Houston Independent School District (HISD), the seventh largest in the US, is to provide students with free access to Microsoft Office 365 via the Student Advantage programme as part of its PowerUp initaitve.
The district, which has a large proportion of students from low-income families, aims to provide more than 14,000 students and 1,200 teachers with the technology to improve communication and collaboration across the district. Over the next three years, 65,000 high school students will also receive HP Elitebook Folio 9470m Ultrabooks running Windows to provide them with the resources they need to succeed.
“Educating our children is important, but having our parents and community understand digital awareness is imperative to their success,” said Lenny Schad, chief information technology officer at HISD. “The entire community is behind our PowerUp initiative; we’re partnering with restaurants, churches, YMCAs and apartment complexes to install wireless infrastructures so students can access the network from anywhere, as we know many of our students do not have Internet access at home. Meeting our goal is all about community participation.”
Last year, HISD provided Windows devices to the curriculum leads, campus leadership and professional development teams to enable them to implement technology strategies for the upcoming year. Three months later, the teachers received their devices, while students at 11 high schools were given their devices the following semester.
“This deployment process was unique because teachers were given the opportunity to teach their students with just pen and paper during the first semester and then see them the second half of the year on a digital platform,” Schad said. “Teachers tell us that students are blowing them away; artistic, writing and other skills come out of the woodwork when you allow students their own path to learning.”
Schad added: “You can’t help but feel good when you see students’ faces as they open their laptops, or when you hear from parents and grandparents how grateful they are that this technology – something they would never be able to afford on their own – has been provided, because it’s so important to their students’ futures and education.”
Other districts in the Houston area using Microsoft solutions to improve student outcomes include Clear Creek Independent School District, Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District and Klein Independent School District.
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