To succeed in our complex, global world we must provide our students the knowledge and skills needed for their success. Students must become capable users of technology, as the use of technology is a critical 21st century skill and an integral part of a student learning and working in today’s society. To this end, Tahoma High School continues to integrate technology tools into learning in a variety of ways and provides high access to technology with computers located in the two stationary computer labs, the library and more than a dozen mobile netbook and laptop carts.
The Tahoma High School Digital Backpack Project- known as “Bring Your Own Device” in many other school districts- encourages students to bring their own wireless capable devices and use them at school to access those digital tools. Students can bring their own laptops, netbooks, smart phones, iPads and tablets and connect to the wireless system. With classroom teacher approval, students may use their devices in the classroom
Why a Digital Backpack?
Our students will be able to immediately access additional information, identify tutorials and help sites for later use, collaborate in documenting their thinking, search their device to immediately bring together all of the resources they have available on a topic, and access tools that support organizing ideas. Teachers will be able to leverage this increased access to support our students as they develop toward exemplifying our District Outcomes and in becoming life-long learners.
- Look up information online / conduct research
- Use standard tools such as dictionaries, calculators, sound recorders, etc. all in one place
- Take notes / write papers – most people can type faster than they can write
- Organize notes, assignments, and projects into folders on a computer
- Use collaboration tools like Google Wave to co-create products in real-time
- Use video conferencing to communicate with “experts” and real-world people
- Send in assignments from anywhere
- Complete online homework (for classes where teachers use an online homework tool)
- Check grades
- Keep a calendar
- Get visuals of concepts that aren’t making sense
- Practice for using computers the same way adults do in their jobs
- Access quizzes / study guides / tutorials / “how to” videos
- Transfer documents between home and school
- Use programs that aren’t available on the school’s network
- Decrease the number of students per computer in the classroom
- Ask a student to look something up when a question arises no one knows how to answer
- Display student products using a projector
- Provide differentiated instruction
- Ask a student to search for resources that would help their peers master a concept
- Allow students to choose the medium for a product
- Have students email the group’s work to all of its members
Stoneware is a web portal that students and staff can use to access their My Documents folders, the Public Drives, and a select few programs from anywhere, over the internet.
Stoneware is a simple solution for providing remote access from students’ personal devices. It also ensures that all students using laptops have access to a few common software programs such as Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Providing personal devices direct access to our network would be costly and complicated. Stoneware is simple.
How do I connect to Stoneware?
- Open an internet browser. (Note Stoneware is supported on IE7, IE8, Safari 4.0, and Firefox only)
- Go to https://stoneware.tahomasd.us
- Run a system check (Don’t skip this step!)
- Log in using your regular username and password.
- Access your files, upload documents, use the available software over the web.
- Keep your electronic devices with you at all times unless you have stored them in a secure location. Day-use lockers (bring your own lock) are available in the lecture hall hallway.
- Buy a laptop cable lock. Using a cable lock allows you to secure your laptop to a table or desk.
- Personalize your devices’ looks so that they stand out and are easily identifiable.
- Write down your devices’ serial numbers. If your device is ever stolen, you’ll need this information.
- Use secure passwords and update them regularly. Password protection prevents someone from accessing your device in situations where you left your device alone for a short time. See below for more information.
- Be cautious about sharing your devices with anyone. It takes very little time for someone borrowing your device “for just a minute” to install malware, steal information, or send messages pretending to be you.
Go to the Start menu and choose Control Panel (or Settings-Control Panel if the Classic Start Menu is used).
Double-click the User Accounts icon. If there isn’t a user account already there click Create a New Account, type in a name for your account and click Next, and then click Computer Administrator and click Create Account. If there is a user account already there, pick an account and click Create Password, type a new password.
Go to the Start menu and choose Control Panel. Double-click the User Accounts icon. Check the “Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer” box. Click the user account to highlight the account. (An account is already created from the initial installation) Click Create a Password. Type in your password.
A user account and password is created during setup. If a password was not set, use the Vista instructions above.
We can offer some suggestions that you might find helpful. While we will not recommend specific brands, models, software titles or exact specifications, we can give you some general guidelines about what to look for. Please be aware that the Tahoma School District is not telling you what you have to buy; we are just providing some general recommendations. The final decision is yours; the district is not liable.
What Brand of Computer Should I Buy?
We can’t make specific recommendations, but we can share that we have had good luck over the years with computers from Lenovo, Dell and Apple. Generally, the specifications – and the warranty – are more important than the particular brand. Be sure to look at the costs of warranties as the wear and tear on a student laptop can be substantial.
What Operating System Should I Get?
In general, when you purchase a new computer you will get the newest operating system that runs on that platform. We are in the process of transitioning to Windows 7 from both Windows XP Professional and Windows Vista on our teacher laptops and the netbooks we are purchasing for student use. We would recommend Windows 7 over Vista or XP. On the Apple side, we recommend the latest version of Mac OS X. There are a variety of versions of Linux available for those who are more technically oriented and want to go that route, but in our system we do not have any experience with Linux. Generally, the operating system you choose is not as important as the specifications on the hardware and the software that you purchase.
What about Hardware Specifications?
What you will need depends on what you will want to do with the computer. Unless you want to do something like video editing or high-end gaming, you don’t need the fastest, most expensive equipment. The standard-sized hard drive (currently around 160 GB) is adequate for most people’s needs (if you want to do video editing you will want a larger hard drive). You’ll usually save some money by getting a processor that is a couple of notches below the fastest processor available – the differences in speed are usually negligible. As far as RAM, we would recommend a minimum of two GB, and more if you can afford it. Four GB of RAM may be the norm in a year or two. For desktop purchases, if you have broadband Internet (see below), make sure you include the necessary networking equipment (often referred to as network adapters or network interface cards). Most laptops and netbooks have built in wireless, which is essential for the use of these computers at Tahoma High School. There are various versions of wireless. If “N” wireless is available, it is preferable. “N” is not yet available on netbooks.
What Software Should I Get?
Again, this depends on what you want to do with the computer. Tahoma School District currently uses Microsoft Office 2007 on Windows-based machines and Microsoft Office 2008 on Apple computers (Word, PowerPoint, Excel) – a copy is on every computer – so it would be very helpful if you had Microsoft Office 2007 (or a program that is Office compatible) at home. Students can buy a student edition of Office for much less than the approximately $140 retail version. Click here to go to the section of the School District website where you can get more information about discounts on software for students. If you want to use some other software, be sure you to know how to save your documents in Office format if you want to edit or print them at school. Most programs will have a choice of file formats under the Save As option that is compatible with Office. This includes Microsoft Works, which ships standard on many Windows machines but whose native file format is not the same as Microsoft Office. There are also several pieces of free, open-source Office-compatible software available for local installation or on the web. Three examples are ThinkFree, OpenOffice and, GoogleDocs . The Stoneware web portal will give students the ability to use three Office 2007 programs: Word, PowerPoint and Excel over the Web (even if they are not installed on their computer). This will allow students to work on the same documents at home and at school, share documents with their teachers and other students, and assure a safe place for document storage.
What about Extended Warranties?
Do consider buying extended warranties, especially on full-size laptops. Wear and tear on a student laptop can be considerable. We do not think that you should expect much more than 3 years of regular use with a netbook and only 2 years for the most lightweight models. Given that reality, an extended warranty might not be worth the money. Ninety days parts and 1 year labor are the norm but many companies have a one year parts and labor warranty available.
Laptop or Netbook?
Ultraportable netbooks, the best selling computers in 2009, are small, low powered laptops with excellent battery life. Priced at around $300, netbooks are a good deal if the user understands the limitations of netbooks. For accessing the Internet, word processing, and working with images, netbooks fit the bill. For advanced uses such as video editing, gaming, or other applications that require a lot of processing power netbooks would not be up to the task. Netbooks do not have CD/DVD drives.
Currently, all netbooks on the market have the same basic specifications. They have a 1.6 GHz Intel® Atom® processor, 1GB of RAM memory and a 160 GB or larger hard drive. Some netbooks may be equipped with a solid state hard drive (SSD). These types of drives have no moving parts but may add to the netbook cost and have a lower storage capacity. Most netbooks will have a 10.1” screen, though some are now being equipped with 12” screen. We recommend a six-cell battery as this should allow the computer to be used a full day when fully charged. Be sure the six-cell battery is included in the price. A new generation of netbooks, with faster processors and more memory, is on the horizon so the basic specifications will change over the next few months. With this in mind, the choice of netbook may be more driven by how it “feels” when it is handled. Some netbooks feel flimsier than others and there are differences in the sizes of the keys as the keyboard are usually 85-90% the size of a full size keyboard.
I See Laptops Advertised for as low as $400. Are They Good Deals?
Bargain hunters have to be tempted with the low priced notebooks available today. Dual processors, more RAM, larger hard drives, CD/CDVD burners and larger screens are all a step up from a netbook. The quest for lower pricing has its cost: cheaper components and lightweight construction. We suggest looking at the recommendations available from organizations that provide unbiased product reviews.
Is a laptop priced at over $1,000 worth the price?
We recommend a hands-on trip to an electronics store where you can actually try out computers and get a feel for their construction. How do the keys feel? How easy is it to flex the screen? How does the image on the screen look when you look at it from the side? How does the track pad feel? Do the track pad buttons make a solid clicking sound when depressed or do they sound like plastic on plastic? Doing a side by side comparison of the netbooks and laptops across the price range will give you a good idea of build quality.
Should I Get a Laptop Sleeve?
If buying for your child to use at school, the key thing to think about is how well the laptop will survive in a backpack in day-to-day usage. At a minimum, using a protective sleeve for a netbook or laptop would allow the use of a regular backpack but the inconvenience of zipping and unzipping the sleeve may result in the sleeve not being used. A backpack with a built–in laptop section is probably a better idea for a full size laptop.
|What is DB?||Students will be able to use their own wireless capable devices to access the Internet, their files, the public drive, and key programs.|
|Are students required to bring a device to school?||No! We are making it possible for those that have such devices to use them for learning at school. There is not an expectation that students must bring such devices to school.|
|Will the Internet be filtered?||Yes. The same software that filters Internet access on district-owned computers will filter the access through our wireless network.|
|How will students gain access?||Students will access our wireless network in the same way they would access any such network at home, at a library, or at a business. They will make the connection, provide their username and password, and they are in.|
|How will students get tech support?||School District staff members are not authorized to work on students’ personal devices. Students will be able to access tech support information and advice on the THS website. This area of the website is under construction.|
|What about security?||Students are encouraged to keep their electronic devices with them at all times when they are not secured in a locker. Day-use lockers will be provided. Students will need to bring their own locks.|
|What exactly will students have access to?||Students will have access to the filtered Internet, to their My Documents folder, to the Public Drive, and to Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.|
|Will students be able to use their devices for chatting and such?||Online chatting tools are blocked by our content filter and will be blocked for students who are accessing the Internet at school from a personal device.|
|Won’t allowing students to use these tools increase the likelihood that students will be distracted or off task?||Student access to technology increases our ability to achieve Classroom 10 and the outcomes we want for our students. We are going to use technology as a tool to leverage learning. In fact, we think of computers as just that, another tool. Pencils, scissors, and markers are all tools we use in education. Any tool, even pencils, can be a distraction if we don’t provide an environment for using them for learning.|
|Will power cords or plug ins be provided?||Students are expected to bring their devices to school fully charged and to manage their power so that their battery lasts through the day. For the time being at least, classrooms will not be outfitted with power cords or additional outlets.|
|What kinds of devices can be used to access the wireless network?||Laptops, netbooks, some cell phones, iPod Touches, and many other devices all are wireless-capable.|
|What about students in other buildings?||For the time being Digital Backpack is a Tahoma High School project. When all goes well at THS we will begin planning to open up Digital Backpack at Tahoma Junior High as well.|
|Would the school’s insurance cover damage or theft of student owned devices?||No. Personal electronic devices are the sole responsibility of the owner. The School District accepts no financial responsibility for personal devices.|
|Will students be monitored at all times when they are using personal electronic devices?||Students will have independent use. Access will be monitored only to the degree possible in a high school setting. Students may use their devices outside of regular classrooms, in the common areas.|