By bringing Tablet PCs and wireless projectors into its classrooms, Hinsdale Township Public High School District 86 is revolutionizing teaching in Illinois.
It was nearly eight years ago that the schools mobile computing vision started taking form, but it wasnt until last year, during a Tablet PC presentation by Microsoft Corp. and Toshiba America Inc., that the school found the perfect fit.
Hinsdale had wanted to replace its stationary desktop PCs with more-mobile hardware, which would allow increased student and teacher interaction and better student collaboration. Various laptop models werent ideal for the classroom environment because their screens created a barrier between teachers and students, said James Polzin, assistant superintendent for the school district, in Hinsdale. But the Tablet PC, which allows students to input data with the units laying flat on their desks, solved the problem.
“It was the most intriguing thing wed seen, and it eliminated the screen as an upright barrier. Plus, we could do annotation in color, inking in color, highlighting, diagrams,” said Mark Pennington, assistant principal. “It really brought thoughts to paper in a colorful way that can be shared electronically.”
Coupled with wireless projectors from InFocus Corp., Toshiba Portégé M200 Tablet PCs would allow teachers to project their notes onto a screen, leaving them free to walk around the classroom and interact with students. Students can also share their work with other students via the projectors, without the fear of having to walk to the blackboard.
Using the tablets stylus, teachers can annotate changes on students tablets and project those changes on the screen for the class.
But picking the right hardware was a small step compared with the undertaking Hinsdale had ahead. Introducing a new technology into a school system presents numerous barriers, including cost justification, teacher adoption, instructor training and hardware implementation.
To tackle that effort, as well as the hardware procurement, Hinsdale turned to CDW Government Inc., a Vernon Hills, Ill., reseller for the education and government sectors. Hinsdale had worked with CDW-G in the past, mostly on hardware for its administrative offices.
Hinsdales idea: a pilot test. So with CDW-Gs help, the school last year launched a pilot test in one of its math classes whose PCs were up for replacement. During the pilot test, all the schools teachers were required to visit the class at some point to see the technology in action.
“We made sure that everybody who could be impacted was involved in the process from understanding it to providing feedback and input,” said Polzin.
The pilot test was a success, according to Polzin, and it helped those leading the charge to gain approval from teachers—a big part of implementing new technologies in a school system.
The pilot test also helped Hinsdale prove to the board of education that Tablet PCs offered enough educational value over laptops to justify the extra cost.
“Tablets are more expensive than traditional desktops, and we had to work with the board of education for financial support,” said Polzin.
Training the Teachers
Once the school had project approval, it then set its sights on implementation and training. Hinsdale wanted to get the Tablet PCs into teachers hands before the summer vacation, so they would have the entire summer to become familiar with the hardware.
“We were very deliberate about training teachers before summer vacation, and we worked closely with CDW in terms of meeting our deadline. We also ran a number of formal workshops in the summer and fall,” said Polzin.
With CDW-Gs help, Hinsdale rolled out 300 Tablet PCs to all its teachers and an additional 250 for student use.
CDW-G, Microsoft and Toshiba participated in training teachers on the new tablets. The teacher who had run the initial pilot test also played a role in the training session.
“It was important the teacher was there as well to show them how they used it—so it was not only us as vendors, but they had their peer advocating the technology and use,” said Chris Rother, vice president for education, state and local at CDW-G.
So far, the initiative has been an overwhelming success, said Polzin.
“If you walk down our halls, I think you will see that our teachers are very happy with the Tablet [PC] technology,” said Polzin. “Were not interested in inventing the technology school of the future; we want to be the instructional school of the future, and we think this has a significant impact on the instruction of the future.”
And this is just the beginning of Hinsdales efforts to improve classroom instruction through technology. Eventually, Hinsdale plans to outfit every student in its school system with a Tablet PC. This semester theyre also planning to implement Microsofts Class Server and SharePoint online resources to support classroom instruction.
“This will give students greater access to content and curriculum from homes,” said Polzin.
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