Thursday, March 01, 2007

Would you, could you, if you saved $2 million?

March is conference month for me this year. I kicked off conference month two days early by attending and presenting at the Midwest Education Technology Conference in St. Louis. I am currently soaking up ideas from brilliant people at the National Association of Independent Schools Conference in Denver.

I gave a presentation on Open Source tools at METC and was heckled by a bright guy named Steve Pillow from Raymore-Peculiar School District. In addition to a state championship football team, they've got a high caliber Technology Coordinator. Steve took a few jabs during my presentation which, as a former debate coach, I enjoy! We spoke after the presentation and he really got me thinking.

Steve presented many of the obstacles he faces in his his district. I may have misperceived him but it appeared as though he saw some of the value of 1:1 programs (where each student has their own mobile computer) but dismissed it because his superintendent believed they couldn't afford it. I suspect that is not uncommon. In fact, I would guess many districts don't even go as far as Steve and his superintendent and simply dismiss it outright.

Next year, when we roll out our laptops to the last group of students and implement some of the efficiencies and enhancements we have learned over the last three years, we will save our school $200,000 per year when compared to a traditional model of a laptop program. I asked Steve how many students he had and he responded 6,000. That means, conservatively, his school could save $2 million each year versus the model he spoke to his superintendent about.

Now, anyway you cut it, computers at a 1:1 ratio are more expensive than a 4:1 ratio. However, shouldn't $2 million per year allow you to get your foot in the door? Let this Linux/Citrix model allow your school to start having the conversation.

Now, in an earlier post, I explain "why Linux." However, Mike Vitiello, who runs a great program called challenged me saying Linux is not for everyone. ABSOLUTELY! Mac isn't for everyone and Windows isn't for everyone but creating environments for our students to be empowered, creative, collaborating learners MUST be for everyone and well-done 1:1 programs do this as well or better than anything.

You see, that's the goal. We want engaged, creative, collaborative 21st Century literate students. I don't care how we get it. I just don't want the majority of our population left out because they didn't know they had other options.

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