Thursday, June 20, 2013

Large Scale Tablet Deployments

LA Unified spends $30,000, 000.00 on iPads

Apple Inc. won a $30-million contract Tuesday from the L.A. Unified School District, paving the way for the company to provide every student with an iPad in the nation's second-largest school system.

The Board of Education voted 6 to 0 on Tuesday to approve the contract after hearing senior staff laud Apple's product as both the best in quality and the least expensive option that met the district's specifications.

Tuesday's vote authorized an iPad rollout at 47 campuses. However, by choosing Apple as the sole vendor, the district also made a de facto commitment to spend hundreds of millions of dollars with the Cupertino, Calif.-based digital giant over the next two years.

The tablet computer by Apple “received the highest scoring by the students and the teachers,” who took part in testing different devices, said Deputy Supt. Jaime Aquino.

The district is paying $678 per device -- higher than tablets available in stores -- but the machines will be pre-loaded with educational software. The price does not include a keyboard, which may be necessary for older students.  The three-year warranty includes free replacement machines up to 5% of the value of the purchase.

Amplify announces one of the largest tablet deployments in K-12

Amplify announced a deal for the deployment of 21,215 tablets to Guilford County Schools in North Carolina. The devices will be used by students and teachers in 24 middle schools throughout the district beginning in the 2013-2014 school year. The agreement, which was awarded through a competitive bid process and is largely paid for through federal Race to The Top funds, provides Guilford with tablets for four years.

“This is one of the largest 1-to-1 deployments, if not the single largest, to date in K-12 education,” said Amplify CEO Joel Klein. “At Amplify, we’re working to transform the way teachers teach and students learn. We aren’t recycling consumer goods for the classroom. We are a company that is 100-percent focused on education.”

“This is more than just a tablet. It’s a complete learning solution organized around the school day,” said Stephen Smyth, president of Amplify’s Access division, which produces the tablet. “We believe it’s both more affordable and more impactful than just about any other product in the education technology market.”

The Amplify Tablet offers states, districts and schools a Wi-Fi enabled, 1-to-1, personalized learning solution that includes Amplify’s exclusive software designed for teaching and learning; preloaded third-party content and reference tools; customer care; professional development; and enterprise-level device management. In addition to the Wi-Fi model, which will be used by the Guilford County Schools, school districts can opt to provide teachers and students with the Amplify Tablet Plus, which includes 4G LTE connectivity from AT&T.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Glasslab's SimCityEDU for Formative Assessment

GlassLab is working with commercial game companies, assessment experts, and those versed in digital classrooms to build SimCityEDU, a downloadable game designed for sixth graders. Scheduled for release in the fall of 2013, it builds on SimCity’s city management theme, but provides specific challenges to players in the subject of STEM.

SimCityEDU grew out of research conducted by the MacArthur foundation on how gaming can mirror formative assessments [PDF] – measuring understanding regularly along the learning path, rather than occasionally or at the end of a unit, as is most common. Their research found that games gather data about the player as he or she makes choices within the game, affecting the outcome. In games, players “level-up,” moving on to higher levels when they’ve mastered the necessary skills; similarly teachers scaffold lessons to deepen understanding as a student grasps the easier concepts.

SimCityEDU, with funding by the Gates and Macarthur foundations, will now provide assessments that are aligned with Common Core State Standards. The EDU version uses the same code as the commercial game, but with the addition of using students’ choices during challenges as a method of assessment. GlassLab is still working to develop all the challenges based on focus-group feedback on student interests, but the one challenge they know they’ll include focuses on the environment, based on positive feedback from the focus groups.

Students will be asked to conduct interviews and look at research to determine what kind of power plant to build in the town. As they play, taking photo documentation, interpreting the information they’ve gathered, drawing conclusions, graphing the data and finally making a decision, the game assesses each choice. Teachers will have a tool to see how each child’s play matches up against Common Core standards.

And game developers hope that the incremental data will help teachers know when to step in and offer more help. For example, if an interview contradicts scientific evidence, the student will have to discern bias, figure out how to weight the various pieces of evidence differently, and back up conclusions with data and text.

SimCityEDU will not go to market until third-party assessor, SRI International, has validated by testing students who’ve played the game using a completely different assessment tool to ensure the game works.

GlassLab plans to offer the downloadable game at little to no cost for schools and teachers.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tablet Shipments Double in Education

Tablets accounted for more than one-third of all client devices shipped to education institutions in the United States in the last calendar year. That volume represents a doubling of tablet purchases from the previous year, according to a new report released last last month by market research firm IDC. And the growth won't stop there.

The report, Tablets Changing the Education Sector in the United States, Major Momentum Underway, found that overall client device shipments to U.S. education institutions hit 8.5 million total units in calendar 2012, up 15.3 percent from the previous year. Those devices include notebooks, tablets, and desktops. But shipments of tablets were up much more — a full 103 percent year-over-year, representing about 3 million total units, or 35.4 percent of the total. In 2011, they represented 19.4 percent of the total. According to IDC, tablets are just getting started. "While tablet sales to the education sector doubled from 2011 to 2012, we are only seeing the beginning of a much greater push that is likely to last for years," said David Daoud, research director, personal computers at IDC, in a prepared statement. "As a result, we remain highly optimistic about sustained tablet growth in education, particularly as prices decline due to greater competition."

What's driving that growth? According to IDC: "The impetus to go digital in the education sector can be found among virtually all U.S. education institutions as well as around the world. Government mandates from all levels to digitize education, the relatively low cost of tablets, and a proliferation of funding sources are providing an enormous push to tablet adoption, effectively bringing the concept of one device per student closer to reality."

Part of that success is also being fueled by manufacturers that work with institutions "to execute strategies that encompass educational content as well as the content delivery platforms. In this context, IDC expects to see a new set of stakeholders emerge as new ideas and partnerships enable them to offer more than just hardware." In particular, according to IDC's Tom Mainelli, research director, tablets, K-12 schools will be at the forefront of that effort. "Tablet vendors that expect to compete in the education market need to be thinking beyond just hardware speeds and feeds," he said. "We expect K-12 in particular to be at the center of new innovations where partnerships between hardware makers, content owners, solution providers and others will lead to many new educational opportunities." In total, the 8.5 million client devices shipped to education institutions in 2012 represented about $5 billion in equipment.

I think that we should expect this growth to continue, that this is just the beginning.

The gaining momentum across education to purchase digital instead of printed textbooks is going to drive a topology change in each institution.  For each student to have a digital textbook, they need a device to use it - and a lab or two of expensive desktops in the school just isn't at all suitable ... each school needs a device for each student, it is unavoidable.

The rate of acceleration in adoption is going to be directly dependent upon the availability and quality of digital texts.  Printed textbooks can't compare to their digital counterpart.  But, a school can't retarget their purchasing to a digital text if one isn't available for their curriculum.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the text publishing arena ... can the companies that know how to make printed texts remake themselves?  It seems likely that if they cannot, they won't survive.  If they don't, who will be the new publishers?  States and school districts are setup to make text purchases from huge corporations, who have sales and business support mechanisms to make that happen.  Will there be an emergence of indie text publishers (similar to the latest iteration of indie game developers)?

There is another issue at work here too ...

I think that what may be most profound impact of the rise of tablets and instant mobility is that they will cause a paradigm shift in education that will be similar to the emergence of the Web in education the late 90's.  Mobile learning isn't just elearning made small ... mlearning is a completely new animal ...  since the 90's, it has been a long, painful learning curve for education to come to grips with the fact that using the Web for education isn't taking traditional text resources and shoveling them into HTML.  Mobile learning will now present a new requirement for professional development to accompany this migration.