Tag Archives: 1:1

AISB 2.0: Service Learning in the Service of Technology Integration

I’ve heard lots of schools talk about the value of service learning, and just as many lament how difficult it can be do well. In 2015, AISB combined its planning for 1:1 with its service learning initiative to have students create a formal proposal for 1:1 to the board which – spoiler alert – was approved! Here’s how we did it.

Since October, a student working group called AISB had been researching 1:1 models from published best practices and by interviewing other schools. In the last week of semester one, they presented their finding to the senior class. The seniors spent a week processing that data, doing their own research, examining the school budget and learning the skills necessary to write formally, culminating with them creating a written proposal for 1:1 and presenting it to the school board the following week.

The curricular link was both math and English. Students received instruction in principles of accounting and budgeting, using a spreadsheet, making effective presentations using Presentation Zen principles, and writing formal grant proposals.

However, we didn’t give students a roadmap at the beginning. After all, AERO defines “problem solving” as “engaging in a task for which the solution process is not known in advance.” So the first thing we did was give the students the goal (to make present a proposal to the board for a 1:1 technology model at AISB) and have them work backwards in terms of what they needed to know and do to get there. We wanted them to get close to something like the following:

  1. Choose ownership model (To do this: read the information presented/shared to make decision)
  2. Calculate TCO
  3. After the devices arrive on campus, what are we going to do to ensure the technology is used effectively? (Surveys, trainings, rules, policies, etc)
  4. Use the information gathered to write formal proposal
  5. Make presentation
  6. Share proposal with the board

We also forecasted how much time they needed for each step:

Period Mon Tue Wed Thurs Fri
C Teach Excel, budgeting, TCOPresent AISB budgetAISB 2.0 as needed Articulate policies & support structuresTeach formal writing Write proposalCreate presentation
F Problem & Task ReviewMinimal intro to backgroundDiscuss HOW to proceed Research and note taking Work time
Advisory Work time Present to Director

We had the equivalent of about seven class periods to work on it.

Our estimates were quite accurate. Calculating the costs took a bit longer than we anticipated, but teaching formal grant writing and learning how to make a budget spreadsheet took less. We generated some original content: one useful comparison we came up with for other schools considering BYOD looked at the differences in performing various computer tasks across five platforms. The seniors probably needed 2-3 hours more of work than listed in the schedule above to make more polished presentations to our director – they spent some time the next week creating the final presentation for the board. They also underemphasized the support costs of a 1:1 and got a bit caught up in “ooh, this gadget is cool!” But overall, they did a really thorough job. From here we’ll parlay the proposal in a formal strategic technology plan and BYOD handbook, which will also be created with student support going back to the AISB 2.0 model.

If you’re at a school interested in having students involved in the 1:1 planning process, consider the following:

  • There will be talented students interested in contributing
  • The research phase will take weeks, but one week’s worth of intense synthesis can put it together; find a way to dedicate time to it
  • Have a roadmap in mind, but start with the goal and make them create the process to get there
  • Teach adult-level skills as part of the process to make it authentic and professional; anticipate what they’ll need (or just ask them what they want to know) and prepare lessons ahead of time
  • Work with the students as equals. Don’t be afraid to contribute, but listen to their voices first. You will have more context, but they will think of things you didn’t
  • Be willing to let them fail, but give them everything they need to succeed


AISB 2.0: Completing the Research and Vision Phase

This year’s focus for the school has been student empowerment and service learning, and we continue to find ways to integrate these into our planning for 1:1.

Visualizing our research has helped to process all the moving parts that go into a 1:1.

At this point in the planning process we’re conducting research and building relationships with stakeholders. Students have been interviewing their peers at other schools (TAISM, AIS Kuwait, IS Dakar, UWC-SEA, SIS, UTB Helsingborg, and ICS Addis; with some help from me for Episocopal Academy and AIS Lusaka). This has required them to apply their skills in collaboration, communication and research in an authentic context.

They’re also going to present their research to a forum for parents and faculty this week and get their feedback. In addition to the obvious cross-curricular applications of skills involved here, this empowers the students to express their own opinions and have a say in the future direction of the school.

It has been a challenging sustaining student interest. I’ve now got a core of six committed students who are coming on Mondays after school to work. Developing a comprehensive plan is a challenge, and developing several competing proposals as I’d like to do would require more time than any of us have. More labor is needed. Somewhat coincidentally, the school has decided to run a service learning project the last week of this semester (in January), and we’ve found a way to take advantage of this.

We’ve designed a service learning project for the entire senior class where their task will be to synthesize the research and feedback so far into either a plan for the secondary school or elementary school. We hope to have two competing proposals in each area. The students will need to evaluate the data collected so far; learn about professional grant-writing, budgeting, and the concept of total cost of ownership; and then write a proposal encompassing all of the components of a 1:1 program. Done right, it will bundle very authentic skills into a project that will have a very visible impact on student learning in the school – a senior gift with lasting meaning.

AISB 2.0: Empowering Students (Week 4)

Put students in touch (bad pun intended) with projects that have real-world consequences. It inspires them and saves work for you. Photo credit: flickingerbrad

The end of a school quarter is hard. Teacher work piles up and tempers run short. Students face end of term projects and tests. It’s not a great time to push for new, long-term initiative that requires teachers to think outside of their day-to-day concerns. The 1:1 planning workgroup has thus focused on organizing for after the break. Here’s what we’ve learned and accomplished since the last post.

We will reach out to parents, teachers and students in different ways.

Half of the students volunteered to organize branding and outreach. We brainstormed and voted on a name for the initiative, AISB 2.0. To reach parents, we’ve decided to use the existing methods of communication (the newsletter and Facebook page). For teachers, we’ll use the new Teaching and Learning Blog for announcements, which one of our students will write. To reach students we’ve decided to create Twitter and Instagram accounts for announcements and to make a hashtag (tbd). When one of us sees something they like, they’ll take a picture of it and hashtag it, with the goal of showcasing the values we hope to extend with the 1:1 program.

The face-to-face approach is the most effective one you can have.

Coffee morning was a success, and we got ten parents who dropped in to learn about the planning process. They were eager to talk about how technology played a role in their children’s growth and share their aspiration and concerns. We got their contact information so that we can call on them directly for more detailed feedback.

Lunchtime meetings are not useful.

Our 40-minute lunch period was too short to get anything done by the time they got started 10 minutes into the period. We’re switching to one weekly after-school meeting for a more useful block of time. And you know what? Students are willing to show up for something that is not, on its face, “fun.”

Student empowerment is a real thing.

The presentation of a prospective director candidate last got me thinking about the value of student empowerment. In Week 1, I was envisioning having to do much of the publicity and research myself. It turns out that the students from the working group are willing and able to take on the former (see above), and eager to be involved in the latter. Other schools have visited other schools to look at their deployments, and flown in experts to do audits. We probably don’t have the money to any of that. So each student from the AISB 2.0 working group will interview one or two students from a school that is already on a 1:1 program. Half of them already know someone since they attended such a school and still know friends there. For the other half, I’ll reach out to my PLN and ask them to help me connect our students. I’ll still do my due diligence, starting with Google for Education’s Pilot Guide for Bringing Devices to Your School, but my students will bring a broader perspective than I could find on my own.

Recipe for Innovation at AISB

At last week’s #learning2 conference in Addis, @mscofino emphasized how five factors contribute to a “recipe for innovation” that schools can use to reshape their learning environments:

These five factors were:

  1. Look outside – study how other schools have changed, which you can accomplish through correspondence, inviting them to your school, or going to theirs.
  2. Listen inside – involved faculty, parents, and students in the process to develop a set of shared expectations
  3. Empower students – get them especially to buy into the process and leverage their expertise and enthusiasm
  4. Customize for your environment – what works for others won’t for you, and vice versa. That’s okay. Take what you need and change it to fit your specific circumstances.
  5. Evolve – the only constant is change, and you will need to adapt your plan to the vicissitudes of the modern era.

While I was away for the conference, there was a heated “traffic jam” over teachers trying to reserve labs and laptops for their classes. When I came back, I noticed again just how many of our students were bringing their laptops to school and using them in class, despite us not having a formal BYOD policy. There were other things that nagged at me. Our student numbers were climbing back up to pre-coup levels, Malitel was digging trenches for fiber optic cables all around town, and our school community was organically working and learning in ways that pushed the limits of our resources. I realized that it was time for us to innovate – it was time for us to go 1:1.

Our staff’s response to Learning2 principles. Three initials for every faculty member – we have a small staff.

So our first day back, having looked outside at Learning2, I made my pitch to the faculty. I presented a list of Learning2 principles that my extended session attendees had brainstormed and listened inside by inviting our teachers to add to and modify it. We then voted for what we felt was most important by initialling three principles. I plan to take these and articulate them into a list of specific learning activities and then use that list to draw up the devices and software that can help us achieve them.

The next day, I sat down with the PTO and gave them the same pitch, inviting them to join me in developing and articulating these values and goals as well. I hope that a few of them will step up or find someone from the community who will. Since I play so many roles at the school I need to outsource some of the work.

Finally, this week I’ll ask our advisory teachers to see if any students are interested in being involved in the process. We recently moved to a new student leadership model based on AES-New Delhi’s approach, and it is perfect for getting interested students to help provoke meaningful change.

Clearly these steps won’t be sequential. I’ll continue to look at models of other schools, and the community engagement process with extend for weeks, if not months (not that it ever really stops).

Stay tuned for how things develop.

Mitigating Bandwidth Problems on a Budget

Some schools have it good. I toured ASDubai last year and saw their server room, where they aggregated 10 x 100Mbps internet lines to provide wicked fast service for their campus. I’ve heard that ASBombay has phenomenal internet.

The American International School of Bamako – located in the capital of one of the poorest countries in the world – is not quite there. We’ve got 2.5Mbps of bandwidth. But that doesn’t mean I’m not trying to create an environment where teachers can effortlessly integrate technology into learning.

Spoiler alert: we chose pfSense to provide firewall services, WAN aggregation, bandwidth throttling, and captive portal. The price? Gratis.

Since August, I’ve wanted to open up access to our network as much as possible to encourage students to bring their own devices. Our school is still using dedicated computer labs to give students access to technology. While we have a favorable ratio of computers to students, it’s still too hard for teachers to integrate technology into their practice when it’s a pull-out activity that requires transition time to and from the labs. The layout of the labs isn’t conducive to collaborative learning, either. The whole setup implies that technology is something that happens apart from everyday learning, not embedded in it.

At the same time, I faced very real constraints in the level of service I wanted to offer. Our school has 2.5Mbits of available bandwidth that we pay dearly for, and it’s very easy for just two small classes to consume that when doing web searches or any Web 2.0 activity; Google Drive is unusable. So I had to be creative in how I managed our limited resources.

I wanted to:

  • Manage access to the network. I wanted each student to be able to access the network, but not to abuse it by connecting two or more devices. I was concerned that the automatic updates and push notifications of smartphones and tablets would slow down everyone. At the same time, I wanted to prioritize internet access for the finance and front offices and teachers over that for students.
  • Manage bandwidth and enforce fair use policies. I wanted to prioritize Skype traffic (used by our director for interviews) over web browsing, which in turn should receive priority over p2p. I also wanted to make sure that one user couldn’t hog all the bandwidth with large downloads.
  • Improve reliability and speed. With such limited bandwidth I wanted a robust caching solution. We had a bandwidth manager called NetEqualizer that very cleverly penalized the heaviest network users, but it sat between the squid proxy and the network, which meant that even cached downloads were throttled. Reversing the situation would remove the ability to enforce fair use policies, since all web traffic would look like it was coming from the proxy server. Furthermore, I needed to aggregate our two internet connections (a 2Mbit dedicated line and 512Kbps line) and load balance and ensure failover between them.
  • Minimize manual labor for the IT department. The Wifi system in place required us to manually register the MAC addresses of students and parents who wanted to get on the network. Even with a small user base it was cumbersome to register fill out paperwork, record the MAC, and register it with our firewall, and it was a process that wouldn’t scale well.

We looked at three solutions we felt were affordable:

  • IPCop (free)
  • Untangle (~$1500 annually for our user base)
  • pfSense (free)

We decided to implement pfSense since it met nearly all of our requirements. It was also free, compared to a lot of commercial appliances like NetEqualizer, Bluecoat, iBoss, and CyberRoam that run from $5000 to tens of thousands of dollars. Our new setup lets us:

  • Balance traffic between our two connections
  • Prioritize/block internet traffic the way we want, and block inappropriate sites. p2p is severely limited, and I could block it if I wanted
  • Guarantee Skype QoS so that the director can do Skype interviews even at peak hours
  • Throttle web traffic on a per-user basis to ensure fair use in a way that lets casual/research-based web browsing function normally while penalizing heavy downloaders

By December, it will also create an authenticated campus-wide Wifi network that lets students log on with their OpenDirectory credentials (limiting them to one device per person) and lets parents log in using a voucher system – even though our WiFi is basically a consumer-grade network with individually managed access points (although I’m working on fixing that, too).

More detail – almost step-by-step – after the break.

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