DURING OUR TIME
as administrators in the Maynard Public Schools in Massachusetts, we created a distinctive program we called Choose Your Own Device, or CYOD, to provide the widest technology application opportunities for students and staff.
At the time, Maynard, a school district with 1,300 students, had moved from traditional desktop applications to wireless one-to-one technology. But the one-to-one models still locked users into device-specific programs. CYOD offered greater flexibility. Our efforts to build an innovative and sustainable CYOD program could serve as a roadmap for other school districts.
In the beginning, we followed other innovative districts by choosing to be device-specific. We became an Apple district with iPads and Apple TV hardware. Over time, the G-Suite platform and low-cost Chromebooks were hard to resist, and we shifted from one platform to another.
As we became more sophisticated about the use of technology in the classroom, we discovered that no single device met the needs of all learners. We looked to outside industries to help solve this problem. Finding inspiration from the business world, we developed CYOD.
The goal of every device program is to provide students and teachers with access to technology that makes learning easier, faster and more adaptable. Forcing students to use a single device helps them understand how to work specifically with Google, Apple or Microsoft, but we felt students should have options for using a device that best fits their needs, learning styles and comfort level.
CYOD provides flexibility for students to choose their own devices and not be forced into being a user of our district’s choosing. The devices are issued by the school, and the instructional technology department manages and supports the devices and network. In the first year, students were offered an iPad, Chromebook or Chrome tablet. Windows, Mac and Linux laptops were the expansion plan.
The implementation plan in Maynard is as follows:
»K-4 students use a variety of these devices as classroom computers. They try out different platforms to see what best fits their learning style.
»5th-grade students can choose their own device for one-to-one. This device will stay with them through 8th grade.
»9th-grade students again choose the device they want to use for the one-to-one program. This device will last them through high school. When they graduate, they can purchase the device at a reduced cost, although they are not required to.
Beyond the educational benefits, this program provides budget stability through diversification. Prices go up and down every year. Educational discounts don’t last forever. CYOD builds a program that doesn’t lock someone into a vendor’s platform and force the user into an upgrade expense cycle. Also, a district avoids needing to significantly increase its budget in one year because of being locked into a contract with one vendor.
Another budget benefit is that the infrastructure is in place to implement new technology almost instantly without incurring additional overhead. A device-agnostic infrastructure provides a plug-and-play system to support various innovations and changes in technology.
Most importantly, our students and staff are device-agnostic in their personal lives. Why would we force students into a device-specific environment? Let them use the device they are most comfortable with. This maximizes learning and lowers the barrier of entry for technology in the classroom.
As for our current school districts, Minuteman is device-agnostic based on industry needs for individual vocational programs. Agawam is further developing its CYOD program.
ROBERT GERARDI JR.
is finance director at Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical School District in Lexington, Mass. He formerly served in Maynard, Mass.
is technology director at Agawam Public Schools in Feeding Hills, Mass. and formerly served in Maynard, Mass.