Why COVID will be an ed-tech ‘game changer’ in Houston
Aldine ISD in Houston has only received about a quarter of the 19,500 Chromebooks administrators ordered for online learning in response to the COVID pandemic this spring.
The 67,000-student district, which had embarked on a two-year 1-to-1 initiative, ran into supply chain problems as school systems and businesses around the world scrambled for laptops.
To make up for the shortage, Aldine ISD joined Operation Connectivity, a state-led, bulk purchase of devices that supplied the district with 8,800 iPads and began the flow of another 43,000 laptops to students.
“The silver lining here is every one our 67,000 students is going to have their own device,” says Tamika Alford-Stephens, Aldine ISD’s chief finance and business officer. “It’s going to be a game-changer. We’re going to be far ahead of where we would’ve been pre-pandemic.”
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The pandemic, and the shift to online learning, has exposed inequities throughout K-12 education, Alford-Stephens says. To continue to bridge the device gap, Aldine ISD educators also collected Chromebooks from carts at schools and redistributed them to families in need.
The first priority was to ensure every family had at least one device, even if multiple students had to share.
As more devices become available, principals at the district’s 82 campuses are determining which families need additional laptops.
Administrators also ordered mobile hotspots for the 30% of its students who reported that they did not have adequate Wi-Fi access.
Families in the district can now choose to be face-to-face instruction or remain online.
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Meanwhile, the district has begun reaching out to local legislators to expand broadband to neighborhoods where there is currently no service.
Alford-Stephens recommends that other administrators be patient with supply-chains and communicate transparently and consistently with families about shortages.
“I see Wi-Fi as a basic right,” she says. “Just like we have access to water and electricity—that’s how Wi-Fi should be at this point.”
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