Around this time last year, a number of ambitious lawmakers began planning for a future in which public school students in the US went wholly digital, much like initiatives in other parts of the world. But the reaction from a lot of critics came down to a very important factor: money. Who was going to fund purchasing e-readers or tablets for every student in America?
One Alabama public school has found a middle ground solution: let the students use the devices they already own and adapt the curriculum to work with the children’s technology, not against it.
“We’ve always had rules about not bringing cell phones or iPods to school,” remarked seventh grade teacher Angie Kelley from White Plains Middle School in an interview with GoodEReader. “But now we’re experimenting with letting them bring the devices they already have and putting them to use for education.”
The immediate concerns surrounding the school’s Bring Your Own Device initiative focused on very valid things like internet safety, damage to the students’ personal property, and of course, meeting the needs of students whose families couldn’t afford to purchase expensive devices.
“Before starting this, we made sure to have a supply of school laptops in the classroom so that no one was left out,” continued Kelley, explaining why the program only began with one grade level in order to ensure there were enough computers for students to at least work in pairs or small teams.
“We also work hard to teach the students how to be good digital citizens, to help them understand that technology can be a huge asset if you remember that there’s a time for studying and learning and a different time for playing on your iPad.”
The biggest obstacle to the program continues to be the wide variety of devices the students bring with them. The teachers using the program have had to familiarize themselves with iOS devices, Android tablets, laptops and Macbooks. One student might create a website one on machine but cannot utilize the necessary Flash player when presenting it on a different device. Using file sharing services like Dropbox rather than trying to have their students email or print their work has helped the educators adapt to receiving student work from the students’ different systems.
“Overall, I’m thrilled. It’s been very motivating for the students to get to use the devices they already like to use at home in order to get their work done. As for me, I love the fact that we are moving closer and closer to going paperless. I’d like to see our school reach a 70% paperless educational setting next year.”