Derrick Unruh, director of technology, Park Hill School District, Kansas City, Mo.

Dec 06 2013

Park Hill School District Selects HP Ultrabooks to Enhance Self-Guided Learning

Rugged, lightweight notebooks power the flipped classroom.

At a Glance

School District: Park Hill

Location: Kansas City, Mo.

Schools: 17

Students: 10,500

IT Staff: 27

Overview: The Park Hill School District encompasses the Northland region of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. The district consists of approximately 10,500 students attending 17 schools, including 10 elementary, a sixth grade center, two middle schools, two high schools, an early education center and a special needs day school.

For the Park Hill School District, located in Kansas City, Mo., equipping thousands of students with light, powerful Ultrabooks drove the success of its educational transformation. The Park Hill School District’s approximately 10,500 students attend 17 schools, including 10 elementary, a sixth grade center, two middle schools, two high schools, an early education center and a special needs day school, spread across Kansas City and seven other municipalities.

Two years ago, the district began its Future Learner Project, also known as FliP, to transform the school learning environment into one more student centric than the traditional model, with the teacher acting mostly as a facilitator of student self-guided learning. The goals of FliP are to increase 21st century technology skills and enhance student engagement and academic achievement. Early evaluations indicate that the project has been meeting its goals quite successfully.

For the 2012-2013 school year, the school district distributed notebooks to all fifth graders in three elementary schools. This year, the program expanded to all fifth graders in all the district’s elementary schools. The students use the notebooks to drive and enhance their own learning through personalized, relevant and engaging educational opportunities. Project-based learning and collaborative team activities have been improved when students use the notebooks and teachers are allowed to more effectively facilitate learning rather than standing and lecturing in front of the classroom.

Essential to the success of the project was the acquisition of powerful, rugged, lightweight, trouble-free notebooks that could run demanding applications such as the full Adobe Creative Suite and AutoCAD without issues that would cause distraction or reduce productivity. All day battery life was also essential, says Derrick Unruh, director of technology for the Park Hill School District. “We didn’t want scores of power strips and lots of spaghetti wire in the classroom.”

Previous notebooks lacked the ruggedness for the student environment and needed frequent repairs and new parts. Wireless connectivity was temperamental and non- removable batteries became an issue when battery life started to degrade. “We also wanted a screen size that was large enough for working with creative applications,” Unruh adds.

15 Notebooks Evaluated, with Help from Students

The district evaluated 15 notebooks from several vendors and involved students in the evaluation process. “It was pretty neat to hear students discuss notebooks as knowledgeably and intelligently as IT,” Unruh says. One notebook, the HP EliteBook Folio 9470m, was preferred by more than 85 percent of students surveyed.

Teachers and technology staff also preferred this device over the other notebooks evaluated. All groups appreciated the large, crisp 14-inch screen; sleek, lightweight design; durable construction; all-day battery life; and removable battery of the 9470m. “The students liked the stylish design as well, which made them proud to carry and use their new personal learning device,” Unruh says. “They also liked the use of SSD [solid-state drive] storage making the boot up and login process very quick.”

One of the more popular enterprise Ultrabooks, the HP EliteBook Folio 9470m is based on third generation Intel mobile processors and chipsets, and features integrated (on dye) Intel HD 4000 graphics, a full supply of ports; a sleek, .75-inch thick unibody design; flash storage or flash cache with mechanical hard disk storage for fast boot-up and resume; and up to 16GB of RAM – all in an Ultrabook package that weighs less than 3.5 pounds.

Unlike many competing Ultrabooks, the EliteBook Folio 9470m’s battery is removable. Therefore, new batteries can be added after the original starts to degrade, or users can swap batteries on the road as needed.

Wireless Upgrade

In preparation for the HP EliteBook Folio 9470m Ultrabook rollout, Park Hill School District, Kansas City, Mo., performed a significant upgrade to its wireless infrastructure.

“We redesigned our wireless infrastructure and added a number of Cisco Aironet 3500 and 3600 Series access points in each of our classrooms,” says Derrick Unruh, director of technology for the school district. The district also upgraded to the latest Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series switch with multiple Cisco Wireless Services Module 2 (WiSM2) controllers.

The result has been a fast, seamless wireless experience that has enhanced the ability of students to collaborate, research and further personalize their learning experience.

“The EliteBook Folio 9470m has a soft, silky, textural feel and good fit to your hand,” says Ajay Gupta, director of notebook development, CMIT, for Hewlett-Packard. “At the same time, all that IT needs for security, connectivity and productivity is there, including the Trusted Platform Module [TPM], an HP BIOS, a smart card reader or fingerprint reader, and a full-size dock option with multiple USB and display ports.”

The 9470m is also completely IT serviceable and has passed MIL-STD-810G durability testing. The test requires that the device endure multiple drops on edges and corners from up to 28 inches high.

“The same docking station is also offered with other HP products for easy support,” says Gupta. “And, of course, enterprises get HP’s full enterprise support organization and multiple enterprise support options.”

A Favorite with Teachers Too

In addition to students, the HP EliteBook Folio 9470m Ultrabook has been distributed to some teachers. “We are finding that they take the unit home more often than their previous notebook PCs, thanks to its lightweight portability,” Unruh says.

HP support has also been a plus. “We’re part of the HP Self-Maintainer Program, which lets us perform repairs in-house,” says Unruh. “Under this program, we can get support and parts from HP quickly and easily. We don’t have to justify needing a new motherboard or other part.” The result is that when a repair issue does occur, which is much less often than before, the notebook is back in operation in a few days or less.

In all, the FliP program and the notebook PCs used to enable it have been a success. Says Unruh, “Without the performance and reliability of the HP notebooks, we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish our educational goals.”

For the Park Hill School District, the HP EliteBook Folio 9470m has proven to be a success, providing solid performance for the most demanding applications, trouble-free operations, low rate of damage and repair, and easy, fast wireless connectivity.

<p>Paul Howell</p>

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