Cross-posted from the Digital Education blog
By guest blogger Danielle Wilson
The Miami-Dade County school district announced Thursday that it will launch a 1-to-1 computing initiative this spring, providing Hewlett Packard and Lenovo Windows 8 devices to students throughout the 350,000-student school district.
This announcement comes after a 1-to-1 computing initiative was delayed last year due to concerns about similarly ambitious efforts around the country having run into problems, perhaps most notably in the Los Angeles school district, where a highly publicized technology rollout has faced a series of setbacks.
The overall project in Miami-Dade is expected to cost $200 million, a district spokesman said. That spending would cover the price of interactive devices for students and teachers; upgrades to wireless networks, infrastructure, and services; and professional development, among other products and services.
The digital transformation will put 100,000 HP and Lenovo Windows 8 devices in the hands of elementary school children, along with select 7th and 9th grade students.
In addition to the HP and Lenovo devices, the plan calls for 10,000 interactive boards to be added to classrooms in the district. Microsoft Corp. will provide Office 365 software for all district students to use along with Skydrive, a cloud-based storage system.
Microsoft will also provide technical support to ensure that the wireless devices run education applications properly.
“This is a long-term commitment,” said Margo Day, vice president of U.S. Education for Microsoft Corp., in an interview with Education Week. “We wanted to partner with Miami-Dade County because they have an instructional model that allows students to learn in a personalized way.”
In addition to Microsoft Office software being available to all students and instructors in the district at no cost, Miami-Dade county will begin using Bing for Schools, which is an ad-free, high-security web browser. All teachers will be enrolled in Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Network where they are provided with professional development to utilize the technology in their classrooms.
“We want to play a role in helping teachers bridge the learning gap,” said Day.
“Technology, by itself, is not going to close the achievement gap between the rich and the poor, a gap that threatens so many of our minority students,” said Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho in a statement. “But when technology is used correctly, we have seen powerful results.”
In an interview with Education Week, Carvalho said the school district voluntarily delayed a large scale implementation of devices last year in favor of a “soft launch.”
“I wouldn’t say we had a setback,” Carvalho said. “We purposely decided to delay this. We spent a lot of time debating what would work best in our classrooms and how technology could be best used.”
The “soft launch” included the distribution of 10,000 electronic devices over the course of several months prior to making this announcement. Most devices were received by students participating in their iPrep academies, a technology focused magnet program available in middle and high schools in the district.
He said the increased support will help Miami-Dade become one of the first, large school districts with guaranteed technology in every classroom.
Miami-Dade County is the fourth largest school system in the country. Houston and Madison, Wisc., have also made recent announcements about launching 1-to-1 computing initiatives in their school districts.
This post has been updated with comments from Carvalho and additional details about Miami-Dade’s 1-to-1 project.