The following is an article I posted on our district website detailing our recent netbook deployment.  North Platte Public Schools in North Platte, Nebraska has roughly 4200 students:  1 high school, 2 middle schools, and 10 elementary schools.

Netbooks: A Cost Effective Digital Learning Solution

by Neil Hokanson, Educational Technology Director North Platte Public Schools

December 21, 2009

During the fall of 2008, the North Platte Public School Technology Department began to evaluate netbooks as a digital device solution. Netbooks are small laptop computers (with 10 inch screens) that have all the computing power of a regular laptop without a DVD or CD drive. The cost is roughly 1/3 that of a regular laptop and much cheaper than a desktop computer. Best of all the devices are portable opening up use anywhere, anytime. Pilot projects were tried in the North Platte High School Science Department and at Adams Middle School to see how the devices held up and met the needs of teachers and students.

In the spring it was determined, from building level technology plans developed by teaching staff and administrators, that a netbook would be a priority solution to increasing the number of digital devices throughout the school district. Plans were made to identify the number of devices that the district could purchase within the parameters of the technology budget, along with identifying stimulus funding as an additional source, to get devices in the hands of students. Three deployments were developed and the technology department has been facilitating that process since the summer months.

The first deployment brought 150 HP mini devices to Madison Middle School in August. Staff and especially students have been using these learning tools in a variety of ways to provide students new methods and experiences in practice, research, notes, developing presentations, creating art, for communication via email, creating brochures, and photo editing. Furthermore, the initial deployment at Madison has enabled the sharing of a wealth of information concerning the deployment, maintenance, use, and overall value of netbook computing that now spans many schools in the district and benefits other schools as netbooks are deployed elsewhere.

After the Madison deployment, and following budget approval in September 2009 and a meeting with the school board technology subcommittee, the second deployment was started and has been recently completed. 300 netbooks were placed in North Platte High School, 150 at Adams Middle School, and 30 each were deployed to Eisenhower, Hall, Lake, and Osgood elementary schools. Older computers from the high school were redeployed to McDonald, Washington, Eisenhower, Hall, and Osgood to provide equity with a thin client classroom solution that was done in most of the other elementary schools last school year. Since the middle of December 2009, including existing digital devices (laptops and desktops), computing has gone from as much as 12:1 to at least 3:1 digital devices per student in many schools.

The third deployment is well under way and will bring 120 netbooks to Jefferson, 90 each to Lincoln, Washington, and Cody, and 60 of the devices will arrive at Buffalo in the coming weeks. By the end of the 2009-2010 school year there will be at least 3:1 computing, with Web 2.0 capable devices in every school in the district. Schools that are at 3:1 will be identified as “next in line” to receive any new devices in the future and a replacement cycle is now in place to keep digital devices updated and renewed over the coming years.

Netbooks have facilitated a cost effective solution for the North Platte Public Schools in getting as many updated digital devices in the hands of students that we can in an equitable, wise, and fiscally responsible manner. Along with an updated network and server backbone over the past couple of years, teachers and students are reaping the rewards of 21st Century digital learning right now in the North Platte Public Schools, and the future will build upon the use of these devices to increase learning, facilitate collaboration, break down walls by opening up connections to others outside the classroom, and by developing a thinking culture that will prepare our students to be successful in an ever changing world and global economy.

NPPSD Netbooks Slideshow!!!

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