Our visit to Cedar Rapids Prairie’s 1:1 Macbook Air deployment

Cedar Rapids Prairie

Entry way of Prairie Point, which houses 7th, 8th, and 9th grade.

As part of our district’s 1:1 study, we recently sent a team to visit the 1:1 roll out at College Community School District, Iowa  (commonly known as Cedar Rapids Prairie).  The following is not the final notes/findings from our entire group, but instead just a summary of my personal notes.

Tell us your story.. how did you become 1:1?

Discussion started three years ago and they’ve been working with the board of education, administrators, and staff since that time.   They conducted school visits like many other districts and formed a K-12 committee to study the issue. 

When did you deploy?  What device and to what grade levels?

Students at grade 9-12 received a Macbook Air starting this past fall (August 2012).

Why did you go 1:1?

We are interested in….  Project Based Learning and Digital Literacy.  

Everyone says that we are preparing students for their future. If that’s true – technology has to be a part of preparing them for their future, right?   Technology helps drive us towards changing our classrooms from allowing students to be passive consumers to active creators. 

What person or group was the driving force?

The conversation and driving force started with the Curriculum Director and Director of Technology.   As part of their conversation, it was discussed that “If we don’t lead this, who will?”  Also, as they discussed their goal of moving towards problem based learning, the discussions with teachers resulted in teachers commenting  “If our students had access to mobile device, we could easily move towards project based learning.”

What hidden issues/aspects did you find?

1.  Logistics of deploying large numbers of computers can be overwhelming. We spent a lot of time planning, but we learned that you can’t plan for everything.

2. Have a way to monitor students.  We heard from some individuals that you’ll need to spend more time on ethical usage and bullying.  They eventually purchased DyKnow for monitoring.  (Note: The high school felt that a monitoring tool was critical. However, discussions with other schools showed that the need was not district-wide).  As to whether monitoring software is really needed may depend on your need, but there is no doubt that you must plan for discussions on appropriate usage with students.

If you could do it again, what would you do differently?

1. Temper your initial expectations.  Make your initial expectations realistic and keep providing support to move forward.  

2. Use a more phased approach.  There’s no doubt that some folks were still stressed by the initial deployment.  However, we also found it interesting that we collected some feedback that it was important to get all the devices out right away to all students – as they felt that its a selling point that builds support with your parents/community.


How are you monitoring your progress? Since digital literacy is a significant part of the overall goals, they have devised common digital literacy assessments that are used with all 4th, 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th graders.  This is the first year of this implementation, so results were not yet available. 

In addition, staff are asked to complete a teacher practice profile, basically a self assessment to help indicate their progress.

Other general notes………….

Digital Literacy Advisory is a district wide committee that oversees training, roll outs, and monitors progress of the initiative.  The group was much larger at the outset, but its still 10 to 15 people currently and they meet about 4 times a year.  Topics that they discuss include: policy review, reviewing student assessment data, discussing professional development.

Digital Literacy Trainers…   Two existing staff members from each building that have been given additional training and expectations to help with the professional development related to digital literacy.  Their role is to go beyond tools training, to extend into integration and transformative change.

Give teachers professional development in the same method you would want them to use it in the classroom

Currently spending approximately $1100 per student for the device/software.  

Would like to have devices for 5th grade thru 12th grade.

Selected the Apple Macbook Air based on light weight, mobile, fast, great battery life.  Also interested in establishing a common set of tools for students, which includes.. iLife Suite, Microsoft Office, and Google Apps.

There is no standardized Learning Managements System or LMS (such as Moodle, Schoology, Edmodo, etc)   They felt that mandating an LMS is restricting to staff and students.  Instead, the requirement is to have your information on-line and available within the district’s staff directory.  Each teacher can decide what websites/tool is best for their online resources. 

Although the project was (and still is) Kindergarten thru 12th grade focused… and, even though some resources have been redistributed to K-8, there is definitely a strong concern that there are not enough resources at the lower grades and that more resources are needed at K-8.

Written by Brian Abeling, @wdmtech

One thought on “Our visit to Cedar Rapids Prairie’s 1:1 Macbook Air deployment

  1. Pingback: What’s the status of the district 1:1 study team? | West Des Moines Community Schools Technology

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