Steve Morford is the principal of Spearfish High School in Spearfish, South Dakota—a 1:1 teaching and learning environment. With close to seven years of experience leading a 1:1 school, Mr. Morford has a lot of wisdom to share, especially when it comes to financing improved student access to technology.

Spearfish was one of the 20 pilot districts that took advantage of South Dakota’s Classroom Connections Project in 2006-07. The program provided a one-time incentive for districts in the state to go 1:1 with a $1 match from the state for every $2 that districts spent on devices and technology infrastructure. This one-time state match incentivized the initial participation of districts that now fund device purchases from their own budgets.

Today, every student and every teacher at Spearfish High School is equipped with the same device that is purchased “fully loaded” for about $1100 with dollars from the district’s capital outlay fund. This pot of money is separate from the General Fund that supports the majority of expenses, including teacher pay.  Parents are not required to make a financial contribution, and about 75 percent of parents purchase the optional $25 device insurance.

Students and teachers get new devices every three years. Since 06-07, Spearfish has purchased new devices twice, and their new set of HP touchscreen tablets for 2012-13 is on its way!

Among the advantages to Spearfish’s 1:1 environment, Mr. Morford cited both student and teacher satisfaction. He stated that everyone from student-teachers to 35 year veterans appreciates the opportunities that the technogically-rich learning environment provides. Mr. Morford believes that the 1:1 program is one reason why the district continues to attract the best teacher talent year after year.

In addition to these advantages, Mr. Morford also spoke to the savings produced by the shift to e-textbooks on the devices. In this Language Arts purchasing year, instead of purchasing 700 textbooks at roughly $90 each, the school purchased electronic versions for around $47 each – producing savings of nearly 50 percent. This forward-thinking educational leader is also interested in learning more about how Open Educational Resources (OER) can yield more savings while simultaneously giving teachers and students access to the most current, relevant and engaging content that is aligned to Common Core State Standards.

As we continue to research ways that districts can fund the shift to digital learning, we are always excited to hear about schools like Spearfish High School that prioritize student access to devices. South Dakota provides a good example of the way states can incentive participation to set increased student access into motion.

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