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1:1 Becomes Affordable

There has never been a better, more affordable time for school districts to harness the opportunities of 1:1 computing.

Maine Township High School District 207 in Park Ridge, Illinois, has continuously tested various 1:1 solutions since we became Google’s first K-12 partner district in 2007. To determine the cost of a 1:1 program, we factor in multiple expenses. We include the cost of the devices, of course, but also consider the cost of textbooks in this total cost of ownership figure.

A couple of years ago, the cost of ebooks was generally the same as the cost of the printed textbook, so when we added the cost of the devices to this expense, we knew that going 1:1 on a large scale would end up costing families and the district more. However, the cost of ebooks have significantly dropped in the past two years, saving as much as $1,000 per student over a four-year period. When factoring in these savings, the district could justify a 1:1 program that used dollars once allocated to textbooks to purchase devices that could host the more affordable ebooks.

Beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, District 207 distributed Chromebooks to its freshmen and sophomores. Here are some key steps District 207 took to better ensure a 1:1 program’s success:

· Study the connectivity of your schools so you can provide enough bandwidth internally to operate school smoothly.

�� Consider your students’ home connectivity and make a plan for students without home access. District 207 provides students and families with community maps that identify hotspots, and we have been fortunate to receive a ConnectEd grant through Sprint that allows us to provide wireless connectivity to some of our neediest students.

· Have a plan for training and sustaining teacher learning in a 1:1 environment. In District 207, we have Instructional Coaches in each building and a strong cadre of teacher leaders, several of whom do beta testing for various software developers in the learning environment. This helps us to not only stay on the cutting edge of education applications, but it also helps us shape the future of applications by having real-time teacher feedback inform developers.

When determining the economics of a 1:1 program, there are far more variables than budgets. District 207 has not only saved money, but also increased learning opportunities for students and staff. Rarely do the economic and educational stars align as they do now to make 1:1 a viable option for many districts.

Dr. Ken Wallace is the Superintendent of Maine Township High School District 207.