One Alaska School District Goes All-PowerBook, Another Alaska District Experiments

When Fred Anderson spoke to the Citigroup Technology Conference i03 last week, he had good things to say about Appleis education sales. Market share was up, though sales were flat, and portables were very strong. When mentioning the large sales to Henrico County, Virginia and the entire state of Maine, Mr. Anderson specifically said that there were another 100 or so similar sales that had either taken place or were in the works, and that Apple would not be publicizing them.

Fortunately, a local Alaskan newspaper is taking care of that, at least for one district. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner published a report yesterday on the Denali Borough School District, which is in the process of implementing a program that will put 12" PowerBook G4s in the hands of each of its 9th-12th graders. From the article:

When school begins Sept. 15, the Denali Borough School District will become the first in Alaska to provide a laptop computer for every student in grades 9 through 12. A total of 129 laptop computers are being prepared to hand over to high schoolers at Tri-Valley, Anderson and Cantwell schools.

This "one-on-one initiative" is the result of a partnership between the Denali Borough School District and Apple Computer, and is based on programs in other states, particularly in Virginia and in Maine.


"We know from reading about other school districts and other states that you see a tremendous growth in studentsi skills as soon as they have a computer in their hands that is theirs," said Swett. "It levels the playing field," said Cole. "Everybody has what they need at their fingertips, what they need to do their schoolwork. No one has to share to have equal access."

The article explains that students and parents must sign a contract on use of the PowerBooks, and thatis after the parents attend a meeting on the subject. In addition, the school system is self-insuring the laptops by requiring a US$50 deposit from students that will be placed into a general insurance pool. The students will not have administrator access to the PowerBooks, meaning that the students can not install software on their systems. Thereis more information on the plan and the school system in the full article, which we found to be an interesting read.

Doing a (little) bit of digging, we found mention of a pilot program in another Alaska school district, the Anchorage School District. That program began in the Fall of 2002, and is designed to get iBooks in the hands of teachers. Likely another one of Mr. Andersonis 100 unheralded school district deals, the program is called the "Elementary iBook Pilot Project," and involves some 579 iBooks obtained through a grant. From the projectis Web page:

Five hundred seventy nine iBook laptop computers are being distributed to elementary teachers to facilitate their ability to enter reading assessment data into the ASD Reading Database.

The computers were purchased because of the Learning Opportunity Grant. Teachers were required to attend an initial three hour training to familiarize them with the iBook and the OS X operating system. Follow-up courses are being provided by Title IID grant funds for iBook Pilot Project teachers during the school year.

The Web page also says that updating and configuring the units is being handled through a server system administered across the local network. Training for teachers is offered every month through the current school year, and teachers were allowed to check out their iBooks over the summer. Thereis more information at the projectis Web site.