Friday, April 26, 2013

1-to-1 Learning - Goals & Objectives Part 1

Here begins a brief series on decisions to make and options you have available when designing your 1-to-1 learning environment.  This information comes from 10+ years of firsthand experience as a Network/Systems Administrator in a 1-to-1 learning high school and 9 years experience as an adjunct professor of network engineering.

Lesson 1 - What are your goals and objectives?

The process begins by you building a clear and well-defined map that you will use as a guide and reference along your journey.  Things you should decide before starting your 1-1 deployment are:
  1. Who are your users?
  2. What are their intentions?
  3. What are the restrictions your users want?
  4. What are your users expectations?
  5. Which devices will be utilized?
  6. What is your budget for devices, training, staff?
  7. What are your security requirements?
Today's lesson will cover the users, topics 1 - 4.  As I write this blog, I just received the following message from a fortune cookie, which is perfectly appropriate for this lesson.

Great things are accomplished only by the perfection of minor details.
Who are your users?
Clearly, the user plays an important role when building your 1-to-1 initiative.  In a high school your answers may be: student, teacher, administrative staff.  How about guests and the public?  Just a few years ago guests may not have been a consideration, today many people assume that businesses are similar to Starbucks, so at the cost of the school some institutions are making this available.  If you choose that option you need to make sure you keep their network separate from the rest of your corporate network and that you secure it.  It can be a wise investment to support guests especially if your building is utilized by many outside groups or you host many public events.

What are their intentions?
Your users intentions are critical and sometimes the most difficult thing to get from decision makers.  It is your job to impress upon them the importance of planning and that planning will lead to a secure, stable and scalable network, which is not built from a hodgepodge of ideas but from data collection, thoughtful reflection, and clear objectives.  Here are some example intentions that you should be aware of:
  • Students should have some access to the Internet whenever they walk into the building.
  • Students will only access the Internet from labs or while in a monitored classroom environment.
  • Teachers will have access to the Internet from any device they own.
  • Student, teachers, staff will have access to the Internet from only their school provided device.
  • Your local students news station will broadcast over your Internet connection.
  • VoIP will be supported across this connection.
  • Security cameras will be supported and accessible outside of the building through your connection.
Your list of intentions may be long and that is a good thing!  Do not shoot anything down, consider this a brainstorming exercise.  Later in the process, budget, user restrictions, and security will be natural constraint variables that will help filter out unrealistic requests based on the resources of the organization.

What are the restrictions your users want?
Are there any?  Do decision makers assume some that are not mentioned?  Also what are federal and state restrictions?  As an example, for schools to have access to E-Rate funding schools must block students from access to certain types of content on the Internet (E-Rate funding can be significant).  Schools in the end have the decision whether they want this funding or not so it is their choice.

Finally, do not forget to ask your stakeholders: students and teachers.  In the end it only comes down to these two groups.  What do your teachers need to fully support your students and what do your students need to unleash their creativity within their classrooms?  If you do not ask them then who are you doing this for and how do you know the answers to those questions?

Again, treat this like a brainstorming activity; later in the process you will use your constraint variables to help identify what is currently possible with today's technology and within your budget.  I highly recommend involving the teachers and students in this process that cannot be said enough.

What are your users expectations?
At this point you may be saying, I think you have covered it all what else can there be related to the user?  Their expectations are more about the end user experience and what will qualify as poor, satisfactory, and exemplary service. 
Rule of thumb: If it is not written down and shared with everyone then it does not exist.  
If your decision makers or your students and faculty have expectations but have not put them down on paper then they do not exist.  Similar to the classroom experience a teacher lists their daily objectives and expectations for their students.  Your job is to gather these expectations, help filter through them and then work with the stakeholders to identify the ones that are obtainable and which ones are not. 

Expectations could look like this: 
  • As a teacher, I expect to be able to show an online video to my class without Internet disruption. 
  • As a student, I expect to be able to communicate with other students through skype while in school without losing my connection. 
  • As a teacher, I expect to be able to move freely around my classroom and teach without having to monitor which websites my students visit.
  • As a member of the administrative staff, I expect to be able to view security logs from any device accessible to the Internet.
  • As a student, I expect that the use of technology in the classroom will give me more learning opportunities not less.
These are few that you may run into.  Notice they may not all seem advisable for every situation.  Your job is to help manage expectations, which translates into a written set of expectations that can be referenced by all involved.

Next week
This ends the first part.  My intention is to have the next part available at the end of next week.  As always, I appreciate your feedback so feel free to comment or email me.