Princeton Public Schools recently approved two significant technology purchases, a one-to-one computer and tablet initiative and a new Learning Management System (LMS). A study of technology and implementation over the last few months revealed that both devices and delivery systems needed to be replaced. The cost for the new devices falls within the technology department's existing budget due to low-interest financing.
When school resumes in September, both synchronous and asynchronous learning will be enhanced with the new devices and management system. The new purchases provide the youngest students, in Pre-K to Grade 1 with iPads. Students in second to fifth grades will receive HP Chromebooks, while students in sixth to twelfth grades will be issued MacBooks that are compatible with the programs the district currently uses. PPS teachers utilize Mac laptops in performing their teaching duties.
The plan to move to a one-to-one device-per-student system was based on equity for all students, affordability, and practicality in terms of what applications PPS teachers use in the classroom. The $2.6 million price tag reflects technology costs over the next five years and is essentially “budget neutral” in the sense that yearly payments are equal to what PPS had budgeted for technology on a yearly basis. The forecasted costs, including payment for the financing of equipment, are equal to no more than our currently-adopted budget with a 2 percent increase going forward. Financing technology leverages the district’s purchasing power at very low interest rates, less than 2%, allowing the district to be more flexible in how it purchases its equipment.
PPS currently provides iPads, Chromebooks, and Apple laptops for shared student use. Sharing devices among students in the COVID-19 era is discouraged and considered a health risk. Sharing will no longer be practiced in the district.
The technology department evaluated devices from various companies including HP, Dell, Lenovo and Apple. The costs for PCs with similar specifications to the Macs came with extra fees related to setup and deployment. While it was clear that Chromebooks were less expensive in the short term, the price difference in the long run was not significant enough to offset the reduced functionality and instructional disadvantages of Chromebooks as determined by the PPS faculty and technical experts.
A bring-you-own-device (BYOD) program was considered but in the final analysis was not a good solution based on the experience of other districts. The drawbacks of BYOD included classroom management issues, technology licensing and support, as well as network security. In the case of PPS, equity was also a consideration.
As PPS prepares for reopening in September, it is imperative that the district upgrade its devices and learning management system. The technology initiative was deemed the best choice based on price, equity for students, and educational functionality for a K-12 district. Specific details about dates, devices, and distribution policies will be provided in August.