Maynard Massachusetts is a suburban town with a history of technology innovation dating back to 1846 with the installation of a dam on the Assabet River and the building of “the mill” in the center of town. In addition to producing woolen goods for the Civil War, the mill supplied hydro-electricity for the entire town. In more recent years, the 1,000,000,000 square foot mill has hosted many technology companies including, Raytheon, Digital Equipment Corporation and Monster.com. At one point the town was nicknamed “the mini-computer capital of the world.”
Computer technology innovation in the state has also blossomed in school districts like ours that participated in school building projects when wireless and 1:1 educational initiatives were in their infancy. With guidance from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), financial support from our town, and E-Rate 2.0, we were able to move from traditional desktop computer room applications to wireless 1:1 technology.
In the beginning we followed other innovative districts by choosing to be device specific. We decided to become an Apple district with iPads and Apple TV hardware. Over time, the Google Apps (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.
Most school districts choose one device for each student for their 1:1 programs. An alternative is BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). This idea is less expensive for the school district and gives options to the students to use the device they are most comfortable with. However, BYOD can exacerbate inequity of access to network infrastructure.
Additionally, a variety of devices have different operating systems, hardware, update history, and functionality making it more difficult for teachers to create a lesson plan around the technology.
Also, letting every student bring their own device can create an even greater technology gap. Students may not be able to work together because of the disparity in their devices, and 1:1 goals are not fully realized. It is also difficult for the IT department to manage security on personal devices creating a security risk on the network.
The goal of each of these systems is to provide students and teachers 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, or Apple, or Microsoft. But we felt that students should have a variety of options for using a device that best fits their needs, learning styles, and comfort level.
The idea we adapted for the Maynard Public Schools was inspired philosophically by BYOD programs as well as industry CYOD (Choose Your Own Device) programs. In our CYOD program, each student is given their preferred school issued device to use during their time in the school district with periodic opportunities to try other devices.
CYOD is a hybrid model and unifies the advantages of BYOD and CYOD. It provides flexibility for students to choose their own devices and not be forced into being a Google, Apple, or Microsoft user. The devices are issued by the school and the IT department manages and supports the devices and the network. In the first year, students were offered an iPad, Chromebook, or Chrome tablet. Windows, Mac, and Linux laptops are being added in the future.
The implementation plan in Maynard is as follows:
- K-4 students are able to use a variety of these devices as classroom computers. They can try out different platforms to see what best fits their learning style.
- 5th Grade students are able to choose their own device for 1:1. This device will stay with them until high school.
- 9th Grade students again choose the device they want to use for the 1-1 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.
We believe this hybrid program is the best way to improve students’ technology skills and to provide them with a specific device while giving them opportunities to try other devices as interests and preferences change.
Robert Geradi, Jr. PhD is superintendent of Maynard Public Schools in Massachusetts. Stephen Woicik is director of technology for Maynard Public Schools.