Year Two Laptop Lessons Learned – It was harder!

Ready for rollout!  PHS Laptops sorted by adviser in August, 2013.

Ready for rollout! PHS Laptops sorted by adviser in August, 2013.

Now that we are a few weeks into school, I’m getting some time to reflect on how things started.  Particularly the student laptop roll out.  For the most part, I’m pleased.   From my point of view, it went pretty well.  I am proud to the point of bursting with the effort and professionalism the CCSD technology team put into making this happen.  However, it was certainly was not a perfect process.  Meaningful work never is.  It’s always messy and filled with uncertainty.  And, uncertain and messy were a couple of good words to describe the general feeling tone of the technology office as we went through the process of moving, staging, and distributing the laptops in August.  In many ways this second year felt harder than our first time through the process last fall.

I’ve shared this reflection with several people over the past few days.  One common reaction I get is the impression that we encountered a let down after all of the over-planning we did last year.  This makes sense, but I really don’t think this is that case.  I know that no one on the tech team thought it would be easy this fall because we had already done it once last year.  The reality is that there’s just more complexity in subsequent years.

At the core, it’s just hard to match kids with computer serial numbers.  Sounds simple, but its’ not. Here are some examples… Kids leave over the summer and return.  Students move from the “regular” high school programming to the alternative school.  Students returning for a fifth year.  Because we are redeploying computers, these changes always impact at least two kids – the student who previously had the computer and a new student or incoming ninth grader who needs a computer.  The hardware is so expensive we don’t accept any error.

A couple of weeks ago, I did a “lessons learned” session at ITEC about our digital literacy experience.  It was pretty well attended, about 30 tech directors, school administrators, and teachers from across the state.  I spent some time on the problems we encountered during our year two rollout.  It was a nice validating experience.  Year two difficulty was a common theme amongst schools that have done this a while.

The tech team is already talking about end of year in-take, and 2014-15 rollout.  I don’t think we’ll fix all the problems we encountered this year.  But, we won’t be surprised the messiness next year.

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