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Cookbook For BYOD & Virtualization in Schools: “Teaching 24 X 7…”

Special guest interview with Charlie Kanavel, CEO of The Kanavel Group; former Director, Technology, Campbell Union High School District – Campbell, CA

Mr. Kanavel is CEO of The Kanavel Group, a consulting and services firm focused on technology in government and education. The Kanavel Group specializes in taking clients from “WOW” to “HOW”, merging cutting edge technology with its clients long term strategic objectives.

As the Director of Technology at Campbell Union High School District, he was responsible for notable projects in California and the nation:  through the development of on-line hybrid courses using Cisco WebEx, he was the first to deploy them in the California K-12 education space. Working with Sony Corporation, he was the first to pilot Sony eReaders to replace textbooks in K-12 education nationwide.  Mr. Kanavel was also awarded Honorable Mention at Citrix Synergy 2010 for deploying virtualization in education. Formerly Mr. Kanavel distinguished himself in IT and compliance leadership in financial markets worldwide.

Charlie, welcome, and thanks for joining us. In K-12 today, the #1 issue is BYOD. Unlike a full 1:1 rollout where every child gets the same device, under BYOD how do superintendents & IT leaders address the equity divide among students so we ensure all have equal access to the same content?

Thank you for having me join today, Frank. I think for the past 10 years we in education have done a lot to bring technology in education forward into the on-line world. However, we have also made educational resources inside and outside the classroom very broadband and computer-centric. So to have full access to the resources made available by most schools today, you need a computer at home. This digital divide is very real in today’s schools and BYOD as a strategy gives districts a real way to solve this problem.

Today “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) in schools like KATY as a strategy is something many superintendents and boards are looking to embrace because it:

  • Engages student learning on devices they are comfortable with;
  • Reduces district IT spend and refresh budget cycles since students bring their own resources;
  • Allows districts to focus limited budgetary dollars on those students who have no access.

This last point is perhaps the one that has the most significant impact on academic achievement in schools. By providing a common set of digital resources to all students and focusing on helping those students who do NOT have access at home with devices, districts can ensure that all students have a level academic playing field.

One of the questions I hear most often when talking with schools about BYOD programs is: how do you determine who qualifies for district assistance in procuring a device? The recommendation I’ve made to my clients is use their existing free and reduced lunch program guidelines as a qualifier for district-sponsored devices. If the student qualifies for a free and reduced lunch, and does not have access at home, the district can provide them with a tablet or other device. Utilizing this program also has other benefits; some DSL providers (AT&T & Verizon) offer significantly reduced DSL plans for the home for families that qualify.

And what about infrastructure and planning? For instance, we’ve seen use of video explode after BYOD implementations, what are my top issues to consider here and how do I communicate these goals to parents?

Network infrastructure is a critical piece of the puzzle when considering a 1:1 or BYOD program. In particular, enterprise level wi-fi is a major component of any successful BYOD program. While students may have tablets, smart phones, or laptops, they may not have cellular data plans associated with these devices. The main things to consider are wi-fi, web filtering, security and bandwidth. An influx of BYOD on campuses will tax wi-fi and bandwidth considerably, which may affect other resources teachers need to execute lesson plans on a daily basis. District IT staff can help ensure that these resources remain available with the help of a good web filter, traffic shaping on the LAN, and a robust security policy for BYOD devices.

However, just putting a device into a student’s hand doesn’t mean they will become instantly smarter. Some thought has to be given to what expectations are going to be put on those students once they all, or the majority of students, have access to devices and bandwidth. How will the lessons and projects change to incorporate this technology as an everyday asset? What are the expected student outcomes from using these devices on a daily basis, outside of really great You-tube videos?

Communication with parents is another key item in a BYOD program. They need to be informed of the goals in the program. Why is this good for students and who is responsible for the devices? As these are student-owned and parent provided, how are the students using these on a daily basis and how do the students continue learning on them while at home? Many districts use a website to communicate grades, homework and other classroom resources.  This site is a good place to post BYOD polices for all parents to see. In five to ten years, students will be bringing tablets to school much like today they bring binders and backpacks.

Good thoughts, thanks Charlie. Virtualization is linked to BYOD. Can you take us through that connection – and discuss what should I be planning for on assets and infrastructure?

Districts who are looking to get the most out of their BYOD program should consider virtualization as a critical piece of the plan. Virtualization, in computing, is the creation of a virtual version of something, such as a hardware platform, operating system, a storage device or network resources. Virtualization in education has long been implemented around servers as a way to reduce IT spend and cut operational costs.

With recent popularity around 1:1 and BYOD, districts should think about implementing desktop and application virtualization as a way to present a unified set of curricular resources anywhere, on any device students have access to. It is easy for districts to purchase tablets, or other devices, but how do you manage thousands of them? How do you ensure that the curricular resources being accessed by these devices are all the same version, are compatible with the devices and are being 100% utilized?

Many districts have begun adopting iPads, which are fantastic devices, but with iPads alone you are limited to only the applications that are available in the AppStore. If teachers have not spent any professional development time learning about tablets or have not changed their curriculum and lesson plans to match iPad apps, you have a serious disconnect brewing. By leveraging virtualization, teachers can utilize the same applications they have in their classrooms via tablets like the iPad, or at home on student owned machines, without much change to the lesson plans or other curricular resources. This singularity has an amazing effect in making sure the teachers lesson stays consistent inside and outside of the classroom.

I have a saying, “virtualization drives standardization”, and this is especially true with education. As you move through the path of deciding what should be virtualized and presented to students and staff as resources, you begin choosing a single version of an application because presenting them all is much too costly and time-consuming. One of the core benefits of virtualizing is that education and IT begin to work together to present education as an on-demand service, which is really what teachers mean when they use phrases like “extending the learning time”.

By making the same resources available outside the classroom, anywhere on any device, the student curriculum becomes an on-demand resource that can be accessed when the student is ready to learn, even if the teacher is not present. Following this line of thought, you can see why so many districts are moving towards virtualization. The next step is deciding what resources, content, applications, curricular materials, assessments, etc. would be best suited to help advance student learning and academic achievement.

Frank — you asked about infrastructure: for me it’s the three “S”s…Servers, SAN and Software. These are the three things you need to begin virtualizing desktops, applications and servers. The best solution I’ve found so far is Cisco UCS for the blade servers, NetApp for the SAN and Citrix for the software. Citrix really performs well for desktop and application virtualization and VMware works well for server virtualization. However, none of this can be achieved without a strong core network. A good network assessment is the first step in determining if you are ready to  begin implementing virtualization in your district.

Interesting points Charlie. Can you give our readers an example of how a district implemented these technologies?

There have been several districts who have adopted these technologies. Katy Schools in Texas, Mooresville Schools in North Carolina, and the Diocese Schools of San Jose in California are all examples.

OK – finally, I need to tie the whole plan around infrastructure. Any idea on best practices to tackle this?

As a summary – here are six steps to think about:

  1. Start with a set of curricular goals with a focus on what the technology can do to help achieve or advance those goals.
  2. Conduct a network assessment, from the district office down to the classroom. Inventory and assess what assets are in place, what is missing and what needs to be upgraded.
  3. Build a plan, from the district office, to the school site, to the classroom to the students home. How does the technology broadcast the lesson, the same way, to all locations?
  4. Build the infrastructure with milestones and achievable outcomes. Don’t try to do it all at one time, frame and build the technology up in pilots and stages.
  5. Create a set of reporting guidelines to track expected outcomes. Is the technology being implemented and deployed in a way that supports your curricular goals? What are the expected student achievement outcomes and how are they being reported? Report what works and what doesn’t work, then make the necessary changes to remediate what doesn’t work. Find the gaps, and plug them.
  6. Professional development, professional development, professional development. If you are providing teachers with new technology, make sure they are proficient with the technology before they begin using it in their lessons. Build cohorts of teachers to help provide peer support and follow-up training for those who need additional help.

That’s a great point you made on milestones and plan – absolutely necessary to remember. Any key conclusions you can summarize for our readers?

A teacher once told me, “If I can’t use the technology in my daily lesson plan, I won’t use it.” I think this is a common perception among many teachers because education and technology can change so fast. If the technology isn’t implemented in a way that has an immediate impact on student outcomes, both students and teachers will abandon it for something that will. In this on-demand world, students expect to have their resources available to them whenever they want, wherever they want. Students today want the ability to learn 24/7 and teachers need to consider how they are going to “teach in a 24/7 world.”

At the end of the day, it’s really all about student outcomes.

Thank-you Charlie.

Charlie Kanavel can be reached at:  charles@kanavelgroup.com

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