Students encouraged to bring devices to help bridge schools’ digital divide

SHEILA MATHEWS :::

School administrators are now encouraging students to BYOD – Bring Your Own Devices – in an effort to help meet the goal of a 1-to-1 student-computer ratio.

According to Griffin-Spalding County School System Director of Technology and Communications Rod Smith, one of the greatest benefits will be the increased learning potential.

“We used to discourage that, but what you’re seeing now is teachers and administrators encouraging students to bring their devices to school. One of the biggest benefits you’ll hear people talking about in K-12 circles is that it allows students to always be learning. They can look stuff up and communicate with their teachers,” he said. “This gets us closer in the one-to-one Initiative of trying to place some sort of computing device in every student’s hands.”

Included in the BYOD initiative are smart phones, tablets, iPads, iPods and lap tops – any device that has Internet capabilities.

“That becomes easier to achieve because most parents will invest in a mobile device with a data plan rather than, say, a desk top computer that requires AT&T home Internet access,” Smith said. “That cost barrier drops down significantly.”

He back up his perspective by stating that 2012 marked the first year that mobile devices outsold PCs, adding, “That’s got to say something.”

Smith said this type of initiation is gaining popularity nationwide, and is particularly beneficial to smaller and economically-disadvantaged school districts.

Although he did not have the precise figures available, Smith said the local school system does not meet the one-to-one goal, but that this will help to bridge that gap.

“It helps to close that digital divide between the haves and the have-nots,” he said, later adding, “I’ll tell you, if I had this when I was in school, I believe I would have been a better student.”

Students who bring and use their own personal computing devices will increase the availability of classroom resources for students who do not have personal access to a computer.

One factor that officials believe will make BYOD more attractive to parents is that students will not be required to draw from their individual data plans during school use.

“They’ll be using our Wi-Fi, so they don’t even have to use their data plans while they’re using their devices,” Smith said. “This will reduce additional costs to families.”

Addressing concerns that students may be distracted from their tasks at hand and will use their devices for non-education related activities while in class, Smith said that will be addressed by educators.

“I think what you’ll find is that these students already have these devices, and if they want to use them for other activities, they’re going to. Some people are afraid to make that shift, and part of that is true – students are going to use the devices for some other purposes,” he said. “The burden is on the teachers to provide the motivation to use if for educational purposes.”

In addition, Board of Education Chairman James Westbury has requested that Superintendent Dr. Curtis Jones conduct research with technology-related companies to determine if there are any potential partnerships that can be forged. Westbury said the goal would be to obtain additional technology for the school system at reduced prices. Ω

 

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