It’s B.Y.O.D for back to school.
The Bring Your Own Device program is a new initiative that will be taking place in some of the schools within the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board. “The purpose of the B.Y.O.D project is to provide guidance to our students as to which high quality and low cost devices are suitable for their learning needs,” said Kelvin MacQuarrie, Senior Information and Tech Services Officer at Hastings Prince Edward District School Board. The program is available to secondary school students in Grades 9-12 and helps students by increasing their access to technology without the cost of purchasing a device for each student.
The hope is to prepare all students for the workforce in the modern day through digital inclusion, regardless of their financial, social or economic background. Working with Staples, a pilot program was run last year where students would be able to purchase Chrome books at a special price through the program. Due to its success, it was decided to continue on with the program for another year.
“We went through a whole year pilot, got a lot of feedback from teachers and students and now we decided to expand the pilot to letting other secondary schools come in on a volunteer basis,” said MacQuarrie. “The schools have the option to volunteer into the program. If a principal feels like they’re not quite ready to come in, they don’t have to.” As part of the B.Y.O.D program, students are able to get access to their own personal Chrome books for home and school use.“It’s really to address the need that students can learn anytime, anywhere now,” said MacQuarrie. “When they’re home they can learn online. It’s really to facilitate that.” “The province is spear-heading the broadband internet, making sure that there’s good internet in schools, good wi-fi, all the good infrastructure that students can access…What is missing when you want them to learn anywhere, all the time, you need to have good reliable devices.”
“High quality, low cost devices. It’s good for them to use at home and good for them to use at school. “In order for the B.Y.O.D program to work, MacQuarrie said that “teachers need to be engaged in the online environment. They need to have all the (teaching) materials online.” “It’s all about the Universal Design for Learning. That’s a term saying when you provide materials for learning to students, it needs to be universally accessible to them.” MacQuarrie thinks that about 80% of subjects could lend themselves to the online learning model but of course not every subject would be practical, an example being wood shop or similar trade programs. “This is replacing your binder, right? Everything is on here.”
Currently the Hastings and Prince Edward Learning Foundation has set aside $15,000 to contribute to the Bring Your Own Device program. Currently, the amount of Chrome books that they will be able to provide to students is dependant on different factors. “It depends,” said Maribeth deSnoo, Executive Director at the Learning Foundation. “I’m hoping that student families will have a portion of the funds, so we can make the funding go further.” “We are specifically looking at those families who otherwise couldn’t afford the full cost. Like the Good Backpack Program, like the Student Emergency Fund, it’s that equity piece and breaking down those barriers.” In being able to provide funding to keep the program going, deSnoo said that it will be a challenge they will have to address in the future. “All our programs come from fundraised funds, so will we be able to continue to meet a growing need? That’s going to be our challenge.”
In the future, deSnoo said that they might consider merging some of their programs together. “At the secondary school level, the Good Backpack Program and B.Y.O.D might merge at some point in time. I can see how somewhere in the future, that’s the evolution. But once again, fundraising would have to meet that need.” “I think in terms of the fundraising down the road, we have no idea how low these will get,” said MacQuarrie, referencing the chrome book. “These could get down to cheap.” MacQuarrie also said that “if you target the grade 9 students, then in four years, everyone would have it, or a lot of students would have, then the need decreases right.” Currently the B.Y.O.D program is only available to students at the secondary school level and schools must volunteer to be a part of it.