Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Visit to Punxsutawney

Yesterday we visited Punxsutawney High School. Punxsy received a Year 1 "Classrooms for the Future" grant of over $500,000 and invited other schools to visit and see how they are implementing their grant. We had an opportunity to observe CFF classrooms and speak with both teachers and administrators involved with the program.

Each CFF classroom has a cart of laptops, a multimedia projector, a whiteboard (like a SmartBoard), a scanner, digital cameras, a videocamera, and a teacher laptop. We observed an English class where students were editing their writing as a class by projecting their work on the whiteboard and an algebra class where students were checking their homework using graphing software on their laptops while the teacher projected the correct graph. Students in a science class were presenting research projects using slideshow software and the projection system. A calculus teacher used his projector and whiteboard to present his lesson and had the students actively involved in the process. A chemistry teacher demonstrated how she saves her notes from her whiteboard and posts them on her web site for student review.

Although Punxsy received their equipment only in February, the CFF teachers are putting it and their training to good use. One reluctant CFF teacher admitted that he signed on because his principal convinced him that the program would be a good one, and he's glad that he's involved. All teachers admitted that being a CFF teacher is a lot of work and that the training and required coursework take a lot of time.

Punxsutawney chose the Apple package rather than the PC package. Although they had both Macs and PCs in their district prior to CFF, they feel that CFF's Apple package is superior to the PC package. Both teacher and student laptops are loaded with the same software, which the teachers said is outstanding, and the Apple training is excellent.

We were impressed with the Mac laptops. They have built-in web cameras and microphones as well as magnetic power cords that come loose from the laptop if someone trips on the cord! Although Sharon and I can't believe we're thinking this, we are going to take a hard look at the Apple package. We've been told that our network will run both Macs and PCs side-by-side. Punxsy does it now.

The other big question is . . . Can we do this without full-time tech and network support on-site?

4 comments:

  1. I talked to Kathy Rutkowski yesterday when she returned from Punxy. She, too, was very excited about the CFF technology and how it was being implemented. Do Punxy teachers teach a multitude of levels or just one or two? Are they just starting with one or two sections or are they going full tilt? The entire program sounds great, especially since Kathy said the students were very involved and seemed to enjoy what they were doing. Sometimes it's refreshing to try something new. Students can get caught up in the excitement as well. I,too, wonder if we can do this without tech support and schedule accommodations for those teachers who already have 3-4 different preparations per day.

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  3. When I left Punxsy yesterday it was with a large knot in my stomach, knowing that there is no way we can do this with out a full- time tech, on-site and adjustments to our network. Right now I feel this is our biggest hurdle. YES it is true, Barb and I are looking at the MAC's. If we do go to a multi platform we will need a full time tech for sure!. To address some of Barb's concerns.. I was impressed with what the teachers at Punxsy were doing in such a short time. Yes, some of their teachers are multi levels. YES it will be extra work on your part, but in the long run I think you will like the pay off. From talking to some of the teachers, some are full tilt others are progressing at a slower speed. We are going to take baby steps. The one teacher who was new to all of this, was so proud of himself, he has been chalk free for 4 days!!! We will be doing whatever you are comfortable with. Remember you will have on site help to build and learn the process. Watching Punxsy teachers, I KNOW we can do it. It will just take some time, cooperation and effort.

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  4. Wow! Sounds like it was an enlightening field trip! It is very cool to hear about technology integration and use at this level. Maybe this is the next step toward a paperless environment.

    You certainly have a tough decision to make concerning Apple vs. PC. Apple does make a good operating system, but is it very telling that they have now added Intel-based systems (PCs) to their computer products line. They have also changed their name to Apple Inc. from Apple Computer to show their concentration on consumer electronics like IPods instead of just their Motorola-based computing devices.

    There will be many compatibility issues that will need to be worked through too. All of the servers would need to be reconfigured to allow Mac access. Macs will not work in an Active Directory environment. A different method of managing them would need to be implemented. Scripting services would not apply either. Printing devices would need to be reconfigured or replaced to support a mixed environment.

    Also, you would need to think about a new proxy/firewall/filtering system. Your current method of filtering does not support Macs. . .although it could be done.

    Also, there will be a learning curve involved in switching too or adding other platforms. Teachers and students will need to learn how to operate the new systems while also implementing the new curriculum and learning environment. That is a lot to swallow all at once. It would be easier to stick with systems that most everyone is familiar with and would require very little additional network configuration. It would have been much easier to add Macs if they had been there all along.

    As to needing a full-time technician, well. . .the only thing I will say is you are going to need more that one full-timer for certain.

    I don't envy the decisions you will have to make! But I am sure whatever is decided will improve the education of those attending KSD. That is what is important!

    You guys rock!! Keep up the good work!

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