The pro-LanSchool argument

Dr. Jonathan Cassie

Assistant Head of School

Beginning this year in grades 7, 8 and 9, Milken has implemented a new piece of software, called LanSchool, for use in 1:1 classrooms. LanSchool, as installed and used at Milken, has the following objectives.

LanSchool improves classroom coordination and collaboration. The software has both teacher and student functionality through a system called “channels.” When a student enters a 1:1 classroom using LanSchool, they will be asked by their teacher to switch their LanSchool channel to match their teacher’s (and log out of their previous class). When teacher and student are in the same LanSchool channel, the students’ desktops will be displayed on the teacher’s desktop. From here, a teacher has the capacity to set up a 1:1 environment to maximize student learning. The teacher could choose to create a 1:1 laptop space where students are given access during class time to a specific cluster of websites, just one, none at all or the entire internet (only moderated by Milken’s AUP and web policies). Furthermore, teachers can specify that certain programs might be usable, or not, depending on the day’s learning objectives. Moreover, teachers have the capacity to share their desktop with all of their students, share one student’s desktop with the entire class, conduct in-class polling and quizzing and distribute video, all through the LanSchool teacher desktop.

LanSchool reduces distractions. By giving teachers the capacity to organize learning in the 1:1 environment the way they would in a non 1:1 classroom, LanSchool reduces (but does not eliminate) the natural distraction offered by the laptop. In essence, LanSchool turns the laptop desktop environment into a shared and interactive whiteboard or overhead projector slide, but with the added functionality that only comes in the 1:1 classroom. Milken does not ban students’ access to social networking websites like Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter or the like, nor is there any plan to. Having said that, I am sure we can all agree that there are times when using social networking websites is less appropriate than others. While it is anecdotal evidence, a majority of middle school students in my Debate center of excellence argued that social networking websites are distracting and that decisions that decrease their time spent on social networking sites are welcomed.

LanSchool gives teachers the added capacity to manage the 1:1 environment. The 1:1 learning environment presents classroom management challenges that are not faced in a non 1:1 classroom. By giving teachers the ability to see what their students are doing during a 1:1 lesson and by requiring the teachers to think through carefully how they are going to use laptops, LanSchool reinforces excellent classroom management, teaching and learning while taking full advantage of the benefits offered by the 1:1 setting.

Our primary goal is to ensure that we maximize the potential benefits of the 1:1 classroom without creating the conditions that might weaken student learning. We selected LanSchool over a handful of other software options because LanSchool was more focused on the collaborative benefits of their software to teachers than they were in surveillance.

I welcome comments and discussions on the benefits and drawbacks of the 1:1 classroom. We live in an age of rapid change. It is my hope that we can learn from each other and stimulate real, powerful learning and critical thinking about the essential questions of our time.

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