A CIO's Guide to the 10 Second Principle for Classroom Technology

Joshua Koen, Executive Director for Educational Technology and Computer Science, Newark Public Schools
Joshua Koen, Executive Director for Educational Technology and Computer Science, Newark Public Schools

Joshua Koen, Executive Director for Educational Technology and Computer Science, Newark Public Schools

The bell rings. Students enter the class and begin to sit down in their seats. As students get settled, the teacher asks everyone to take out their textbooks, homework from the previous night, notebooks and pencils to prepare to take notes while looking around the class taking attendance. This routine happens multiple times a day in schools around the world and generally takes less than ten seconds for the class instruction to begin.

Now compare this to the technology-infused classroom. Students take their seats, open their laptops and begin to power them on, a process which can take five to ten seconds up to several minutes depending on the device. As the students are prompted to enter their username and password, a process with varying times, the teacher asks everyone to log-on to their learning management system (LMS). Students then scroll through their bookmarks or navigate to the school or class website, click on the corresponding link, and are again prompted for the username and password which frequently is different than their device or network password. The teacher then remembers that there is a new student in class and who not been added to the online class in the LMS, requiring the teacher to create a new account with a username and password or send the request to the IT help desk which could take hours or even days. The other students meanwhile read through the assignment electronically distributed to them and click on an embedded link to an adaptive learning platform to receive digital content tailored to their individualized needs, which once again requires a different username and password and will similarly require the teacher to create a new account. The teacher then remembers that there are still active accounts for last year’s students and a few students who transferred out earlier during year and adds it to the laundry list of pending items to clean up for another day.

  While selecting a device, meeting the instructional needs and budget should be the priorities​  

Given the limited amount of instructional time, teachers have for each class period and the considerable interest in extending the learning time beyond the school day, this amount of lost time for students to begin the learning is unacceptable. To reduce the lost instructional time in the digitized classroom, we in the Newark Public Schools have adopted a "10 Second Principle for Classroom Technology" using the following five IT strategies, which approximates the time it takes for teachers to fully engage students in the analog classroom.

Five Strategies to Meet the "10 Second Principle for Classroom Technology"

1. Quick Device Boot Sequence: Optimizing boot time is a frequent topic for technology magazines and journals. According to a recent article, the fastest boot times recorded on entry- to mid-range laptops range from six seconds on a Chromebook to 23 seconds on a Windows PC however many computers in schools can take up to a few minutes to boot-up. While selecting a device, budget and meeting the instructional needs should be the priorities. However, CIOs have a responsibility to ensure the devices are configured to have the fastest boot time possible.

2. Automatic Class Rostering: Establishing regular class roster synchronizations with the district's student information system (SIS) typically will insure students are automatically enrolled in and removed from the school’s learning management system, digital content providers, and adaptive learning systems as they are enrolled and transferred to new classes or schools. Establishing this process, typically performed on a nightly basis, will also provide improve student data validity and reduce the time required for the teachers to maintain multiple digital class rosters. There are many ways to do this from writing custom scripts or contracting with free or paid services that specifically cater to the K-12 market.

3. Single Sign-on (SSO): Establishing a single username and password for as many digital content providers can greatly assist with classroom efficiency and reduce the loss of instructional time and support time in the case either is forgotten or lost. This is even more important as schools continue to add new digital content providers. This is no different outside of education, as concluded by a 2014 internal study conducted by the US government that determined that Department of Commerce employees accessed different accounts at work that required on average nine unique logins. Furthermore, according to Gartner research “password problems make up 20 percent to 30 percent of all IT service desk volume”. Fortunately, districts and ed tech vendors now offer many SSO alternatives including ADFS, OAuth, SAML, or even G Suite for Education accounts and there are even ways for younger or non-verbal students to gain access to online platforms using technologies like QR codes to authenticate.

4. Token-based Authentication: This is the next level of SSO whereby a user may enter their username and password for one site and their authentication is passed to another website or online resource without requiring them to re-enter it. This method of authentication works particularly well across domains when compared to other approaches like the use of cookies to temporarily store data. While more difficult to enforce when selecting digital content providers, it can be very helpful to ask Ed Tech vendors if they support this approach with other websites, which may become more and more common as bigger companies continue to buy smaller startups.

5. Student Portal: Finally, developing a student portal that can host the relevant links and resources to as specific population as possible whether it be a school, grade, or subject will provide students with easier access both at school and at home to their relevant digital content. This should be linked to the school website and many device managers even provide the ability to establish a student’s homepage making the student portal the very first screen they encounter.

Conclusion

While it may not be possible to implement each of these recommendations with all the digital content providers available today, CIOs should keep the "10 Second Principle for Classroom Technology" in mind when making all recommendations and decisions that impact teaching and learning.

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