RCDS is a wireless, dual-platform, laptop community, and there is an entire electronic world that exists within the School's network

Director of Technology
Andrew Gillies

IT Overview

The Information Technology Department develops, implements, manages and supports the School's information technology infrastructure. Infrastructure is broadly defined here to include the School's network, servers, and services accessed through the network, user computers (including student laptops), and peripheral devices such as printers, digital cameras, SmartBoards and projectors.

The Information Technology Department's overall goal is to support the effective and efficient use of digital technology in the education process at RCDS. To achieve this goal, the IT Department works closely with all the other school departments to help ensure that present IT needs are met, developing IT needs are supported, and future IT needs are anticipated. The IT Department works especially closely with the Computer Department to provide training to both faculty and students in the use of information technology.

Information Technology continues to develop at a very rapid pace. The role of the IT Department will evolve apace to match the changing nature and patterns of IT use in the school.

Laptop Program

Established 1999

Overview

Laptops help promote a positive shift toward more project-based, hands-on learning.

Schools that help their students and teachers harness the information processing power which laptop computers provide will place their students at a competitive advantage. Students will be more engaged in learning the content of the curriculum, while at the same time developing deep competency using the problem-solving environment provided by the computer.

RCDS started its one-to-one computer program in 1999. The over-riding goal of the program has always been to make the information processing power of the computer available to students whenever and wherever needed. This does not mean that laptops are or should be used all the time. Instead it means that computers will be available when there is a benefit to be gained from their use. This approach is essentially no different from how pencils and paper have been deployed in schools. Pencils and paper are not used all the time, but we want them to be immediately accessible at all times.

Storage and Access
Laptops provide easy storage and access to a student's accumulating body of work. By viewing previous work students can better gauge their own progress and avoid repeating tasks already accomplished.

Writing
Is done across the curriculum. Word processing makes writing a significantly more enjoyable process for students. Students do more writing and revision when they have laptops.

Mathematics
Education is made richer and more engaging with the aid of software tools like spreadsheets, Geometer's SketchPad, and Mathematica.

History and Social Studies
Education is enriched by students having immediate access to the vast wealth of information available on the Internet. Laptops provide a platform for the creation and presentation of multimedia-rich projects.

Science
Education is greatly enhanced by the data gathering, data analysis and simulation software tools that run within the virtual digital laboratory the laptop provides.

Foreign Language
Educational success correlates strongly with the time students are able to spend in immersive environments. The multimedia capabilities of laptops allow students to spend more time listening and speaking in the language of instruction. With the right software, and a set of headphones, a laptop can function like a language lab work station. Laptops also provide access, through the Internet, to the media of the countries where the language of instruction is the native language.

In Art, Music and Drama
Laptops provide easy access to examples of best practices. Students visit virtual museums, listen to music clips, and watch videos of great performances. Students also use various applications to assist in the creation of artwork, music, scripts and digital video.

FAQ

Do all the RCDS computer systems work equally well with Windows and Apple computers?

Yes. The school network, servers and printers will work equally well with either platform.

What percentage of students opt for Apple computers?

While we don’t have exact numbers, we estimate that in the past few years over 95% of students have opted to purchase Apple laptops.

Are RCDS faculty able to teach effectively with students having both Windows and Apple computers?

Yes, the differences between Windows and Mac OS X have become relatively minor as Microsoft and Apple have copied the best features of each other’s operating systems.

All the applications that the school is using have versions for Windows and Macintosh computers that are virtually identical. In addition, files move transparently back and forth between the platform specific versions of these applications. For instance, a teacher can create a worksheet on a Windows notebook computer, save it to a server, and students with a laptop of either platform will be able to download the file from the server and open it without any translation difficulty. Files can go back and forth between platforms, through multiple revisions, without any problems.

Are the Apple laptops able to run Windows based programs?

If need be, yes. The latest Apple laptops use Intel microprocessors and are capable of running Windows software natively. There are currently a number of options for doing this, all of which require owning a copy of Windows. However, as previously noted, all educational software used at RCDS is available for both Mac OS X and Windows.

How will the notebook computers connect to the school’s wireless network?

The computers that the school is recommending have built-in wireless networking. Parents purchasing a laptop other than the recommended machines are responsible for purchasing a laptop computer with wireless networking capability

How will the notebook computers connect to home networks?

If families have standard 802.11b, g or n wireless networks at home, the Apple laptops and the ThinkPads will be able to connect without a problem. The same will be true with other brands of computers using standard 802.11 wireless networking.

What about insurance for the computers?

The school is strongly recommending that all families have insurance that provides coverage for the laptops while they are at school and in transit to and from school. The Lenovo ThinkPad laptop we are recommending this year come with a three-year accidental damage policy that will cover damage like screen breakage. Coverage for theft is not included in this policy. It is possible that your homeowner’s insurance will cover theft, but you should check with your insurance broker. For those purchasing non-Lenovo laptops we recommend that you obtain a rider through your homeowner’s insurance or purchase laptop accidental damage / theft coverage from a company like Safeware (www.safeware.com) or Student Insurance Partners (www.studentinsurancepartners.com).

What about the video camera built into the laptops?

Parents should be aware that the video camera built into the laptops would support video conferencing when a laptop is connected to the Internet. Parents should also be aware that the camera would allow students to create movies of whatever they film with the camera. The presence of a built-in video camera raises new appropriate use issues, which parents need to think about and discuss with their children.

What about battery life?

The Apple laptops have a battery that Apple claims will last about seven hours when new. The ThinkPad has a battery that Lenovo claims will last about six hours when new. Over time all batteries slowly lose the ability to hold a full charge. Students are expected to plug in their laptops each night so that they will have a full battery charge for the next school day. Students whose computers run out of battery life during the school day will be able to plug their computers into outlets in the classrooms provided they have brought their chargers to school.

What about the hard drive?

The recommended Apple laptops and ThinkPad have hard drives with more than enough space to hold all the programs and files that will be required by the school during the expected useful life of the computers. The Macbook Air has a solid state hard drive with no moving parts.

What about the speed of the computers?

The speed at which a computer performs operations is determined by a number of factors, the major ones being the processor design, the processor clock speed (GHz), and the size of the cache. The recommended ThinkPad and Apple laptops are fast enough to easily handle all the programs that students are likely to use for school.

What about backing up files?

Students are responsible for backing up their computer files. Both computers support a number of different backup options. Backups can be made to cloud based storage like Dropbox or Google Drive, the RCDS file server that is accessible from home and school, to USB flash drives, to DVDs or CD-ROMs, or to external hard drives. It doesn’t matter where or how files are backed up, just so long as they are backed up on a frequent basis.

What about printing?

Both the Apple laptops and the ThinkPads will be able to print to multiple networked printers at school. The ThinkPad has four USB ports and the built-in wireless and wired Ethernet ports to connect to printers at home. The Apple MacBook models have two USB ports and the built-in wireless to connect to home printers. Each of the laptops have Bluetooth wireless networking built in.