EDUC 573: Week 7–WebQuests, BYOD and Educational Equity

Yes, all those things have something in common.  Mainly that I learned about all of them this week. 🙂

One of the big projects for this class I’m taking is a WebQuest.  While the idea of a WebQuest is not a new one (the concept was created by Bernie Dodge in 1995), it’s a new one to me.  Somehow, I’ve gotten through all of my education thus far–including the teaching part–without having done one, using one or creating one.

One thing I wanted to make sure of was that I made a WebQuest that was actually applicable to my classroom and my students; this is hopefully true of all assignments in grad school, after all!   Eventually I landed on making it applicable to a science unit on animals we were about to begin, since it could be self-paced and open-ended like most of the other projects I assign in science.

Outside of the content piece of the project, there was also the process of using Google Sites to create the website housing the actual WebQuest.  The funny part to me while I was working was how much I had ragged on Google last week, and then how the usefulness of so many Google Apps became clear; if only my students had their Google Drives up and running so that they could download and save their papers to use later, or how they could better collaborate if they could use a Google Doc to record their research–at school or at home.  The whole hangup I had with it last week was that I couldn’t see the necessity of it or how it would work with elementary and all it took was one project where I needed it for it to all make sense!  That was the connection I was looking for, right there in front of me.

Another topic this week was the article Left to Their Own Devices by Jeff Weinstock (2010).  While the article was all about the rationale for BYOD, as well as the difficulties districts face in trying to figure it all out, I was touched by a completely different topic than that of the technology involved.  Rather than focusing on the money, time, or infrastructure involved in having students bring their own devices, I zeroed in on the educational equity piece of it all.

The article began:

At Empire High School in Vail, AZ, every student has a laptop, a fully loaded MacBook supplied free of
charge—to the student, at least—courtesy of the Vail School District. “We provide the entire experience,” says
Vail CIO Matt Federoff.
The 1-to-1 program is a cornerstone of Vail’s Beyond Textbooks
initiative, whose goal is an all-digital curriculum. So facing the decision on whether to expand the program to
another of its high schools, Cienega, the district made the obvious choice: No way.

Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but to me it seems that one school got the whole package of a 1:1 roll out and the other got nothing. While I completely agree that the definition of fair is not “same,” the scenario seems a little unfair to me.  What if I can’t bring my own device to school?  What if I don’t have one?  What if my phone only makes phone calls and isn’t “smart?”   Should I not be allowed to access the curriculum?

I agree that the whole topic of technology in schools and BYOD and 1:1 is not that simple, it’s not a black/white thing with easy answers.  Perhaps the school district was making a good decision in going 1:1 in one place and not another, there could be more to the story that I don’t know.  But isn’t one reason for going 1:1 in the first place to level the playing field?  To give all students an equal chance?

Ok, now I’m rambling….so I’ll ask you: what connection to you see between BYOD, 1:1 initiatives and educational equity?  Tell me your stories and share your thoughts. 🙂

3 thoughts on “EDUC 573: Week 7–WebQuests, BYOD and Educational Equity

  1. Can you link t the article? That is BANANAS!! Unless your student population is very nearly homogenous socio-economically, BYOD will always decrease equity. I see this effect in my school with something as “inexpensive” as graphing calculators for upper level math students. We don’t have a practice of supplying one to every student (nor do I necessarily think we should), but not being having their own graphing calculator shuts a lot of kids out if higher math, or keeps the, from performing as well as they can in the classes they do take. BYOD highlights the digital divide between families that can buy new devices for their kids and those that cannot.

    The article expands BYOD and equity to a larger scale – students in a large metro area like St. Louis are not just competing against their peers in the school, but students across districts. I’m voting for a bond issue in Normandy this April that will hopefully implement 1:1 for all of the secondary students. I don’t know about personal device ownership of individual students at Normandy HS (I suspect it’s lower than all but a handful of districts), but their current situation school wide is something like 2 labs of computers for 900+ students. There may be equity INSIDE the school, but there’s no question that those kids are missing out on a myriad of learning/creating opportunities compared to others in the area.

    I see it this way – the more disadvantaged a group of students has become- the more courageous a decision needs to be made. The easy thing in Normandy (or FergFlor) would be to open up BYOD and see what happens. There would be far less planning involved and certainly less risk of financial and political capital. In some places innovation is a bonus, in others, it must be done to survive.

    • Wow–what a response. So first of all, thanks for that. I knew you’d definitely have something to say about it. I have the article in PDF form, and I’m not honestly sure how to link that to my post. If you know please share!

      It’s interesting because what you said about what this looks like closer to home. As I was reading the article, that’s really what I was thinking about–how in the long run BYOD only continues to highlight the have and have not situation that is present. Of course you said it in an much more eloquent way. AMEN to the idea that “BYOD highlights the digital divide between families that can buy new devices for their kids and those that cannot.”

      So then what are schools to do? How do they decide what to do and how to do it? Does it always mean that poorer districts will always behind? Or does it highlight, instead, how they will need to make different decisions about what’s important. I guess it’s what you said with “the more courageous a decision needs to be made.”

      I hate the situation that’s being created here, and how the gaps continue to widen. In many ways it’s hard for me to even put my thoughts into words, because I’m so frustrated by the situation. All I end up with is questions. Thanks for doing a WAY better job than me (as usual, right?) of getting out what I was thinking. 🙂

      • Poorer districts will always be behind if they attempt to operate like affluent districts and make up the difference with the extra state and federal funds. Te more we have to invest in tech, I think we’ll see poorer districts having to decide they won’t be “full service” – sports? arts? various extracurriculars? – and that they’re going to do a few things very well.

        It doesn’t require that much “more” money, but rather, leadership (supt., school board) the community supports, and the will to make (informed) decisions that MAY not work.

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