e-Learning Backpack Initiative
The Virginia Public School Authority (VPSA) has conducted the sixteenth sale of technology equipment notes, Series XVI. The Series XVI notes also include the Virginia e-Learning Backpack Initiative. Please see the Superintendent’s Memo 135-16 for more information.
The purpose of the Virginia e-Learning Backpack Initiative is to provide every ninth grade student attending a public school that is not fully accredited with a tablet or laptop computer, digital content and applications, and access to content creation tools. While much of the focus of the initiative is currently on the supplemental grants provided through the Virginia Public School Authority (VPSA) for eligible schools, the Virginia e-Learning Backpack Initiative is actually a broader initiative intended to assist all schools in the transition to digital content and tablet or laptop computers.
The goals of the Virginia e-Learning Backpack Initiative are to:
- Improve student achievement and graduation and dropout rates by providing the infrastructure, tools and content necessary to extend learning capabilities and create a personalized learning experience for high school students attending at-risk schools.
- Support virtual learning to ensure equitable learning opportunities for all students.
- Engage all students in learning through technology to increase graduation rates.
- Ensure college and career readiness by equipping every student with the knowledge, skills and experiences necessary for academic and workplace success.
- Serve as a catalyst for economic development by preparing a globally competitive, technology proficient workforce to attract businesses to all regions of the commonwealth.
- Improve the physical well-being of students by reducing the weight of backpacks and learning resources.
A legislative amendment to the e-Learning Backpack Initiative, approved by the 2015 General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor, expands “the type of equipment that school divisions can purchase with supplemental grants under the e-Learning Backpack Initiative from tablets to laptops and tablets”. The amendment covers only supplemental grants issued during the 2014-2016 biennium (July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2016) beginning in Spring 2015 and Spring 2016.
The approved amendment is not retroactive to FY 2014 (July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2014). Therefore, funds from supplemental grants issued for FY 2014 cannot be used to purchase laptops.
The allowable purchase of laptops is not retroactive to the FY 2014 e-Learning Backpack grant issuance of VPSA bonds because the FY 2014 bond issuance and grants are governed specifically under the approved budget covering the 2012-2014 biennium only. The FY 2014 language authorizes tablets only. The FY 2015 language authorizes laptops and tablets.
e-Learning Supplemental Grants
Schools that administer SOL tests in the spring and are not fully accredited for the second consecutive year, based on school accreditation ratings will qualify to participate in the Virginia e-Learning Backpack Initiative.
Qualified schools* participating in the Virginia e-Learning Backpack Initiative in FY2015 receive:
- a supplemental grant of $400 per student reported in ninth grade fall membership for the purchase of a tablet or laptop computer device,
- and a supplemental grant of $2,400 to purchase two content creation packages for teachers.
(100 x $400 for tablets or laptops, plus $2,400 for content creation packages).
Qualified schools* participating in the Virginia e-Learning Backpack Initiative in FY2014 receive:
- a supplemental grant of $400 per student reported in ninth grade fall membership for the purchase of a tablet computer device
- and a supplemental grant of $2,400 to purchase two content creation packages for teachers.
Example: A qualifying school with 100 ninth graders would receive $42,400
(100 x $400 for tablets, plus $2,400 for content creation packages).
Qualified schools* may continue receiving the grant for the number of subsequent years equaling the number of grades 9-12 up to a maximum of four years.
- A school with grades K-9 or a school with grades 7-9 would be eligible for one year only.
- A school with grades 9-10 would be eligible for two years only.
- A school with grades 9-11 would be eligible for three years.
Qualified schools cannot receive e-Learning Backpack funds once their original award period has concluded.
School divisions with schools receiving supplemental grants are required to:
- provide a local match of 20 percent to purchase tablet or laptop (not with FY’14 funds) computer devices for ninth grade students reported in fall membership and content creation packages for teachers.
- use 25 percent of the local match of 20 percent to provide teacher training in instructional technology.
Example: For a grant of $42,400, the local match would be $8,480; $2,120 would be used to provide teacher training in instructional technology and $6,360 would be used to purchase table computer devices for ninth grade students reported in fall membership and content creation packages for teachers.
- select a core set of textbooks, applications and online services for productivity, learning management, collaboration and assessment to be included on all devices.
- fund whatever costs above the grant and local match for required apps, textbooks and software.
- assume recurring costs for electronic textbook purchases and maintenance.
*Qualified schools are defined as those schools with a ninth grade that administer SOL tests in the spring and are not fully accredited for two consecutive years based on school accreditation ratings in effect for those two consecutive fiscal years.
State contract holders with tablet or laptop solutions
- Apple Products for Educational Institutions – VA-150605-APPL
- Attronica Computers, Inc. – VA-140331-ATRO
- CDW Government, LLC – VA-140331-CDWG
- Daly Computers, Inc. – VA-140331-DALY
- Dell Marketing, L P – VA-140331-DELL
- Electronic Systems, Inc .– VA-140331-ELSY
- Hewlett-Packard – VA-140331-HP
- KST Data, Inc .– VA-140331-KSTD
- Lenovo (United States) – VA-140331-LEN
- MAC Business Solutions – VA-120430-MACB
- NCS Technologies, Inc. – VA-140331-NCS
- Networking Tech & Support – VA-140331-NETT
- PCMG, Inc. – VA-140331-PCMG
- SHI International Corp. – VA-140331-SHI
Summer Institute – 2013 Resources
The Virginia e-Learning Backpack Initiative Summer Institute was held in August 2013 to assist all school divisions as they transition to tablet computers and digital content. It provided division personnel with information and strategies to implement digital initiatives. In addition, exhibitors displayed cutting-edge technologies, including tablet computers, peripheral devices, content, and applications. The Executive Summary (Word) for the summer institute details the panels on parent and community engagement, policy, infrastructure, devices and device management, digital content and textbooks, and professional development.
Resources from the Virginia 2013 e-Learning Backpack Initiative Summer Institute
(All files are in PDF format)
Frequently Asked Questions
Who qualifies for the Virginia e-Learning Backpack Initiative?
Schools that include a ninth grade that administered SOL tests beginning in spring 2014, and that are not fully accredited for two consecutive years based on school accreditation ratings in effect for the two consecutive fiscal years, or that have 15 percent of students in the English as a Second Language count and also have free lunch eligibility for the school of over one-third of the students qualify to participate in the program.
Are we required to use these devices for testing?
Tablets may be used for testing in the future when the state online testing system can fully support the devices. The Division of Student Assessment & School Improvement is working with the test provider and hardware manufacturers to make it possible to administer Standards of Learning (SOL) tests on tablet computers. Currently, the use of Chromebooks for SOL testing and the purchase of Chromebooks with Virginia Public School Authority (VPSA) funds provided through the Educational Technology Notes program of the DOE require the use of a virtual desktop interface (VDI) solution approved by Pearson. Starting the fall of 2016, once the TestNav 8 practice items are available on the VDOE Web site and the TestNav 8 Infrastructure Test and System Check are available for use, Chromebooks and the other devices mentioned in Superintendent’s Memo #048-16 may be purchased using VPSA funds without the need for a VDI solution. Spring and summer 2016 SOL tests will be administered using TestNav 7 which requires a VDI solution for SOL testing with Chromebooks.Therefore, any purchases made prior to the release of the TestNav 8 practice items and the TestNav 8 Infrastructure Test and System check must be accompanied by a VDI solution approved by Pearson.
Laptops may be used to administer Standards of Learning tests. While testing is important, the primary purpose of the devices in this initiative is to support instruction and learning.
Can we buy the hardware but not the software?
No. Participating schools are required to select a core set of electronic textbooks, software, apps and online services for productivity, learning management, collaboration, practice, and assessment to be included on all devices. However, some devices come preloaded with some of the software you need as part of the purchase price. You may also choose to use your textbook money to purchase electronic textbooks, applications, or even additional laptop or tablet devices to access electronic media electronic media for student use that serve as the primary curriculum basis for a grade-level subject or course.
Do we have to choose a specific type of tablet or laptop computer or operating system (Apple, Android, Chrome, or Windows)?
No. This should be based on a strong consideration of what you plan to do, instructionally, with the tablets or laptops and how the operating environment (including resources, applications, and support) actually helps you meet your instructional goals. In other words, start with your end goal in mind. Consult with educators and students as well as technical support personnel before deciding.
We don’t have a robust wireless network. Can we still use tablets in our school?
It is advisable to upgrade your wireless network in conjunction with the backpack initiative. Without adequate access, it is unlikely that the tablets will be able to do the job for which they are designated. Your school division may choose to use a portion of its existing VPSA Educational Technology Equipment funds to upgrade your network and infrastructure.
Does the purchase of “content creation packages” for teachers include the device?
Yes. Content creation packages can include the device or can be purchased separately from the device. The intent is that teachers will be able to create and/or adapt personalized learning experiences for students. To do so, teachers will need technology that supports features in content creation software, such as creating audio and visual components. Some devices come preloaded with applications that can be used for this purpose. School division personnel purchasing devices should consult with instructional leadership regarding the needs of teachers and students and what content creation hardware and software can best meet those needs.
Are students allowed to take the devices home?
This is a local decision, but if divisions have policies in place that allow students to use school equipment off school grounds, divisions can likely use these same policies for the tablets and laptops. Use of the devices by students off school grounds should be primarily school related.
Do we need to worry about meeting the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA)?
The use of tablets and laptops should not be treated any differently than other computing devices and so should follow the requirements of the CIPA law (or any other similar laws enacted in the future). However, many schools have narrowly interpreted the law and have provided filters that are more robust than necessary. Many new filtering solutions offer a mobile-friendly system that is also CIPA-compliant. See the section on Setting Policy of CoSN’s Leadership for Mobile Learning guide for some discussion of this area
What types of purchases count toward the 20% local match?
As with all VPSA funds, 25% of the 20% local match should be used for teacher training. The remaining local match that supports this initiative must be used to buy additional tablets, laptops, or content creation packages for teachers. Your regular VPSA Educational Technology Equipment funds and local match can be used for additional tablets, laptops, and software to upgrade your wireless network, or for any other allowable purposes.
What is the battery life of tablets after 6 months/12 months/24 months?
Battery life varies depending on the tablet and the specific use. You should request this type of information from the hardware providers.
Are there samples of 1:1 policies?
There are several resources in the Technology Initiatives section of the website to assist you as you transition to tablet computers and digital content.
Will there be an official award notification?
Yes. Notifications were sent out to eligible schools in January. Once the application is returned and approved, official notification will be sent to the division contact.
When can we start the project?
Although proceeds of the VPSA notes are not available to divisions for reimbursement of qualifying expenditures until mid-June, school divisions may elect to begin the project immediately by adopting a reimbursement resolution and certifying that all expenditures reimbursed are to be with the supplemental grant funds.
What if the tablet or laptop device costs less than $400? Does the division still get $400 per student?
No. Payments to school divisions are on a reimbursement basis only. If you a purchase a tablet or laptop for $299, you will be reimbursed $299 rather than the allowable amount of $400.
How will the divisions be reimbursed? What is the process?
The supplemental grants are no different from previous VPSA technology funding – see Supplemental Grants, above and in Superintendent’s Memo #136-15. The reimbursement form is attached to the Superintendent’s Memo.
When will the divisions be allowed to submit for reimbursement?
A request for reimbursement can be submitted at any time; however, reimbursements will not be issued until after mid-June.
Will the divisions receive the supplemental grant funding for four years even if we become fully accredited after year one?
Yes. Schools eligible to receive a supplemental grant will continue to receive the grant for the number of subsequent years equaling the number of grades 9 through 12 in the qualifying school up to a maximum of four years.
Can we wait until the next school year to deploy the first set of tablets or laptops? If so, will that delay reimbursement?
Yes. The deployment timing is a local issue and will not affect VPSA reimbursements. Since the VPSA funds are made available in June, school divisions may begin implementation the following school year.
The Appropriation Act states that the local match for the initiative must be used to purchase additional tablets, laptops, and content creation software. If the tablets or laptops we purchase are less than the $400 allocation, what can we purchase with the required local match?
As with all VPSA funds, 25% of the 20% local match should be used for teacher training. The remaining local match that supports this initiative must be used to buy additional tablets, laptops, or content creation packages for teachers.
Do we have to reapply every year for this initiative?
No. Once approved, an allocation notice will be sent to each participating school and division after the October 1 student attendance is certified by the Department of Education. An acceptance reply is all that is necessary unless there are plans to significantly change the purchases from the approved application.
Can we opt out of the initiative?
Yes. A letter from the division superintendent to Department of Education is all that is required.
What support will the DOE be providing?
VDOE provides several levels of support. Questions should be directed to Mark Saunders.
Can e-Learning Backpack Initiative funds be used to purchase Chromebooks?
Yes. A legislative amendment to the e-Learning Backpack Initiative, approved by the 2015 General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor, expands “the type of equipment that school divisions can purchase with supplemental grants under the e-Learning Backpack Initiative from tablets to laptops and tablets”.
Can a convertible or multimode device be purchased?
Yes. A multimode device that can convert to tablet mode with touch screen capability is allowable. The device can be capable of operating completely in tablet mode by disabling and covering the physical keyboard with the tablet screen and enabling a virtual keyboard on the tablet.