Houston Launches Ambitious 1-to-1 Computing Initiative

Benjamin Harold:

Undeterred by the high-profile problems experienced by other large school systems attempting to put digital devices in the hands of their students, the Houston Independent School District began distributing more than 18,000 laptop computers to high school students and staff members this month.
It’s the first phase of a multi-year plan that, unlike troubled initiatives elsewhere, will be defined by “realistic expectations” and a cautious implementation plan, said Lenny Schad, the chief technology officer for the 210,000-student district.
“We are going to have bumps in the road,” Schad said in a telephone interview. “But I feel very confident that when those bumps occur, we will be able to react, address the problems, and move on.”
The Houston initiative, known as PowerUp, aims to distribute roughly 65,000 laptops–enough for every high school student and high school teacher in the district–by the 2015-16 school year. Eventually, the initiative is expected to cost about $18 million annually; this year, the Houston ISD is dishing out $6 million, all of it existing funds that were reallocated from other sources. The 2013-14 school year is being devoted to a step-by-step pilot program, and Schad–who previously oversaw implementation of a successful “bring your own device” initiative in Texas’ 66,000-student Katy Independent School District–said the district is entering the 1-to-1 computing fray with eyes wide open.

Related: The Madison School District’s latest technology plan.