We are headed into unchartered waters, and I’m not gonna lie. I’m more than a little worried.
Recently I found out about a plan that has been integrated into the local school system. BYOD. Bring Your Own Device. That means iPads, smartphones, laptops, e-readers, tablets–bring them all. They are planning to incorporate these devices into all areas of study–Math, Science, English/Language Arts, Social Studies, and PE. By the beginning of the last nine weeks of this school year, this program will have been implemented in all of the schools in this county.
That’s right. The devices that could have been confiscated or gotten you in trouble before–you’re not only allowed but encouraged to bring them.
I have two major problems with this.
First of all, how many children in this community have their own electronic devices at their disposal? How many families can afford to go out and buy some kind of device now that this has been brought into existence? My favorite coffeehouse, Bare Bulb Coffee, has a program called Backpack Buddies. This program, as described on their website:
Each week, we fill more than 60 backpacks with food to help children who rely on free meals at school make it through the weekend. You can volunteer to pack backpacks, deliver food, or simply drop a donation by the shop. We’re collecting: juice boxes, cheese and crackers,easy mac, granola bars, trail mix, fruit cups, and instant oatmeal.
This is not the only program in our county helping children have enough to eat on the weekends. And on breaks. In a county where some of our children do not have enough to eat in their homes, we are going to encourage bringing in electronic devices for use in the classrooms? No these are not being distributed. In reading about the program, I did not see anything about there being devices available for loan in the classrooms for those who do not have them.
My heart breaks. I think our priorities are skewed. Here, yet once again, we are dividing ourselves into the haves and the have nots. We are creating that “other” that Hugh Hollowell warned us against in his post I shared once before: “What Folks Who Live Outside Do Not Need.” We have the children who have their own devices and then there are the other children. I cannot stand the thought of it.
There is a video of a child who has difficulty in communication using a tablet to improve communications. It’s awesome. If we need those in the classrooms for learning tools, then we as a community need to step up and somehow make sure that those are available for the children who need it. School-owned and school-provided learning resources. That’s it. As for day to day use in a classroom, it frustrates me beyond belief to think of the children turning the pages in their textbooks trying not to catch the glances of the ones clicking on words and instructions on their devices. It plain makes me mad. But then I’m the parent who got a stomachache around Field Day time each year, worrying if all of the children were able to send in the money for their class’ Field Day t-shirt.
Mama’s rule of interaction with others #568. “You share with everyone or you put it away.” Rule #1. “Don’t leave anyone out.”
My other problem with this plan is what our children will actually be learning. A couple of the examples involved clicking on QR codes and receiving instructions…..in science, in PE. Okay, so now we’re cutting back on interaction with the instructors. Wow.
People are unlearning how to communicate with each other. I’m as guilty as anyone. I have great friends whom, unfortunately, much of our contact and communication is through messages–on Facebook or text messages. E-mail is even becoming a less used option. I’ll take this form of communication over none at all, but still. Are we forgetting how to sit still and look at someone and carry on a conversation? This is my fear. I also worry that we are becoming desensitized. It is very easy to “say” anything on social media without seeing the hurt in someone’s eyes. Things communicated electronically can often be misinterpreted and promote misunderstandings by the truckload. It’s one more mess waiting to happen. Why are we contributing to this by encouraging less human interaction in the schools? Our children, all of them, need to learn courtesy and kindness and compassion. School, among other places, is a place to interact with others and practice those skills. But not if we fill their hands with devices, so their focus is there, and they are looking away from those around them. It’s just too much.
And now for the elephant in the living room. Yes, I homeschool. My oldest attended a private kindergarten, Department of Defense Schools, and public schools in this county before she asked to be homeschooled at the beginning of eighth grade. I realize I don’t have a dog in this hunt. However, my heart is breaking for those families that cannot afford to put a device in their child’s backpack and send them to school with it. Many families have more than one child. How do they decide who gets to take the device they have if they even have one? I may not send my children to school in this county, but I do have a voice and I am concerned for those whose voices may not be heard, so I decided to share my thoughts. One of my friends expressed her own concern about being able to afford a device, and it made me sad and mad. I love her fiercely and her little guy too. He deserves the same opportunities as every other child in that classroom. I don’t like to think about this form of segregation. Because that is what it comes down to.
They say they are working to ready these students, all of them K-12, for college, where devices are used on a regular basis and integrated into the coursework. My oldest is in college, and she does use her electronic device in her studies. We discovered that e-books are a lot less expensive and she (unlike me) has no trouble studying from that format. She uses the calculator on her phone, and she communicates with her classmates through text messages. The professors relay information through e-mail. All of this is wonderful. But I can tell the school system one thing, college requires something else. Being able to get along with others. Working together. Being a part of group work and teams. And compassion. Understanding. Tolerance. Kindness. Respect.
And I’m afraid, dear BOE Powers That Be, there’s just no app for those things.
Weigh in: What are your thoughts on BYOD?
For more information about the BYOD plan, click here.