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Connectivity beyond the classroom, Dallas ISD’s new laptop strategy to improve internet access for students

Dallas, Texas – In an age where technology permeates nearly every facet of modern life, the necessity of high-speed internet access as an educational apparatus is an undeniable truth; yet for many students, this crucial tool remains tantalizingly out of reach.

Dallas Independent School District CTO explains the district’s decision

Sean Brinkman, the Chief Technology Officer for Dallas Independent School District (Dallas ISD), bears witness to a systemic challenge that transcends the temporal limitations of the school day. While the initiative to broaden internet access within the student community predates the COVID-19 pandemic, this global crisis has undoubtedly acted as a catalyst, accelerating those earnest endeavors. A reversion to in-person learning has by no means curtailed these efforts.

“The struggle is what happens outside, after school when kids get home,” Brinkman said speaking to CBS Texas. “We know instruction and learning doesn’t end at the end of the school day.”

This reality underscores the persistent digital divide afflicting approximately 20% of Dallas ISD’s 140,000 students, an issue that has seen multifarious strategies employed over the past few years in an attempt to ameliorate.

This year heralds a new epoch in Dallas ISD’s approach to mitigating this digital deprivation.

“There’s parts of our community that just wasn’t sufficient connectivity,” Brinkman said. “And you had two devices.”

Dallas ISD bought and distributed 15,000 laptops with digital, eSIM cards

Shifting away from the erstwhile strategy of distributing laptops paired with hotspots – a tactic deemed insufficient in certain community segments – the district has manifested an investment in 15,000 laptops furnished with eSIM cards, or digital SIM cards. These sophisticated pieces of technology, compatible with any service provider, obviate the necessity for a hotspot, offering a seamless solution.

When one of these devices is on a Dallas ISD campus, it will automatically connect to the district’s network. But when WiFi isn’t available, the eSIM card provides the laptop with mobile data.

“It essentially makes these into a large cell phone,” Brinkman said.

Commencing with students at Frederick Douglass Elementary School and accompanied by an upgrade to the school’s broadband infrastructure, the deployment of these devices signals a thoughtful, needs-based approach.

“That’s how we’re gonna go through this. Figure out where there’s the most need for the student,” Brinkman said. “We’ll start there and eventually we’ll make our way as fast as possible through the rest of the district.”

As this progressive initiative unfolds, its success will be emblematic not just of a district’s commitment to education but of a broader societal recognition of the Internet not as a luxury, but as a fundamental right – a conduit to knowledge and opportunity. The undulating journey of technological inclusion within Dallas ISD may well be a microcosm, reflecting a national struggle, where the call-to-action echoes with a resonance that transcends the boundaries of a single school district.

Dallas ISD continues its long-term strategy to become a modern school district. Starting Monday, all Dallas ISD school buses will have special equipment that will allow parents of students to track their children via the Edulog App.

Mark Long

At Dallas Metro, Mark has the freedom to explore his interests and delve deep into stories that matter. Whether he's investigating corruption in local government or writing about the latest trends in technology, Mark brings his own brand of wit and insight to every piece he writes.

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