Monday, December 16, 2013

New Teacher Laptops

Teachers in Spring Branch ISD are looking forward to January 2014 for one work-related reason: The district is replacing its 6-year-old teacher-issued laptops with new Dell laptops equipped with the latest-generation Intel chips, solid state disks, webcams and Windows 8 touch screen options.

The voter-approved 2007 Bond program made it possible for SBISD’s teachers and students to stay in step with the dramatic changes in classroom technology. SBISD first issued standardized Dell laptops six years ago. The Board of Trustees gave its approval to replace 2,800 teacher laptops earlier this fall.

Dell laptops are used routinely by teachers for instruction-related classroom tasks that range from the electronic whiteboards known as ACTIVboards to audio/video projection and student survey and analysis. Since 2008, SBISD has installed more than 1,600 ACTIVboards in classrooms across the district.

Teacher laptops are paired in SBISD with thousands of student laptops and other devices, including Netbooks, iPads and iPods, along with a local Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiative that allows students to bring their laptops, tablets or smartphones to use for learning in the classroom.

“Teachers are excited about getting their new laptops,” said the district’s Chief Information Officer, Venu Rao. “We went through a long selection process to pick a winner, including asking a pilot group of teachers to test laptops and then using a Vendor Fair to get feedback and ratings from several groups in the district to be as inclusive as possible about the range of user needs in this important decision.”

SBISD’s Technology Department used a detailed selection process to pick the Dell E7440 as its enterprise market choice for teachers. Such devices must be standardized, rugged and centrally manageable with long warranties, the department reports.

The Dell E7440 was chosen after these steps were taken: First, a group of teachers tested Apple and Windows 8 laptops to make sure they worked with ACTIVboards and other key software programs. After initial screening, a “Vendor Fair” was held to test several of the possible laptop models. Several groups – principals, campus librarians and technology representatives, and pilot teachers – rated models in the Vendor Fair and picked top candidates.

The final laptop selection was based on factors that included Vendor Fair scores, ruggedness, screen size and resolution, and cost. The Dell E7440 laptop, now in its first production run, won the highest overall rankings in the process.

The new Dell laptop is considered rugged. It also has a 5-year warranty, the Intel fourth-generation Haswell chipset for long battery life and a solid state disk (SSD) for storage. The E7440 has a webcam, and the device has a touch screen and comes with Windows 8.

The new teacher laptops will be loaded with Camtasia, making it easier to produce multimedia content, too. Teachers will be able to choose between the Windows 8 “tile” interface, or the older Windows XP version or Windows 7 user interface.

Teacher orientations are planned in the weeks ahead. An internal website will ease the learning and transition process, and teachers will have the option to hang onto their older laptops until April, if desired.


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