Friday, October 28, 2011

Ideas for Bringing Your Own Device (BYOD) Even If You Are Poor

When the topic of bring your own device comes up, one of the first complaints we often hear, is "What about the have nots." Yes, there are have nots.  However, students should not only be given the freedom to do what those who have the least can do. Students are not prisoners and they are not widgets. They are people with minds, choices, and parents or guardians who can make decisions and should be empowered to use the learning devices they choose. 

While I believe schools should be wired places where community members can access the internet, I do not believe all students need the same tool nor do I believe all students need the government to provide them with the learning tools they deem best.  When we shift our thinking from demanding the government provides one-size-fits-some solutions and move it to let's empower families to take ownership of securing tools for their learning, change can happen.  

Here are some ways even low socio economic status (ses) students can acquire their own technology.

  1. Business Refresh - Reach out to companies to see when they refresh equipment. Ask if they would consider giving old devices to students.
  2. Craigslist - Students can use tools like Craigslist to announce that they are in need of a device that someone might be throwing away. Also, look at who is getting rid of devices. Some will give away technology if it is helping a student.
  3. Facebook for Tech - A teenager I know needed a computer. She put her request on Facebook for anyone who might have an old computer. She had several responses. Students, parents, and teachers can use social media to share requests.
  4. Mentors as resources - Establish a mentoring program. When I did this students developed relationships with their mentors, many of whom advocated on their behalf which included helping them secure resources for learning.
  5. Entrepreneurs raise money for tech - The cost of tech has gone down tremendously. It doesn't take a lot for the entrepreneurial student to raise enough money for his or her own tech.  
  6. Tweet for Tech - When I noticed a young girl with autism in a rural neighborhood could benefit from an iPad I tweeted out a request for anyone updating their iPad 1 with an iPad 2 to donate a device. The young girl had a new iPad that week.  
  7. Recycle School Tech - I've seen schools dump tons of tech because they couldn't sort through the bureaucratic red tape required to give devices to kids.  Ummm...gimme a break! Let's reduce the red tape and help schools figure it out.
  8. Payment / Layaway plans - There are schools that have figured out layaway, leasing, or school discount programs. Schools should be doing their best to provide these options for families for hardware as well as internet access in the home.
  9. Community Tech Day - Invite the community to come to your school and donate technology for children in need. 
  10. Hold a fundraiser - There are fundraisers for all sorts of things.  Let kids work to raise funds for technology.  Be creative. Hold a race, a car wash, a tournament.  
Yes, there are naysayers who can shoot down every single way I've shared to empower students to secure devices, but when we stop thinking about why we can't and start thinking about how we can, the digital divide narrows before our eyes.

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  1. The key is in cell phones. Figure out how many kids HAVE them. It is my view that that number will be overwhelming. Then remove the ban!

    What can a teacher do....Try "If you have a connectable device, take it out and connect it". Anything can happen then, and it will be DIFFERENT everywhere.

  2. Great to see someone looking beyond the barriers, let's use what we have. MrC's comment above is also very pertinent.

  3. "... stop thinking about why we can't and start thinking about how we can..."

    That line says it all.

  4. "let them eat iPads" Steve Antoinette

    ; )

  5. I agree with Mr.C above, the key is phones. I've taught in low income neighborhoods and Title 1 schools most of my career. Most families have had phones that can connect and many have Smartphones now that even older models for example like the iPhone3 or 3GS are afforable for them now when they sign up for a mobile plan. Most of them do this. We need to find ways to allow use of these devices. Good article! -Beth

  6. hmm, I'm sure the poor will love eating the scraps thrown from the table. I'm sure you'd loooove the rest of the class to snicker at your out-dated this or that.
    School reform or school deform?

    BYOD is a bad, bad idea. All you futurists need to get back to the present reality. The USA has a severe poverty crisis. Deal with that! Not on how many kids can get a device in their hands-- you can't eat a cellphone!

  7. Hi Realist...sorry :(

    I'm a realist too. A realist who doesn't think that forcing children to go through metal detectors and confiscating their belongings makes a lot sense. I'm a realist who believes people aren't widgets and we can all learn with the tools we already own or borrow from others as necessary.

    I write articles such as this one from real experience, not idealism. I employed many of these ideas to provide my students access to technology. They didn't need to eat their technology because all my students receive free breakfast and lunch every day and their guardians received food stamps to ensure they could eat at night. My students basic needs were met by the government, however, to help them move from a life of poverty to one of empowerment my suggestions are powerful and important.

    We can deal with moving out of poverty when we help children and families move from handouts to self-advocacy and ownership. We can deal with moving out of poverty when we help them gain knowledge. Knowledge is indeed power and providing access to the tools that can connect them to information and the world helps bring students closer to a place where they can be happy, healthy contributing members of society.

    And, btw, byod isn't an idea of the future. I was doing this more than a decade ago in the school I taught at in Central Harlem. Let's stop keeping students prisoners of the past and empower them with the tools they need to succeed today.

  8. You didn't address my concern. Public education is based on equality-- equal opportunity to the curriculum. Private school etc can do what they want, so to speak, but public education is for all. Again, you are advocating that those people who do not have the power / status / money to advocate for themselves to not get tech from the gov't (who should protect public ed, really) but rather to lower their heads and hope that corporations or people bored with the iPad 1 will toss it down. How is this innovative? Do you not see the problem here?

  9. @Realist,

    First, I have worked in public education for more than a decade and am discussing public ed in this post and my response to you.

    Equal opportunity does not mean everyone needs to access that opportunity the same way. People are individuals who don't need the same tools to access what is important to them.

    I find it disheartening that you feel it takes power/status/money for individuals to advocate for themselves. None of those are necessary and the students for whom I worked with did not come from homes of power, status, or money.

    I am telling you that my students and I didn't need to rely on the government to be empowered to learn. Students and families advocated for themselves and I helped forge meaningful connection. The government is but one source. The local community or finding ways from within is another, more powerful way to get what you want.

  10. goodness gracious, when people start using terms like "empowered" etc, I recognize the agenda.

    If you're suggesting that power, money, status don't really matter, I think that you may need to stop thinking outside the box and start looking inside the box: someone is sleeping in there!

  11. @realist,

    You recognize the agenda? Mine is giving students the freedom to learn with the tools of their world and providing ways for those in need to acquire them.

    My suggestions are not just ideas. They are actual ways that low income families were able to acquire technology that allowed them to communicate, connect, and create.

    I don't need to look outside the box to do this work as I'm not trapped in it and I prefer to operate outside of it.

  12. ..but families in public ed should not have to go looking for handouts. It's humiliating. Tech is a tool. If the public school requires the tool for success, the tool must be provded by the public school. I wouldn't force my shop students to go begging for hammers...or maybe I could let the poor kids use rocks to hammer nails.

  13. @Realist,

    First, with our hammer example, before spending taxpayer money on a hammer purchase, why wouldn't I ask students who have hammers bring them to school? Why buy something that most kids already have access to?

    Next, why is a government handout not a handout? Why should taxpayers dollars go toward equipping schools with technology that many students already own (or could own with my suggestions) but they are banned from using in school? Why is it a handout if a student holds a fundraiser? Why is it a handout if a student or family works to earn money for something that will make their lives better? Why is it considered a handout if you ask the community to become involved and support our youth?

    The ideas I suggest are quite the opposite of a handout. They are placing power in the hands of children and their families who can be empowered to acquire and own resources that can enrich their lives. This, is certainly not advocating for the idea that those from low SES need a handout.

    Also, to clarify, the public school doesn't require technology for success. Society requires kids to be globally connected for success. Many schools are very happy keeping students prisoners of the past. Communities must stand up and help give students the freedom to learn with the tools they need despite a system locked in the past.

  14. alright, agree to disagree on that....

    lively debate though : )

    have a good rest to your day...

  15. Nah. I never give up on enlightening folks. I'll hold out hope that adults like you will eventually realize that we need to let kids use their own resources to learn even if their resources don't look exactly like everyone elses and that you'll help those who are without get rather than waiting around for government handouts that usually take way too long and cost way too much. If the adults refuse to give students the freedom to learn with the tools they choose, it is my hope that the students and their families will stand up and demand that their right to learn with the tools they choose are not violated.

    On a related note, when I go to business meetings, conferences, etc, we all have very different tools we use. Some are big and shiny, others are small and functional. Some are personal devices, others are company supplied. We don't all need to operate with the same device in the same way even though we are in the same setting when we are in the world. We shouldn't be forced to do that in a school.

    Appreciate the dialogue as it helps me and others think more deeply about important issues.

  16. Read some insightful comments on this topic in my Facebook group here

  17. As long as it's a face"palm" and not a Palm Pilot, you'll have the freedom to bring that to school.

  18. Here is another perspective. I am a technology resource teacher. A lot of teachers are very nervous and technology resource teachers a little nervous about being expected to be literate in using a wide variety of platforms we have never even seen. To just say that students are expected to provide their own support is a little naive.

  19. @WAHS SBTS,
    My perspective is far from naive. I've been doing this work for more than a decade and I work with hundreds of tech teachers. I've also worked with hundreds of tech teachers to develop student tech support teams at their schools.

    What I think you don't understand is that the teacher's job is not to be expert in every technology. Their job is to have expertise in pedagogy. The students can be expert in their personal technology use and should not be held back due to the ignorance of their teachers in this area. Students who are held back tell me they feel like their teachers are keeping them as prisoners in the past and not allowing them the freedom to learn with the tools they know they'll need to succeed in the world.

    When we let students serve as tech experts and teachers serve as experts in learning acquisition, we have a partnership that benefits all parties.

  20. What is your position on parents who won't give their child a cellphone even if they can afford it?

  21. Thanks so much. This is the post I need to send to people when they grumble. I brought a math teacher who is worried because she has TWO students out of 100+ who "don't have access" ... I sent her this link.

  22. If the problem is to offer BYOtechnology or don't offer it at all, this is one solution. Students will also share. Its not a secret who is poor and who isn't and if poverty is treated as a temporary condition (that the student can overcome through education) and not who the student is, then I don't see anything wrong with this approach. Students do not ALL have the same opportunities and are not all 'equal' and schools can't fix that. It does a disservice to the students to pretend they do but we can help them achieve their potential from where they are. As for 'throwing them scraps' its my experience that shame is sadly lacking today and a sense of entitlement is a much bigger problem.

  23. Great post, Lisa. I am on the side of positive outlook.