Longtime Technology Partner Helps Muscle Shoals City Schools Grow to 1:1 initiative

About the School District

Muscle Shoals City Schools serves 2,900 students in a residential community in rural northwest Alabama. The highly-rated district is known for its academic excellence and has a waiting list of students seeking to enroll from other school districts. About 15 percent of the students enrolled at Muscle Shoals City Schools pay tuition to attend from neighboring areas.

The district partnered with CDI Technologies in 2009 – first for desktop computers, and later for Chromebooks – as it worked toward its goal of becoming a 1:1 school district. The district has now reached its 1:1 goal for grades K-5 and is moving closer to that goal for grades 6-12 with the purchase of 700 Dell Chromebooks and 17 CDI charging carts.  Over the past decade, the district has shifted from desktop computers and computer labs to having Chromebooks for every classroom and a high-tech environment that has enhanced teaching and learning.

Challenges

Muscle Shoals City Schools proceeded slowly with its technology initiative to ensure a smooth implementation. A primary concern was making sure that teachers and students would have high-quality devices and great customer service. In the past, the district had purchased refurbished desktop computers from other vendors and it was not happy with the equipment. Another challenge was the age of the district’s school buildings. Many were more than 60 years old and were not wired for the needs of the modern classroom.  Also, most rooms had almost no space to store Chromebooks.

“As we began to purchase more Chromebooks for our students, we realized charging and storing the devices was going to be an issue for our district.  We knew we were going to have to address these concerns if we were ever going to get to our goal of having 1:1 devices for our students,”
– Kevin Stephenson, Technology Coordinator

The Solutions

The district’s partnership with CDI helped to alleviate their concerns. CDI ensured teachers and students had top-notch equipment and support. CDI’s recertified equipment “was a step above anything we’d had before. It looked like new equipment and the support was great,” Stephenson said.

As the district migrated to Chromebooks, it purchased CDI’s charging carts to address the challenge of storing and charging the devices. Drawers in the carts provide easy access to the Chromebooks and the carts have a small footprint to save space. Instead of charging all the devices simultaneously, the carts stagger the charging so there is less of a load on the electrical system.

“The storage system was superior to others we have used,” said Stephenson. “Other solutions will charge all the Chromebooks simultaneously which could blow a breaker. This staggered charging feature is very much needed in our older buildings and stops circuit breakers from being tripped which was causing disruptions in multiple classrooms at once.  Overall these storage solutions have been really well thought out with the educational environment in mind.”

With CDI’s support to solve these challenges, the district was able to focus on other areas such as professional development and infrastructure improvements to ensure its technology initiative would be successful.

The Results

Adding technology has opened up new opportunities for teaching and learning at Muscle Shoals City Schools.  Teachers have embraced using technology for classroom instruction and are taking advantage of broad curriculum options available for 1:1 classrooms.  Students use the Chromebooks regularly for classroom assignments. Since the district’s switch to Chromebooks, the number of Google documents being created by students has nearly doubled and more teachers are interacting with students through Google Classroom, said Stephenson. High-quality, reliable technology has been an important part of the district’s academic success, he said. “We were just ranked 5th in the state on our Alabama State Report Card,” said Stephenson. “None of this would have happened if our technology had been unreliable or our devices were not charged and ready when the teachers needed to use them with students.”