School District Introduces Bring Your Own Laptop Policy

When Cary Harrod, an instructional technologist in Ohio, decided she wanted to implement a program that provided students access to mobile computers, she submitted her BYOL (Bring Your Own Laptop) proposal. It took her three attempts before the idea was approved by the Forest Hills school district. BYOL succeeded because it put a computer in the hands of each student and was cost effective.

student

Laying the Foundation

Persuading the Forest Hills school district to approve Cary Harrod's BYOL proposal may have been the easiest step in getting the initiative off the ground. After the program was given the green light, Harrod and her colleagues were faced with two issues. They had to find a building where they could house the project, and they had to find teachers who were willing to participate. The Forest Hills school district consists of two high schools and one middle school.

In an effort to keep costs low, the high schools were eliminated, the reason being that they were older buildings that would need an extensive electrical makeover to accommodate a guest Internet network that students could access. Harrod then visited the middle school to gauge interest in the BYOL pilot program. She settled on the seventh grade after 20 of its 21 teachers expressed interest.

Getting Teachers and Parents Involved

The teachers who eventually volunteered for the program were not unaccustomed to working with technology in the classroom. Many of them participated in an earlier educational initiative that was also an idea of Cary Harrod's. While this experience provided some familiarity with technology in the classroom, the teachers still needed training that was relevant to the BYOL program. This included completing a professional development program called Powerful Learning Practice.

The development program focused on how teachers could use social networks and other participatory media to individualize their approach to education and create a student-directed learning environment. Harrod also focused on parents, especially those who were skeptical of the BYOL program. Many of their concerns centered on the ability of their kids to properly take care of a laptop. In response to these concerns, Harrod set up a 'camp' that both parents and students interested in the BYOL program were encouraged to attend.

Computer Camp

CAMP-L, or Conversations About My Personal Learning, was a half-day session that focused on laying down some ground rules regarding computer use and care while at school. For example, each computer was registered in a database and had to be kept in a sleeve that was labeled with the student's name.

Additionally, parents were encouraged to download Prey, a free, open source program that allows GPS tracking of the device should it be stolen or lost. CAMP-L was an unmitigated success. On the first day of BYOL, 358 students showed up to school with their own laptops, which indicated a far greater interest and approval of BYOL on the part of the parents than was shown at the beginning.

Students Without Computers

Of course, the snag with BYOL is that if a student does not have a computer to bring to school, he or she cannot participate in the enhanced learning process that many of the BYOL students are exposed to. In an effort to bridge this gap, the school district has diverted 130 laptops into the BYOL program, and there are also laptops that are offered at a discount in cooperation with CDWG. Additionally, the district has looked into the possibility of giving some parents who cannot afford to purchase a computer the option of leasing one.

Harrod also believes that this is an issue that may be resolved over time. The rise of tablet computers and the possibility that the entry price for these devices may steadily decrease could help solve the issue of equipping students without computers. In the meantime, however, Harrod is looking into every option to ensure that BYOL benefits as many students as it possibly can.

Interested in learning how educators are using technology in the classroom? Check out how the iPad and its applications are being used to teach math to a new generation of learners.

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