The jewel in Deer Park School District’s instructional technology crown is its one-to-one computing initiative, which began in 2010 when the district first equipped its fifth graders with Apple MacBooks®. Since then, every fifth grade student at John F. Kennedy Intermediate School receives a new MacBook®, which will “follow” them to Robert Frost Middle School and eventually to Deer Park High School.
The district has 1,050 MacBooks® and adds approximatley 350 each year. The entire district’s fifth, sixth and seventh graders now have MacBooks® and in five years, all students in fifth through twelfth grades will have their own laptop. “Technology is speeding forward, and we need to prepare students with twentyfirst century skills,” explained Susan Bonner, principal at John F. Kennedy Intermediate School. “We don’t want there to be a gap between what they use at home and what they use in the classroom.”
At the beginning of the laptop program, a single technician from Custom Computer Specialists (Custom) worked onsite, providing the district with general IT support. “We realized that as the MacBook® program matured, we would have to be more efficient in servicing and maintaining them,” said Andrew Choi, the district’s administrator for instructional technology. “Because we were pleased with the level of resources that Custom provided during this time, we thought they could help us streamline some aspects of the one-to-one computing initiative,” said Choi.
Additional technicians from Custom were brought in to handle MacBook® pre-processing, including laptop imaging. During the summer break, the district develops laptop images based on input from teachers in grades that will be receiving MacBooks® the following year. “For each grade level, it takes three days to image the MacBooks—a pretty aggressive schedule given staff count and the number of laptops,” said Choi. “Bringing Custom in has made the process of imaging a thousand-plus laptops more efficient in terms of speed and cost. We’re able to save district funds that were being put aside for other uses,” he said. “As the number of MacBooks increases each year, we’ll continue to recognize even more time and budget savings.” Custom also assists the district with asset tagging. All of the district’s MacBooks are given an asset tag and barcode that contain information about the laptop itself and the student, image and grade level assigned to it. The tag and barcode are scanned at the beginning and end of the school year and the information and laptop status are stored in the district’s student information system (SIS). The tags can also be used to identify the owner of a “lost-and-found” asset.
“We would not be able to handle all the different aspects of the one-to-one computing initiative, along with other technology tasks, without Custom’s assistance and the knowledge and talents that their techs bring to the table,” said Choi. “Custom is very solutions-oriented. I have never heard them say, ‘no, this can’t be done.’”
To supplement their three in-district technicians, Deer Park relies on Custom Computer Specialists (Custom), a Long Island-based technology provider that specializes in large-scale technology implementations, comprehensive support programs and IT support and solutions. “Last year, we had one Custom tech working with us,” said Choi. “We were impressed, not just by his extensive experience dealing with both PC and Mac issues, but also that he had access to all of Custom’s knowledge base at his fingertips.”
As the school entered its third year of deploying MacBooks, Choi wanted more access to Apple and Mac support. He decided to bring additional staff from Custom on board, because Custom is an authorized Apple repair center and their staff is fully trained and certified in Apple technologies. Now, three technicians from Custom work on-site to complement the district’s existing technology specialists. In addition to providing general PC and Mac support, Custom technicians assist the district with asset tagging, including checking MacBooks in and out to students at the beginning and end of every school year and imaging both student and teacher MacBooks between school years.
Custom also staffs an on-site help desk that they have set up at the district to handle maintenance and repair, troubleshooting and resolving MacBook hardware, connection issues and other laptop access problems. This allows Custom to quickly respond to any issues that may arise. For example, when the district discovered their original vendor was unable to solve a web filtering problem, Custom’s on site staff quickly stepped in and evaluated and deployed another web filter that addressed the issue.
”For each grade level, it takes three days to image the MacBooks—a pretty aggressive schedule given staff count and the number of laptops,” said Choi. “Bringing Custom in has made the process of imaging a thousand-plus laptops more efficient in terms of speed and cost. We’re able to save district funds that were being putting aside for other uses,” he said. “As the number of MacBooks increases each year, we’ll continue to recognize even more time and budget savings.”
“Working with Custom means that we have access to more diverse IT experience. We aren’t limited by the experience of the individuals,” he added. “If we’re hung up on a problem and don’t have the in-house knowledge to solve it, all we have to do is call Custom and tap into their knowledge base.”