Crashing networks, curriculum changes: 1-to-1 program hits CD

During history teacher Bruce Baird’s class, every student uses a laptop to take notes.

Across the quad in sophomore English, students are submitting online quizzes. A hundred feet to the left in the library, the students with that free period are on their laptops too.

And because of all these connections to the Wi-Fi, the network has been crashing.

But this isn’t the only consequence of issuing MacBook Airs to the freshmen and sophomores and MacBook Pros to the academic teachers in September. With the institution of the one-to-one program, not only are teachers and students getting new laptops, but certain teachers are changing their curricula as well.

Curriculum Changes

Jane Bauman, freshman English teacher, is using the MacBook Airs to teach her students how to create documents and use PowerPoint.

Brooke Wells, sophomore English teacher, is integrating the laptops into his already existing Google Docs-based curriculum—a program that allows his students to easily share documents.

“It really helps with editing essays,” Wells said. “It saves me about 30 seconds per paper.”

Bauman’s English classes have also tried using the laptops for in-class essays.

Physics teacher Glenn Mangold said he hasn’t changed his curriculum significantly.

“We’ve used laptops for freshmen since I started working here,” he said. “But now instead of one per table, it’s one per person.”

Students in Mangold’s classes access the Internet for definitions and animations. He also uses them as lab stations, since every issued laptop has the program Logger Pro—a data collection and analysis software.

Glitches in the system

According to Bauman, however, problems arise from using the laptops as a regular classroom tool.

“What if a student doesn’t have enough battery power?” she asked. “The students are also on the honor code not to type up an essay the day before. Enforcing that is tricky, but I’ll cross that bridge when it comes.”

Wells and Bauman have both had problems with the wireless network.

“It took a few minutes to send in a reading quiz (when the Internet went down),” Wells said. “I didn’t get (sophomore) Emma Williams’s quiz until two days later.”

Tom Wroten, director of technology, said the problems are due to the amount of activity on the network.

“We have over 230 wireless clients at any given time,” Wroten said. “You’ve got the laptops, the iPads and personal devices all connecting to the wireless.” Consequently, the Wi-Fi goes down for around 3-4 minutes, twice a day, Wroten said.

Wroten said he increased the bandwidth of the network to counteract this problem, but the Wi-Fi still crashes occasionally.

“It’s a hardware issue,” he said. “Certain pieces of the wireless network need to be upgraded.” Wroten fixed the hardware on Oct. 10.

Student Hackers

But the real problem is that Wroten doesn’t have enough time to deal with all these issues.

And Wroten’s troubles don’t end there. According to an anonymous source, some students have found a way to bypass Wroten’s blocked websites—such as YouTube and Facebook

It’s a process that takes only a minute to do on a Macbook.

After clicking six times and typing in four numbers, Mac users can access any blocked website on the school’s wireless network.

Any attempt to bypass computer or network security or to bypass restrictions on the use of technology without permission is prohibited, according to the Student Handbook agreement signed by every high school student.

If someone were caught, the student would lose computer privileges, Sue Nellis, head of high school said. If the violation continued, more drastic measures would be implemented

Wroten said he can determine if a computer has bypassed his restrictions when the computer “communicates” with the wireless network.

Printer traffic jam

While some students have taken advantage of their new computers to skirt Wroten’s blocked websites, others are having difficulties with even working their computers.

According to the same Octagon poll, almost half the students said that they have had problems with printing, causing them to be late for class.

Thirty-one students attributed this to long lines for the printer in the library.

“It’s usually between 10-15 people just before the bell rings waiting in line,” librarian Joanne Melinson said.

Melinson noted that Wroten has recently set up wireless access to the printers to eliminate the congestion.

Not a one man job

“We wouldn’t have had any of these problems if we had more tech time,” Wroten said. “The second I leave my office, I get pulled by at least three people.”

Because of these interruptions, Wroten has had difficulties fixing the printer issues.

According to Wroten, other schools have large tech departments—such as Palo Alto’s Castilleja School’s eight techies serving 425 students or La Canada Flintridge’s Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy’s five serving 417—dedicated to troubleshooting.

Here, Wroten is the tech department on campus.

Wroten does have enough budget to hire a part-time employee to help out, he said, but finding and training one would be difficult.

“You’re not going to find a qualified person who is going to work for four hours a day every day,” he said. “If I had a grad student from Sac State, I’d likely be finding and training replacements every semester, thus adding to my workload.”

Only for academics

Luckily for Wroten, not all faculty were given laptops. But this decision has also caused controversy.

Bob Ratcliff, director of middle- and high-school bands, is confused as to why only “academic” teachers get laptops.

According to Wroten, the decision was to give the “core academic teachers” laptops, meaning the athletic department, elective teachers and administration were excluded. Only 17 faculty members were issued laptops.

In the March 13 Octagon (“1:1 program expands to include class of ‘15: Both sophomores and freshmen to receive laptops”) headmaster Stephen Repsher said that the school couldn’t afford to give laptops to everyone. It would also be too difficult to train the entire faculty instead of a select few, he said.

But Ratcliff said the administration isn’t thinking about it the right way.

“It’s not that I didn’t get the latest, greatest, newest technology,” he said. “If the school wants to move towards making technology an integral part of the curriculum, then they should include all of the teachers.”

Ratcliff also thinks that the decision reflects the philosophy of the school.

“I view music as an academic discipline, not just an ‘enrichment,’” he said. “It is possible that others view it that way as well, however it is rarely treated that way.”

PE teacher Michelle Myers, on the other hand, said she is satisfied with her desktop computer and iPad.


Despite Ratcliff’s disappointment that he wasn’t given a Macbook, others, like chemistry teacher Alan Beamer, who derisively named his laptop “the Frisbee,” are frustrated that they have them.

Beamer said that he dislikes Macs because of all the difficulties he has with them.

“Macs are the worst piece of technology ever.”

Beamer will use the Mac to teach students how to use Excel.

“But when it comes to using a machine for something important, I’ll be using a computer I can rely on,” he said.

Wroten said Beamer is required to use a Mac because of uniformity.

Beamer is running the same software as everyone else so that if a student has a question, he can help, Wroten said.

Essentially once students become accustomed to the laptops, they could solve each other’s technical bugs.

And as the students essentially become Country Day’s tech department, the school will continue expanding its program according to its CAIS-certified plan. By fall 2014 every high-school student will have a Mac.


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