Students in Williamsburg-James City County high schools can look forward to 2,000 new laptops next year.
During a WJCC school board meeting Tuesday, members of the board unanimously approved the purchase of $786,000 worth of laptops as part of the division’s technology refresh cycle, according to the meeting agenda.
This summer, the refresh cycle is meant to update the technology in WJCC high schools.
Brian Landers, senior director of technology for the district, said the refresh occurs every four years. Landers added the four-year cycle started approximately five years ago because it fit better with the warranty expiration on the laptops.
The new laptops will include an extended Lenovo warranty and services in accordance with the state hardware and maintenance contract with Lenovo. Sanders said while the contract is with Lenovo, the contract sponsor is the state technology agency and the district is able to use the contract as a local government entity.
Pattie Bowen, supervisor of instructional technology, innovation and media services for WJCC, said the cycle will significantly increase the number of laptops in schools. Currently, she said the classrooms have sets of 15 to 20 laptops on a cart that go from room to room. Now, she said there will be a more stable number that gives more students the opportunity to use the laptops.
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While this won’t put the high schools on a one-to-one ratio, meaning one laptop for each student, such as at the middle schools, Bowen said it will put the district closer to meeting that goal.
She said it’s easier to meet a one-to-one ratio at a middle school level because classes and students are broken up by grade. However, at a high school level students might be taking classes with other students from various grades so if there is one group using the laptops, then another group might not be able to.
With approximately 3,796 high school students in the district in the 2018-2019 school year, according to WJCC reports, Bowen said the budget and resources can only cover so much. However, with this new cycle, more students than ever before will have access to laptops in schools.
“It addresses the equity issue for those kids that might not have access to a laptop at all at home,” he said. “It gives them the opportunity to have that connection, so for that reason we have stuck with laptops as opposed to [other technology].”
In the past, Landers, who has worked for WJCC for 13 years, said the district considered providing wide-spread use of other technologies, such as iPads or Tablets, but after hearing from teachers and administrators, it appeared laptops would provide the most use for students.
Those discussions reflect the shift in education to provide not only more experience with technology, but simply more access.
“When you have instructional technology readily available, what you’re doing is making it as ubiquitous as a pen in a classroom,” Bowen said. “A child might not use it everyday, but it’s available for them when needed. That creates a more personalized learning experience and redesign instructional spaced to address digital citizenship.”
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The laptops will at first be distributed equally to all three high schools, but eventually the resources will be balanced out based on population and need, Sanders said. The method was suggested by teachers in the school who wanted to make sure everyone had access to the resources from the start and then were adjusted for enrollment.
Laptops from the previous cycle will be resold for a small profit, but most will be recycled.
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