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Technology Resources

There has never been a more exciting time to be a learner than right now! The ability to access information was just the first step; now, as we look to the future, it is about accessing people, deep analytical data mining, and new, engaging and dynamic ways to deliver content.

Living in a resource-rich world, schools today have a responsibility and an obligation to model 21st century learning. The most successful learner today has the ability to leverage a variety of tools and resources, tapping into a global network of information, ideas and people. Collaboration, communication, content creation and media literacy are cornerstones of a modern education.

I invite you to explore the landscape of technology as it relates to education and learning at AFS and in the wider world. Please consider following me on twitter if you are interested in learning more @johnrison.

  • John Rison
  • Chief Technology Officer

The Upper School Bring Your Own Device Requirement

All AFS  9th-12th graders are required to have a device that meets the following requirements:

  • At least a 7.0 inch screen
  • WIFI capable
  • Up to date web browser that supports Google Apps
  • Is not a cell phone or a smartphone
  • Can hold a charge for over 3 hours

At the core of what makes a BYOD initiative work is the concept that the individual is choosing the device that is the best fit for him or her as a learner. The School has developed a minimum set of requirements, but please keep in mind that this is a personal choice and should be shaped by you. Below you will find a list of devices and some advice on their pros and cons.

Macbook Air – Apple’s Macbook Air is a great laptop. It is fast, light and has a long battery life. Macs come with some nice free software like Garageband and Imovie, and the Mac OS is one of the best on the market. Unfortunately all of this comes at a pretty high price point, starting around $1,000.

Chromebook – Google’s line of Chromebooks are a fairly recent addition to the laptop market. Running Google’s Chrome OS, they are built for the web and work seamlessly with Google Apps – which we use! They are light, have a great battery life and boot up in seconds. They can create documents and run some apps locally, but to truly get the most out of a Chromebook, internet connectivity is required. They are also very reasonably priced, starting at $280.

Ipads – Apple’s selection of Ipads offer another great choice as a device for students. Running IOS and utilizing the well-established itunes store offering thousands of apps, books and resources, Ipads are fast, have a great battery life, and are lightweight. Depending on your skill at touch typing, a bluetooth keyboard may be helpful for composing longer documents. The ipad mini starts at $299

Laptops – There is a huge range of laptops running windows and linux operating systems available starting around $300.  TigerDirectNewEgg and Amazon are all good places to compare pricing and options. Weight, battery life, speed and functionality should all be considered when comparing makes and models. The laptop market is so saturated that finding a great deal on a device should be pretty easy.

Tablets – The world of Android- and Windows-based tablets is a little daunting, with devices costing from $75 to over $600. While there is a range of devices to choose from in this category, sticking to something established and around the $300 price point is probably your best bet. The same links above for laptops are also great places to look for tablets!

The Amazon Kindle Fire does not seem to support Google Apps very well. While I am sure it is a great device in its own right, I am not sure it is a great device for a student in our school.

When considering a device, keep in mind that you want something that is a good match for you! Your level of responsibility, grade and adeptness on various platforms all come into play. We want you to choose something that you will be successful with, so if you have questions please send me an email and I will do my best to point you in the right direction.

The Middle School Chromebook Program:

AFS equips all middle schoolers with Chromebooks that meet their needs as students and allows AFS to create a learning environment that embraces the digital world and the model of anywhere/anytime learning.

Chromebooks are laptops developed by Google that utilize the Chrome Browser as their operating system. From a hardware perspective, they are solid, lightweight laptops that come in a variety of sizes and configurations. Their batteries last 6-8 hours and they have small solid-state hard drives (storage is in the cloud). They are fast, don’t get viruses, don’t need updates or patches and you log into them using a Google Apps account!

These devices are owned by the School, but will be given to each student to use for the school year. Equipping students with Chromebooks gives us the opportunity to guide their online experience, helping them to develop good digital habits and become respectful digital citizens.

Here is a video Google put out a couple of years ago about Chromebooks:

AFS and Google Apps for Education:

Google Apps for Education is a suite of tools, including gmail, that allows students, faculty and administrators to connect, share, organize and create. Adopting Google Apps was an intentional shift of control from the IT department back to the end user. Now users can share folders, manage multiple calendars at once, and create web sites for the world to see.

Google Apps is web-based, works on every web-capable device, and is free for schools! Many colleges and universities have also adopted Google Apps, allowing us here at AFS the opportunity to prepare students using tools and resources that they will encounter later in their educational journey.

Suggested Reading and Resources:

Below are a few resources regarding parents and technology, suggested by Chief Technology Officer John Rison. Some of the common themes include acting as a positive model and being present and tech-free when spending time with your children, not allowing technology in bedrooms / encouraging use in public spaces in your home, and working to monitor time spent on educational media versus social and entertainment. is one of the most respected sites offering insight and guidance around social media, TV, video games and movies. Common Sense Media emphasizes digital citizenship and encourages people to be kind online, and behave in morally responsible ways.

Sites to visit regularly for information and inspiration:

MindShift is one of my favorite new finds.

Edutopia continues to provide great resources.

TechCrunch is less about education and more about tech.

Mashable is another great tech resource.

Technically Philly is a great local resource about great tech in Philly.

Wired is a classic tech site that still offers great resources and a fresh perspective.

Digital Citizenship Videos – great collection of videos on Digital Citizenship.

Resources for parenting in the digital age:

Pew Research Internet Project contains a wealth of information about technology use and predictions for the future.

Social Media Guide for parents and educators.

Configuring your home router to manage traffic and access

Common Sense Media  – Digital Well Being

Parental control apps and services:

Books about social media:

Alone Together – Sherry Turkle

The Distraction Addiction – Alex Soojung and Kim Pang

It’s Complicated – danah boyd

The Art of Screen Time – Anya Kamenetz