Schools equipping students and staff with IT equipment is becoming more and more commonplace in today’s education system, yet it’s not as simple as merely passing out a random selection of technology tools. Each school has its own goals and in many cases its own unique set of needs.
One School, Many Languages
Located in Vancouver, Bodwell High School is one of Canada’s largest co-ed boarding schools for Grades 8 to 12, comprising a diverse student body from more than 40 countries. This gives the school a tremendously beneficial international flavour, though presented a bit of a challenge for Bodwell’s IT department and faculty.
New students from abroad used to bring numerous devices for classroom use, running on various operating systems in multiple languages such as Spanish, Japanese and Chinese. In addition, form factors and technical performance range from low-grade tablets to gaming laptops, each installed with different kinds of applications, and many with licence and warranty issues. Different hardware brands also lead to problems with regards to input/output ports, screen sizes, keyboard layout and network adapter speed.
“The results of using such a diverse range of equipment could be somewhat chaotic,” says Peter Yoon, Bodwell’s Director of IT. “Technology plays an important role in our curriculum, and the use of devices in the classroom has become standard. But teachers were often interrupted by technical issues from student computers in the middle of lessons and could do little about it due to different languages and lack of technical expertise. It was disrupting our teaching and learning process.”
The problematic devices were also taking a toll on the school’s IT help desk staff, which had to devote heavy overhead resources while dealing with the unpredictable and time-consuming issues. Often they would have to send non-functioning devices to outer repair shops, which temporarily left students without the necessary learning tools. Concerned feedback from students and faculty prompted Bodwell to make a decision.
Taking the Initiative
“Bodwell prides itself on the quality of its education, and in order to ensure that high level be maintained, we decided to have an integrated, school-wide technology platform to be shared by all Bodwell students and staff,” says Yoon.
The school’s main objectives were to increase efficiency in technology use, end-user productivity and improve student learning; foster communication and collaboration within the school community; and enhance IT service and support capabilities.
Bodwell’s initiative was launched in late 2014, and standard laptops were provided to all users – 100 staff and 600 students – in the fall of 2015. Yoon informed CDW Canada of the school’s requirements, stressing technical specs, brand reliability, warranty program and price as priorities. “One advantage of working with CDW Canada is their presence in the industry and network of partners,” says Yoon. “This provided us with better options in terms of selection and pricing. They lined up several products in multiple configurations fairly quick, and as we ultimately narrowed down our selection to Lenovo with required customized specs, CDW was able to arranged a meeting with key technical staff at Lenovo.”
CDW Canada fostered the relationship between Bodwell and Lenovo, working with both parties in order to cater closely to the school’s needs and provide the highest quality solution within budget. Ultimately, Bodwell purchased several Lenovo ThinkPad T460s, both for its processing power and its light and slim build. The laptops were issued to students and staff who immediately took to its mobility and efficiency. All units share the same configuration, and hardware and software are centrally managed by the school’s IT department. With everyone properly equipped, classes were ready to begin.
Class is Now in Session
The laptops are used by teachers and students as their main communication device in everyday school activities. This includes sending and receiving e-mails; connecting to the SMART boards or HDTVs installed around the school; surfing the Internet for research projects; collaborating with peers on group projects; creating Photoshop files for digital art class; or even developing games as part of club activities.
The devices are all preconfigured with the latest version of Windows OS, Office 365 ProPlus applications such as Outlook, Word and PowerPoint, Adobe Suite, popular web browsers, and other essential software such as anti-virus programs and productivity utilities. Any programs or software not included in the standard package can be requested for installation from the IT department, and are usually deployed within a few days following evaluation.
The school saw immediate results. The types and number of end-device related technology issues were dramatically reduced and became much more manageable, with less time and effort spent on resolution. There is now also no need to set up student’s home-brought devices – a process which used to take several weeks. Since the new laptops are set up and pre-assigned prior to their arrival, students are good to go as soon as they walk through the gates.
Additionally, the school has been able to implement technology change management programs, such as new student IT orientation and technology training sessions, more efficiently. And the IT department has seen a huge increase in hardware asset management capabilities such as inventory management, status tracking, lifecycle management, replacement and repair.
Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. “Students are happy with the quality of the software package and improved hardware performance, claiming it’s faster, sturdier and more reliable,” says Yoon. “They’re also relieved to be carrying something slimmer and lighter. Meanwhile, our staff is pleased to see less disruption during lessons and the improved level of technology support. Even the parents are thrilled not to have to worry about what kind of computer hardware and software to purchase before sending their kids to Canada. CDW Canada and Lenovo were really able to deliver the best solution that met our technical needs.”
“Students are happy with the quality of the software package and improved hardware performance, claiming it’s faster, sturdier and more reliable.”
BY: Pedro Cabezuelo