DAILY INSIGHT: Equity issues and BYOD
By Steven M. Baule, CIO Advisor
This past Christmas may have been the Christmas of the
eReader. Santa’s little elves, Kindle and Nook, were working overtime this year
to stuff stockings. I have been amazed at how many of those devices have been
coming into schools after break this year. It seems as if eReaders have hit the
tipping point and now have an added momentum. This is in a district with a
poverty rate above 40%. Later this month, one of my teachers is organizing a class for the public
since she has been getting all sort of questions about using them and feels
many of the users are not bringing the devices to their full potential. Several
of my staff members have also bought new devices for themselves or family
members this year.
Recently, I have seen a number of situations arise where the
school or library leadership hasn’t addressed the issue of children in poverty.
One school librarian was promoting their eBook program but when queried about
how those without readers could access the materials; the librarian stated the
school had some loaners. However, children wanting to use loaners, needed to
leave a $150 security deposit for the device. Clearly, this would be limiting
to many families, particularly when many don’t even have checking accounts from
which to write such a deposit. A
public library is being protested for purchasing eBooks and other electronic
resources since all patrons are unable to access them. The library hasn’t
articulated how they make those items available to patrons without access to
eReaders. Perhaps they should consider some type of loaner program; one without
a hefty deposit. The protesters only want print books purchased, so everyone
can have equal access. Of course, I am not sure how that is the case where not
all patrons speak the same language or have the same reading levels. Similarly,
I am nearly certain that school and libraries ordering eBooks are also ordering
paper copies of the same items. However, it is the public feeling that some are
being disenfranchised that is concerning.
Public libraries and public schools have often been the way
in which new technologies are introduced to school children and in many school
districts. When I was a high school principal, we had a 1:1 laptop program for
students and many of those students were unable to pay for their computers. We
worked with a number of local agencies and businesses to find funding, so no
child was excluded from the program because of need. Such an approach is
essential. Especially those of us in public schools must ensure that we are
providing for the needs of all of our children. We cannot allow any of our
children to be left on the wrong side of the digital divide.
As technology leaders in schools develop plans for bringing
more technology into schools and particularly in those programs where there is
a BYOD (bring your own device) component, it is essential to ensure that the
issue of equity and equal access for all children has been considered and that
a solid plan is in place to address those issues. Reaching out to local service
organizations and businesses may assist the district in providing better access
for all children both during and outside of the school day.
Steven M. Baule is currently superintendent of North Boone CUSD 200 in Poplar Grove, IL. He has written several books on aspects of library and technology management and planning.