Westport Students: BYOD

New York City is finally ending its long ban on cellphones in schools.

At Brien McMahon High School, a student said recently, anyone who brings a laptop to class is considered weird.

Westport, meanwhile, plows ahead with its “Bring Your Own Device” initiative. Beginning next year, students will be required to provide their own technology during the school day.

Technology 1 - NBC News

Students use their own devices — which tie in to classroom technology like Smart Boards. (Photo/NBC News)

According to Inklings, the Staples newspaper — accessible online, of course — the Board of Education heard a BYOD progress report last month.

A PowerPoint presentation (natch) noted that this month, parents will be advised of specifications for “devices that may be purchased.” The months ahead brings parent information sessions, student input and “boot camps” for students and teachers.

Inklings reported that the Westport School District will provide “refurbished devices” for elementary and middle schoolers who are financially unable to purchase their own; Staples students will get new Chromebooks. Funding comes from a $30,000 line item for new technology purchases this year.

Electronic devices don't necessarily lead to isolation. In fact, they can increase collaboration.

Electronic devices don’t necessarily lead to isolation. In fact, they can increase collaboration. (Photo/HerffJones)

According to Inklings, townwide director of technology Natalie Carrignan said that 60% of students already bring their own devices to school.

At Staples, that percentage seems low. Laptops, tablets and cellphones are everywhere. They’re used constantly — often for schoolwork, occasionally not.

Each month, it seems, fewer and fewer students sit at the desktop computers that fill the library and learning centers. And the laptops that teachers can sign out for class use are often slow, unreliable and out of date.

Sure, Staples students use laptops to play games or watch videos. But even in the cafeteria, the amount of schoolwork that gets done is compelling.

Sure, Staples students use laptops to play games or watch videos. But even in the cafeteria, the amount of schoolwork that gets done is compelling. (Photo/www.District196.org)

If you think there should still be a debate about using technological devices in school, you might have argued a century ago that cars may not be the best replacement for horses.

Westport students live their lives online. So do most teachers.

Our school district’s job is to prepare young people for life through the end of this century. Administrators and the Board of Ed are figuring out how to harness technology, to best serve education in the sciences, humanities and arts. They recognize reality in many forms (including financial).

But if you’d like to offer your own insights, click “Comments.” On whatever electronic device you’re using right now.

27 responses to “Westport Students: BYOD

  1. While I acknowledge the amazing contributions that technology has made to our lives, I think it’s sad that we
    are losing all verbal skills in our
    communication. Hand written “Thank You” notes are essentially obsolete, and
    this does not bode well for our
    kids, or their social maturation. Nobody seems to “speak” anymore. The “humanity” in communication is dying, and I fear a big piece of life experience is going with it.
    Families sit across from each in restaurants with tablets or smartphones in front of their faces, barely saying two words other than to order. ( I suspect restaurant servers will soon be replaced by computerized menus at every table.
    We will punch in our order, and it will be delivered on a conveyor belt (or by robot in the upscale venues), complete with computerized check. (Sans the familiar hand scribbled smiley face)
    I am definitely saddened by all of these
    “advances”. I think that technology “definitely” breeds isolatation. People don’t need to go to the library, the movies, or even the local playground. They watch movies or video chat
    together, while continents apart. They have “virtual” pets, send “virtual” birthday cards, give “virtual” hugs and kisses, play “virtual sports” and begin and end, long term “virtual” relationships, all from the comfort of their bedroom or couch. Yes, we have gained many benefits from technology. However at what cost? I fear one day, we will have a “virtual society”, where our grandchildren will have completely lost the art of conversation, not experience “real” friendship, and propose marriage via text message.
    Call me “old fashioned”, but I miss
    “Father Knows Best” and “Lassie”;)

  2. Much of what you say is true, Susan. Much, however, is not. The libraries (Staples and Westport) have become VERY social places for teenagers. They go to movies often (even though we no longer have theaters in Westport — certainly not their fault!). Though they text a lot, they really are conversing and communicating — sometimes superficially, sometimes more deeply. I have found, as a high school soccer coach, that some (certainly not all) players communicate more often and more personally with me via text than they did in the “old” days. They’re comfortable with the technology — it’s quick and easy, but it also allows them to share ideas and thoughts that they might not be able to verbalize in a different way. I’m not denying the downsides to current technology — I’m just saying that there are different aspects to it that sometimes get overlooked in our throw-up-our-hands-in-exasperation reaction to it.

    • Dorrie Thomas

      I like what you said about texting here, Dan…I agree: my 17 yr old and I have whole long texting conversations and they are often pretty deep. I like that she can refer back to my written words on her phone if she wants to.
      Although, I do think kids rely too much on that form of communication. When that same daughter tells me she has some problem with someone, and I say talk to them about it…she texts them about it. Imagine trying to work out relationship issues via text without any sense of tone or emotion!!! I have to explain to her that I mean TALK!!! Yikes.

  3. Scott E. Brodie (Stabples '70)

    We’ve come a long way… at Staples in the 1960s, carrying a slide-rule was a badge of nerd-dom. (My wife( Bronx High School of Science, ’69) carried printed log and trig tables in her notebook, so as not be seen with a slide rule!) The first class at Staples on “Computer Programming” used an HP “Programmable Calculator” which was about the size of an IBM Selectric Typewriter (if anyone even remembers what those things looked like!). Does Staples still teach any sort of programming at all?

    • Actually Staples does offer programming classes, they are popular among the student body. Staples also unveiled this year that there is now a student run IT help desk for students and staff.

  4. What about their penmanship? Is it worse than a generation ago?

    • No. About the same. Except kids today can’t write script (“cursive”). Some of them have difficulty reading it. I am not making this up. On the other hand, think about how hard it is for us to read documents written in the 17th and 18th centuries. Same thing, probably.

  5. I’m not as despairing as Ms. Holden although I do sometimes rage against the “post verbal generation”, especially after I listen to lyrics of current popular music. Where are the Gershwins and Porters ?

    But if you go into a restaurant in a college town –I live near Cambridge– on a Friday or Saturday night you’ll find they’re noisy— filled with 20 somethings engaged in lively conversation. And if you look into college newspapers and literary magazines you can find good writing.
    A. David Wunsch
    Staples 1956

    • Seriously, “Gershwin and Porter?” What about Bach, Beethoven and Wagner?

      • A. David Wunsch

        You missed my point; I’m talking about a decline in popular culture.

        • Dorrie Thomas

          Also, Bach, Beethoven, and Wagner aren’t nearly as big on clever lyrics as Porter and Gershwin…verbal acuity was the point, I think 🙂

  6. The changes in technology have been wonderful in so many respects, including most notably ease of communication and access to all sorts of information that was simply not possible years ago.

    The biggest downside from my perspective is (due to ease of communication) the barrage of text messages– and, for some individuals in office environments, emails–and the fact that many people either can’t or won’t shut off their devices or set them so that they won’t be notified of incoming messages for any period of time. I just don’t see how people can retain the same level of concentration or focus with that going on–and I don’t care how talented an individual claims to be at multi-tasking. And, of course, people feel obligated or have no choice but to respond to the barrage of texts/emails.

    Among the variety of reasons I enjoy watching Staples soccer games is that, for roughly two hours, I know the kids are focused on and truly enjoying one activity without any distractions–unless, Dan, you are allowing the players to have their iPhones with them and turned on while they’re sitting on the bench. I imagine that the time spent on the soccer field is the closest experience some high school kids will have to the blocks of focused/uninterrupted time we had growing up. (And I imagine/hope it is a similar experience for kids immersed in other extracurricular activities such as Staples Players.)

    • Not only are iPhones not allowed on the bench (except for the one non-player who live-tweets updates of our matches — a fantastic innovation), but we have a rule that headphones come off the moment the team steps off the bus. We want the players connected with each other. And, when we take our summer “team bonding” trip, there is VERY limited use of phones. Again, the idea is to be there together, emotionally as well as physically.

  7. karen Howes Westport youth comm.

    Though I have a cel phone and certainly use it, it has gone WAY too far…years down the road it will show up the harmful, adverse effects of all this technology…not feeling the spine of a book, the textured pages, unable to look people in the eye and REALLY communicate. Taking the easier way out to share thoughts and feelings by way of technology, uhmmmm, we’ll see…

  8. Here’s a reminder that “Luddite” forms of communication may still have value! ; ) http://www.cnet.com/news/introducing-cnet-magazine/

  9. Steven Halstead

    BYOD. Where did that come from?
    20 years ago, during the spring and summer of 1994, the then Superintendent of Schools, with the approval of the Board of Education established the Westport Schools Strategic Technology Committee. The District at that point had only a handful of early computers and virtually no “connectivity”.
    The Committee was and still is composed of the Superintendent, A Board of Ed rep (originally me as an ex-IBMer), BOE Staff, administrators, and several teachers, several Town officials and several tech savvy community members. This Committee has met regularly for 20 years.
    The mission of the ”Committee” was to develop a technology strategy and plan to prepare our students for a 21st Century connected, technology based world. In summary, this was a strategy and plan to use technology throughout the District to facilitate 21st Century education and provide equal access to technology to all students and staff. This strategy has guided the District’s journey for 20 years.
    So many talented staff members, teachers, and administrators have worked creatively and diligently behind the scenes with the assistance of many tech savvy community members to do the creative and hard work to insure that Westport’s students are prepared to thrive in the 21st technology based connected and global world.
    BYOD is a bold shining example of strategic thinking, and hard work.

  10. How about allowing coffee to be served in Staples also. I know it’s another topic but find it funny watching some walk into Stapkes including teachers with a cup from Starbucks. So they can drink it-just cannot buy it. Huh?

  11. Interesting. From the coverage in this article http://www.k-12techdecisions.com/article/westport_public_schools_release_five_year_technology_plan. It looks as if our students will all be using Google Apps for Education. If true I wonder who will have access to the student and teacher data, how it will be analyzed, and how it will be used?

  12. Heck, as a complete Luddite I completely accept technology!
    Why, because it’s necessary.
    Balance the best of both worlds.

  13. Mark Demmerle

    Technology has served to shift a thought based culture to an information based culture.

  14. Terry Brannigan

    BYOD may be great, however I hope that the Westport schools help parents with suggestions about what D works best for students. I also hope they try to balance social fit with technology fit. (Generationally, as a reference, my parents bought me a “bubble” coat one winter and when I showed up to school, everyone was wearing “Snorkel” coats! Both keep you warm, but technology is as much fashion as fashion is) But seriously, I hope the initiatiave comes with suggestions.

  15. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    In every challenge lies an opportunity for some and a loss for others.