Glen Rose Independent School District (GRISD) is committed to instilling ingenuity, creativity and critical thinking skills in their 1,800 students. The district has four campuses located in Somervell County, Texas. The low student-teacher ratio (12.7 to 1) is evidence of GRISD’s determination to provide their students with personalized education.
Ten years ago, GRISD had a pretty traditional set up. The computer labs ran Windows 98 and Windows XP, and nothing was wireless. At that time, GRISD used bond money to finance their technology. The bulk of spending went towards keeping switches and computers updated. New PC’s, phone systems, and networking gear occupied a small portion of spending.
The IT department wanted a better way to finance the technology and more effectively spend their stipend. They also wanted to maximize the use of their technology investments. Case and point, their $1,200 4GB ram desktops were only used once a week. How could they better integrate technology into education within a yearly budget? Ultimately, GRISD’s IT department was on the cusp of a strategic revolution.
The vision; a network that lifts, instead of limits, educational possibilities. Before their digital transformation, IT managers could only update operating systems during the summer to avoid interrupting classwork. As a result, half of the staff spent their time constantly patching the OS.
Complicating the situation, the network was not capable of supporting newer methods. For example, GRISD had their sights set on a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program. They also wanted to be prepared for the eventual integration of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. For this to happen, the entire district would need the latest software, constantly kept updated, without hiring new IT staff.
Beyond the flexibility it affords, the BYOD initiative held grander purposes. First, it promotes problem solving over robotic memorization. Second, it empowers teachers to challenge, interact with, and assess multiple students simultaneously. Third, because each student can choose to use the device given to them or one of their own, their user experience is more familiar and seamless. With 24/7 access to school resources, they can spend less time asking operation questions and more time learning.
Lastly, there is a significant wealth disparity between the students at GRISD. While life for these students can be very different from each other, a 1:1 access to technology standardizes their education. Shared educational experiences also benefit children socially. The IT department recognized BYOD as potentially transformative for GRISD.
The process began with a proof of concept on wireless systems conducted by Doug McClure, the Director of Technology. He wanted more bandwidth to go to user data, rather than keeping packets flowing. Citrix, at that point, had the best client for oddly varied latencies over the internet. This was especially important for the sporadic locations of the classrooms.
For the last step, Dell provided a quote for 2,000 seats to keep the current PC’s and add BYOD capability. Dell recommended premier partner Logical Front, due to their virtualization expertise with Citrix. And with that, they were ready to begin.
After Logical Front’s 90-day install, GRISD became an entirely wireless, 1:1 school district. Today, pre-k to third grade students are provided with iPads. After that, they receive Macs until they graduate high school. All staff members have a Mac, a new Dell all-in-1, and an Apple TV. Now, at any given time the network supports about 5,000 devices.
Perhaps the most telling outcome is the change in how the IT staff spends their time. Before the transformation, four staff members did nothing but maintenance. They updated and imaged 500 traditional service form PCs and updated network equipment. The other 6 staff members spent much of their time answering tickets.
Just a few years later, and with one less staff member, one person handles PC images and one person handles the wireless network with over 6 times more devices. Additionally, most tickets now are for user training as opposed to system errors. As a result, tickets are resolved 5 times faster. With the extra time, the staff is proactively involved in business needs. They update the systems fifteen times during the school year without disruption. All these changes operate with half the annual budget as before.
McClure says of Logical Front, “We got lucky. Having the right partner that knows what they’re doing makes the difference. Without them, we would’ve failed.”
Logical Front was in and out in just 90 days, leaving a complete system.
“There’s very little we have to do to make this thing work everyday. It just works,” says McClure.
In the wake of their success, Glen Rose ISD is partnering with Logical Front in 2017 for even more advancements.
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