We participated in a program at a local school that provided a computer for every student at every desk. Every teacher was also provided a computer and at least one printer. The school licensed our desktop and educational software which was installed on every computer. This program works.
The following is a program to put a computer on every student's desk.
1. Make a committment and devise a plan and calendar to get it done. Get everyone onboard. This is crucial to the successful implementation of technology. Breadbox recommends assigning this resposibility to a core group and to have brief and frequent status report meetings to monitor progress.
2. Locate free computers. They're out there. You just need to make an effort to find them. There are many organizations that provide free computers to schools. Many companies that are upgrading, or have upgraded, will happily donate their old computers, printers, etc. to schools. Breadbox recommends trying to find as many of the same type of computers as possible. It makes it much easier for staff and kids to learn to fix or replace machines if they're all the same type and configuration. Having spares ready to go is also very helpful and reduces down-time to zero.
3. Type of computers you'll need. Our Breadbox Ensemble desktop software will run nicely on a 386. It runs better on a 486 or an entry level Pentium with a minimal amount of RAM and a small hard-drive. We recommend a minimum of 4 Megs of RAM, a 20 Meg or larger hard-drive, a color monitor, keyboard and mouse. It is not necessary to have super-fast computers and the latest and greatest software to teach a kid how to type (keyboarding), or how to use a word-processor or spreadsheet. Our educational software runs within Ensemble, so there is no additional hardware required.
4. Prepare your site in advance. Your site could consist of one dedicated computer lab, or every classroom in your school. The goal to our program is to put a computer on every desk. Make sure there is a safe and sufficient electrical supply and a sufficient number of electrical outlets available. Desks may be too small and may need to be modified a bit to accomodate computers. Look for donations from suppliers and tradespeople to get the job done for very little cost, if any.
5. Put someone in charge. There needs to be at least one person in charge of making sure the hardware and software stays running and to solve problems. We highly recommend assigning this task to someone familiar with computer hardware and software. You will be better off making this a full-time position and think about hiring someone from the outside rather than assigning the task to a teacher. The money you save by following our program will easily enable you to pay for an additional person on your staff. It will also almost guaranty your technology program will be successful.
6. Get the kids involved. The school we worked with established a computer club (called the Hackers Club). Whether you start a computer club (highly recommended) or not, get kids that are interested involved to help learn the hardware and software and how to fix it when problems arise. The person in # 5 above would usually be the one that runs the club or group of students and teaches them the ropes. Eventually the kids will quickly resolve problems, help other kids (and teachers) and keep things running smoothly.
7. Make the time to train all of your teachers to use the software. Require all teachers to attend in-house software training classes as an In-Service. This method eliminates the cost of sending teachers to expensive training courses elsewhere and fulfills the in-service requirements that you're paying for anyway. It's a win-win for all. Breadbox offers teacher in-house training courses as an option when licensing our software. We can also provide additional advanced training courses if desired.
8. Develop a program to integrate computers into the learning process. This requires content that ties into lesson plans, etc. The content is usually developed by teachers themselves and does require an up-front committment to create it, but it pays off over time. Once the content is developed, it's reusable year after year after year. Modifications can easily be made if and/or when things change as neccesary. Our educational software is designed to easily create content that can be presented in several ways. This reinforces the learning process and helps teachers get their points across and helps students remember the material. Content can be also be designed to help students get better grades on standardized testing too. And with the new Federal laws under the "No Child Left Behind Act," it's a requirement!
9. Get parents involved and get synchronized. We highly recommend offering your students (or their parents/guardians) the ability to use the same software at home that they use at school. Breadbox provides significant discounts to your students on our software for home use. As an alternative, we can provide licesning to your school as part of an overall school-home use package.
10. Don't drop the ball. Follow-up on a regular basis to make sure everyone is doing what they're supposed to be doing and you will have a succesful, low-cost technology solution in your school in less time than you think. And best of all, your kids will benefit from it in many ways you've never even thought about.