On the surface it would seem natural that this is something the Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation would be fully supportive of, and in broad principle of course we are. Our vision is for every child to have access to their own ‘personal portable computer’ to enable more powerful learning experiences..and in part this is what is driving the current fascination with BYO. However, I fear there is much more to this than meets the eye.
Firstly motivation. There is no question that much of this discussion has been led by the dramatic increase in some demographics, with students buying their own various pieces of technology. The obvious question becomes why should it stay as something the school makes the decision about? The second driver that is motivating this idea is, in some countries, most notably the US and Australia post the national DER program, a significant cut in funding to schools. A number of US School Districts and States who have previously funded their 1 to 1 initiatives through state grants or District funding, are now challenged on finding sustainable funding.
So then the questions becomes, what will they bring ?
As always, there are a few people always looking for the ‘next big idea”. So currently we are being overwhelmed by tablets of all makes and models, dominated by iPads, but discussions usually include phones, and any sort of gadget with a screen. Seems the last thing anyone wants to ask is ‘what will they want to do with it?’ For one, I’m happy if at least there is some agreement that you want them to be able to do basic computing functions, such as easily construct ideas, knowledge, share thinking and at all times be creative.
Then there is the issue of implementation. Currently very few corporates allow their staff to ‘bring their own’ laptops…and they usually have 2 to 3 times the technical support; how will schools manage this? …aha, I hear you say…virtualization…well yes..and no. Costs are currently a serious issue, and managing such an environment is still a challenge for most schools…however, yes, over time this may underpin an option; but I'm unsure whether it is viable at this time.
…other ‘small’ issues like low cost software licensing, dependable onsite 12 hour turnaround servicing,loaner machines, security, and the classroom management benefits of an homogenous operating environment also need to be addressed in real detail.
The principles on which aalf was founded and on which we have given advice on for nearly 15 years still apply. At all times our priority must be to ensure any 1 to 1 program provides for ALL students, and can be sustained in the long-term, not just dependent on the whims and fancies of political, technological and policy leadership.
This has always been at the core of our recommendation for the co-contribution or Shared Cost Model of funding. Our early experiences taught us and many schools, that given that the benefit from an effective 1 to 1 program would provide 24/7 access, there was a reasonable expectation that parents should make some contribution for the 80% of the time their son or daughter could now use a laptop for personal use outside school. However, I’m not sure why we can now suddenly expect all parents to pick up 100% of the cost...by bringing their own. Given the challenges many school leaders often raise about parents making a small contribution to a co-funded model, it seems a little incongruous that simply relabeling the program with a three letter acronym will address all the core principles that have toi date underpinned the success of 1 to 1 worldwide.
Finally there is the core issue of equity. You don’t solve a lack of funding by passing 100% of the cost to parents..and expect that to be a viable option for ALL parents. We currently DON’T have any problems with viability, sustainability or scalability with the thousands of 1 to 1 programs currently operating around the world built on the principle of co-contribution…but I suspect we certainly will have with many of the byo programs being considered.
However we are most likely going to see a mean a gradual shift of the responsibility for the provision of a personal portable computer for our students from schools to families, as costs come down further, and computers are commoditized even more. It will take time for the most effective funding, implementation and management models to be developed, and I expect they will for the most part be blended models that provide for all the challenges I have outlined above.
Above all we must continually remind ourselves; let’s not be distracted from the core purpose of why we want our young people learning in a technology-rich enviroment, and let's spend more time focused on what it makes possible.
Intersted in your thoughts...