With costs falling, we can help schools provide more students with tablets, smart phones and laptops capable of delivering online lessons, learning games and collaborative tools.  Interactive white boards and projectors and other tools are also making it easy for teachers to deliver lessons, test each student’s understanding of key concepts and organize their class.

Over the past decade, the cost of desktop and laptop computers has dropped dramatically.  During that same time, tablets and smart phones have emerged as less expensive and more mobile alternatives for online work.  Today’s low-cost devices deliver more computing power, more functionality, and better graphics than high-cost devices did a few years ago.

Advances in software and the rise of “cloud” computing are also helping.  A decade ago, administrators had to load software, individually, onto school-owned computers using CD-ROMs.  Every time a program or an operating system was upgraded, teachers had to load more CD-ROMs into those computers.  Today, students can download the software themselves, onto a school laptop or one from home, entirely online.  In most cases, downloading from the cloud takes seconds.

The result?  The total cost and time involved in distributing computers, tablets and smart phones is dropping, while the amount of content they can deliver is improving dramatically.  School districts have more choices, better software and, in most cases, a student population that already understands how to use them.

For many districts, only a dedicated, fully subsidized, school-owned device program will work.  But many schools are testing and expanding “bring your own device” programs that allow students to download approved online tools onto their own devices and bring those devices to school.

Finally, some districts are working with cable and telecommunications companies to help schools afford broadband connections and help parents purchase them for their homes at reduced rates.  Public private partnerships, like Connect2Compete, are complementing these deals with technical expertise, financial support and community partnerships that promote the importance of these new online tools.  Meanwhile, the e-rate, which has helped tens of thousands of U.S. schools purchase Internet access at reduced rates, could be updated to cover (more expensive) broadband access.