Paying for School Tech

Technology is expensive when you start considering rolling it out not for your family but for an entire school or district.

According to Laurie Fox’s Dec. 2012 article for the Dallas Morning News, many area districts are turning to grant money to get the computing resources they need for students.

Offering Barnes & Noble’s NOOK eReaders to students raised interest in reading among middle-school boys at one campus in Grand Prairie ISD. It is a lot easier to read widely when you have over 100 options on a single book-sized device!

Available under a Creative Commons License from The Unquiet Library on Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/theunquietlibrary/5478205523/

Available under a Creative Commons License from The Unquiet Library on Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/theunquietlibrary/5478205523/

One great thing about technology is that prices tend to go lower and lower, especially if schools are willing to buy older (and perfectly functional, I might add) hardware. Not everything has to have the colors and flash and animation of an iPad. I’ve been doing plenty of reading on my first gen Kindle, which I actually prefer to the smaller, second gen model I received through my university’s reading initiative.

Lower prices means more e-readers in more little hands. As the article points out, “Grand Prairie ISD was awarded more than $124,000 to buy more e-readers, and, because of a drop in price of the devices, soon will be able to roll out the Nook program to 10 elementary campuses.”

Getting hardware is just one step. Since 2003, all high school students in Irving ISD have had access to personal laptops to use in school and at home, which is pretty darn cool. But there’s a problem with the set-up:

students don’t have Internet access at home!

This year, Irving has been able to help students at Cardwell Career Prep set up mobile wireless hot spots, with clear policies about acceptable use. Parents are encouraged to log on the devices as well, to check grades and assignment deadlines. The grant of $125,000 covered just one of the five high school campuses in the district, however, showing just how costly access can be.

Judging from my bills and recent commentary pieces like “For U.S. Internet Users, High Prices and Slow Speeds,” the fees for decent internet service aren’t going down like the prices of hardware. ISPs are not run or regulated like utilities. Susan Crawford reports that “almost 30 percent of the country still isn’t connected to the Internet at all,” in contrast to places like South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and Australia, where there are concerted government efforts to get most, if not all, households on high-speed lines.

Just think of what schools could do if students could get reliable, affordable web access at home…

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