I’m a big fan of BYOL – Bring Your Own Laptop to school.
The laptop is the new pencil… a tool necessary for an effective education today. I also think that a district-provided laptop, in public education, is not financially feasible. However, supporting families that can not afford to send their child to school with a laptop is supportable, effective and essential to a BYOL program. When I wrote the (intentionally oversimplified) ‘5 Year Technology Plan‘, my emphasis was on infrastructure: Keeping a year ahead (not 5 years ahead) with your network, providing opportunities for teachers to get learning/technical support, and making sure that students have access to the infrastructure. The best way to provide students with opportunities to take advantage of a well-planned infrastructure is to put laptops in their hands… or more specifically, to have them bring those laptops to school.
Why BYOL and not BYOD – Bring Your Own Device?
I have an admitted bias here: I think a keyboard is still an essential tool in school. If you want to build inequity then have students try writing, for any extended period of time, on a phone -vs- on an iPad -vs- on a laptop. Essentially laptops, compared to phones or iPads, are a superior product for construction and creation of content rather than just consumption of content. This may change, but not soon enough. Looking ahead, I see student/family owned laptops as the best route to go. Here are some key points to consider:
– Providing laptops to students is not a cost effective use of resources in public education.
– Any laptop purchased in the last 3 years would meet all ‘minimum requirements’ needed with respect to speed and storage needs.
– Open source products like Open Office allow all students to share common software for group work and projects.
– Cloud computing allows personal and shared learning spaces that both store and back-up student work.
– A wireless projector could allow any student to contribute to the class without the need for an expensive interactive whiteboard solution.
– An optional, district run, lease-to-own program could help support many families that want an affordable option, while full support of those who are truly in need would have to happen no matter what program you use to provide technology to students.
– A student owned program means that students have the necessary technology both at school and at home.
– A laptop program does not mean that laptops are always open. Just as there are times and places for other tools (even pencils) there are times and places for laptops to be put away and other tools and learning strategies to be implemented.
The iPad is a great tool, and yes you can add a keyboard, but I don’t think iPads are as personalized for education as they should be. Either students own their own accounts and every pay-for app that comes along is an added expense each family must incur, or all the iPads are on a single account and that account is operated by someone other than the intended user (likely the teacher). Although the really good apps are getting better, they still tend to cost money and they still don’t do things as well as laptop versions.
A perfect example to exemplify my point is Blogsy, the blogging app. This app has gotten more and more user-friendly and is really making it easier to blog from your iPad. But I’d still rather write this post on my laptop, with upcoming links in open tabs. I also like how easy it is for me to bookmark those tabs on diigo, and add copied text to my description of the link, which is a royal pain to do on my iPad. I tend to consume things on my iPad and iPhone, and when I want to do more, I email the link to myself to engage further on my laptop.
Don’t get me wrong, the iPad is a great tool. I think it has already transformed education when it comes to providing an all-in-one tool for many special needs students and programs. I also think it has a ways to go before I can say that it is a better overall student owned device than a simple laptop. An iPad is a great addition to a laptop program… Actually, in a way I’m advocating for BYOL and BYOD, with BYOD standing for Bring Your OTHER Device, (as well as your laptop). I’ve also seen this referred to as BYOT – Bring Your Own Technology.
Students want to film a 3 minute video clip? Great! Let them pull out their phone or iPad and start filming. Want to take a photo? Or record a voice? Go ahead and use another device, (not mandatory but available to anyone who wants to bring them). I see the laptop as the required device, and students are welcome to supplement that. Once we have laptops in every student’s hands, the next step is to make sure that teacher practice is such that the laptops are used to their fullest potential… but that’s a whole other post!
Please share your thoughts (and links) with me. Below are some links and resources that you may find helpful.
- I brought a BYOL program to a school in China: Bring Your Own Laptop to School & more information about the program.
- The new Inquiry Hub will be BYOL.
- Chris Kennedy – ‘Bring Your Own Technology – And Thinking About Equity‘.
- Jeff Utecht – WHY THERE IS NO ONE WAY TO GO 1:1.