One to one initiatives are no longer a futuristic thought. Many schools have successfully implemented programs that have a ratio of one computer for each student. These programs alleviate computer lab scheduling and ensure that students have immediate access to information. But what if your school lacks money to support a one to one program? There are many schools that would love to try a 1:1 initiative, but lack the funds to fully support such an effort. So what are schools doing? One solution: have students bring their own devices! This is exactly what my school district is doing. I teach in a lower income school, with nearly 50% free and reduced lunch student population. Now, I know what you are thinking. This has trouble spelled all over it! Just hear me out…
The majority of my students don't have internet service at home. Yet, they do have cell phones (and many have data plans). The digital divide was beginning to widen for my students. We needed to do something... so a Bring Your Own Device program got started.
The premise behind such an effort is to teach responsible use for their own devices including cell phone etiquette. Students still need to follow the rules! In our district student handbook, it explains the rules about bringing cell phones and other devices on campus. Our school district also began the use a three light system.
System Basics- Students put cell phones out on their desks when they walk into the classroom. Their devices are in plain view so they can be seen. The main premise: students need to understand that their devices are tools not toys. If cell phones and other devices are in a visible spot, they are less likely to be distracted and “play” with them. They are also taught to put their phones on silent, in the classroom. Each classroom will display a paper traffic light sign on their door.
Red-No cell phone area! This would signify that cell phones are not to be turned on. Locker rooms are a good example of when a phone is not to be used. In a no “fly zone” area, students are taught about cyberbullying and other internet safety issues.
Yellow-Ask permission to use device. Depending on the lesson or circumstance, cell phones are encouraged to be used. Cell phones have the capabilities to be used as a calculator. Again, the cell phone can be a tool. Teachers are encouraged to build lessons around using cell phones and other devices. Apps such as Kahoot, Twitter, and even texting apps have been used in classrooms for educational purposes.
Green- This one is a no brainer. Usually this is limited to certain areas within the school: mainly the lunchroom and during passing periods. Green light areas allow students to use devices without having to ask permission. However, they need to be school related during class period.
Other Devices- Students are permitted to bring in their other devices such as tablets. With subscription based services like Big Universe, it encourages students to read books on their devices and not just limit their reading to when they have access in a lab or classroom. Check out a recent blog post regarding technology use in the classroom, if you are interested in learning more.
Open internet access- We recently added a “guest” user, to encourage the use of our wi-fi. Users need to understand the district's Acceptable Use Policy and agree to the use of internet filtering. Parents and students may use our network during non-testing times. Signs are placed around the school advertising the guest password.
By encouraging students to properly use their cell phones and other devices, we are breaking down the digital divide that has long been an issue with low income schools and students.