Friday, November 11, 2011

Why BYOT (Part III of fourish) -- Scoping out the Breadth of the Digital Divide

Techs &Teachers, Together at #HECC
  • It has been a really busy couple of weeks at the school and in the Brebeuf IT department.
  • Student wireless went fully live with only a few hiccups
  • @40ishoracle and I presented a BYOT workshop at the Hoosier Educational Computer Coordinators conference...complete with zhu zhu pets!
  • We had another phenomenal open house and tech petting zoo -- parents seem excited about the model
  • We finished a few major writing projects and started drafting a few more.
For the record, SIRI does not know ZHU

So, we have addressed the general benefit to students (although after talking about it and witnessing it, i could list a few more) and we have covered the transformation that is enabled in the IT Cave. Today we will focus on one of the two extremes of the digital divide: the haves (i’ll save the have-nots for Monday since @40ishoracle is already TLDRing me).

NOTE: this division is a gross generalization,but it serves the discussion

First, a little Jesuit speak (just a little, I promise), guiding principles of Jesuit education really come into play here. One is Context. Going as far back as St. Ignatius of Loyola (the first Jesuit), the order has placed a high level of emphasis on taking students (or believers, or sinners) where they are and challenging them in ways that will bring them closer to God. Because the background and experiences of each person varies, the particular challenges and new experiences that will bring one toward God also varies. This awareness of context is one part of the Jesuit concept of cura personalis.
Ok, back to BYOT.
The Haves: an exploration of context

We were watching a presentation on a school that had made the plunge to iPads while discussing a crippled little android device that was so locked down it makes the Kindle Fire look like a full production machine. Two students were working on scanning projects (full IBM lenovo desktops with two HP Scanjet scanners) of decades of paper photos while two more students were adjusting the wires on an infrared emitter that would be used to detect hand motion across a 40” screen (our student built multi-touch to display the alumni photos being scanned).

One of the students, an iPad user, begins bemoaning the iPad school philosophy. His argument essentially boiled down to one of context: as a high end user (one who writes his own iPad Apps) he felt that a school that would bar him from using his high-end machine was missing out on an opportunity to let him work at a level for which he was ready.

As we began to explore this idea of context, it expanded out from the high-end users. A family with a desktop computer in the living room is in a much better position to have an iPad or GalaxyTab as a during-the-day device that is used for looking up information, communicating, and drafting papers. The iPad becomes much less appealing as a default primary device when that will be the only machine in the household to use to add footnotes to a fifteen page research paper. Conversely, we have one sending school which bought all netbooks which were resoundingly despised by every eighth grader coming to visit our school. The reason? by and large, each student had outgrown the processing and ability of the device.
Families have different contexts. 
So do our students. 
Taken with a Nintendo 3DS
If we claim take the students where they are, then we must accept that we are not the ones who can necessarily best determine what they need. Our obligation is to help them understand their context and how that context will mesh with the educational environment -- hence the tech petting zoos -->