Often when speaking to groups about technology and “Bring Your Own Device” initiatives, I will have someone challenge the thinking and say, “Well…what about inequity?” To break down this question, what is often meant is that you will really shine a negative spotlight on the kids who do not have devices and they will feel worse about their situations.
Sometimes I feel that this argument is a reason to not even try by some that are making it. But for some, it is a legitimate concern.
Here are my thoughts…
If we are really wanting to help these kids that might be coming from poor situations, we need to rethink the practices that we already have in our schools to provide for them. For example, many schools have “computer labs” where we take kids once or twice a week, to do something with technology or allow them to type out an essay for us. This is not a good use of technology anymore and we should know better now. Technology should be at the point of instruction and be as accessible in learning as a pencil; it shouldn’t be an event. How many pencil labs do you have in your school?
So why are we not taking those labs apart and using those devices for the kids that don’t have the technology readily available. If you have 15 students in your class that have a device, and five that don’t, can we find a way to provide for them with the technology that already exists in the school? This is not as good as a student owning the device, but if their family is not able to afford one to bring to school, many times they are not able to afford one at home either. You are then ensuring that the student does not have access to the biggest source of information in the world either at home or school. If this true, then what are we doing to break this cycle for the child? If you do not have a strong understanding to leverage the world at your fingertips, then you are going to be at a disadvantage going into a world with people that can do it with ease.
Now you may not have the technology in you schools to provide for the students that don’t have them now, so what are you doing to find a way to provide them? The technology that we have purchased in schools before has been at an inflated price because of the need to attach them to a network, make them “secure”, and add a bunch of stuff that is honestly probably not needed as much as it once was. All of those little add-ons, often not only make the computer more expensive, but slower. So you are paying more for a slow computer? Makes sense.
The less we trust, the more it costs.
With the infrastructure of many schools going to open WiFi networks, it is now opening the options of what they can buy. Before, we were only able to access the Internet in our schools through the division network, but now any device can connect to the Internet, whether it is a school purchased device or not. This is giving us more options. WIth open WiFi, you are no longer limited to the $750 laptop, but can buy a $250-$300 Chromebook, Netbook, or tablet. I am not saying that these are the best devices, and simply looking for cheap is not a solution, but with what much of what is happening in schools, a Chromebook is actually a pretty great option.
If we are start looking outside of the box that we have traditionally been held to within our schools, we have many more options on how we can provide more for the students that are not in situations to provide for themselves.