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Evaluating, Selecting,and Maximizing hardware in a blended learning environment

Evaluating, Selecting,and Maximizing hardware in a blended learning environment

Author: Kathleen Johnson

This lesson provides students with the ability to conduct an environmental scan of the available hardware within the teaching environment for a blended learning approach

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Evaluating, Selecting, and Maximizing Hardware in a Blended Learning Environment

Source: Digital Access Key Image; Morgue File;; Project Red Image; Project Red Website;

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Today, we're going to be looking at evaluating, selecting, and maximizing hardware. So for today's lesson, I've chosen a quote by Jean-Paul Sartre, which says "We are our choices." by the end of the lesson today, you will be able to use one of the provided tools to do an environmental scan of the available hardware within teaching environments for a blended learning approach.

So first, let's go ahead and talk about Project Red planning tools. This is a wonderful tool for you to use when you are planning or creating your project plan for the hardware that you're going to implement in your classroom. So the first thing you're going to want to do when using this planning tool is evaluating. Prior to selecting any device or solution, it is extremely important that a needs assessment be conducted. This will help to address a number of elements. In it, you're going to consider the learning objectives, the alignment to the strategic plan, the short term and long term funding sources available, and ideally, anticipate any changes that may occur over time, in terms of educational resources, devices or infrastructure, broadband, student and staff population, all of those elements. That evaluation should include focusing in on the four Cs, from the perspective of the four Cs, which really comes from the P21 framework, looking at communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving, as well as creativity.

It's also important that evaluation include what it would take, in terms of infrastructure, broadband devices, training, software necessary to reach the strategic goals of a one to one or some other sort of predetermined ratio of devices to students. So you want to make sure you do that full evaluation prior to selecting any device solution.

The next element then is selecting that device. When selecting devices, it is necessary to determine the learning objectives first. You want to make sure that the divine will never force the learning objective, but should support and in many ways, even extend from those objectives.

You also want to make sure that consideration is given to moving to the cloud and a standardized device and software. So what this means is that as you're looking at that device, how are you going to have students having similar experiences? You want to make sure you ensure that students get those similar experiences and opportunities, and also the parents understand where and how to find information and communication. This also will ideally help administrators with that idea of being equitable and also predicting the budgeting that comes along when we're introducing a blended learning environment.

Finally, you want to focus in on maximizing. After evaluating what's needed, consider what's already available. You want to make sure that there aren't any devices or funding sources that are currently being used for other purposes, that you could then repurpose. If those are already there, use those first. So for example, could more devices be provided for students with the transition of a free or low cost open source learning management system from the current, expensive system in place, without a loss of functionality? Can I go from 1 system to another system without losing the availability?

For example, something that's been done in this school that I work at is, we're moving away from using Microsoft Office packages, and moving more in to Google Docs. This is something that actually enhances the functionality of student work, but also is open source and low cost and really helps to address that issue of how much space am I taking up on a specific device.

Also, you want to know, is the district possible to transition to a lower cost device solution, such as maybe a Chromebook, that will then allow the increase in the ratio of devices to students? Finally, will the transition to such a solution realize other savings? Perhaps it's not just the cost of the actual hardware that is factored in. But also, in getting a specific type of hardware, you can eliminate other costs elsewhere in the budget.

Now, it's really important that we know that all plans, the entire goal of this is that plans should lead to a sustainable solution. As teachers and district employees, we need to be thinking about the long term implications for updating our hardware systems. And when getting those new hardware, what are the implications for updates that are going to need to happen later on with that hardware, with the software, with the infrastructure, with the educational resources and training, and broadband. We cannot forget that all of those elements play in when we look at a blended classroom.

This is a wonderful website for you to go to to look at Project Red's materials and resources. Once you go to this website, you will find this bit of information. What we have here is the Red design model project plan. And you can see that it lists out various elements and procedures, sort of a model idea of how we might work through in our district, all of the elements that need to be included.

So I can go down the pages here and show you. They show you not only the task name and what should happen next, but also the duration of the task. And it lays out a possible calendar for you, so that you can follow through and focus in on what all can happen to help the implementation of this new hardware function for you and your district.

Now, let's go ahead and focus in on that needs assessment we talked about earlier. Here are the elements that we need to look at and the steps to go through for a needs assessment. First of all, you want to ask, what is the current level of broadband within my school? The next question we want to ask is, is this level sufficient to our approach to a blended learning environment? The next question to ask yourself before you help determine which element you're going to select is, are we going to a one-to-one ratio, or is my blended learning environment going to look a little more like a BYOD, bring your own device?

I want to say, then, if we move to a one-to-one or some other student device ratio, what makes the most sense for our students? And then finally, what are the pros and cons of tablet solutions and Chromebook solutions? Now it's really important to know that since these are two of the most common solutions selected by districts across the country. That's why I focused on them. But there are many other options that you could go with. These are just the most popular right now, because of cost and because of the ability to get them into the hands of all of our students.

When we look at each of these questions in our needs assessment, we want to make sure we're considering that question from four different perspectives-- the communication, the collaboration, the critical thinking, and then the creativity that we want to see in our classroom. And based on all the information we get when we answer those questions, we then ask, what do I need to change in order to get myself to the level that I want my classroom to be at?

Finally, we're going to go ahead and look at a cost comparison. Another wonderful tool from Project Red is their cost comparison chart and spreadsheet for planning. When you go to the website that you see listed here, you are going to be able to find a wonderful PDF spreadsheet that shows various cost comparisons, based on a number of different elements that could be involved in your choosing which device is best for you. So let's see what that looks like.

This is what their cost comparison spreadsheet looks like. As you can see, we're looking both at a traditional classroom, and then the option of a one-to-one. As you'll notice, it is going to be more expensive to go from three-to-one to one-to-one. That should not be a surprise.

Now that we've reached the end of the lesson, you are able to use one of those provided tools that we discussed to do an environmental scan of the available hardware within teaching environments for a blended learning approach. Now I would like to take just a moment for reflection. As you think back on what we have just learned today, what do you think would be the most difficult part, as you begin evaluating, selecting, and choosing the hardware that would be used within your teaching environment? Feel free to pause the video for just a moment to reflect on your answer to this question.

Now, to dive a little deeper and learn how to apply this information, be sure that you check out the additional resources section associated with this video. This is where you'll find the links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material.

Notes on "Evaluating, Selecting, and Maximizing Hardware in a Blended Learning Environment"

(00:00-00:13) Intro

(00:14-00:24) Objectives

(00:25-06:32) Project Red Planning Tool

(06:33-08:28) Needs Assessment

(08:29-09:19) Project Red Cost Comparison

(09:20-09:34) Review

(09:35-10:20) Reflection

Additional Resources

5 Examples of Blended Learning Success 

This article from Project Red includes examples of successful blended learning in schools across the country. In addition, the article connects blended learning with competency based education as defined by the Clayton Christensen Institute.
Full article here: