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Florida to Become Statewide BYOD Model?

More than a decade after Maine launched the first-ever statewide 1-to-1 school laptop program, Florida could be on the path to launching a statewide bring-your-own-device model, according to a story from this Sunday's Orlando Sentinel.

According to the Sentinel, the state's board of education is seeking around $440 million for the state's "Education Technology Modernization Initiative," which among other projects would fund round-the-clock computer access next year for students whose families are unable to provide it themselves.

The implication, then, would be that the state would either be mandating or at the very least encouraging schools to let students whose families can provide devices and Internet access to use those devices both during the school day and after school hours.

The bring-your-own-device, or BYOD, classroom computing movement has gained substantial popularity during the last two to three years, as many educational technology leaders have come to the dual conclusions that 1-to-1 computing is good for students, but not affordable if districts pay for all the devices themselves.

It's becoming an especially popular idea among larger districts, so perhaps it's not surprising that a larger state, such as Florida, would consider a statewide BYOD model—with loaner devices for students who don't have their own—instead of following directly in Maine's footsteps.

The cost of leasing roughly 304,000 iPads, netbooks, or laptops would be about $52 million, roughly an eighth of the total expense of an initiative that would also fund bandwidth and wireless upgrades, the Sentinel reports.

Under the proposal, each district in the state would choose the particular device it wanted to provide students, and it would be required to provide a matching number of devices from its own budget to correlate with those provided through state funds. That would make for two thirds of the total devices needed in grades 3-11 to create a statewide 1-to-1 climate, with the remaining third provided by students' families, according to the Sentinel.

In estimating that only a third of students would be able to provide their own devices, the board is delineating between smart devices that have full Web capabilities and more affordable cellphones or media players that may not be as multifunctional. In many BYOD districts, superintendents or chief technology officers report roughly between two thirds to three quarters of students bringing some sort of device to class, though the capabilities of those devices may be limited.

The board's budget recommendations are far from final, and will be considered along with those of other state agencies when Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, draws up his annual budget proposal for consideration by next year's legislature. But they do fall in line with a state goal of replacing all print educational resources with digital ones by 2015, according to the Sentinel.

Florida has built a reputation for being a leader in the use of educational technology. The Florida Virtual School is the nation's largest state-sponsored virtual school, and the state legislature recently passed a law mandating that all students pass an online course to graduate from high school. Further, Gov. Jeb Bush, also a Republican, is now co-founder of the Digital Learning Now initiative that advocates for digital-friendly state education policy changes around the country.

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