The Mac Program 1on1

November 2012 Update:
We are now approaching the end of our third year of our laptop program. We don't usually keep computers longer than 3 years - so it is coming up to decision time. Do we start replacing the macs as they come out of warranty ? Or do we replace them with tables ? If so - ipads or android ? After using apple products for 3 years - I certainly feel they are the best devices for education. Therefore if we go hand held - individual devices, it would be iPads.
Ok - so what has happened with the laptops ?
I have just upgraded them all to Lion. The MacBook Pros all had Lion - but the MacBooks (with only 2G of memory) were all on Snow Leopard. I had read that the MacBooks would handle Lion so I decided to make all of the laptops have the same operating system. I did have issues with Deploy Studio and deploying an image to all the macs through the server. I don't know if I mentioned, I run a mini mac server for all the macs to be controlled by - by me and I have very limited knowledge (hence the "Woodbutchers" tag). To save time and anxiety for the students (but not for me) I decided to ghost them by hand (an image on an external hard drive). On the whole - fairly successful - but I did have a few students whose permissions seem to go haywire. About 4 of them seem to lose the permission to their home drives. For the life of me - I can't work out why ? I deleted them from the server and brought them in as new students- but still issues. A case that I am currently working on.

The Background :
 Eighteen months ago my school decided to introduce a one on one laptop program using apple MacBooks. This all came about quite accidentally. I had purchased a macbook pro a few months previously, for personal photographic reasons. I had never owned a mac before but was reasonably happy with it. I also spoke about it's benefits to my colleagues. In August 2009 - Apple were doing one of their "roadshows" in our city. The Principal was curious about the apple system - so myself, the Principal and an IT Educational officer from our regional office went along to see what they had to say. They were hooked. They saw a great benefit to be had for using the apple system. Design of computers for classroom use, the built in applications and the ease of use for kids to work productively and efficiently. So - the plan was hatched.

Later in 2009 we had contact with Apple who were willing to lend us a batch of macbook pros to try with a group of kids. This ended up being 8 MBP's and it was decided that they would be trialled with the Year 4 class. The decision was based on the fact that Stage 3 would be the ones using them if we decided to pursue it in 2010. The classroom was set up with a central hub to contain the laptops - at this stage we didn't have wireless. The class was rotated with work to give all the children in the class time to utilise them and get familiar with the mac set up and applications. This trial went for appropriately 4 weeks. It was seen as a success and the school decided to go ahead with setting up the mac one on one approach. Because of funding restraints it wasn't possible to fully implement our vision. An order was made for 17 MacBooks at the end of 2009.

In early 2010 we set up two MacBooks as teachers computers. These were to be hooked up to the smartboards for class use. We installed Fusions 3 on them so they could also run windows if need be (as our IT system was windows). We increased the RAM to 4G to help alleviate any possible bottleneck and the teachers were encouraged to use them as a personal computer. Therefore taking them home, working directly on them and getting more familiar with the OS and applications. 15 MacBooks were set up for student use. The Yr5 and Yr6 classes would take them in turns. One class for 3 days a week and the other 2. They could be used with half the class working on the macs while the others on teacher instruction or having the class work in pairs. A portable hard drive was purchased to store a ghost image of how we wanted the mac's set up. This would be used to re-image any laptop that was causing difficulties (rather than waste time trouble shooting). We were all set!

Within the first month of our project, Apple made us another offer we couldn't refuse. They would lend us a class set of macbook pro's (30); 30 hard drives for backup; 30 ipod nano's; 30 bags so the kids could take the laptops home each day; a mac server to access the wiki server and a wireless router. They wanted to give us the ideal experience of how it could work - if money was no issue.
They came in and set up the whole system. The kids would use the equipment as if they owned it. They worked on the laptops at school and completed tasks at   home each night. The nano's were used as camera's for tasks as well as putting our tables and spelling on them to listen to each night. Wiki's and blogs would go straight onto the mac server. The Apple Education Officer came and spent some time with the two teachers to assist with ideas and direction.
This gave one class the ideal experience. The trial was to be for 4 weeks but ended up being nearly a term. This also meant that the other class could have the school's 15 exclusively for that time.

During this time we set up a showcase for the parents and interested parties. This culminated in Catholic Schools Week. We set up a "showing" in our school library. The children explained what they had been doing and what they had learnt. They ran little workshops demonstrating and explaining the work, process and why, as the adults went from one table to another to see the various tasks the children had been working on. Besides parents, we entertained the Directory of Catholic Schools, various people from the IT department as well as educational officers. A very successful event.

It showed us the way forward and what could be achieved. The only disadvantage was not having the finances to "fully" implement the scheme.
 Our next step was to install wireless routers in the rooms to ensure the set up was truly mobile. We required some assistance to ensure that there were no drop outs and that each router was on a different channel. The students could then get the internet and web mail. We then set up folders that gave them access to their personal folders on the windows server. We still had to utilise the windows server for home folders and internet.
Because the mac's were going to be media rich - it was thought the limited space on the windows server might be stretched. We looked at a mac server for the purpose. After some investigation it was decided a mini mac with SL server would serve our purpose.This enable the classes to use the server for a Wiki server - a place to compose and store their wikis and blogs. It also gave extra storage space for media rich (and sizeable ) content. This gave us the possibility for content within the school network - but couldn't be viewed outside the school environment.
Mobile me accounts were set up for the two classes and class websites were composed and utilised. This enabled students to view content and assignments from the home environment.

By the end of the first year we had a working structure in place. We had a bank of 16 MacBooks secured each day in a lockable cage that also charged them overnight. Wireless routers were placed in each classroom. This ensured that they were truly portable and required no cabling for either power or internet. The range also allowed for use in the playground and library areas. Each class was equipped with 2 flip videos and a still digital camera for digital content. Each laptop could access the windows server for internet and home folders as well as the mac server for the Wiki server and extra storage.

We have now purchased a number of new laptops to increase this number. Because the macbook was only available for education (therefore probably phased out soon - as well as older technology), it was decided to go with the MacBook Pro. Being new machines - these came with Lion. Rather than back date them to Snow Leopard, we decided to try them on the network and see how they went. So far all issues have been resolved. Will keep you posted as the kids give them a true work out.