In southern British Columbia, lies one of Canada’s premier vacation destinations – the Central Okanagan.

Aside from the beautiful mountains, numerous lakes, and fabulous weather in the Okanagan, School District #23 has implemented an innovative laptop project – iLearn. Now people living in this district have an advantage over many other districts, as the iLearn project is handing over one laptop for every student in grades seven through twelve. Each teacher is also supplied with a laptop. This will drastically change the way the district views education. While comparing the District’s iLearn project to the CUBE, the following venture analysis will uncover some of the emerging markets behind the iLearn project and weigh the costs and benefits for the teachers who use the project. While the iLearn project is not a stand-alone business, it has attracted several large companies and has become a large producer of job growth in the area. The School District is the business that spawned iLearn, but the project has become almost synonymous with the district because of the money that has been invested in the project. The district estimates that they will have to commit to spending over two million this year and each of the next three years to continue with the project. (Board of School Trustees. p.7) For iLearn to continue to be utilized by the School District, it must run in partnership with the school board and many other large and small businesses. A business venture of this size utilizes many companies and their commitment ensures the projects success. The iLearn program is a tool that incorporates laptops for each student. As of 2007, every grade seven and eight student has a laptop. Each laptop comes equipped with pre-installed software such as Microsoft Student, which is aimed at enhancing learning in and out of the classroom. While there is a minimal cost to the student, the program is not without its skeptics because there is an added cost. Parents in the iLearn program must purchase insurance and backpacks for the laptops. To some, this is seen as a waste of the schools resources. Comparing the program to the CUBE highlights some of the positives and negatives of the iLearn program.

CUBE for iLearn Face One
Public Schools School district 23 in the Central Okanagan is the pilot project for the iLearn project. The project started in 2005/2006 by handing out one laptop for every grade seven student and every teacher in a few select pilot schools. The Laptops are IBM’s ThinkPad’s, and each school is equipped with wireless Internet. The teachers in School District 23 are the primary users of the new iLearn project, and regardless of technical background they must go through four training sessions of inservice to partially understand the ideas behind the laptop project. Higher Education While the iLearn project is directly utilized in the grade level public school system, it has long-term goals aimed at higher education. The project is designed to equip students with the skills needed to be successful in the working world and post secondary schools. With

the technical world changing, the District decided to attempt to better convey the needs of post secondary learning and the work force by implementing the laptop project. The Capital News interviewed the Dean of UBCO on the issue of the iLearn program. The Dean stated, “We live in a society where computer literacy is essential to get ahead, no matter what kind of work someone is in… You have to look at what is going on in the world. There is some social responsibility on schools to prepare people to go work in society and live in society, And by giving every student a laptop, it makes sure every kid, no matter their socioeconomic background, has the same access to technology” (Nieoczym 2007. Capital News) While training teachers through a series of in-service workshops only scrapes the surface of the wide ranging possibilities of working with technology, post secondary institutions are surely going to get more teachers wanting to learn about technology in education. The University of British Columbia is one institution that has already implemented training for teachers with the Masters of Education. (MET) Training Needs By far, the training needs outweigh all other needs for the project. Each and every teacher needs to go through four stages of training within the iLearn project. The training is provided during working hours which will require work coverage for each teacher, and will employ computer tech support in order to train teachers. Further, each school in the district will have at least two iLearn specialist that go through extensive training in order to familiarize themselves with all aspects of the iLearn project. This comes at a great cost to the district.

Face Two
Services This face of the CUBE falls predominantly under Training needs. Although, servicing eight thousand laptops, which are mainly handled by young teens, bring forth a whole range of services in the maintenance field. The success of the project depends on the success of the maintained of the laptops. Campbell and Gaylie find, “Evidence indicates that SD23 IT Support Services exercised extensive planning at every critical stage of the project.” (Together iLearn. p. 17). Planning for servicing the laptops is crucial in order for the district to keep costs to a minimum. Being proactive and keeping known issues from happening to the laptops is even more important. One of the business partners in the iLearn project is Cisco Systems. Cisco has directly implemented a software project that searches for and reacts to suspicious software behaviour. This software is a proactive venture to ensure students do not download programs that are not meant for learning. (Grant. 2006). This added protection is meant to add safety for the students using the laptops, but it has a lasting effect for the teachers using the laptops as well. This is mainly due to the project blocking the ability of the teacher to add their own software to the laptops they were given by the District. All of the laptops were leased for a three-year term. This is exactly how long the students will have their laptops before a new one is given to them. After three years the students and teachers are given a new laptop for another three years. IBM supplies all of the laptops and has struck a lasting deal with the district.

Northern Computers, a local Kelowna computer dealer, is the middle man in this deal. They are the primary maintenance providers of the laptops. Wireless connections are in every school, and new schools being built after 2005 will reflect the dependence on technology. The schools are completely wireless ready, and the Internet service is provided by Telus. The increasing need for connections has driven the dependence on Internet service. Online projects, like Coolschool, are sponsored by Telus. They are the main provider of Internet service in the Okanagan, and will continue to serve the district for years into the future. Content Each laptop comes with prepackaged software placed directly on each laptop. The main software is Microsoft Student along with some specialty projects such as Google Earth and iTunes. Because outside software is prohibited, the district deemed these types of software projects useful. Infrastructure Both teachers and students are using First Class as the primary web page builder and email client. The project itself is restrictive to both teachers and students. As a security feature the email project filters almost all outside email addresses. There is a place to add specific email addresses, but it is time consuming and very rarely used. The web page builder provided by First Class is relatively easy to use, even for first timers, but it is highly restrictive. Flash animation and other quiz building software cannot be used in conjunction with First Class. There are some teachers that have used First Class as a good tool to keep in touch with parents and students, but there is a need for interacting with the students in a blended learning environment.

Face three
The District has purchased everything from the laptops to the software used on the laptops. Nothing else can be downloaded onto any of the laptops. Further, the content the learner views is managed through a filtering system that limits the students ability to open their laptops to all sites available on the web. Face Four – Global Markets Predominantly English. Face Five – Development of Market Market Only Supports Custom Work or Indigenous Suppliers Face Six – Learning Technology competing with other forms of learning Learning Technology is imposed, and Competes with Existing Learning Systems In the case of the iLearn project, the entire learning technology is imposed on the practitioner, and provided by the district initiative. Costs By the end of 2007, there will be two thousand IBM Thinkpads distributed among staff and students in School District 23. Additionally, each student is required to purchase an approved backpack to carry the Thinkpads. This comes at a cost of $48 per student. This means $84, 000 in costs to the parents of the students involved in the iLearn project. Additionally, parents may opt for the added home insurance policy at another cost of $7590 per year. The laptops are free. (Springvalley Middle School. 2006)

This is a highly discussed project, and it has people on both sides of the issue discussing passionately the real cost to the students. The people for the project insist that it is needed to provide a better education for the students. The people against the iLearn project are wanting a more balance approach to education with a focus on literacy and numeracy in the old fashioned paper and pencil way. Feasibility The iLearn project falls under many sides of the CUBE and is dependant on many companies and partners to continue to produce job growth. One of the main concerns with this project is that it falls on many sides of the CUBE. This can be a dangerous endeavor because it is dependant on too many companies and people to sustain the project in the long term. When there are too many companies and partners involved, the exit strategy becomes less clear. Instead, success is measured by how the district uses the project, and how the district maintains the project. Campbell and Gatlie state, “The dramatic and obvious increase in student achievement and interest, as discovered in researching this report, strongly suggests that the laptop project at SD23 was successful in terms of leadership, support and implementation at both the district and school level.” (Together iLearn. p. 17) Continued success of this project will require full effort on all parties involved in the project. Bonifaz and Zucker state, “Stakeholders’ initial perceptions of technology influence their predisposition to carry out an initiative like one to one computing, and they can facilitate or hinder the implementation process.” (Lessons Learned About Providing Laptops for All Students. p. 5) The exit strategy is dependant on the success of the project. Adequate funding for the project’s success in needed. This is evident in all successful one-to-one computing projects. In an article on the Mac website, they state, “Ensure that you have adequate funding for the life of the implementation. When replacements or repairs are needed, be sure you can pay for them.” (Apple 2004.) The iLearn project was based on a paper from then Superintendant Ron Rubadeau. His vision of what is needed in the public school system will have lasting effects on both the students and economy in School district 23. “Lab based technology once had its place and value. It’s time has come and gone. While originally useful to teach classes of students about the rudiments of technology, labs lack the flexibility to support students in their individual needs.” (Rubadeau. 2005). It is his vision that will ensure the success of the iLearn program.

Resources Apple. Profiles in Success: The Gillespie School – Ahead of the Wave. Retrieved September 27, 2007 from http://www.apple.com/education/profiles/gunderson/index3.html Board of School Trustees (2006). Public Board Meeting Minutes. School District No. 23 Retrieved September 27, 2007 from http://www.sd23.bc.ca/BoardOfTrustees/minutes/06PMay10.pdf. Bonifaz, Alejandra. Zucker, Andrew. (2004). Lessons Learned About Providing Laptops for All Students. Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) Campbell, Robert. Ph. D. Gaylie, Veronica. Ph. D. (2006). Together iLearn Laptop Pilot Project: Preliminary Report. UBC Okanagan. Grant, Buckler. (2006). Embedded Security. The Pros and Cons of Building Security Functions into Network Gear. Canadian Technology News. Communications and Networking, June 2006, Vol. 9, No. 6. Retrieved October 1, 2007 from, http://www.itbusiness.ca/it/client/en/Comm_Network/News.asp?id=39764 MET. (2007). Masters of Educational Technology. Retrieved October 1, 2007 from, http://met.ubc.ca/ Nieoczym, Adrian (2007). Teaching Tool or Hinderance? Capital News October 14, 2007. Retrieved October 14, 2007 from, http://www.kelownacapnews.com/ Rubadeau, Ron. (2005). Technology Unplugged. School district No. 23. Retrieved September 21, 2007 from, http://www.sd23.bc.ca/Superintendent/reports/TechnologyUnplugged.pdf Springvalley Middle School. (2006). iLearn Class Discussion. SD23 iLearn Project.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful