Schools across the nation are embarking on a digital transition, implementing technology solutions that are changing the way teachers teach and students learn. Every day, my team works closely with schools in the U.S. to identify, implement, and execute the best technology solutions which is no easy task.
Fresno Unified School District, the fourth largest district in the state of California with 72,000 students, is in the middle of rolling out 15,000 Asus Transformer T100 Windows 8.1 devices to 3rd-8th and 11th graders. Like all school districts in California, Fresno USD is preparing to take the Common Core field test this spring. In doing so, the district needed to select the appropriate platform and device to meet Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s requirements for testing and to move forward with the district’s 1:1 vision that includes Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).
With Common Core testing fast approaching, the district received $7M in state funding for devices that meet the specific hardware and software requirements. A longtime partner to Fresno USD, we worked with the district’s chief technology officer, Kurt Madden, and his team to explore different Windows 8.1 solutions. Recently Kurt told us, “we looked at the Chromebook, Android tablets, and the iPad, but ultimately, due to security, management, cost, and Common Core requirements, we felt a Windows 8.1 device would better meet our needs across the board.”
The district currently runs its back-end system on Windows and provides all District students with Office 365 Education, including the Student Advantage program which provides up to five copies of OfficePro per student. So, the integration value of the Microsoft investment will pay long term dividends for Fresno students and their families. “We manage all devices on our domain with Microsoft’s System Center Configuration Manager. If we went with something like Chromebooks, we could have spent less on the device itself, but would have accrued additional costs and fees for device management that would end up costing us about the same, if not more, than our choice to go with Windows 8.1 devices,” said Madden.
Adding to the management and cost considerations, a growing concern in schools across the country is privacy and security. “Student safety is our utmost priority and that includes protecting student data. Microsoft has a long history of making security a top priority as well. We have every confidence that Microsoft has extended that culture of security to Office 365 Education and will protect student data and keep us compliant with FERPA and COPPA,” said Madden.
The Windows 8.1 Asus Transformer T100 is a powerful technology tool that offers students the flexibility of a tablet or a laptop with a detachable keyboard, touch capabilities, and the ability for digital inking. By combining the device with the best-in-class Office 365 education productivity suite, Fresno USD students are gaining valuable communication, collaboration, and Microsoft Office experience skills that according to a recent IDC study, will help them secure a high-growth/high-wage job in the future. “After exploring our options, we concluded Microsoft provides a true enterprise environment which makes sense for a district as large as ours,” said Madden. “There is an excitement on our technology side as we put these pieces together, and better yet, there is a buzz among our teachers and students for what is to come with new devices that will only serve to extend and expand their learning opportunities.”