Funding for Technology
When a bond levy was passed in 2012, funding was allocated for technology improvements at Worthington Schools. The district created a team of students, teachers, administrators and community members to develop the district’s technology plan. The tech plan in place included replacing Worthington’s outdated Microsoft desktops. The team was ready and excited to exploring an option to move to more affordable Chromebooks.
Purchasing Chromebooks would require Worthington to address the Internet connectivity issue head-on for students who didn’t have it at home.
Determining the Need
Worthington Schools, located in the northwestern suburb of Columbus, Ohio, educates approximately 10,000 students, and 2,500 of those students are enrolled in the free and reduced cost meal program.
Keith Schlarb, CTO of Worthington Schools, knew that some unknown percentage of those 2,500 students didn’t have Internet at home, but he wanted to make sure they had an accurate number of those who needed the connectivity before leading the charge.
“We knew there would be many students, who wanted a computer, but we wanted to first address those who needed them – basically looking at it as a needs vs. want situation,” Keith said.
The district asked parents to respond to a questionnaire about their at-home broadband access as part of updating their student information in the fall. The findings: 500 families needed Internet access.
Chromebooks: An Affordable Solution
The Chromebooks purchased allowed the district to expand the number of devices available for instructional use throughout the school day. Each grade level K-6 has a minimum of 30 Chromebooks, while 7-12 have similar quantities available.
The low-cost Chromebooks made providing connectivity a reality for these students. The ease and simplicity of the Chromebooks set the tone for Worthington. With little instructional time needed for either the teachers or the students, migrating to Chromebooks made it an extremely simple to roll out the plan.
Knowing what was on the horizon, a year before their planned Chromebook rollout, Worthington began a pilot program with Kajeet to provide filtered Internet access using the Kajeet SmartSpot®—a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. The district knew it needed to address the connectivity issue for those students in the district that fell into the Homework Gap.
“Connectivity at home is an issue we have been monitoring for several years, however we needed to find a good solution within our budget to close the gap,” said Keith. “Since Kajeet expanded its service onto another carrier network, which is already a district vendor, and their pricing options are affordable, it made sense for us to partner with Kajeet.”
Wanting to ensure every student had access to the technology and connectivity that was required for schoolwork, the libraries at all 17 schools with Chromebooks have laptops available for students to check out.
But with only 500 students needing connectivity, Worthington didn’t need their 3,000 purchased Chromebooks to have embedded Wi-Fi on the device, only the 500 intended to provide connectivity to the students in need. Embedding mobile Internet within the Chromebook allows a student to connect to the Internet, via a wireless network, anytime, anywhere.
Having already tested the Kajeet solution, Keith brought an idea to the Kajeet operations team: Could Kajeet embed Education Broadband™ solution onto a Chromebook?
Embedding Education Broadband into the Chromebook
As it turned out, Kajeet was able to make this a reality for Keith’s team. Working together with the Verizon Wireless team, 500 Chromebooks with embedded Kajeet Education Broadband became available to those students who needed them.
Using the Kajeet Managed plan, very little administrative work was required on Worthington’s end. Students borrowed the Chromebooks from the school libraries and everyday they received 500MBs of data. Because it was being used for educational purposes only that amount of data was enough for the student to get to online resources, complete homework, conduct research and connect with peers and teachers. Kajeet handled all the data management and unless there was an issue with a device continually hitting its data cap each day, then Keith and his team were free to take care of their many other job duties. “We have paid for the data and it’s there for the students to use. I just don’t worry about it.”
When students need a computer, they come to their school library and fill out an application to check out a device. Lori Poleway, the Library Media Specialist at Thomas Worthington High School, says students are very excited to have this available to them and the 115 Chromebooks are always checked out with a waiting list.
Based on survey data, the district feels it has closed its Homework Gap. Survey data provided them with scope of their gap, devices are continually checked out and homework is being completed.
“The Chromebooks are in the hands of kids who don’t have computers, and we are breaking down the barrier and putting kids on an even playing field,” said Keith.
The program is only in its second year, but the district is happy with what they are seeing already. After the first semester, Lori said 75 percent of the students have a 2.0 GPA or higher. “Some of these students would likely have maintained a reasonable GPA, but the Chromebook loaner has made it easier for them to do so.”
Going forward, Worthington says it will take a better look at the number of students in need because the district wants to ensure that every student who needs a Chromebook is able to take one home.
More Than Just Internet™
Keith and Worthington partnered with Kajeet in – measuring need, designing a custom solution, and monitoring the efficacy of that solution. Kajeet is the only wireless service provider in America dedicated solely to providing safe, filtered mobile broadband for students outside the classroom. Education Broadband is currently being used in more than 160 districts and schools around the country.