Fairfax Expands Pilot Program to Give Laptops to All High School Students

16/08/2019 Andrei Podlesny

Fairfax Expands Pilot Program to Give Laptops to All High School Students

In Fairfax County, Virginia, all high school students will have their own laptops in class this school year.

Following a pilot program that has been in place at more than a dozen education institutions across the county since 2016, high school students will be the first to benefit from a state grant that will see nearly all of the county’s 188 thousand students get their personal laptops distributed to them by 2023.

Quality in Dell Laptops Given!

The multi-year initiative FCPSOn, which will cost $30 million in total, aims to transform both teaching and learning in Fairfax, Virginia’s largest school district.

As part of the initiative, the students are given a Dell Latitude 3300, a highly durable and energy-efficient device that, its producer says, promises “best-in-class durability and battery life.” According to Dell, it has survived 30-inch (76-cm) drop tests onto steel and features a sealed, spill-resistant keyboard that can withstand 12-ounce (354-ml) spills. The tech company is proud to promote its product with respect to its battery, which it says, can keep the device on for up to 14 hours.

With the program, students can take those laptops home and is responsible to bring them for in-class use. At the end of each school year, they return their devices to be picked up again following summer break. To take advantage of all that, each student is charged an annual technology support fee of $50.

Don’t Just Expect Higher Test Scores!

Proponents of the program say that when students have their own laptops — and can take them home — that easy access boosts learning. Internet access, in particular, is critical for Fairfax County high school students because many textbooks are available only online. Aside from accessing course documents, students are also believed to develop and benefit from advanced learning methods and engage each other more efficiently.

There are, however, critics as well. Some parents are concerned that their children might be exposed to more distractions while looking onto a screen of their own rather than at their instructors in class. Besides, research examining the effects of classroom laptop use on student achievement is mixed. In response to those criticisms, proponents say the program doesn’t just aim to boost students’ performance in standardized tests.

In an August 11 report by The Washington Post, Sloan Presidio, an assistant superintendent for Fairfax County Public Schools, said computers are crucial for kids as they develop skills such as critical thinking, collaboration and communication.

Without the program, some students could still have been able to bring own laptops to class or use what is available in school inventory but that would have always left many others under-equipped either because the school inventory is insufficient, not all students own a personal device, or have one that is technologically competitive.

To address all those identified problems, the program will be expanded to middle schools next school year of 2020-2021 and to elementary schools for grades 5-6 and 3-4 in 2021-2022 and 2022-2023, respectively.