Saving Time, Enhancing Learning
The administrators at Bellevue School District in Washington have set lofty goals for the school district's senior class. They expect that by the time students have completed their education, they will have taken five different advanced placement (AP) courses. Usually reserved for the top college-bound students across the country, Bellevue is making AP-level courses a standard achievement for its entire student body. With that final ambitious goal in mind, school district administrators saw an opportunity to begin educating students from their first day in class.
"If we want high school seniors to be taking AP calculus, we need to ramp up their mathematics education as early as kindergarten," explains Jack McLeod, director of facilities and information technology at Bellevue School District. "That is quite a challenge for our students and teachers. To assist them, we make investments in technology to improve their educational experience."
Bellevue identified ways to use technology to enhance both the learning experience for students and to improve the school district's ability to communicate with teachers.
"The key to achieving our goal is establishing educational standards that can be implemented district-wide," says McLeod. "But we needed a way of implementing those standards."
Bellevue turns to Dell to implement its vision Six years ago, McLeod believes Bellevue started on the road to achieving its goals by switching to an all-Dell platform. "Back then, we made a decision to consolidate on Dell because we felt the company was on the cusp of creating a unique teaching environment," says McLeod. "And since then-by offering us innovative teaching tools-Dell has continued to prove to me what a good decision that was."
Bellevue initiated its plan by outfitting every credentialed teacher in the school district with a Dell Latitude D620 notebook featuring an Intel® Core™2 Duo processor and running Microsoft® Windows® XP. "The Latitude notebooks have been the perfect platform for our teachers," says McLeod. "The notebooks are mobile and durable. We've included port replicators in each deployment to make it easier to connect the notebooks to the additional equipment in each classroom."
The Dell Intelligent Classroom initiative was developed to integrate multiple products together to provide a seamless and powerful teaching tool. "The notebooks are just the first part of the equation," explains McLeod. "In addition, we have interactive whiteboards integrated with Dell projectors, DVDs, and VCRs, as well as sound amplification systems."
The integration of the Latitude notebooks with Dell projectors and SMART Technologies SMART Board interactive whiteboards has given teachers like Lee Grams additional educational tools. "I can create math problems at home and call them up on the electronic whiteboard connected to my notebook in class," comments Grams. "Students can drag and drop shapes and manipulate them to see if they will fit in a preconfigured space. This kind of hands-on interaction enriches the entire learning experience." Web sites hosted on Dell servers help the school district communicate with teachers
While these advanced teaching tools are helping students and teachers in class, Dell servers are also helping the school district communicate with teachers. "We have an intranet that houses lesson plans and resources for our all our teachers from kindergarten through high school," states McLeod. "Our teachers can access this information from home using a virtual private network. They can download assessments and course schedules. There are links to additional material like video and audio clips. This allows us to make sure all our students across the district are getting the same instruction."
Bellevue School District uses Dell PowerEdge 2850 servers with Intel Xeon® processors running Microsoft Windows Server® 2003 to host its intranet. "Initially, when we standardized on Dell, it was about the desktop and notebook side of things, but over time we've grown to appreciate the dependability and functionality of our Dell servers," says McLeod. "The Dell PowerEdge 2850 that hosts our Web sites is no exception. The high availability and clustering ability of these servers is very important to the stability and uptime of our Web sites." For Bellevue, the centralized curricula repository that the intranet enables makes sure that student education is always at the leading edge. "Thanks to the Web sites, the curricula are dynamic," explains McLeod. "We are not handing out three-ring binders full of guidelines that are obsolete after a month. We are giving our teachers a living, breathing resource that helps them keep student education on track, but also gives them enough additional resources to make each lesson unique."
The power of Dell desktops and notebooks rounds out the Intelligent Classroom Throughout the Bellevue School District there is at least one Dell OptiPlex 745 desktop with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor in each classroom-sometimes as many as five-giving students hands-on access to online resources. Each desktop is equipped with a Dell flat-screen LCD display. "The OptiPlex desktop family comes in many different form factors, which makes it easy for us to fit them into a variety of locations," says McLeod. "But, though they come in different form factors, the components are standardized, so we know we are getting the same capabilities and performance regardless of the case size or style."
In addition to OptiPlex desktops, Bellevue also has Latitude D620 notebooks on mobile carts that securely house up to 15 notebooks to create mobile computer labs. "We have roughly 100 of these carts throughout the school district," states McLeod. "Two carts provide enough computers for each student in a class. We get these carts from Dell, and they have been bulletproof. The notebooks are secure. There are battery backups on the cart. It really is a computer lab on wheels. That saves us significant classroom space."
The wireless capabilities of the Dell Latitude notebooks enable entire classrooms of students to access the same Intelligent Classroom resources as the teachers. "Our schools all have wireless network access," McLeod explains. "So when we use these mobile computer labs, students can get on our network to print materials, access online resources, and even display work via the Dell projectors in each classroom."
Dell servers and storage give Bellevue a solid infrastructure to build upon With over 200 Dell servers in use, it is safe to say that the Dell PowerEdge helps run the school district. "The flexibility of these servers makes them suitable for whatever applications we need to run. And their reliability and standardization means they are easy to manage and maintain."
Bellevue was able to quickly realize a return on investment from its SAN, partly due to the quick and effective assessment and installation provided by Dell Services. "Dell Services provides excellent services and support," says McLeod. "And they have done so from the first day we consolidated on Dell products six years ago." Bellevue has trimmed IT overhead and saved resources with Dell Custom Factory Integration Services. "Once we worked out exactly what image we wanted on our desktops and notebooks, we started using Dell Custom Factory Integration Services to pre-image them," explains McLeod. "That really saves my IT team time. Also, it enables us to get new teachers up and running faster, and we definitely do not dread doing an equipment refresh every four years."
Student achievement has increased across the board at Bellevue School District Despite the greater demand its program puts on students, Bellevue has seen student achievement increase in the last six years thanks to integrated learning initiatives. "Our Intelligent Classroom and our Dell desktops and notebooks really serve as learning tools for students," McLeod says. "Elementary school scores are currently 23 points above the state average. Middle school test scores have risen 30 points across the board. And on-time graduation rates have risen and dropout rates have gone down in our high schools." And as far as the school district's goal of having every senior take five AP courses, Bellevue is in the top one percent in the nation in terms of student participation in advanced-level courses. "In my opinion, students can really benefit from the automation of the learning process made possible by the integration of Dell desktops, notebooks, and back-end systems," says McLeod. "For instance, students who are sick can get assignments e-mailed to them at home. These tools really help bridge any potential learning gaps." By using Dell products, the school district is also able to provide more resources for teachers while enforcing standards that ensure the same quality education is available to every student. "Our teachers just keep discovering new ways that this technology can help our students," comments McLeod. "And as a systems administrator, it feels great to be able to have that kind of influence all the way down to the individual student."