In June this year I launched our 1:1 netbook program. Prior to this there were many considerations that had been carefully thought through:
- Would a laptop or a tablet best suit the learning needs of our students?
- Should we opt of Apple or PC based devices?
- Would we lease the devices or purchase them outright?
- Would the school own the devices?
- Would the families own the devices?
- Would the school subsidise family payments?
- Had there been adequate teacher training in the lead up to launch?
- Had our curriculum and teaching and learning plans been reviewed to ensure that the devices would be successfully integrated?
- And not least of all, BYOD or not?
All of these choices had to be made focussing on the educational outcomes we wanted the program to provide for our students. Often, with this goal in mind, many of the choices became much easier. This was also the case with the BYOD decision. Some of the questions we needed answers to included:
- Did we want to have a situation were certain programs would not be able to run because the device the student had was out-of-date or running a different version?
- Did we want students to be limited in what they could create due to the constraints of the device?
- Did we want students to be able to legally and safely access the broad range of programs provided by the Department of Education through the EduSTAR suite?
- Did we want to have the added concerns of devices not being covered under insurance being accidentally broken/damaged in a classroom environment?
- Would our teachers be able to provide and effective learning and teaching program with a range of devices of which they may or may not have a good understanding?
The answers to these questions helped us arrive at our decision.
We wanted our 1:1 program to provide a learning environment that did not disadvantage one child over another because of the money their parents could spend on the latest tech. By carefully selecting a single device we would be able to choose the best technology at an affordable price.
We wanted our students to be able to safely and reliably access our school network and the huge range of programs provided to them free-of-charge by the DEECD. We are aware of schools that illegally install the EduSTAR suite onto privately owned devices, however this was an action that we felt completely undermined any lessons we were teaching students about Digital Ethics and Citizenship. It is also a common problem for different devices, even devices of the same type, to have difficulty reliably connecting to school networks due to their unique setup.
We wanted parents to be assured that any accidental breakage, damage or even theft was completely covered under a comprehensive insurance policy at a low and consistent cost. By sourcing the devices ourselves we were able to negotiate for a very comprehensive and low cost policy.
We wanted our teachers, already struggling to keep up with the demands of changing technology, to be able to focus on the programs and features of a single device and be able to work with this to further develop their teaching and learning plans. Again, having one device sourced by the school we were able to choose an operating system similar to that already running on newly upgraded classroom and computer lab devices.
In the end, for us, the BYOD or no BYOD question was one of the easiest to answer and the vast majority of parents supported our decision.