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Bring Your Own Laptop: Reader's Response
Author: Cary Harrod | September 14th, 2011

**To read Bruce's initial editorial on Bring Your Own Laptop programs, please click here.

I appreciate your blog post, Bruce. You've asked some really important questions that everyone should be thinking about when it comes to BYOL programs. As someone who just walked the BYOL journey this past school year, I thought I'd offer up some thoughts about the challenges you bring up in your post.

We launched our BYOL program this past January with our 7th graders. It was an overwhelming success in several key ways:

--Out of 559 7th graders, we had 353 students bring in their own laptop, netbook or tablet pc. Add that to the 160 district owned devices and it's easy to see that one of our major goals was met...to increase access to technology for ALL 7th graders. I can say with complete confidence that a device was available to any 7th grader, during the school day, whenever the learning called for it.

--As for the students who were unable/unwilling to purchase their own device, I guess I would again ask the question, did we successfully increase access to technology so that learning could continue without the barrier of having to check out a cart of laptops, say next Tuesday when the cart was available? Yes. Those students who did not own their own device still had more hands on time with a device than before we launched the BYOL and it was when the learning called for it. No, they didn't have a device to take home with them (something we're still exploring) but neither did they before the BYOL.

--Servicing computers--we didn't. It was made clear to the parents that they owned the device...they would be responsible for upkeep of it. We suggested places to take the device if it needed service. We encouraged them to get insurance. Really, it was no different than when i take my device to Starbucks; Starbucks does not assume responsibility for my device...I do. If we continue to expect school districts to not only purchase the devices but also maintain them, we will surely never see students having access to a computer when they need it.

--By allowing an assortment of devices, in addition to intensive professional development focused on instruction and learning, we were able to move our teachers towards a student-centered way of thinking about learning. No more standardizing the learning.

Were there and are there still many challenges facing us? You bet. We recognize that we still have many hurdles ahead of us; we are committed to finding ways to put a device into the hands of all students but we're leveraging the parents' desire to support us in this journey. I contend that we find ways to get students musical instruments when they can't afford it; we find ways to send kids to camp when they can't afford it; and yet we can't find a way to put a critical learning tool in the hands of kids who can't afford it?

Finally, what I know for sure is that our district would never have been able to afford a true 1:1 laptop program and quite frankly, I'm no longer convinced that that would be the best solution for us; we're really not interested in our students having the same device; it simply is not reflective of the real world. Instead, we're teaching our students how to select the best computer and the most appropriate tools for their individual needs. I realize not all districts are in the same boat as us; that it is entirely possible that we will be forced to think innovatively when it comes to finding ways to make sure our students have access to the tools they need in order to be successful learners. I suggest we find a place...a space...where all of us can come together to share our thoughts, ideas and solutions for making sure our children are not left in a world they simply do not recognize.

And please be sure to read this blog posting that Cary wrote shortly after this response.

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