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District Technology Staff Unveils New Mobile Device for Incoming WTHS Freshman Class

Mobile learning will move to a whole new level when Washington Township High School puts nearly 600 new convertible laptops into the hands of members of the school’s incoming freshman class during scheduled laptop distribution on August 6-8, 2019, in the school’s Core lobby. The 1:1 devices are intended to service the students through their entire high school career.


After returning the laptop that they used while they were in middle school, each freshman will be issued a Microsoft Surface Go, a sleek, compact device that gives students the flexibility of a removable, magnetic keyboard and a stylus pen that allows for inking documents when the device is being utilized as a tablet.


“This is our first year trying out the Microsoft Surface Go,” said System Analyst Coordinator Cathy Boyle, who is entering her 29th year as a member of the District technology staff and was instrumental in the oversight of this project. “In the past, we have used Dell laptops, but we were looking for a device that would be lighter and easier for the students to use, something convertible with a better battery life and a pen.  What’s nice about this device is that it’s like a little laptop at first, but if the students want to use it as a tablet, they can detach the magnetic keyboard and then use the stylus to take notes. It has a kickstand on the back so students can stand the device up.”


The device is encased for protection, Boyle explained, but it is best to keep the keyboard attached and closed when the device is not in use to protect the screen from getting scratched when being transported in backpacks.


“If students keep the battery charged, there should be enough battery life to get them through the school day,” she said.  “They should wipe the screen down with a microfiber cloth (never Windex or another liquid cleaning agent). We are hoping that by going to a smaller device, we will see less breakage and damage.”


A team from the IT department, under Boyle’s direction, was tasked with inventorying the new


laptops and spent three weeks readying the devices for distribution -  joining the domain, installing the District’s operating system and settings, and installing student software. Members of the laptop deployment team included: cyber security network engineer Jason Buttacavoli, system analyst Debby McGrail, support specialist supervisor Jim Sturniolo, system analysts Diane Garaguso,Theresa Thomas, Dave Kopas, Reid Smith, network specialist Chris Barnes, technology support specialists Rob Smith, Alex Wenner, Dave Williams, Andrew Meeker, Cathy Coppola, Joni Geller, and George Lagos, and student workers Jacob Boyle, Eric Toreki and Scott Toreki.


 “We have an awesome team working on this and a good department,” Boyle said. “As soon as the delivery hits the building, we start our process right away. Over the past four years, we have determined what works and what doesn’t work in the setup and distribution process.”


Like all District-issued devices, the new Surface Go laptops include a filtering system and limited GPS tracking, as well as a barcoding system that helps the District locate missing devices and verify the device’s user.


“We use a product called Cisco Umbrella that provides content filtering across the District,” Buttacavoli said. “It filters inappropriate content, violence, etc. as determined by the technology staff and administration.  It also allows us to filter the kids’ devices when they go home. They will have the same level of filtering at home as they do at school, so they are always protected when using the laptops. The devices’ cameras may be used in learning but cannot be activated remotely when disconnected from the District’s network."


Laptop distribution for WTHS freshmen will take place in the WTHS Core Lobby from 12-1:30 p.m. on the following assigned days:


Tuesday, August 6: Students with last names beginning A-H;


Wednesday, August 7: Students with last names beginning I-P;


Thursday, August 8: Students with last names beginning Q-Z.


Any student unable to make their assigned time slot will have an opportunity to retrieve their new laptops on Thursday, August 8, from 4-6 p.m.


Pictured: System Analyst Coordinator Cathy Boyle and Cyber Security Network Engineer Jason Buttacavoli display the new Microsoft Surface Go laptops that will be in hands of WTHS freshmen by week’s end. 


freshman laptops


Pictured: System Analyst Coordinator Cathy Boyle and Cyber Security Network Engineer Jason Buttacavoli display the new Microsoft Surface Go laptops that will be in hands of WTHS freshmen by week’s end.