The Westport, CT pubic school system services about 5,700 students. The district readily embraces technology and all but its two elementary schools have wireless Internet. The classrooms already have Epson projectors with wireless control systems, lighting automation, SMART boards, and Connect Ed, an emergency communication system that allows administrators to send out a voice recorded message to faculty, students, and parents. The message can also be sent as a text and delivered directly to a mobile device or PDA. However, the district would also like to see one-to-one computing in the classroom where each student has his or her own device.
“One advantage is that we are a fairly well off district so a large majority of our kids have the ability to afford something,” Carrignan said. For those who can’t, the schools have a computer loan program. Students can’t take the devices home with them, but they can use the devices throughout the day. In order to qualify for the program a student must be on a free or reduced lunch program, which is federally mandated.
With the goal of bringing one-to-one computing to every school in the district, the board’s immediate reaction was to adopt a BYOD or bring your own device system. This would eliminate the district’s need to provide laptops or other personal computing devices for each student and would ultimately slash school expenses. However, Carrignan says there are problems with the BYOD model and it may not be the right solution for everyone. The first problem IT directors must consider is cost. Not every student will be able to afford a personal device and families with multiple children may not be able to buy one for everyone. However, to rely solely on the school to provide devices would prove to be very costly.
The second problem is compatibility. The school can give a general description of the type of device it would like for students. Maybe a twelve-inch screen or something bigger than a six inch, but short of mandating a specific device the school must grapple with finding software that runs on a variety of operating systems.
“That’s where we are going to struggle,” Carrignan said. “We need a less expensive device that will work. So our way to make the parity or equality amongst all the kids is to be careful