Free laptops for all, but it’s not as good as it sounds. For the upcoming school year, the next phase of the FCPSOn policy will be implemented in Jefferson, with each student receiving an FCPS-issued laptop that he or she can take home. This provides a “consistent, predictable and supported use of updated technology will enhance teaching and learning,” as mentioned in Dr. Bonitatibus’ email to families on April 1.
While FCPSOn, Fairfax County Public School’s new laptop program is a great way for the school system to catch up to the changing pace of technology, the program may be unnecessary to implement for all Jefferson students.
Many students at Jefferson already have their own laptop for personal and school-related needs. These laptops may, understandably, be preferred over the county-issued Dell Latitude 3300XCTO, which runs on older and slower hardware.
Furthermore, in her email to Jefferson families, Dr. Bonitatibus said that FCPSOn curricular software can only be loaded on to school-provided laptops, not student-owned devices. Will students be limited to only using the school-issued laptop? If so, this will be incredibly inconvenient as many Jefferson students are already used to using personal laptops. To alleviate this burden, FCPS should find a way to allow students to access FCPSOn software through personal laptops.
Even with this new policy in place next year, we can’t expect that classes will become completely paper free, making backpacks heavier than they already are since teachers could require students to bring their county-issued laptops to school every day.
Implementing FCPSOn at Jefferson makes even less sense when considering the fact that students here already have plenty of ways to access the internet in school. Teachers bring computer carts into classroom to allow students who do not have access to a personal laptop to complete the activities. On top of that, library study halls are open every eighth period for students who want to use the internet during this time, so there isn’t really a shortage of devices that can access the internet during school hours.
To save the county’s resources, there should be an opt-out option for students who would prefer to use their own laptop. This would save money for the county as well as reduce liability issues that may come with additional neglected or damaged laptops.
Instead of targeting a school population that already has access to laptops through more than one channel, the money fueled into this program could be redirected to resources that will drive the Jefferson community forward, such as purchasing access to more online databases or allocating greater funding for our various research laboratories.