Bring Your Own Device and 1:1 Pilot in Updated Tech Plan

At its latest board workshop on 23 April 2013, the School Board accepted revisions to the Division’s six-year technology plan. The Division has been using the plan since 2010 to direct major initiatives and to plan budgeting towards infrastructure improvements, such as wireless networking at the schools. This revision has added two new pilots announced at the workshop, as presented by technology team members Tom DeWeerd, John Hendron, Peter Martin, Sean Campbell, Jennifer Bocrie, and Bea Cantor. The first pilot will be a “Bring Your Own Device” scenario where select high school students will be allowed to bring mobile computing devices such as cell phones, e- readers, or tablets to school. Similar BYOD programs are being explored locally and around the country. The technology team’s recommendation was to start with high school seniors as the team monitored network usage during the trial. The team will be working with GHS principal Mike Newman to work out the details before the expected September start of the trial. As part of the pilot, a BYOD committee will be formed which will include teachers and participating students. The second pilot is a 1:1 computing initiative, where students would receive a tablet device from the school to use both in the classroom and to take home. This pilot would replace traditional paper textbooks with digital versions, including media that includes apps and videos. The Division decided to try this pilot at Goochland Elementary School, which currently has the fastest connection to the Internet of all three elementary schools. GES also accommodates the technology department’s repair depot, where Martin and Campbell report each day. “Our teachers are ecstatic about this opportunity, and really cannot wait!” mentioned GES principal Tina McCay about the 1:1 pilot. The pilot could provide up to three grade levels with computing devices. It will be financed through textbook funding. GES media specialist Tiffany Ray will be enlisted to assist with the pilot in both technical and instructional capacities.

Hendron told the board that these initiatives help position a technology plan as a vehicle that provides students rich learning experiences. “That’s always the primary goal,” he said.

Is BYOD an ethical idea?

Dr. Gary Stager questions the ethical side of BYOD in schools. Reaction to his article hasn’t been all popular.

The biggest downside I see is how teachers manage the disparity between devices, and if in fact, learning has to be reduced to a common, lowest denominator based on the simplest device.

I think Stager is upset with “smartphones” because they don’t match the ideal computing model espoused by Papert, his mentor. I have my own mixed feelings, and I do see the real value in offering rich computing experiences (which is something different than a device that can look up facts on the Internet, or be used to write).

I do believe as we move forward the divide between what Stager idealizes and what “mobile devices can provide” will continue to shrink.

I hope this article provides reflection as we consider the reality and feasibility of BYOD in our schools. I welcome your input!

(Unlike one poster to Stager’s article, I loved the vintage devices! So many of them brought back childhood memories.)