Texas School District Picks Dell Windows 8 Tablets

Schools CTO who picked iPad in his last job says things have changed.
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The Clear Creek Independent School District in Texas has chosen Dell Latitude tablets running Windows 8 as the basis for a one-to-one student technology program that will begin in the fall.

Clear Creek ISD, located near Houston, plans to eventually provide the tablets to 30,000 students, teachers and staff members. "We'll do the first large wave of 5,000 devices to staff and administration over the summer," school district CTO Kevin Schwartz said in an interview. The rest of the implementation will be phased in over two years, starting with a couple of model schools, then all of 9th and 10th grade, then the rest of the system. "We also have a couple of campuses that will be undergoing major renovation, so we'll probably roll out a little faster there. The construction will knock out walls, so mobility will be an absolute bonus to the schools," he said.

In a previous role as technology director for the Eanes ISD in Austin, Texas, he led the choice of iPads for a similar one-to-one technology initiative, where every student would get access to a device. That was the right choice at the time, but things have changed since he moved to the job at Clear Creek in 2012. "At the time, there were really only a few Android devices out there, and the iPad. It wasn't a difficult decision to see the iPad as the best device out there," he said.

As Schwartz arrived in the Clear Creek schools, the system was "addressing lingering technology issues under a budget crunch," he said. "The district wanted to strive toward a one-to-one program, not so much for the devices as for the access to personalized learning" they would enable.

[ Not so sure about Windows 8? Reac 8 Things Microsoft Should Fix In Windows Blue. ]

In the technology bakeoff competition he ran this time, which included student representatives as well as faculty and staff, the Dell devices emerged as the favorite because of the availability of software like Microsoft Office, he said. The students were probably biased toward the iPad at the beginning of the process.

When the students first saw Windows 8, they were disoriented by the new user interface, but "it took them about five minutes to get past that," Schwartz said. Then they started asking questions about things like warranties ("these are smart kids: they were using terms like total cost of ownership") because if they were going to be responsible for a school-owned device, they wanted to know it would be durable, he said.

Meanwhile, Schwartz saw the potential for the devices to also function as the desktop machine for many teachers, with the addition of a docking station. The Dell tablets also had clear advantages in terms of manageability because they ran standard Windows software, he said. "We got to do all those things directly on the Latitudes that were workarounds on the iPad."

This is one of several recent educational deployment wins for the Windows platform. Southern Illinois University will also be giving out Dell tablets to the freshman class this fall. The State of Maine recently switched to Windows 8 on HP laptops as its preferred technology standard for students in place of Apple products.

Follow David F. Carr at @davidfcarr or Google+, along with @IWKEducation.

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