Asking families to buy their own educational technology runs counter to the normal way of doing things in public education.
But Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools say that's the best hope for embracing the digital age, which moves faster than government budgets and bureaucratic decisions. They say kids whose families who can't afford the latest gadgets - an iPad, for instance, runs about $500 to $700 - won't be left out, but parents and PTAs that can pitch in will step up the pace of going wireless.
It's not a new concept to private and charter schools. For instance, Carolina International School, a K-10 charter in Harrisburg, recently decided that all students above third grade should have tablets to use in class, and asked families to do their part. About two-thirds bought their kids tablets, and the school paid for those who couldn't.
Even in high-poverty schools, such as Cochrane Collegiate Academy, many students already have smartphones. In the new Bring Your Own Technology era, they'll be able to use those for Internet research and sharing information in class.
As schools move to widespread use of tablets, they'll have to tap government technology money, grants or corporate and community partners to make sure there are enough to go around.
For instance, Project LIFT, the philanthropic group that plans to pump $55 million into West Charlotte High and its seven feeder schools, plans to work with Microsoft's Digital Inclusion project to get low-cost computers with Internet access into the homes of 75 percent of those families. Other money will be spent to provide technology to teachers and students in those schools.
It's going to be up to principals, faculty and families to map each school's BYOT strategy, says Scott Muri, CMS' chief information officer.