Families in the Woodside neighborhood of Queens depend on Public School (P.S.) 152, the Gwendoline N. Alleyne School, to provide nearly 1,400 Pre K – 6th graders with the highest levels of academic excellence. According to Enid Maldonado-Salgado, P.S. 152 assistant principal, educators and administrators have a vision for improving student achievement that relies on integrating technology and curriculum to provide relevant, immersive learning opportunities. “We want to change the way we use technology in the classroom and integrate it with everything we do,” she explains. “We see it as a critical tool for supporting teaching and learning.” To assist in technology planning and deployment, P.S. 152 brought in Custom Computer Specialists, a Long Island-based technology provider that specializes in large-scale technology implementations and IT consulting. Custom has been a New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) systems integrator for nearly 20 years.
The first project P.S. 152 tackled was a complete upgrade of its 1990s-era student Mac lab. “It was a logical place to start because the Macs were 14 years old and had lost most of their functionality,” Maldonado-Salgado explains. Infrastructure enhancements were needed to support the new systems and the more advanced applications that they support. To enable the more learning-focused Mac lab, the school increased its storage capacity and improved its network. “Our network was at least ten years old, so bandwidth was a big problem,” says Maldonado-Salgado. “Now, there’s no more waiting for downloads or uploads and it supports everything the students need to do.” After enhancing network and storage infrastructure, Custom was charged with managing the lab upgrade project, including:
Maldonado-Salgado also worked with Custom to launch a pilot iPad program, consisting of 120 iPads in five classrooms. She says the initiative targets two extreme populations: special education students that haven’t responded well to current methods and highly functioning kids who are bored by traditional learning. It’s mesmerizing to watch students learning with the iPads, says Maldonado-Salgado. “We have one teacher who works with both general education and special education students, and she put kids in teams to do reading lessons. One student is severely speech-impaired, which gets in the way of his ability to identify letters and read. He whispered his answers to his partner, who read them into the iPad recorder.” “When you see children, especially those with extreme difficulties or who aren’t challenged enough, and they’re flying through their iPad work and showing it off to their teacher, it’s incredible,” she notes. “Other teachers are seeing the iPads and they want us to scale the program, so figuring out if, when and how to do that is our next challenge.” Custom handled the procurement process and iPad onboarding, including uploading apps to the devices and integrating them with iPad carts using Apple’s Configurator tool.
With the help of Custom’s seasoned technical and training experts, P.S. 152 modernized its student Mac lab, launched an iPad pilot and deployed Google Apps for Education school-wide. “Technology procurement and deployment tends to have a lot of red tape, which can sometimes be frustrating,” says Maldonado-Salgado. “But Custom stepped up to the plate, bringing in the experience and skills to navigate those issues and put all the pieces together.” “Plus, they were able to create a professional development plan that empowered us to provide ongoing, peer-led training,” she continues. “Custom trainers had a great rapport with our teachers and got them excited to work with the technology.” “Our technology implementations and professional development were a huge undertaking and we couldn’t have done it alone,” Maldonado-Salgado concludes. “The end results are worth all the effort.”