As much as I hate the ubiquitous cellphone intrusions in the classroom the word ubiquitous may be a misnomer.   The go to gift and/or child desire has been various electronic devices (beats headphones, tablets, laptops,) but none like the cell phone.  With each new iteration, teenagers and adults anticipate releases in stores and online as if a new family member were coming home. But, does that mean everybody has one?  Can a person survive without one? Can a person survive without a ….SMART one?   Can a person be educated without one? Does a person need an unlimited data plan to viably use one in education?  Can they or their users be restricted or controlled by the school or district?  Honestly, I don’t want to answer address, debate, or otherwise any of these questions!  I thinks districts should pony up and supply devices to students; two actually!

Computers are a large financial burden to schools. But so are, football, basketball, debate club, all field trips, lab equipment, desks, etc.  Yet we do not suggest avoiding these items (although I would for a few.)  With computers (laptops or tablets) and correct software, students could conceivable have everything a school could provide.  Text books, calculators, maps, the entire school district library, lab simulations, remote chorus concerts, even PE workout partners can be obtained through a camera, microphone, laptop, software, and an internet connection (often all in the same device).  Do I advocate getting rid of schools altogether in favor of a laptop? No (although that’s what I see the bean counter’s pushing within the next few decades).  I do advocate schools allocating funds for devices, software, and proper IT/repair facilities while ending the ordering of certain other so called staples.  Calculators, scantron machines and forms, xerox copiers, copier paper, copier ink, copier support, libraries (per school), dvd/vhs/tv/projectors can all go by the wayside.  Half of those items get surplussed out of the system and sit in some forgotten storage warehouse (more cost) anyway!

So, even with those items no longer ordered, the cost is still high.  Fine.  Seek sponsorship!  Name the schools after Hines, or PNC, or UPMC and get their money.  We already have Taylor Allderdice who was an “industrialist” that no one remembers.(,5293362&hl=en)  Why shouldn’t a donation have a time limit associated with its use?  When the money runs out so does the acknowledgment.

Lower cost through a “bring your own device program”?  There is no guarantee of any of the following: that students have devices (cell phone or otherwise, my school district is all free lunch), that students have available data plans for those devices to function as we educators would like, that the devices that students have are compatible with whatever we have (devices, server, software), that the student’s devices are functioning properly or need repaired (and how quickly those repairs will occur), that student devices have proper protection (virus/hacking).  BYOD has too many uncontrollable variables for my taste.

Earlier I said two computers to every one student.  This cost may be too high and a dream like situation.  However, I propose  fixed classroom computers for every student desk.  The students come in to class, log on, and proceed with the day’s lesson.  These desk computers can be identified and repaired as needed by in district technicians.  The second computer is a laptop/tablet that remains at home with the student.  This eliminates the need to transport (risk) the device yet provide the student with an at home interface.  Yes, we would need to supply internet as well but that is also part of the “dream”.

I have worked in  a one to one school district and seen the pros and cons first hand from a teacher’s/taxpayers perspective. The suggestions in this post are directly attributable to that experience.  I know cost is high, but the ideas of keeping education in tune with the changes of the world and generating productive earners are more important that this meager expenditure.  We will all purchase insurance of some kind in our lives; by force (car, home, health), or by want (life, pet).   If all goes well in our lives, we will have paid for nothing (no claims) except peace of mind.  Spending money for proper educational tools, up to twenty first century standards, is insurance.  Hopefully, we will pay for nothing and yet it will mean everything!


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