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Flagler Schools’ 1-to-1 Laptop Initiative Termed a Success, But Replacement Costs at $100,000 a Year

| November 6, 2015

Students, seen here at the Flagler County Youth Center, are never far from their school-issued computers. (c FlaglerLive)

Students, seen here at the Flagler County Youth Center, are never far from their school-issued computers. (c FlaglerLive)

For Dave Halliday, the last few years has been a whole new world in education, both as a teacher and as a parent to two high-school aged children.

Halliday is a history teacher and track and field coach at Flagler Palm Coast High School, and he’s noticed big changes for the better since the Flagler School district launched its four-year, $3.2 million plan to provide an iPad or Macbook computer to every Flagler County student by 2017-2018 school year.

Halliday’s daughter Darien graduated FPC last year and was constantly using her Macbook to do homework, form study groups with other students, and access learning tools set up by her teacher.

His youngest daughter, P.J. “uses her laptop for everything,” Halliday said. “They use programs like Canvas and NearPod in her classes, very interactive stuff that really makes learning more interesting, and frankly, better for us teachers as well.

“I’d say the vast majority of teachers and parents,” Halliday said, “are really happy with this program.”

Halliday’s opinion seems to be the prevailing one among Flagler County teachers, parents and administrators:  With high school students getting laptops first, and now this year with the first group of middle schoolers receiving them, it’s clear by most metrics that the laptop one-to-one initiative has been a big success.

The initiative, proposed and enacted in 2013 when Flagler Schools entered into a contract with Apple Corp., is part of a larger five-year, $20 million technology and education program that included upgrading wireless infrastructure in schools, making classrooms “smarter,” and updating or upgrading computer labs in the district’s schools. It’s being paid for by county residents through a voter-approved sales surtax renewed in 2012.

While most of the school district and school board expected greater learning opportunities and effectiveness with the laptop initiative, one striking and positive result  has been that replacement costs for lost, stolen or broken computers have come in way under projections.

According to Ryan Deising, technology manager for the district, a total of $154,000 was budget for replacement costs in the first year, and $165,000 was budget for the second year, to cover costs for the 7,900 machines given out in 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years, for a two-year total of $319,000.

But the actual replacement costs for the two years combined were $194,565.00, Deising said, which is $124,435 less than  projected.

There are a few reasons for this, Deising and several school board members  said. First, the district was able to work with an outside repair company, which allowed them to reduce costs of repair parts, as well as fix devices that otherwise couldn’t be fixed by the district’s technology staff.

But perhaps an equally big reason: students are being really careful with their laptops. Teenagers aren’t exactly known for their delicate natures with objects (ask any parent), but the Macbooks and iPads are a source of pride.

“They’re pretty proud of having them and being much more careful than I think anyone expected,” said school board member Trevor Tucker. “I was definitely worried about that at first, that you’d see a lot of machines left on buses or on athletic fields or other places. But the students really seem to realize their importance and do a great job taking care of them.”

Parents are required to pay an annual Technology Liability Fee with a co-payment program at the start of each year, with the annual fee depending on whether the student qualifies for free or reduced lunch. The fee ranges from $10 to 25. The co-payment for damaged or lost devices is $100 for a MacBook Air and $85 for an iPad.

As of this writing there are 8,991 MacBook Airs and iPads in use, Deising said, with the middle school grades 7-8 getting theirs in August at the start of the school year, and iPads being given to elementary grades 5 and 6 this year as well.

School board member Andy Dance said he’s been very pleased with what he’s seen from the program, adding that the collaboration aspect he’s seen with his own kids has been impressive.

“The group component has what’s impressed me the most, seeing the collaborative learning and the online study groups going on,” Dance said. “The goal was to integrate these machines into education and the curriculum, and I think that’s what’s happened. This has gone much better than we expected.”

Deising said there’ve been “very few” issues reported with the expansion of the program to the middle school grades this year, and that the fifth and sixth-graders, whose iPads were limited to in-school use until Parent Night (when parents could sign off and pay the Technology Liability Fee) have also seen very limited damage or loss.

Over the next two years the program will continue to spread to the lower grade levels, and Tucker said he thinks that any expansion of the initiative would depend on educators’ judgment of the youngest  children being able to handle their own laptops.

But for now, the devices have been a success for students and educators alike.

16 Responses for “Flagler Schools’ 1-to-1 Laptop Initiative Termed a Success, But Replacement Costs at $100,000 a Year”

  1. joe says:

    I can not belive flagler Schools has fallen for this atrocity of computer learning, kids should not have computers and especially not in school, it makes me sick to think everything our children do is now kept in an online file. It amazes me how some parents and teachers can just hand their kids minds over to electronics just because it makes it easier, since when has easier ever been the better choice?, wake up people your handing your children’s future over to the machines

  2. Marvelous says:

    Sadly they have no way to let parents monitor where the children go on the internet. The answer I got for my middle schooler was to check her browser history. But that is pointless if she deletes the history. And they have not approved anything that I can install on their owned laptop to monitor the usage.

  3. m&m says:

    This system allows the teachers to get more time away from the class. After all 150 days a year is pretty tiresome..

  4. Freddy says:

    I applaud Flagler schools for trying to bring our kids into the 21st century.

  5. Joe says:

    I think its working as well, I was a skeptic initially but now think this is awesome, keep up the good work!

  6. Erik Matlock says:

    I have two kids in the system using these laptops. Personally, I believe that this was one of the most forward-thinking moves the schools could have done. The things my kids are able to do with these laptops regularly blows my mind. I have a 13-year-old running autocad programs and building 3D models to demonstrate atomic structures. I have a 17-year-old creating video productions in hours, that used to take me weeks. These kids are being equipped with tools to succeed in a technology driven world. Why would anyone consider this a bad idea? Would you prefer to go back to inkwells and chalkboards? Maybe they could go back to studying by candlelight. How will any of that prepare them to function in a wired world? How much more prepared for college level challenges will our kids be compared to the folks sharpening pencils every ten minutes? This is just one more reason we are happy to call Palm Coast home.

  7. Longman says:

    welcome to our world now Joe, If the kids can’t keep up they fall behind. our world has changed a little bit

  8. joe says:

    The world hasn’t changed, just the people in it, the world is still as simple as when we found it, it’s us that makes things more complicated. So cool your kid will learn how to program a 3D doohickey to make making doohickeys faster and better, great. Will they learn the human values? Sad.

  9. Erik Matock says:

    That’s a pretty arrogant response. You assume too much. My kids are amazing. Do you think that the ability to manage technology automatically negates the ability to manage social interaction? Unless you are living in a cave, eating wild berries and drinking from the river, you owe a lot to the folks who understand technology. Ease up a little. Don’t insult my kids.

  10. tomc says:

    Sure the parents love the program. Do they love it enough to buy the computers out of their own pocket?

    I am so tired of paying for other people’s kids.

  11. Andy says:

    Heads-up, Joe- not only are they encouraging kids to use computers; but they’re also using electricity in some of the classrooms, and I hear rumor that the lunchroom staff is using ARTIFICIAL REFRIGERATION on the food that our children are eating!!!

    This is a slippery slope; next they’ll want to do something crazy like vaccinate our kids or give impartial, scientific answers for the mysteries of life!!!

    Let’s all band together and stop this madness…join me at City Hall on Monday where I’ll be creating clay tablets in protest, and you can affix your cuniform seal in the tablets which I’ll deliver via horse-drawn carriage; if my sundial doesn’t wake me up late again….

  12. PC Dad says:

    As a parent, I was skeptical of the technology and what it would be used for by my kids. With my own monitoring, I find that they use it for research, getting tutoring from peers and teachers at school and they are able to access their teachers at all hours via email. I believe Flagler County schools made the 100% correct decision in providing this learning tool to the students.

    BTW, to the complainers, change is the only constant in this world (change of seasons, age, weather). If you don’t like change I hope you don’t get stuck in the cold winter.

  13. joe says:

    Not one great mind from our history ever had a laptop or tablet. Remember when we weren’t allowed to use a calculator in class?

  14. Knightwatch says:

    I knew it. I knew the most conservative of our citizens would decry the expense of giving our kids the tools they will need to compete in our digital world. I knew some would object to paying for computers because their kids are grown and gone. I knew some would condemn the use of computers instead of god-given pencils, paper and fingers to learn reedin, riten and rithmatik, just like they did in 1950.

    I congratulate the Flagler County school system and our commissioners for looking to, and preparing for, the future of these kids. Their lives will be tough enough and we need not burden them with 20th century thinking.

  15. Longman says:

    Joe, remember walking to school uphill, in the snow, both ways……..Geez

  16. joe says:

    I never walked to school in the snow, but I Do remember a thing called working out a problem with your mind, today’s generation has infinite knowledge and zero wisdom, when I have kids I sure hope they can go to public school without using computers for every class

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