Helping to Close the BYOD Digital Divide

byodIn June 2013, President Obama announced the launch of the ConnectED initiative, which through technology and digital content, is designed to enrich K-12 education for every student in America.  Amongst other things, this initiative aims to connect 99 percent of America’s students to broadband and highspeed wireless Internet in their schools and libraries.

As we know, technology is now ubiquitous.  There are now more than 500 million devices in US homes connected to the Internet.  Furthermore, the average number of devices per US Internet household has grown from 5.3 devices just three months ago to 5.7 today.  Due to this, we now have seen a growing trend of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives being adoped in many schools.  Many students have multiple devices themselves.  In fact, in my school, New Milford High School, since this school year has started, we have had over 4,000 unique devices connected to our network (and the top used access point is the one in our library!).

The BYOD initiative at New Milford High School was started five years ago, by then principal, Eric Sheninger.  Although the BYOD program has proven to be a success in many ways, we saw an opportunity to close the digital divide by making the decision to supplement our BYOD initiative. Yes, we have computer labs and laptop carts that teachers can sign up for and use with their classes, but we felt for a successful BYOD program to flourish, we needed to provide the opportunity to ensure that every student had access to personal a mobile device.  As a result, we have devices available for students to borrow from our library, just as they would borrow any other library item.  These devices are cataloged in and tracked through our library management system and are monitored by our technology department through Lightspeed Rocket and we are also piloting GoGuardian along with it. Students may come to the library at any point during the school day to borrow a device.

We recognize that it is not about the device but about the 24/7 learning that the device enables.  It was important to us that all of our students be able to access digital tools and to have at their fingertips that world of knowledge they all need and deserve. Therefore, we made the decision to allow students not only to borrow a personal device during the school day, but to also give them the option of bringing these devices home for evenings or even over weekends.

This addendum to our already flourishing BYOD program has not only helped students who do not have their own personal devices, but it also has helped us to create learning environments reflect the reality of the world our students are living in.  In this digital age, we know that no one device can serve all of anyone’s needs. In fact, the average person carries around 2.9 devices including smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and laptops.  In addition to equalizing access to personal mobile devices, by supplementing our BYOD, we have also built in choice.  

In conjunction with the ConnectEd initiative I mentioned above, the President requested that all school districts across the country take the Future Ready Pledge. A component of this pledge, commits school leaders to providing and fostering technology opportunities for all.  In addition to making it essential that all students have access to the Internet, supplementing your BYOD initiative will ensure that your school provides universal access for all students to quality devices, allowing you to a step toward effective digital learning transformation.