BYOD – Narrowing the Digital Divide?

Lisa is a student who hates math but loves to text her friends during class.  In fact, she’s had over five to seven referrals to the office for inappropriate technology use.  The administrator in charge constantly gives detentions, threatens suspension, and calls the parent often to harangue the circumstance demanding change.  Lisa is amused at the attention and moves on to her next class, where she’ll pull out the phone and continue the same infraction.

Discussions within the administrator ranks become tense when the topic of cell phone use in the classroom  is posed. In some circles cell phones are viewed as a distraction while others see them as a viable solution to one-to-one access.

The larger consideration is which student has full, partial or no access to pertinent 21st century skills. The Pew Research Center claims that 91% of adults have cell phones compared with 78% of youth ages 12-17 according to a 2013 study; only 37% have smartphones.  With increasing use, educators are utilizing cell phones in the classroom for simple tasks such as keeping track of homework in calendar apps, note taking with complex note taking apps, and sending and receiving tweets from teachers or co-students.  The little-noticed statistic is Pew’s findings that “Non-owners [of cell phones] were younger teens (especially boys), Hispanics, and those living in poorer households.”  The question – can the use of cell phones in the classroom broaden or narrow the digital divide?

With increasing frequency, counties around the state are adopting or adapting a cell phone policy to address the educational technology fluency in the classroom, but the difficulty is student access.  With the implications of the Pew results, the digital divide will continue to expand with the “poorer households” not having devices unless school districts attend to funding.

Question for discussion: how does your school district fund a cache of devices for those who do not have access?

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Traces of Technology in the NASSP’s Ignite 2013 Exhibit Hall

The NASSP’s Ignite 2013 Conference in Washington D.C. provided attendees with a quick glimpse into technology schools can expect to focus future professional development activities.  And, in light of the new Educator Effectiveness and principal evaluation movements, the need to appropriate and utilize technology is more imperative.  This weather vane of movements can be the exhibit hall of national association conventions.  Watching vendors position for the educational dollars is a fickle predictor, albeit an important indicator of who’s clamoring for our attention.  For example, we listen intently when a large publishing company sinks huge amounts of research dollars into online curriculum and has a coming out party to display the latest.  So, what does the exhibit hall look like?

Well, Common Core web-based instructional modules are in abundance. From content literacy to test prep, most companies offer a variety of psychometrics tools.  Dashboards with drill-down capabilities are replacing the static report menus.  What’s impressive is the level to which vendors have thought through the dynamic reporting needs for single user or user groups’ data collection.  And, for customizing the data capabilities, exports lend themselves to numerous formats (Excel, Access, csv, PDF, etc.).  Virtual bookstores signal the rise of electronic materials and are becoming the norm rather than the anomaly.

As a side-look, weaving school security via building security (locks, window treatments, alarm systems) and human ID systems (ID Badges, visitor tracking) into an integrated technology approach is on the increase.  The ability to lockdown buildings is more prevalent in the exhibit hall than in previous shows.

I must confess, I miss seeing technology-based vendors at every turn in the hall, shoving mouse pads in your free bag of trinkets.  I see no major push for data warehousing or mining tools, no companies pushing curriculum delivery systems.  If I were to rate the technology presence within this year’s exhibit hall, I’d conclude that technology is still on the periphery of the education reform act.  I’m confident this will change, sooner than later.

For a complete list of vendors at the NASSP convention, go to and walk through the hall yourself.  Visit the websites and see if you can see a trend.

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What we’re about …

The MASSP Technology Talk blog is an attempt to engage school administrators in reviewing, discussing and exploring new ideas for incorporating technology within their school environment.  By highlighting technology trends and its purported uses, the blog’s readers are encouraged to float their own experiences for comments.

Who’s writing the blog?  Primarily, Rick Robb, assistant principal at Long Reach High School in Howard County and MASSP’s Technology chairman.  Rick was a computer analyst during the 80s and early 90s before becoming an English teacher in Prince George’s County.  While teaching in Howard County, he was the lead administrator for alternative education venues (summer school, evening school, and online courses).  After eighteen years in the classroom, Rick is in his second year as a school-based administrator.  Winning the ISTE 2006 Outstanding Teacher Award, teaching a graduate course at Johns Hopkins, and participating in numerous conferences, Rick continues to stay abreast of the trends in education and technology.

In addition, guest appearances by technology leaders throughout the state will add their insights on whether the buzz surrounding the newest trend is worth the energy or simply a road less traveled.

Finally, write some suggested technology topics that may interest principals and assistant principals.

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