The COVID-19 pandemic essentially ended the conversation about whether school districts should embrace one-to-one programs that put a computing device into the hands of every student.
“During COVID, a large number of individual devices were deployed,” says Amy McLaughlin, Cybersecurity Initiative director at the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). “We exited the conversation of, ‘Should we do one-to-one?’ and entered the conversation of, ‘How do we maintain one-to-one?’”
Historically, many school districts have struggled to build device refresh cycles into their operating budgets. Often, new interactive displays or laptops are bought with one-time, nonrecurring funds, such as bond money for a school building project. More recently, schools received multiple rounds of federal government funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, the Emergency Connectivity Fund, and other grants to make necessary ed tech purchases.
As McLaughlin notes, the lifecycle for mobile devices such as laptops and tablets is much shorter — about three years, she suggests — than the lifecycle of a school building. In a 2022 CoSN survey, 75 percent of districts said federal economic stimulus funds were significant for supporting hybrid learning. Of those that relied on emergency funding for IT initiatives, 60 percent used the money to purchase devices.