Wireless Writing Program Changes – 2014-2015

Due to funding restraints and a required Provincial Savings Plan, our Wireless Writing Program will be modified and adjusted to a different and less expensive model.

Wireless Writing has met its educational goals and has been a very successful program for the last ten years thanks to the work of our teachers and staff. For this reason we are looking to continue the program, but it will need to change to meet the budgetary challenges.

The program in the past has cost around $406,000 per year inclusive of costs, staffing, pro-d and funding earned from rental charges or warranty repairs.

In order to continue with a program we will be changing the device and reducing the program to Grade 6 classrooms and using a different device. The new device will likely be an iOS iPad mini. We plan for this program to be supported for 3 years (2014-2015, 2015-2016, 2016-2017). More will come about this in future months including inservice training for Grade 6 teachers.

Grade 6 will be the target audience for the revised program because it is important that writing skills be developed before students make the transition to middle schools.

For the 2014-2015 school year we will continue to provide our current macbooks (into their fifth year) in a dedicated cart model for the Grade 7 classrooms. Learn60 apps will be an important piece to support diverse devices in the future.

This change will have downstream ramifications for other classrooms that have used our off lease WWP computers. There will be fewer available to replace our 9 year old macbooks which essentially will reduce the number of available devices for extra carts we have in schools.


If you have any public thoughts or comments please add them in a comment below. Your thoughts help to guide our practice and I appreciate your time in sharing them. If you’d like to share in a non-public way please feel free to email me as always. – Jarrod

Wireless Writing Program – eventual hardware changes

Friday I received our regular Apple education pricelist. Nothing unusual about that however it was announced that the white macbook which we are currently using has been discontinued. Parts will likely be available without issue for the rest of our cycle (we’re at 1.5 of 4 years) however for our expected refresh we will need to make decisions about hardware. Here are some of my musings.

PC or Mac

Mac. I have no interest in going to PC. We have looked extensively at this in the past and for a variety of reasons from hardware, software, security, educational support, institutional support, warranty certification, etc.,  Apple is the way to go in my opinion.

The Hardware choice

Looking at Apple’s selection of hardware and considering costs. Two model options are worth considering, the iPad and the Air. The macbook pro is on the outside for costs unfortunately.

The Air has two models for education that are similar costs as the unibody white macbooks for us. The 11″ and 13″. Here are some thoughts on the Air

  • lighter, slimmer than current models. Some question about how well it stands up physically compared to current unibody model
  • staff and teachers familiar with it as it is still a laptop
  • no DVD drive, fewer USB ports, new video dongle needed
  • some current software won’t run on its OS X Lion operating system (ie Word X)
  • most of the software will still run in Lion that we are aware
  • no or very few replaceable parts
  • pretty similar to how we’ve done things in the past as far as I can see

The Ipad represents a significant change. They would have a significantly lower cost than the Air provided they have the same lifespan. iPads and their operating system are meant to be used as individual devices, accounts will take some detailed thinking. We’ve had sessions with apple at an educational and technological level to discuss this. Here are some thoughts on how things will end up changing if iPads were the route

  • None of our software can be ported to iOS for iPad, everything will be new and different!
  • iOS devices don’t have an accessible filesystem, it is stored via the app (application on the ipad)
  • Different sharing of those files either by online tools like dropbox, or email, or webdav folders at school. Represents a rethink of how things get shared to teachers and students.
  • Great opportunity for more personalized management to the classroom level, customization by teachers for their classroom. A generic “image” of an ipad can be built but then teacher can adapt it relatively easily using the carts and synching via a laptop that would be provided
  • Need a synching cart and laptop for a class set
  • logistical challenge for licensing. Easy (as in we know how to do this well) with regular laptops to license and deploy software. Brand new ball game for iOS.
  • Keyboarding is quite different
  • lower cost for applications could mean that families could opt to provide their own device that the student would keep. With laptops the individual software costs were considerable if parents wanted to provide their own rather than use a district supplied device. At low cost we may even be able to provide that app.
  • no replaceable parts
  • new video dongle or apple tv and hdmi projector needed (cool options with apple tv)
  • won’t work with smartboards, however a laptop would be assigned to the class as part of a class set of ipads so they could continue to be used. They can also be setup with the classroom desktops we use.
  • brand new way of working and thinking

Both of these devices have little in terms of serviceable parts for our technicians. This is something we saw on the horizon and have discussed in the past. I have no worry about that as staff will still have plenty of work with our myriad of servers, desktops, networking etc. Some time will be freed up and be replaced with more knowledge work. I expect this would be helping people use devices rather than fixing them.


Looking back at our start and history with WWP we’ve done some amazing things. We’re one of the longest running 1:1 programs in North America. When we started the question was frequently asked “Why are you giving a $2000 laptop to a 12 year old!?!” Now the question is frequently asked, “can’t I just bring my own device to school?”. Not everyone for certain asking that question, but we need to strongly consider encouraging BYOD, using genres of software rather than only “Fandangle V3.25.67345.345”,  and continuing to provide for everyone who may not have or may not want to bring their own device.

What’s Next?

The challenges are opportunities for us to look at and consider how we do things in the program. While technology should not be the driving force in education, it can be the impetuous to change from what we have always been doing because we’ve always done it that way to something new. We’ve gotten quite comfortable using similar software tools that we have used for the last 9 years in WWP. Now we’re faced with a new type of screw that we don’t have a screwdriver for.

Since we are in year 1.5 of 4 you’d think we’d have some time to think about this? The reality is we expect a bulge to move into grade 6/7 next year that will require some more devices to be purchased. So which to go with?

Given that the Air represents something similar and many questions can be answered on paper, we’ll be looking to pilot at one to two classrooms with iPads this fall. Along with the pilot I’ll be using the SECTIONS model from Bates & Poole to help make the decision http://www.elearning.ubc.ca/toolkit/sections-model/ for the long term regarding hardware.

If you are a teacher in grade 6 or grade 7 and would be interested in being one of the pilot classrooms, please speak with your administrator. I’ve asked the administrators to express interest based on conversations with their teachers.

As always, public comments are welcome and will help us guide our practice. Private comments via email are welcome too!

Six Word Story – Instructional Strategy

I’ve seen this someplace and was re-inspired by twitter this morning as I noticed the #sixwordstory hashtag. I created a quick powerpoint presentation about them and have shared on SlideShare. File and embedded are below.

Six Word Story

Please comment with some more strategies for the use of Six Word Stories

Old laptops from WWP

A question arose about the laptops replaced by the new lease in our 1:1 program. We did lease 900 new laptops which will go into the hands of grade 6 and 7 students and their teachers. The 4yr old macbooks they replaced were moved into the carts in grade 8 and the middle schools to replace the G4 laptops. Grade 8 (and nine at the middle schools) were assigned 1 year old laptops wherever possible which we obtained due to a numbers bulge in the WWP.

The G4 laptops which are onto their sixth year will be decommissioned. This will likely mean that we sell them (more info to come), without any software on them as we need to maintain our licenses for the program. There will also be no guarantees on decommissioned assets. We’re planning on getting rid of these as they are on the vintage/obsolete list for Apple which means parts for repair aren’t available or won’t be available shortly.

We still have several more 4yr old macbooks left over and plan to replace a few labs on the replacement cycle. Here were the suggestions we received for the extra computers. Feel free to comment and give some more.

  • Lab replacement on the cycle (high probability)
  • 10% of grade 8 cart laptops kept for spare parts since they are no longer on warranty (high probability)
  • replace library search terminals in schools
  • literacy centres in primary
  • Have some that teachers outside the WWP could use instead of a teacher desktop
  • mobile learning lab for BO
  • Signout for teachers doing their masters
  • Add/replace computers to Evergreen program at NPSS
  • laptops for grade 5s in a 5/6 split

We will consider the options and move as quickly as possible according to available staffing. Options will be considered with the facts that no extra money or staffing are allocated to these “extra” laptops.

If you have any further suggestions please feel free to comment on this post. Please note comments are public and will be published.

Teacher Laptops to be returned this year (to be swapped)

All teachers will be required to return their laptops this year. We need to consider how this is going to be done and I’ll provide some options, but would like you to comment on the post (remember it is public) if you have a preference or other suggestion…

Option 1

All Teachers will be required to hand in their WWP laptops at the end of June to their administrators. If a special circumstance exists please email jbell@prn.bc.ca (need it for a wedding slideshow etc) but arrangements must be made to hand it in during the summer. We will then transfer data, reimage and provide a new (possibly new to you) laptop to you at a later date arranged with the staff and yourself.

Option 2

All Teachers will be required to hand in their WWP laptops by appointment during the summer before August 15th at the facilities shop. We will then transfer data, reimage and provide a new (possibly new to you) laptop to you at a later date arranged with the staff and yourself.

Option 3

No I want to keep my old 4 year old laptop and I don’t want a brand new or one year old laptop! – No, not really an option, we want them all back

Option 4: Mix of Option 1 and 2

Leave your laptop with your AO June 30 or arrange with TS to drop it off on a certain day.

Option X?

Something else? Please give your thoughts in the comments to share.

Back up your Data

We also advise teachers to back up their data to the network or external drive. Personally purchased movies, pictures, music should be backed up by the teacher externally (ie. External Hard drive). NB: We won’t be held responsible for any purchases on your laptop or data that you haven’t backed up!

Who does this apply to?

Anyone with a WWP owned computer – that means AO’s, grade 6/7/8 teachers, teachers assigned a spare computer,  8-10 Teachers at Bert Bowes and Dr. Kearney as well are included in this.

Will I get a laptop back?

Grade 6/7 teachers will be provided with a new laptop

Grade 8 teachers will be provided with the one to two year old laptops if at all possible, (grade 9 teachers at BB and DK as well)

Grade 10 teachers moving to NPSS will not receive a laptop.

WWP Announcement: Middle Schools

Grade 7 classes at the middle schools will be part of the 1:1 Wireless Writing Program. The core grade 7 teacher will be expected to be using the laptops as per the usual WWP expectations. Professional development will be provided in a similar fashion for new and veteran teachers to the WWP.

Possible Changes to note:

* Roll out may happen a little later than normal (mid-October) to accommodate the transition in the first year.
* It will also be decided at a later time whether students will be able to take the laptops home or at what time in the year they will be able to take the laptops home.

WWP 2009 Roll-Out Feedback

With WWP Roll-out nearing an end I would ask for your constructive feedback on the process. It is apparent to me that while we do better at some things, other things require attention that may not have in previous years. There were a number of laptops that were not correctly repaired through the summer months this year. I instructed staff part way through roll out to go back and check and pull laptops. This has resulted in incomplete carts and I regret any inconvenience but it was unfortunately necessary this year. We have implemented an internal quality control process (QC) to hopefully avoid as many of these as possible.

Two other changes this year involved the contracts (which were in the laptops, and a PDF copy sent to schools), and how the adapters were sent on request after payments were received. I have received some feedback on these but would love to hear some more of your constructive feedback.

TS staff will be looking at this in a November staff meeting and will further refine our process.

Your constructive feedback is appreciated, please use the comments feature to add it!


Scratch is an object oriented programming language that is built specifically for students to learn how to do some programming. It can be used to create screen by screen stories and you can choose to incorporate simple programming for students that want to extend their learning into the computer science realm.

A masters project exists at http://www.elementary.prn.bc.ca:16080/course/view.php?id=64 which is an introduction to scratch for students and teachers.

WWP Roll-Out

We’ve received feedback on the WWP carts and the roll out. We will look at our process and seek some areas of improvement. Some things that are clear that need some thought about

  • matching number of adapters to computers
  • adapters are plugged in the back of the cart
  • filters on fans and back of cart are vacuumed
  • 1 computer per shelf
  • shelves are set up
  • computers are in working condition and clean when put into carts
  • computers have current image (several were missed)

As a staff we need to look at the process of the roll out. Should it be one person or should we assign several carts to each one of us (including myself?)? Should we label our carts with a sign that says the following things have been complete (checklist)? Should we add some care instructions to the carts for teachers? What about a checklist for new teachers (would a new teacher like to create one???)

Your constructive feedback is appreciated!

WWP Pictures

I’m working on a new video as well as slideshows for the WWP… if you have any great shots of your class working with the laptops, or the technology services staff working with the laptops/kids/staff I would love to have a copy, please email me (jbell)… Thanks!

2011-2012 WWP Image

It’s time again for image feedback for the WWP. Please add your suggestions below for software or functionality and we will add in anything we can. A major area of focus this year will be on FOSS (Free Open Source Software) such as Open Office, the Tux suite of learning programs, and updates to programs (Notebook 10.7) etc.