lunch and changes in teaching and learning were needed to increase student success. The district upgraded the school’s broadband infrastructure and provided each student with a tablet to help meet these goals.

    read more

    The students played an important role in the development and implementation of the Lancer One project, advocating for the project to the school board, guiding the decision-making, logistics and support of the devices. This initiative shifted instruction to more of a project based focus that gave students a new vision of learning. A review team collects data from teachers and students through interviews, observation, and surveys to support a continual improvement process. In the classroom and at home, students describe their opportunities as transformative. Students have increased access to teacher and classroom materials, they have taken ownership over learning, data and grades are shared more frequently and students find easier access to opportunities and connections outside their school community. In the February 2014 survey, 85.4% of students responded that they could, “find information, and learn new skills anytime, anywhere”. Only 40% of our students responded that they could do this prior to the Lancer One program.

    From the Field


    Hawaii: 1:1 Access Program

    The Hawaii State Department of Education’s (HIDOE) Access Learning pilot project focuses on providing schools with support and resources to use technology as a tool to transform teaching and learning beyond the four walls of the classroom. Schools applied and were selected based on their network capacity, readiness to implement large scale school-wide change, ability to participate in professional development, identification of a school level project team, sufficient on-site technology coordinator support, and capacity to participate in the project evaluation. Schools received one device per student and teacher, and a spare pool of equipment equivalent to six percent of their total device count.

    Schools and districts vary in their approach to deployment of devices depending on budget considerations and needs assessments., but most schools organize a small pilot program prior to launching a large-scale deployment to learn about all phases of the process, including training and professional learning needs, network capacity and student response. Some districts choose to distribute devices grade-by-grade or content area and others distribute devices to the entire school. The advantage of a focused approach is having the ability to build staff capacity, track any roadblocks and shift implementation plans as needed. With lessons learned, grade levels, content areas or schools can be added on a rolling basis.

    BYOD Considerations

    Traditionally, school districts have been responsible for providing instructional materials for students and teachers, and thus have owned digital devices either through outright purchase or through a lease/lease purchase arrangement. As technology has become more pervasive in the home and more students have their own devices, some schools have begun allowing students to bring personal technology devices to school for educational purposes under the direction of teachers and administrators. Such programs are called Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT). Typically these programs do provide district-owned devices to students who do not have access to a personal device.

    While BYOD can ease budget pressures by relying to some degree on not having to purchase technology for every student, each school will still need to plan to purchase devices for the students who cannot afford them. In addition, BYOD programs with various devices from home can raise concerns regarding network security and classroom management of a variety of devices with different operating systems. Tech support can also become more complicated. If a student-owned device has technical problems, the tech support staff may not have the necessary background knowledge of the device and operating system to easily solve the problem. Policies for tech support should clearly spell out whether or not the district will support student-owned devices. Some districts define what types of devices they will support, and parents rely on those policies to inform purchasing decisions for their children.

    Another consideration in any such program is whether or not students will be allowed to take home school-issued devices. Student age, academic needs and school budgets may each be part of the decision making process. If student-owned devices are used in a school, consideration must be provided for at-home access for students using school-issued devices. A high priority in decision-making is having clear policies and procedures around technical support, especially if it will be provided after school hours. Once the decision is announced, schools need to share the details regarding the device access and all guiding policies with all stakeholders.


  • Thinking Through Device Choices

    From the Field


    Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI)

    The State of Maine Department of Education’s Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) led a multi-state effort to undertake the procurement process for equipment and services to empower a wireless student-centered, digital learning environment. The multi-state effort was coordinated with participating National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) members on an as-requested basis, at various locations throughout the geographic regions of all participating NASPO members. Request for Proposals (RFP) #201210412 is for the purchase of the aforementioned goods and services.

    The site includes the pricing on winning proposals.

    Identifying the most appropriate new devices can be challenging, but it is a critical element of the technology planning process. There are multiple options available including tablets, laptops, cloud based devices, eReaders and smartphones. Because technology is continually evolving, it is important for leaders to keep abreast of the field. Key considerations leaders should consider include:

    • Aligning the learning goals from the school’s strategic or school improvement plan to the device implementation plan.
    • Assessing the professional learning needs for teachers and students both for hardware training and implementation for digital learning instruction.
    • Analyzing the impact of the various device options and the number of planned devices on the networks, broadband and Wi-Fi systems.
    • Comparing the direct device costs but also costs for any new software and the cost for tech support plan options.
    • Verifying the compatibility of new devices with current devices and other technologies such as projectors, printers and interactive whiteboards. Compatibility issues potentially can require additional new purchases and training.
    • Gauging the capacity of the tech support staff based on the device options and any requirements related to the implementation of new tech support systems.

    Relationships with device suppliers

    The most basic component of the relationship with a vendor starts with a Request for Proposal (RFP). RFPs will vary widely depending upon the laws and rules in different states, local policies and practices and specific goods and services districts are requesting.

    RFP Options: Schools and districts should research state device RFPs and/or other district RFPs as options prior to developing their own RFPs. For example, the Maine Learning Technology Initiative developed a multi-state RFP.

    Relationships with technology vendors can be especially important, depending upon the extent of the agreement of purchase. Successful districts consider which vendor will most likely be a partner for the long term and they share the long-term academic plan in order to have the vendor buy into the district’s shared, long-term vision. Most device providers offer a variety of resources including professional development offerings, online resources and communities in addition to various options for tech support. Many of these offerings may fit with the district’s overall vision and plan. One RFP that is somewhat unique, but contains the key elements of a well thought out RFP is that from the Multi State Learning Technology Initiative in the feature box Best Practices from Maine.

    Students with special needs and ELL Students

    In addition to the many ways that technology can support traditional students, states, districts and schools should consider the needs of students with disabilities and English Language Learners when purchasing devices. There may not be a “one size fits all” solution for the entire school or district. Resources and materials should be accessible for all students, which may mean alternative purchases of adaptive technologies for students as needed. In addition, there may be additional purchases for students with disabilities to help students gain access to resources not otherwise available to them.

  • Communicating with All Stakeholders

    Rollout can significantly impact the success of a program. Critical to any rollout is clear communication to all stakeholders including administrators, teachers, parents, students, funders and community leaders. Communications should be tailored to each audience and provided in a variety of ways such as press releases, workshops, email campaigns, community bulletins and webinars. When possible, meetings should be recorded and archived. Communications should include details regarding:

    • Program rationale and goals
    • Policies
    • Schedule and phases of deployment
    • Support services
    • Measures of success

    For example, Indiana Department of Education’s (INDOE) Office of eLearning developed a Communications Launch Protocol. This protocol provides districts a list of stakeholders and communication tools that districts can use to broadcast information about a new initiative, upcoming PD opportunity, grant or resource. The protocol includes links to INDOE’s social media tools, websites, newsfeeds and education membership organizations.

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