In the Graves County High School library, Amanda Henderson introduces a group of the school’s teachers to the new Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD program. Henderson is Graves County’s District Technology Integration Specialist. The BYOD program she’s discussing is a simple solution to a common problem. Schools need to keep their educational resources up to date, but lack the money to continually refresh them. Henderson says ideally, they would provide every student with their own computer, but in reality, it’s just not feasible.
“So we decided to go with Bring Your Own Device because a lot of our students already bring in cellphones… smartphones… different types of tablets into the classroom,” Henderson says. “So we’re just thinking, ‘Why not utilize those?’”
So while some schools still discourage students from bringing personal electronics to class, Henderson says this fall, students at GCHS will not just bring their computers and tablets to school, they’ll connect to the school’s network and use them in class. That’s why she’s at the school today with the teachers. She says,
“There’s a lot of great tools out there that we need to make our teachers aware of… That’s kind of what our focus is today. And it’s all about making the teacher feel successful so therefore they turn around and use BYOD in the classroom.”
Mechelle Gattis leads one of the training sessions for her fellow teachers. They’re using their devices the same way some of their students might this fall, taking a pop-quiz during a class. As the teachers enter their answers, the results are projected on a screen in the room. But quizzes and other response based tasks aren’t the only things they’ll be doing. Business teacher Michelle McKee says the BYOD program will be great for her students as they transition out of high school.
“A lot of what they do is in preparing for college and trying to get things ready to pursue their career requires online resources,” says McKee. “All of the college applications and scholarship applications and so on and so on. Having their own device will allow them to go whatever way they want to go.”
But many students might not have their own laptop or tablet. It could be they can’t afford one, or that it’s just not a priority for their family. Henderson says that’s a concern they’re taking seriously. She says,
“We want to try to find a way to solve that. If it’s people donating devices that they’re not using, if we could get those in the hands of the students. And even if finding some type of funding where we could buy devices in the district for students to check out. That’s going to be our next priority.”
In the meantime, Henderson says students can use the computers the school already has, or share with students who brought a device. And with a virtual gaming console at students’ fingertips, there’s always the possibility of distraction. Henderson says they’ll be restricting network access to big distractions, like social networking sites, but she says most of the responsibility for keeping the students on task will fall on the teachers. Teacher Michelle McKee says that’s something they’ve been discussing during training. She says,
“You know, when the come in if we’re not using the cellphones or whatever device they have for instructional purposes, I’ll probably tell them immediately devices down, put them on the left side of your desk so I can see them.”
But despite the potential problems, teachers and administrators agree that the BYOD program is moving the school in the right direction. In fact, Graves will be joining 12 other Commonwealth school districts that have implemented or are planning to implement BYOD initiatives this fall. That’s along with 16 districts with 1 to 1 programs where schools provide computers every student. McKee says the new technology in the schools will add a new, and better dynamic to the classroom.