Mobile Devices in School

Today, I had a serious discussion with the principal at my elementary school about allowing personal mobile devices in the classroom.  Currently, if a student is caught with a phone or iPod, it is taken to the office, where it stays for the day.  Our discussion began when we met with a student who is having difficulty with organization, remembering instructions, writing….I asked, “Do you have an iPod?” He said, “yes” and proceeded to explain how he uses the calendar app, how he records important events and how he uses the “Dragon” app (voice to text) at home.

Why wouldn’t we allow this student to use his mobile device at school? How do we get administrators, teachers, parents or the general public to recognize the benefits of this technology? What is your current practice? What is your district/board policy?

Curious,

Louise

About Louise Robitaille


A teacher for 21 years, involved in a Teacher Learning and Leadership Project (TLLP) with the Ontario Ministry of Education. Our project is about collaborating, learning about iPad technology and inquiry-based teaching.

27 Comments

  1. mharding /

    Louise we are so close to the inevitable. We just need to be patient. Of course this is a valid reason for use of a handheld device but many teachers and principals are not yet ready for the general distraction these will cause if openly accepted in elementary schools. Until they become part of the fabric of today’s curriculum they will be regarded as “toys of distraction” What is needed is some education for teachers, for parents and for students on the benefits of such technology. At this point in time it is “cutting edge”. But more importantly it could be a “class distinction” issue between the “haves” and the “have nots”. It is a very touchy issue and will not be resolved until all boards and the ministry of education begin to provide funding which will permit all students the opportunity to have and use the latest in communication technology. This is a short response to a very complex issue and I know it is not the popular answer. It just happens to be the way it is. I would love to hear from people in school boards who have begun to search for ways to include handhelds in their classrooms.

  2. Neil Lyons /

    Maybe you will find this interesting?
    http://www.peel.edu.on.ca/media/news2002/120328.htm

    Our school, in the Peel District, allows students to byod. And the pilot project has been so successful, it is being expanded to the entire district next year!

    Equity is a big issue. But I wonder how much money Principals are spending on out-of-date resources (like textbooks, photocopying, notebooks) that could be reallocated to technological devices?

    A “netbook” costs $200-$300. What is the annual budget of a school? I know at my sons’ school, they just purchased a “smart board” for about $4,000! And 4 projectors at $1,000 each! And 8 “desktop computers” for $600 each! For the same price they could have bought an entire class set of netbooks.

    Are there staff at your school willing to stay an hour at the end of the day to supervise students using a computer lab? Is your computer lab/library open at lunch for student use? Before school?

    For decades schools have felt it was their responsibility to purchase textbooks for student use. Why not laptops? A textbook costs about $40 and a student might have 2 or 3. That’s half the cost of a laptop, right there!

    Technology isn’t an “add-on” learning device. It’s essential (at least in Middle School). Schools should place a 1:1 policy at the core of their budgets, and then take a look at other budget items that could be scaled back. Like duo tangs. And fancy student agendas. And fancy framed and mounted posters about “Character Education” and “Mission Statements”. And Microsoft Office licenses.

  3. Nancy /

    Louise, I am a parent for over 30 years, and the principal belongs in the category of the dark ages. The era, where common folk were not trusted by the ruling elite, and it is this attitude of the dark ages that is very much in vogue in the 21st century classrooms. The principal fears hand held devices that are capable of recording and taking pictures, rather than the apps of the organization kind, and other apps that helps a student with his school work.

    Unfortunately, it is this prevailing attitude of mistrust and fear that is directed towards the students when it comes to held held devices, and forms the underlying reasons why hand held devices are banned from the schools. Funny though, all the adults within the school are under no such restrictions of hand held devices, and for that matter any other technology wonders that are in their procession. Rather ironic, and reminds me of the historical ‘dark ages’ era where the common folk was beaten senseless for having printed manuscripts of knowledge in their procession, and woe to the common folk who knew how to read.

    Today, it is the hand held devices that are capable of recording audio and video images and knowledge in different formats that is feared, rather than the printed manuscripts of the dark ages era. Feared for many reasons by adults within a school, but the underlying reason is mistrust of students, using the hand held devices for other purposes other than school related work. Thus, taking a picture of the drawing on the blackboard or recording the teacher’s words, becomes a copyright issue,plus a few other issues based on the legality of the rights of the adults versus the rights of the students. In the end, the hand held devices are banished for all students, regardless of their advantages that is present for the students. The use of calendar apps, the smart pens, the new versions of e-readers, the much improved i-pod, the smart phones, and other hand held and portable devices are only for the adults, but not for the students. The hand held devices are seen as having an unfair advantage over other students, without such devices. The latter reason is given often to students with the organization, reading and writing problems. The same students who could benefit from the use of the hand held devices to improve their organization, reading and writing skills, are now further handicapped when personal hand held devices are banished from the classrooms.

    My youngest child of the LD version, was not allowed to use her hand held devices in the classroom, but since 2008, all hand held devices are allowed in the classroom. All students and their parents signs a form each year, agreeing to the restrictions and uses of the devices. Our local high school, is nicknamed the i-phone school, and the Apple apps are put to good use in the classroom by the school, the teachers, and students. A complicated drawing for my child, she can snapped a picture, and send it to her computer at home. Look up the correct spelling of words quickly and efficiently, and still be able to keep up with the class. When a student’s work is done in the classroom, the student is allow to play with their devices, listen to their music, or text their Mom to come and get them. The restrictions on the devices are place on where it counts, and as such cannot be used with tests, unless the student has an IEP stating so, and how the individual teachers would like to have the students used their devices.

    At the end of the day, it is left up to the teachers, and not the principal when it comes to held held devices and how the personal devices are use in my rural area. Students are happier and much more engaged in school and do not feel burdened by the restrictions that are placed by the individual teachers. The majority of restrictions are common sense, especially when it comes to exam time, but for day to day school work, the use of hand held devices should not be restricted.

    Louise, I would have a fun time with the principal of the school and point out his hypocrisy, unfairness, cost factors, and more importantly his mistrust when it comes to his students. Than, I will attack his position and stances on technology via through adult rights versus children rights on accessing knowledge and information in its various formats. I call it another form of discrimination, but in the dark ages, it was called putting the thumb nails to the common folk.

  4. Sheila Stewart /

    Hi all,
    Just adding in a fairly recent post of mine with some thoughts and questions about BYOD. I hope the comments and further links on this post help this discussion as well. I hope this isn’t cheating/crashing :)

    http://sheilaspeaking.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/to-bring-or-not-to-bring/

  5. Jaclyn Calder /

    I wonder about the logistics of continuously saying “it’s a class issue” when it comes to these devices. In my experience kids are somehow finding ways to acquire ipod touches regardless of income level. I’m not sure how, but I hear stories of cousins passing down older versions, grandparents buying them etc. But, let’s assume that they can’t afford a device… What happens? Chances are it means they get one of the school laptops or devices that are freed up while others use their own. So, their overall access is still increasing. Secondly, if the student is struggling to find $200 to get something like an iPod touch (if that is what they wanted to support their learning), they are likely also struggling to pay the hundreds of dollars we ask our students to use to purchase “school supplies”. I think we need to confinue having devices in the classroom for student use as needed, recognize that very rarely does EVERYONE in a class need to be using a device at the same time, and note that if we change what is required to bring to class we may be able to reduce the impact. From my own junk drawer I pulled out two old iPhones last week. One was cracked, the other I thought was dead from an incident in the rain. In 15 minutes I had them up and running, working like iPod touches without a phone plan. I’m positive many parents would help us out with this type of recycling. I’m concerned we use the “inequity” issue to end the conversation too often. Instead we just need to put in other changes to support (school devices, group work, reducing school supply requirements, recycling programs, etc.). Most of these devices when owned personally are way cheaper then the board -owned devices which require large scale licenses and networking capabilities. They are also cheaper than the graphing calculators we ask senior university-bound students to purchase. I’m sure if schools act creatively we can support students using their own devices without making the divide any wider.

  6. I work at a school with a large number of students from low income families and I have a couple of concerns about BYOD.

    1) We currently have a large digital divide as 40% of homes with income less $30K and 60% of those without a HS diploma don’t have internet connection (this includes mobile devices)(http://pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2012/PIP_Digital_differences_041312.pdf). That’s the demographic many of these students come from. If I visit a “well off” school in our board they are well supported through fundraising and already have better tech than we do. In addition those students have better personal devices than the board can provide. BYOD makes the divide worse as the divide that already exists is just extended into the classroom. As we work on old, outdated equipment and software other schools have the latest stuff.

    2) My second concern is going with what happens as we go forward from here. If students can bring in their own devices does that mean that boards don’t have to fund tech at the same level anymore? As we saw with the C@P program it’s easily to discount the needs of marginalized groups, and who are are more marginalized than poor elementary school students? In schools like these there is very little for these students outside the school. If kids don;t get tech (or art, or phys ed, or music, etc.) in the school…they don’t get it. If we removed all tech from schools today many students would still be digital literate because of their home environment. Kids from poor families wouldn’t. We need to provide rich digital resources for them at school and I worry that BYOD allows us to shift that responsibility onto families. As we’ve seen with school supplies, in many cases it means kids don’t have pencils, paper, etc. I don’t want to extend that to devices.

    • Jaclyn Calder /

      I’m not sure I understand the distinction between devices, paper/pen/school supplies, gym shoes, breakfast, lunches, extra curricular fees. This same conversation has been had over and over again for each one and it always ends up the responsibility of the family. Do schools need to do something to reduce the impact these socioeconomic differences have on their ability to learn, YES! In a perfect world kids/families would be a priority of our society and have access to all those things equitably. Schools or the community would provide everything needed for a youths well being and development. But… that doesn’t happen. So, we have schools fundraise for breakfast club (or outside organizations fundraise and provide funds), school supplies and extra curricular costs. Most parent council money I see raised in schools is now going to extra technology for the school. Few of the things listed above are funded by the actual education funds brought in per pupil. If we only allow students to use the devices that a school board provides, which are always and will always be a step or two behind… we are ADDING to the divide. Then there is a situation where no students are getting the access they should in the classroom and then the “have” children go home and have all the access in the world to extend their learning and the “have not” get nothing more than the inadequate access provided in class. If we allow students to bring in their own devices (and DO NOT reduce existing technology funding and support) it provides increased access to the devices that are already in my school to those “have not” students. They are also exposed (through group work) to the different devices the “have” students are bringing into my class. I can manage my class so that students have different roles and gain skills they need for the future using only a few devices. Otherwise we risk our “have not” students never having been exposed to an iPod or different type of technology other than the older versions in my classroom or school lab. Ideally my school budget or parent council will continue to purchase some of those “added” technologies we see them purchasing now (iPods, iPads, netbooks). If I am using resources that are non-platform specific (like google docs or voicethread as examples) then my students are getting the same access to digital resources no matter how its accessed (computer at local library, iMac at home, old desktop at home, parents iPhone, siblings iPod).

      A teacher can do AMAZING authentic, rich things with one laptop and one tablet or mobile device in a classroom. They can do projects that reach around the globe and have kids collaborating with children in other places. Now imagine 4 more kids in my classroom bring in devices. Their “hands on time” just increased significantly. It’s not about each kid doing the same thing at the same time. Its about a variety of methods of accessing information and communicating with others.

      I taught in an isolated First Nations community for years and years earlier in my career – before the big shift to mobile devices. I am well aware of the HUGE challenges of trying to bridge some of these socioeconomic divides. I think we need to ALWAYS be completely aware and actively working to ensure equitable access to learning. But, equitable access to learning doesn’t always mean access to the exact same tools. I 100% need a baseline of access to technology and tools in my classroom. There is no question about it. I need to be able to run stations or centres or opportunities for each student to get on, use the tools to communicate and access information. Other devices that enter into my class supplement this and allow each student more hands on time. Some provinces have already gone to free wi-fi access as a “basic human need”. There are people working on a $40 small computer (raspberry pi http://www.raspberrypi.org/) Combine that with our disposable society who can find two old, not being used iPhones in a drawer, and basic access to the internet for everyone will eventually be here. We just need our resources to be web based and accessible from any platform. I worry that if we do not provide opportunities for students to use whatever they choose to support their own learning they are all going to loose out.

      I cannot imagine a school banning fancy pens and agenda books from students because not every student can afford them. Along the same line, we don’t ban expensive running shoes from our gym class or the newest quick-dry shirt. Some kids are wearing and using shoes and pencils provided through donation or school provision. They still have access to the learning activities. I’m not sure I understand why we have a division in thought around BYOD when compared to other resources?

      • Sheila Stewart /

        I think that may be the key question to address and wrestle with, Jaclyn: “I’m not sure I understand why we have a division in thought around BYOD when compared to other resources?”

        Hand held devices and technology reach spaces that many other “supplies” and resources – school or personal – cannot. And is it because that “reach” is not consistently/equally embraced or valued by various stakeholders in education?

        Unfortunate that school councils may be pulled into similiar debates if they are raising money for technology. I recall disagreement over a parent group purchasing a piano over playground equipment, so now what about technology?!

  7. I don’t think we should stop BYOD nor do I think we can. It’s happening and will continue to happen and grow. Schools will facilitate it because it is a cost saving for them. The more families provide technology the less schools need to.

    What I want is that educators are aware of what’s happening as BYOD spreads and act to offset it. As the Pew Inst. study shows we have a fairly large digital divide. BYOD brings that divide into classrooms and shifts the responsibility for providing technology from schools onto families. In this equation low income families lose.

    One way that devices are different from other school supplies is cost (which is why schools are eager to offload them). It’s a few cents to provide a pencil for a student and most teachers keep a supply for students to who don’t have what they need. Providing a device is much more costly and much more difficult. Most teachers don’t have the expertise or the motivation to restore old devices.

    Another difference is that devices are much more important going forward. I’d much rather students have access to a device to secure their long term progress than coloured pencils or paper.

    What this issue highlights is the inherent unfairness in how we fund schools. How does it make any sense to suggest that every student should get the same resources? If a student can provide a device from home & bring it to the classroom let them and reallocate the resources they don’t need to provide a device to a student who can’t. This would mean students have a more equal opportunity to succeed?

    I understand your point that creative people can do many different things to solve some of these issues. I’ve & many of my colleagues do that and continue to do. Why should we have to? If technology is important to student progress it should be equally available to all. Teachers in well resourced schools are spending time enhancing their program while I try and restore outdated computers or beg for money. We have board tech initiatives that only run in well off schools because only student owned devices are up to date enough to run it. The board supplied tech is too outdated.

    Simply implementing BYOD without resolving these issues may, in the long run, make things much worse for a large % of students. If schools are really about advancing all students and ed tech is an essential part of it we must also implement measures which provide access to students from low income families. BYOD alone doesn’t do that.

    If we fail to address these issues we’re perpetuating the inequality that already exists.

  8. Nancy /

    There is an old saying in the LD chat forums, got a bunch of lemons, make lemonade. In other words, size up the reality of technology and resources that is at hand, and make it better and useful for the tasks at hand.

    Digital divide exists in the reality, but it should not be defining and determining what technology exists in the schools. As a parent, the arguments of digital divide and equity issues are bogus ones, as the arguments used back in 2005 or so, where my LD child was not allowed to used her MP3 player, as an audio e-player or a text reader that would highlight each word, in school. Same reasons were used back than as the same reasons that have posted here, equity reasons. It was unfair for the other kids not to have the same advantage as my child, or the opposite one, other students may demand the same treatment.

    Jaclyn is correct, and falls into make lemonade if one has only lemons. Just like I had to as a parent, to help my LD child to succeed in a rural remote school. There is so many different ways to improve technology in schools, but what is not often discussed is the rules/regulations and policies that prevents technology entering into the schools in the first place. The second part of the equation is the friction between those who live in the rule-bound world, literally following the regulations and policies to the letter, and the minority who are creative, working around the regulations to arrive at solutions. Why isn’t there more open-source software in the schools? Perhaps it is in the regulations and policies, and in the same way, it is in the regulations and SE policies governing the use of e-readers in the classroom, and who meets the qualifications for one. Regardless if the e-reader is owned by the student, or not, hand held devices and its technology is still seen by the decision and policy makers as not being necessary in today’s class. Believe me, I spoke to quite a few over the years, fighting for my child, to have the right to use hand held devices of various kinds, for the expressed purpose to help in fluency, decoding and vocabulary. On my dime, and it made no difference, and today the present educationalist bureaucrats are rubbing the egg yolk off their faces, because it turned out I was correct. BYOD in our district, turned out to a good policy, especially with the kids with reading difficulties.

    But, what ultimately help was the infrastructure of the high speed access kind, that brought BYOD into reality, as well as offering inexpensive rebuilt desktops, laptops and other devices for all the residents in my province, and not just the students. Every province is different, but I have to say, Ontario has done a poor job when it comes to internet access especially the G4 networks. As for affordability, it depends on where one is living, but the average price for the whole package of phone, internet and television is $100, and for just internet, it is around 29.00 dollar amount. I know quite a few, only use the internet for their television viewing, and signed up for Netflex for $8.00. Hell, there is now gear one can purchased for under $100, to transfer viewing to the television set, and there is always the tech sites, always eager to tell folks what they can do using the stuff at home, in step by step directions. In other words, no one has to have a degree in computer science to become more advance in the technical side of technology.

    I don’t buy the argument that the digital divide exists for reasons that have been cited above, but I do buy the argument that it exists based on the current policies, practices and the regulation regime of any provincial government. Thus, creating the divide between smart phones and the old flip phones, the divide between the touch screens and the old key pads, or the new generation of e-readers versus the older generations. Governments always seem to behind 3 to 4 years or even more in some areas, always citing costs, and I heard that one since the 1960s, when it came to party lines of more than 3 for telephones. I still remember my father ranting about it when I was young, and when the government finally did something about it, the telephone company charging a 1.00 per month for being on a single line.

    BYOD along with policies to ensure access and use of devices for low-income students, will go a long way to work away the digital divide. But more importantly, effort applied to loosen up the regulations and policies that hinders technology into the schools, as well as making the digital divide wider.

    • The consequences of the digital divide are very real. They are clearly studied and explained in the report by the Pew Institute I linked to in my previous posts and they are are seen in the lives of the students I teach. The discussion of what can be done to ameliorate it is what’s bogus. Why should students from low income families and their teachers have to ‘make do’?

      This is quite clear. Educators & parents agree use of technology to educate students is key to preparing them for the 21st century. A system is being implemented which shifts responsibility for providing edtech from the school to the family. There are large numbers of low income families who cannot meet their basic current needs but we will expect them to take on more responsibility. And the solution being offered is for teachers and parents to ‘get creative’ to stop these kids from falling through the cracks.

      Why? We don’t allow well off schools to hire better teachers and tell poor schools to ‘get creative’. We don’t allow rich schools to build beautiful new buildings and tell poor schools to fix up and re-purpose old buildings. Why would we treat technology, this tool which has such potential to lift kids up and allow them to transcend their surroundings, differently?

      If we are truly interested in using schools to promote equity we should be making schools serving low-income areas model of technological innovation. That would help to offset some of the built-in disadvantages of being born into a low income family.

  9. Nancy /

    “Why should students from low income families and their teachers have to ‘make do’?”

    A question, if looking at from a different angle, will transform to a question of – what are the policies, practices of a school system, that promotes schools to make do? What are the over all consequences of schools and the people who work and learn in these places?

    As a parent, once upon a time my focus was on why does my LD child has to make do, but after a few years of spinning my wheels, going no where, the focus became the practices and policies that forces my child to make do. For technology and all it can do for students and teachers, the policies, the regulation regime, and the practices governing technology is what matters the most, and not the singular issues of equity, costs , income level or any other issue that takes the eyes from the practices, policies and the regulation regime, and refocuses the attention back unto the things of the singular issues such as equity versus the big one of funding practices. BYOD practices becomes a natural solution in some school districts, where districts keep a tight reign over the resources of the schools. BYOD practices are developed over time, according to the relationship of cost and advances made in technology.

    In fact BYOD practices have been around for a very long time, and the practice is now being applied in technology in schools. The 21st century technology, of hand held portable devices compared to the technology of the 20th century. Try lugging a portable typewriter or a set of encyclopedias as opposed to the 21st century version of held held devices? The hand held devices became the game changer for students and teachers alike, and is changing the old 20th century practices and policies governing technology/resources, in many different ways. much to the chagrin of the bean counters and decision/policy makers of a school district. I say much to their chagrin, because it forces the policy and decision makers to change the old definitions, to the 21st century thinking and its reality.

    It is how the 21st century tools are used in the schools that is of the greater importance, rather than the current emphasis on equity. What good if every student has identical devices, identical access based on the regulation regime of the current equity policies and resource practices, when each student has their own unique set of learning needs, along with their own set of learning strengths and weaknesses?

    How does a school, supply the apps for individualized custom-made solutions, when the regulation regime of the bureaucratic nature is demanding one-sized fits all solutions? It is as if, the 21st century technology is being treated like a mere text book, controlling how the 21st century technology can be manipulated in the classroom and at an individual level, down to no better than a text book that cannot be manipulated for the user.

    Equity is far more than an equal share of the resources and education opportunities when it comes to technology of the 21st century, but the bureaucrats of the education kind, would like the definition of the 20th century remain well into the 21st century. It is why Andrew, focusing on statements as the one made in your last post – ” If we are truly interested in using schools to promote equity we should be making schools serving low-income areas model of technological innovation. That would help to offset some of the built-in disadvantages of being born into a low income family..”, is not productive when the reality is learning can now take place anywhere and at any time in the 21st century. The statement speaks volumes of keeping 21st century technology within the school walls for low-income students, rather than opening up access 24 hours and 7 days a week for students. What good is a lap top, when the student does not have internet services at home, and for that matter any other technology outside of the school?

    Very much the same way when the school board denied my child the few hand held devices to support her learning in the classroom. The hard work being done at home to address the reading and writing problems were being undone each time my child walked into the classroom, and at the very least, hinder progress in her reading/writing problems and her overall achievement. Thankfully, the 21st century technology came to the rescue for home use, to overcome the 20th century equity versions as well as the regulation regime that imposes conditions how and when students learn. Meanwhile students have to make do……

  10. “Equity is far more than an equal share of the resources and education opportunities”

    Couldn’t agree more. Students with lots of resources don’t need to the school to supply them, so they can use BYOD. Students with few resources need more support from the school so the school should provide devices for them.

    The problem is with the wholesale adoption of BYOD because it isn’t useful for lots of kids. As you’ve repeatedly pointed out, educational administrations are large and not good at differentiating for individual cases. What they want is to make a policy and apply it to everyone. Doing that will be damaging for students from low income families.

    I support your efforts to make sure your child gets what they need. What I am asking is that we also give voice to the millions of students that BYOD will be bad for and make sure they get what they need too.

  11. Nancy /

    “The problem is with the wholesale adoption of BYOD because it isn’t useful for lots of kids. As you’ve repeatedly pointed out, educational administrations are large and not good at differentiating for individual cases. What they want is to make a policy and apply it to everyone. Doing that will be damaging for students from low income families.”

    I believe whole heartily the problem lies within the administration of school boards and their penchant for adopting large scale policies, where the individual needs of schools and its students get lost in the process, or at the very least schools and its students, have to accept pale versions of resources and making do that is not the best fit for the school and its students. Large scale made work very well for a large national department store, but in an education system, it serves only the ones who controls the purse strings, at the expense of the schools and its students.

    No mater within a typical education system model the key to policy formulation, lies within the adoption of large scale policies and initiatives at the bottom rung of the education model, that is based on percentages. In a national department store, or any other business model, in part it is about customer service and its policies. In order to maintain a profit level, a certain percentage of happy customers must be maintain. in order to take advantage of large scale operations. In an education system, what are the percentages? I don’t really know, but I bet it lies around the 60 percent and I am being generous about that percentage. Personally, I would not be surprise if it was at the 40 ;percent mark in some areas such as SE, since SE students and their parents have such a small voice that nobody hears. Nor would I be surprise, in the technology area for various school boards, the percentage is weighted against the other variables such as infrastructure to determine funding, and results in tight control of technology resources at the bottom rung of the ladder. All done, without spending time, the effort and expense to lobby on the political level to improve the infrastructure and everything else needed for smooth integration of technology in schools and across the region.

    I congratulate the Peel board, for bringing in the BYOD, as well as forming a plan for students who do not processed their own devices. Waiting around for the provincial ministry of education to do something, probably be at the close of the 21st century, and more importantly provides more pressure directed at the upper levels beyond the school board to change funding formulas and other policies that puts the brakes on innovation at the school level.

    I do believe, that the 21st century technology in the schools, will do the same thing as it did in the homes across the country. Personally, I believe technology and its hand held devices is transforming society in positive ways, but for some reason it is the governments including the education model, dragging its heels, insisting that technology will be heavily regulated. More so in the education model, where there is so many rules and regulations governing how technology is used in our schools. What is really surprising, trying to rule the roost at the school level, on technology that is personally own, as if it was a bulky portable typewriter. When parents go to the expense of purchasing a device for the express purpose of improving learning, it should be allowed inside the schools, since they do spend 200 days or so, 5 hours per day, Monday through Friday in a building where learning is suppose to be happening.

    Going back to the bulky typewriter, and changing it to the book called a dictionary. the electronic Franklin dictionary was also denied for use at the school level, for my child. I brought it for her, to improve her spelling, and the best part she did not have to correctly spell the word. Much faster and more efficient, than the act of looking up a word in a book, which could take up to 10 minutes, if she did not give up because it was too frustrating for her. It took years for her to learn how to use a dictionary that is in the format of a book, and that came after a great deal of expense purchasing various dictionaries with different fonts and paper type. Now she is the proud owner of three different dictionaries, that weighs a total of 5 pounds or so, with quality fine paper and a font that is perfect for her dyslexic eyes. The costs – close to the 80 dollar mark, compare to the costs of 40 dollars or so, the electronic Franklin dictionary, weighing a few ounces, and can be updated electronically any time. Throughout the years, in total, I have spent approximately $300 just on dictionaries, in the hope that it would in part improve writing inside the school classroom,

    My point is, parents and the individual schools should be the ones in charge of the rules and regulations governing technology in the schools. And not some pencil pusher at the school board or ministry level, who has not the foggiest idea on the needs of the schools and its students. When I mentioned the costs that I have incurred relating to my child’s education, the bureaucrat had the gall to asked me if I could donate the dictionaries. My response, was no way because the education model relies on downloading in part, the costs and responsibilities unto the parents, regardless of income level, and than expect parents and the students to accept the mandates edicts regarding their own children with a smile on their face. BYOD policies is the natural progression of what I believe is part of downloading education resource costs unto the parents, and in part the schools, that is very much a policy practice conducted by the upper levels of the education system. Now, if parents did account for all the purchases and donations relating to education minus clothing costs, unless it is a school uniform, it probably be a number that would astound the public.

    Which I have come full circle concerning BYOD policies, isn’t it about time to have forensic audit on the technology funding and the policies in the many public education districts across the province. Why is it that schools and its students have to make do, while the upper levels of the education system, has all the comforts of the latest technology, and most of is thanks to the public taxpayers of a province. And yet the same technology, is strictly controlled at the school level, including the devices and computer gear expenditures by parents. Who did it benefit when the decision makers of the school board staff, decided to denied the use of the electronic Franklin dictionary in the classroom for my child? Certainly, not my child nor my pocketbook, but just think about it. One will arrive at the same conclusion as I did 5 years ago, but that was after reading tons of literature on the workings of a typical education system models. I am sure, the teachers being on the inside, will have a easier time arriving at the same conclusions as I did, but from a teacher’s perspective, and perhaps a parent;s perspective as well.

  12. Well, Louise’s simple question has led to some very interesting conversation about BYOD. I have been thinking a great deal over the past couple of days about the layers of discussion that have emerged around equity. Some of the layers are quite flat and smooth, but some are rather wrinkly!

    There is one point that was raised that I find particularly interesting: the connection with BYOD policy and district-level spending on technology. I’m interested to know whether anyone has been involved with conversations at the district level where the idea that allowing students to bring their own devices could actually have the effect of downloading more of the technology costs onto families. I like to consider myself a thoughtful person, but I hadn’t really considered that line of thinking. Before launching into some sort of conspiracy rant, however, I would like to get the thoughts of those that might be more connected with district level conversations around BYOD.

    Another rather wrinkly layer for me is the extension of the equity thread into the issue of teacher use of technology. Could it be considered an equity issue if teacher A is making creative/innovative use of technology, integrating it into many aspects of classroom life, yet teacher B across the hall is a self-admitted luddite? I know that this is a conversation that is happening at assocation/union levels in relation to blended learning platforms being introduced and promoted by ministries of education. If technology is as powerful for learning as many would like to declare, how do we deal with educators who aren’t leveraging this power in their teaching. (I told you it was wrinkly!)

    There may be stuff here for an entire post, or even a series of point-counterpoint conversations!

  13. Nancy /

    Full of winkles, and it is how and what is being downloaded and pass down to the bottom rung of the education system, and the upper levels of the education can still maintain tight control at the bottom rung, and influencing the actions and behaviours of the players at the bottom rung. Not a conspiracy, but a reality and is part of the unwritten rules, that no one likes to discuss in a open frank matter.

    My background is in accounting, and I usually was the trouble shooter, fixing wayward numbers that did not add up in the balance sheet, and my accounting nose started to twitch way back when my child was in grade one, when I learned from one of the directors of the school board that it was my responsibility to ensure my child learns to read, write and do numeracy well. The reasons of the board was based on a number of reasons, but the main one was based on cost factors. It did not make any sense to me at that time, but regardless my accounting nose started to twitch, and has been twitching ever since that day when my child was in grade one.

    It is about the resources and access to the resources and services of the various kinds and types within the education system, that mostly is governing by policies and practices that narrowly defines who gets access, when, how it is access which in turns influences the behaviour and actions of people at the bottom rung of the education system. Stephen, in your example teacher A versus Teacher B, Teacher A would welcome the electronic Franklin dictionary, and probably ask nicely for my child to share with other students who have trouble decoding unknown words and navigating a dictionary in the form of a book. compared to Teacher B, who would be incline to follow the edicts of the board staff. So, is it fair for students like my child, and do not have to necessarily have identified learning problems, not to have access to technology that actually improves learning over all for the students? As a parent, I did not think it was fair for my child who really only wanted to read and write well with ease, like the other students in the classroom. Was it my job, my responsibility to reteach and start homeschooling after school using the 21st century technology that was denied to my child for the classroom as my number one tool to help my child achieve?

    If I was starting again in 2012, sitting in grade 1 with my youngest child, Khan Academy to the rescue, and have my kid doing long division by grade 2. And there would be no need for SE math classes in my child’s future, or all the hours and expense of re-teaching at home. As for reading issues, there is wonderful web sites free and subscription plus software that would have greatly benefit my child in school and outside of school. I don’t begrudge the time and expense for my child, but I do resent the bureaucrats at the upper levels using equity reasons to control access to resources as well as defining how the resources are to be used. And often is the case, it is at the expense of the learners who do not fit in within the normal learning curve.

    To your question, “.If technology is as powerful for learning as many would like to declare, how do we deal with educators who aren’t leveraging this power in their teaching. (I told you it was wrinkly!)” – As a parent looking in, could it be that teachers do not feel they have the autonomy and authority to use the technology as they see fit and to take advantage of it to improve overall learning at the individual level and the class as a whole? How many students could benefit from old fashion composition class on the internet, learning to write a decent sentence, moving into paragraphs, and so forth as their homework, rather than the assigned homework that is written in the curriculum outcomes? I bet most of the teachers would have love to do that for my child and the other children in the classroom using the technology as they see fit, taking advantage of the resources of parents and the school, to improve learning. As I have observed over the years, the persons in an education system who control the purse strings, controls the resources and how the resources are used. And the equity points are used as the main defence to prevent different innovation and practices dealing with technology, that moves away from the set outcomes of the curriculum.

    I would say it is an equity problem for teachers, when teachers do not have full autonomy to teach as they see fit using the resources that best fits the needs of their students’ learning needs. In the same way, that a parent racks up educational expenditures in the form of tutors, software, technology, and other resources, because their child does not qualify for extra resources and access to SE. Downloading education costs from the back door, and at the front door, praising how wonderful the equity policies is the great leveller for the classroom.

  14. Stephen I think the evidence that this is what will happen is seen in the history of what has happened with school supplies.

    Not very long ago we had supplies of paper, pencils, rulers, etc. for all students. I remember reading about how students in Alberta were expected to bring their own supplies and we were horrified by this. Now we have no supplies for students except the the ones I buy myself and students are expected to bring their own stuff. Everyday these is a line-up at my desk of students who need pencils or they can’t work.

    An aside to this of course is the bigger profits made from this. A school board can but thousands of pencils much cheaper than a parent can buy 20 at staples. This is also good for business, which is another reason it will roll on.

    Why wouldn’t this be replicated with a real big ticket item like devices? Once is becomes an expectation that students bring their own, boards will find somewhere else to spend their money.

  15. Nancy /

    Andrew, I see it coming too, and I used that very same argument for the hand held devices for my child in the classroom. I won that battle eventually, but the regulation regime got me at that end, where my child did not meet the criteria to access the various e-material that the school board and ministry had at their disposal. It turned out, it was at my expense, and is a regular cost over the school year, paying for the audio text versions of novels, and the reams of ink, scanning textbooks and whatever else I can find on the net. I had no choice, but to open up my wallet if I wanted to help my child. as well as to improve her future.

    With the advent of technology advancing to small hand held devices, and as the retail price has dropped in the last 10 years, the devices are common place in society, but not within the education system. Why should the education system supply common items like pencils, paper and now computer technology, when the parents are already willing to set aside expenditures of their own money to purchase the supplies and resources. The education bureaucrats already have an answer for parents such as myself, it is a parent’s duty to supply the learning needs for your child. Just last year, a politician came knocking at my door, who was a former education bureaucrat and his response to my concerns, good for you for being an involved parent, completely ignoring the costs, the time, the effort that I put in the last 10 years to help my child without the required support and resources at the school level and in a community where there is no private educational services.

    And they start with the students who are struggling in learning in some aspect, and it goes with income. The higher the income, the parents are a lot more willing to supply the tools and other educational expenses, even if means obtaining help for their children through private means, rather than insisting the public education system provide the resources for their child. The lower the income of a family is, education expenses quickly becomes a low priority over other priorities. It results in the majority of parents becoming highly dependent on the schools to provide for the learning needs of their children, and making do with the resources on hand. More so for students who have learning difficulties, and if they do received resources beyond the standard, it is the teacher that is supplying it at their own expense and time. Meanwhile, the parents with the higher incomes have options that can be employed without making demands on a school where resources are tightly control. Bonus, one less student to worry about from a teacher’s perspective, but I do believe the conditions are set for a perfect storm scenario under the current economic climate, where expenditures for education resources by parents will be the hot debate in the next decade. And technology will be part of the debate, much like the debate I had at the grade school level for colour chalk to be used for the blackboards for my child, instead of using white chalk. That debate disappear, when the white boards made their appearance along with the colour markers. I even supplied the colour chalk, until the janitor’s union bulked that colour chalk was harder to wash off the blackboard than white chalk. By the way, there is hard science behind the use of colour chalk in the classroom and students’ learning. but it sure was a hard sell at the school level, even when I was paying the tab for the Dollar store coloured chalk, at 50 cents a pack. Principals, can also be a major stumbling block for innovation and technology to occur inside the classroom, especially when resources are involved.

  16. Neil Lyons /

    As a teacher in a school with a BYOD policy already in place, I can say that the equity issue is one that will never be solved. At least not at the school, or school board, level. In my opinion, public schools have been forced to carry more and more of the fiscal burden over the last 20 years. Maybe it coincides with the increase in teacher salary over that time? I don’t know. I don’t even really know if the idea that schools have less money is true — but it doesn’t even matter if it’s true! The “truth” of public schools is in the mind of the public-at-large. It’s a political issue.

    Over the last 20 years the idea of the “problem-riddled” public school has been rampant in Canada. Fed by sensational stories of failures, moral and academic. The image that schools are “broken” and “unmanageable” is (I believe) the real reason behind the pressure of accountability and the rising number of parents dissatisfied with public schools and placing their kids in private schools. Again, I’m not basing this on “hard numbers”, just my perceptions from teaching for the last 8 years and especially since being a parent for the last 6. I teach in a school that has an I.b. program and the demand to get into the program is outrageous! 500+ applicants for 90 spots. Why this demand? Parents are feeling that the “regular” public program isn’t capable of meeting their child’s needs.

    Is this is the long-lasting effects of “common sense” revolution in Ontario? Devaluing the excellent job most schools and most teachers do in almost all cases? A feeling in Ontario that the school boards and the Teacher unions are both incompetent? And not to be trusted, let alone listened to? Education is NOT central to any political party’s policy anymore. In America, both Democrats and Republicans are in lock-step regarding school “reform”. (which means linking results on standardized tests to funding — a cruel, cynical joke). But Ontario is hardly any better. There is no vision beyond “balancing the budget” and “fiscal restraint”.

    BYOD is not am equity issue for schools or school boards to deal with alone. It is a failure of all citizens of Ontario. Why hasn’t anyone stepped up and promised to get every home in Ontario access to the Internet at a reasonable cost? And every child in an Ontario school a device capable of getting online? No one is promising that because Ontarians aren’t demanding it! We are (smugly) satisfied with the status quo. The Government’s role seems to be strictly reduced to ensuring we can afford to pay the healthcare costs of our aging population (where the votes are?).

    Don’t you find it ironic that the only people the old owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs (the teachers pension plan) could find that had enough money to buy the team were the companies that control access to the Internet in Ontario (Rogers and Bell)?

    Schools can try to even the playing field, by staying open later (with teacher and community volunteers), by fundraising, and allocating their resources better. But without a strong political push (which ultimately comes from the public), the idea of access to an equitable education is as much a pipedream as men walking on the moon. Before John F. Kennedy made that a priority.

    I understand that we live in an “Era of Fiscal Restraint”, but when weren’t we?

  17. Nancy /

    “. But without a strong political push (which ultimately comes from the public), the idea of access to an equitable education is as much a pipedream as men walking on the moon. Before John F. Kennedy made that a priority.”

    Nailed it, there is no political will in the upper levels of the education system and the extended political and government structures that lies outside the public education system. The political push ultimately comes from the public, but when the vast majority of the public are only in the position that requires many voices rising above the very loud voices of the minority, who ultimately have the power calling for change, it is a steep uphill climb, long in duration, and expensive.

    The 21st century technology is a game changer for the education system along with the advances and research in the learning fields and other fields that has a direct implication to educating the youth, to where it is possible to reach the full potential of each and every student. and at the same time provide a more equitable playing field in the individual classroom. Impossible at the present time, providing a equitable playing field when the individual learning needs are traded off for the mandates of the upper levels of the education system, forcing students to adapt to the demands of the school policies and beyond the school. Teachers become the middle men, who is stuck in the middle as Lyon has stated, dealing with the fiscal burdens and other demands coming from above, and often it is at the expense of the students in the individual classrooms.

    Below a Star article of an independent school in Ontario, i-pads and Sim City software.

    The kind of software tools, that brings out real learning in students, and yet many that dwell in the upper levels of the education system sees Sim City as a mere game, and very much like the bureaucrats that I dealt with, trying to incorporate a variety of software at the school level, on my dime. In the end, the bureaucrats saw the software as mere games, and not worthy of their time to find solutions to improve overall learning for my child. Good thing, I kept plodding away at home because I would not have had the conversation yesterday, with my 16 year old, discussing the toughest course in the high school line up, grade 12 calculus. In my eyes, the software were not mere games, but the path to improve cognitive weaknesses and maintain cognitive strengths of my child. Carving out new neurological cognitive pathways and having fun at the same time, and the education bureaucrats declared more than once, I was wasting my time. Imagine, what teachers could do with the technology of the 21st century compared to my amateur attempts of hard work and effort, that manage to turn my child into an academic learner despite the learning difficulties of my child. The 21st century technology became the major tool to help my child, and without them, my child would not be taking grade 12 calculus in the new school year, and her dreams of becoming a forensic scientist would never be a reality in her future.

  18. Remember that John Snobelen, the education minister under Mike Harris was quite open in his goal to ‘…create a useful crisis in public education…”. The goal was to reduce the costs to government and shift a portion of education spending from the public service to the open market. Now we have record numbers of private schools, parents paying thousands of dollars to tutoring businesses and schools supplies bought at chain stores at huge mark ups. Job done!

    BYOD is just another step down this path, and as always in these moves, families without the resources to pay will end up suffering, doing without and missing opportunities. I don’t oppose BYOD just it’s wholesale implementation without some way to protect students from low income families. I’d rather not do anything than do something which harms students.

    • Neil Lyons /

      I think implementing BYOD will bring out the inequity in the system. When it becomes obvious that not all children are receiving equal educations in Ontario, perhaps the public will be more willing to support a policy that will “even the playing field”. When students with “means” go home, and access the Internet on their personal laptops, the issue is hidden. That is a “home” issue, not a “school” issue. Obviously, it is a “learning” issue!

      Forcing kids to leave their “tech” at the door only perpetuates the myth of equitable education. I want all students to experience a great education. I think BYOD can accelerate that goal by bringing the inequity into the spotlight. When I was in grade school, I had an advantage on other kids because my family owned the complete Encyclopedia Britannica. I was able to access information more easily than those who had to travel to a library. It was an advantage but nowhere near the difference experienced between kids with Internet access and without in today’s world.

  19. That hasn’t happened with school supplies Neil. The fact that some families can afford better resources than others isn’t highlighted by the fact than some kids come to school without pencils or books. All that happens is those students learn to do without, their learning suffers and educators scramble to fill in the gaps. Those kids without pencils are the same kids who get less work done at home (less parental supervision because parents are working/absent/exhausted), fewer assignments handed in and are the kids I have to provide supplies for or else they’d get nothing done. We need to put a system in place that addresses the inequity before we implement BYOD. Once the money leaves the system it won’t be coming back.

    • Neil Lyons /

      While I agree that poverty is a large determining factor in student success, I don’t think it’s as simple as some kids have supplies and some kids don’t. I have taught lots of kids who have brought their own supplies, and still get nothing done. A lot of “well off” students go home to houses with working/exhausted/absent/uninterested parents.

      I just don’t think waiting until the inequity ends in our system is realistic. I mean, how far should the “system” go to eliminate inequity? Should all people make the same salary? Should clothing, cars, housing, food, entertainment, etc. all be regulated by the Government? Certainly, we have witnessed the problems with that political/economic system!

      Honestly, if my children were in a public school that didn’t allow them to bring tech devices into the classroom (at an appropriate grade level), I would look for an alternative school. And then, I would probably be less willing to vote for a political party that wanted to raise taxes to increase funding for schools. Maybe this scenario is one reason there isn’t a big public push to invest in public education?

  20. Jaclyn Calder /

    Im still confused at what money is being taken out of the system? Is someone proposing a cut to tech funding as part of BYOD policies? I almost wonder if we are mixing two different things here – bad or unfortunate budget distribution/use and BYOD. In my mind these are two very different issues. Other than the fact that boards will have to invest in wifi networks more, I have not heard of BYOD initiatives that include removing or discontinuing current ICT in the classroom. And, my gosh… What student is still impacted by the lack of school supplies? I’ve taught in extremely high poverty high schools and have simply always had a stack of paper, pens/pencils, rulers and calculators available. I assumed this was the norm.

    The issue of resolving the inequity before BYOD happens is a different story. How can a school funded to provide education only eliminate the inequity of poverty and the host of issues that come with it? to resolve this inequity would require each student going home to the exact same home circumstances, emotional support and financial support.

    I have often wrestled with the actual vs. perceived impact socioeconomic status plays on learning. I’ve read some research coming out of New Zealand finding that the number one impact on any child’s success is the teacher-student relationship. As a teacher I’d love to be able to say “student x struggles to succeed because of their home life, or because they are poor, etc.”. It is much more difficult to say “student x struggles to succeed because we don’t have a great relationship. They don’t feel valued or respected in this room or building”. Yet, research is starting to show teacher-student relationship has bigger impact than socioeconomic status.

    Somewhere earlier I’m this thread, someone mentioned asking the kids. I actually slapped myself on my head and said “of course!”. But, I do think we need to start by asking if they think BYOD is harmful to them. Not going in assuming that it is.

    Stephen, in response to your question above -our board has never once considered reducing tech in schools to my knowledge. At the tables the discussion involved comments like “how can we not let them use learning tools they want to bring in?” and “access to Internet being a basic learning tool – like textbooks and books”. we would never deny a student from bringing in their own book.

    Your other comment about inequities around teacher tech use almost made me scream :) in my mind, it has nothing to do with using technology. It has everything to do with good teaching practice. If a teacher can figure out how to embed all the great instructional practices that have always existedv(but are often renamed and then called a revolution) without technology, then all the power to them! I sure can’t. I can only add more and more to what I’m expected to do until I finally have to take something away. Teacher-directed Instruction is whati decided to reduce. Make the kids do the work instead of me- they can find info-don’t need me to tell them every single thing. This gives me time to do all those other good things like descriptive feedback, differentiate for kids, etc. I need a technology infused classroom to do this. BUT…. I’ve walked into many classrooms that had this going on without tech. I’ve seem great art, music, geography, auto shop teachers make the magic work without a projector…. :) awesome. If every teacher was the same I think we’d be doing kids a disservice. They need to see all sorts of different teachers, because they are all different. But we all need a great understanding and competence at implementing good teaching :) for most, that will require tech to get’er one :)

  21. I think the removal of funds from the tech budget is a natural consequence of BYOD. Why would a school (or a board) continue to spend money purchasing devices when the expectation is that students bring their own? In times of reduced and shrinking budgets that money will be repurposed somewhere else and if it isn’t needed to purchase/maintain devices it should be repurposed.

    No, it isn’t the norm for all schools to have lots of supplies available. My current school is in an area with lots of low income families. The building is old and requires a lot of upkeep and maintenance which soaks up a lot of budget. We’ve gone through years where no supplies (Paper, pencils, etc.) were purchased other than those teachers bought themselves. This year the pencils ran out shortly after xmas. My classroom has lots of empty shelves where resources should be. The grade 8 classroom has no textbooks other than 15 used math texts that the teacher bought himself. And on, and on… :(

    I love the fact that BYOD starts from the point that learning with tech is very important and we have to get devices into kid’s hands so let’s have them bring their own devices from home and now we are saying that tech isn’t that important. It’s really about student-teacher relationship or good teaching techniques, not technology. If that’s the case then why bother with BYOD? Just let all our students and teachers keep doing what they do and keep their devices at home :)

    Currently, students have widely different experiences of technology outside the classroom based on income and opportunity. Some kids have much better tech at home than in the class and some kids much worse or none. But inside the classroom there is greater equity, every student is working with the same parameters of devices, infrastructure, opportunity, etc.. BYOD extends the inequity of the digital divide into the classroom. Some kids will have the latest, most up to date tech while others won’t. That isn’t good for some kids and we need to be aware of that and respond accordingly.

    I HAVE asked my students about this and they are quite clear. They want to work with devices. They talk about their ideal school being a school where every student works with an iPad that is stored in the desk in a secret compartment to keep it safe. None of them have iPads at home and some of them don’t have computers or internet. For many of them school is the place they get to learn about how to use devices and they don’t use it any place else.

    Yesterday I talked with a girl in my class (grade 5) about a problem she is having with her blog post. She explained that she wan’t able to finish her post at home because her mum’s boyfriend wouldn’t let her use the computer. I spoke the the mum and she confirmed this saying that the computer is expensive and not for kids to use. The computer is one of the most expensive pieces of equipment in the home. It is important to the family and if a child breaks it they can’t afford to replace it. This isn’t an isolated incident or attitude and she is lucky in a sense to have a computer with internet at home. I have lots of kids who walk to the library (30 mins walk) to use the internet or go to a friend’s house. Their parents don’t have smart phones and they don’t have iPod touches. Again I refer to the Pew Institiute report mentioned earlier to show that this is not uncommon. There are large numbers of families on the wrong side of the digital divide and BYOD, without some policies put in place to support those families, will only make the divide wider.

  22. Nancy /

    Some points that have been made:

    Neil says, “Forcing kids to leave their “tech” at the door only perpetuates the myth of equitable education. I want all students to experience a great education. I think BYOD can accelerate that goal by bringing the inequity into the spotlight.”

    Andrew says, ” I don’t oppose BYOD just it’s wholesale implementation without some way to protect students from low income families. I’d rather not do anything than do something which harms students.”

    Jaclyn says, “Stephen, in response to your question above -our board has never once considered reducing tech in schools to my knowledge. At the tables the discussion involved comments like “how can we not let them use learning tools they want to bring in?” and “access to Internet being a basic learning tool – like textbooks and books”. we would never deny a student from bringing in their own book.”

    Andrew says, “Currently, students have widely different experiences of technology outside the classroom based on income and opportunity. Some kids have much better tech at home than in the class and some kids much worse or none. But inside the classroom there is greater equity, every student is working with the same parameters of devices, infrastructure, opportunity, etc.. BYOD extends the inequity of the digital divide into the classroom. Some kids will have the latest, most up to date tech while others won’t. That isn’t good for some kids and we need to be aware of that and respond accordingly.”

    As a parent, in the last 10 years I have been immersed in the equity policies and the impact on the individual schools and students. I don’t think much of the equity policies that for the most part pretends to dole out equity on the lowest benchmarks possible to accomplished the two twin goals of decreasing funding in resources and redirecting the monies saved for other purposes; and than download the costs of resources unto the parents and the greater community. The equity practices in schools, no matter what part of the country one is in, is all about providing the minimum in resources that an individual school can bear without undue hardship. resulting in the teachers, parents and the outer community to provide or make do.

    So a grade 8 classroom goes without math text books, and the bureaucrat’s response there is no need for textbooks, since the teacher is drawing from a number of math sources that are provided by the board and not just the textbook. I am being nice about it, but when I heard that one when my child was in grade 10, my accounting nose was twitching again, as well as my equity nose. To my chagrin, my child along with her classmates, will not be receiving a math text book for the duration of high school, because the math curriculum and the resources has now been change. Someone or a group somewhere in the ministry and at the board level, decided that my child’s class of ’1995′, will not receive the new curriculum, but make do with the math resources less the old math textbook. Where are the old math textbooks? They have been incinerated and are now ashes. If parents want a textbook for their child, they can purchased one with their own money. and are discourage from purchasing the new math textbook. As a parent, the new math textbooks and its curriculum is crap, but I digress, the problem is parents who do wish to purchase supplementary math resources such as the old math textbooks, is a rare commodity in my neck of the woods. My child had to make do this year, but thankfully the math teachers at the local high school are ensuring that my child receives the extra practice that a textbook normally provides. No impact on her math grade, but a major hindrance in the home front, and expense on my part, to help my child. She rarely asks me for math help these days, but when she does, I have a difficult time helping her, because I had no text book to guide myself, and to refresh my memory of advance algebra and other advance mathematics. More importantly, my child learns her math best using a combination of textbooks, internet resources, and other resources, but the math textbook is her main tool, rather than her notes. Now, she is without a textbook, and it makes for interesting and creative solutions both by the teachers and at home, to provide the extra practice without incurring costs.

    As for the bureaucrat thunder-heads at the board and higher levels, justification of policies and practices relating to delivery of resources of the various types at the school level, are based on the equity equation. In their eyes, the equity threshold is reach in a classroom, when students have access to the resource in question, even when the resource in question the students must share or do without or get their parents to supply it or the teacher. For example, paper is a typical resource in schools that is mandated by using benchmarks, and is based on sheets per student. Thus paper resources of the school under the accounting practices, are pre-determined in advance, at the lowest benchmarks, the minimum based on the needs of the school and its students. Every student receives the same number of sheets of paper for the school year, and it is left up to the teachers how the paper resources of the school are to be used, and in their classrooms. What happens if a student uses up their share of paper resources? The fun and games begin, the hidden inequities that emerges at the school level, when teachers are expected to address the inequities of the students by keeping them hidden using the philosophy that is behind the equity policies. Nothing wrong with the philosophy and the theories behind equity, but lots wrong with the interpretation of the equity policies and how the interpretation is applied to equity policies of an education system.

    The very essence of the equity practices and how it is applied to the resources of the schools, creates a repetitive cycle of sharing resources at the expense of others who will do without. Those who do without, the expectation is that other monies other than the school or school board fundng, will provide for the student or students. The classroom with 15 used textbooks that the teacher brought, and is mentioned in Andrew’s post, is an example of the current equitable policies at work. In the eyes of the bureaucrats in the upper levels of the education system, to which they will insist it meets the standard of the equitable threshold, because the students have access to the books based on the sharing principle. The sharing principle always comes up, to explain not every student would be in need of the math text book on a regular basis to take home. I had that problem when my child was in grade 5, dealing with science textbooks. Each time, I had to walk into the school to get the science textbook, which was weekly, because the science textbooks for grade 4 were not allowed to be taken home. I had no choice but to used my child’s LD label under the legal parameters, to obtain access to the science textbook beyond the classroom. So my child was given access beyond the classroom, at the expense of other students in the classroom whose parents did not come into the school, and asked for the science book. The other question, if parents did come into the school and asked for the science textbook, would they obtain it as easily as I did, if they child did not have the label LD. With only 12 science textbooks, how equitable can it be for students, teachers and the education of students? What are the academic outcomes for the students? I know if I did not go into the school to retrieved the science textbook for my child, her science grade would be nothing to rave about, since she was incapable of taking notes at that time, due to her learning struggles, to which hand writing was an issue.

    In my eyes, the equity policies is a form of discrimination that allocates resources based on pre-determined numbers and funding that are at the lowest possible benchmark, and where discrimination takes place on the individual and at the classroom level because the resources are not based on the students needs as well as their learning needs. In essence, the inequities that emerges at the school level, is a natural outcome of an finance/accounting model that sets up the conditions to discriminate on the resources, forcing the school to solve the inequities on the social equity line rather than the true needs of the students and the schools.The culture of the school and the values it holds, becomes the deciding factor to sort out the inequities based on priorities of greatest need based on number of students. The fewer the students that are being impacted by an inequality, it will be left up to the teachers and parents to sort out at their own expense and time when it comes to the educational resources. The allocation of resources reinforces the image that all schools are equal, and have equal access to resources, allowing the inequities or resources and services to remain hidden at the bottom rung of the ladder, and more importantly staying at the school level forever and a twain, for teachers and parents to sort out. Many of the inequities rarely captures the attention of the upper levels of the education system, unless the inequities are resulting in negative achievement of students. What is the percentage, before the upper levels move in with extra resources and funding, it is anybody’s guess and when it comes to technology in schools, Neil, Andrew and Jaclyn concerns are valid, expressing the inequities of what they have observed and experienced, that normalizes the inequities as part of the day to day operations of a school.

    All of sudden, a school without the technology resources is just as equal as a school with the technology resources because both are meeting the threshold of equity based on the financial/accounting policies of the school board and budgets, rather than the true needs of the school and its students. The resources including technology become the items that have restrictions place on them, that is very dependent on the local endeavours, knowledge, know-how of the school, the income level of parents, along with the cultural values to turned lemons into lemonade or make do. The equity policies and how it is defined and interpreted determines the resources of the school, as well as other school policies but more importantly sets the stage for the many reasons why this school has paint for their students, and another school down the road has no paint. Or one school has all the bells and whistles in technology, and the school down the road, has 3 computers and the sharing of 12 textbooks in a class or two. And the amazing declaration of the ones in the upper levels of a school system, are more or less, declaring that all schools meets the equitable threshold in resources on the financial papers, and than proceed to justified the inequities on the back of the school, its teachers, the students, the parents and extension into the various parts of society that lie outside the education system.

    Faux-pas equity or pretend equity, where everybody at the bottom rung pretends everyone is equal at the expense of the students and their education. The repetitive cycle begins over and over putting out the many small fires of inequities, where equity in resources is defined as equal share per student. The school with a student population of 200, with 3 computers, is now seen as 66 students having access to one computer of the three computers, in the same way as a school with a student population of 200, where each student has a lap top. Both meet the equity threshold, and all done with numbers pretending that students in both schools have equal access to the computer technology and its educational advantages.

    Below is a few videos, to make us laugh on the inequities that are imposed on the schools, students, parents and the wider community, and than convince us it is our responsibility and duty to solve the inequity at our expense, time and effort.

    The Teacher and the Administrator
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=KyCJz_VWrAw

    A Meeting with the Principal
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiEvY55Tw8A&feature=related

    And the last one, is a teacher raving about Apple and its products. Actually, he is funny but just think of what the Apple apps could do to transform learning in the class, using the i-pad.

    Apple iPad KILLS Textbooks!

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