By Kevin Kelley
Fairview Park City Schools is considering a change in its technology policy that will allow or encourage students to bring their own laptop or tablet computers when the next school year begins.
For several years, under the district’s one-to-one initiative, students have been supplied with a netbook computer at no cost except a nominal technology fee. Currently, students in grades five through 12 have netbooks, with those in grades seven and above allowed to take them home.
But many students prefer to use their own laptop computers, said Matt Dunlap, the district’s technology coordinator.
“We hear from kids on a daily basis, ‘Why can’t I just bring my own?’” Dunlap explained. Many do, he added. But only those with school-sanctioned netbooks can access the school’s WiFi system, Dunlap said, although some get around this.
The district’s five-person technology committee, led by Dunlap, was expected to present recommendations on what the policy should be in coming years at last night’s meeting of the Fairview Park Board of Education. The results of two surveys – one for students in grades five through 11 and a second for their parents – were to be presented to the school board.
One possibility being strongly considered, Dunlap said, is to allow students to essentially opt out of the one-to-one initiative and bring their own devices to school. Under this scenario, students would also have the option of receiving a device at no cost, he added.
“We’re not going away from one-to-one,” Dunlap said. “Our goal is to be one-to-one whether it’s our device or (a student’s) own device.”
If the opt-out/BYOD policy is adopted, the district would likely upgrade the wireless systems in the schools to accommodate more devices, Dunlap said.
Now is a good time to review the district’s technology policy, Dunlap said, because devices other than netbooks may be more advantageous for students. For example, tablet computers have become more popular and powerful and can hold electronic versions of several textbooks.
The netbooks were a good technology solution up until now, Dunlap said, but the district needs to look at moving to the next stage.
Depending on how many students bring their own devices if the opt-out policy is adopted, significant money may be freed up to enable the district to expand its technology program to lower grades, Dunlap said. Superintendent Brion Deitsch said the district has been spending roughly $60,000 annually for about 150 netbooks in recent years.
Currently, third- and fourth-graders have access to Macintosh laptop computers, and first- and second-graders use iPads.