Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bring Your Own What?

Hank's Kindergarten teacher has sent home a letter and a permission form for Bring Your Own Technology. BYOT, as they call it, is widespread in our school system, but with Laura I don't remember it being a thing until she was in the fifth grade.

I remember the middle school orientation at the start of the year, where it quickly became apparent that it was basically required for each kid to have some kind of device they could do certain tasks on and use to read their online textbook. Parents were saying, "So should I just buy her an ipad, or some other kind of tablet? A laptop? Just say the word." I was like, "Do whut?"

I don't have an ipad. I have my beloved iphone 5 and a four year-old laptop that, though nice in its day, is now missing the left-sided shift, capslock, and 's' key covers. 

Not being able to hit the left-side shift has done interesting and probably permanent things to my typing.

Laura has an ipod touch that she got a couple Christmases ago and a Kindle Fire that she spent her 11th birthday money on. (That kindle is nice--I think those are a good deal.) Her Kindle Fire is what she takes to school and works on. Hank has none of this. He has a Nintendo DS that he plays with sometimes. He has our xbox, Legos, and the air and sky. I have not been inclined to put a smart phone-type object into his six year-old hands. Having that kind of thing is not part of his six year-old life.

Really, it's not even about the money, at a certain point it's about the having, maintaining, and keeping up with all of these small expensive objects. And indeed, since our older kids started doing BYOT in school, I know of a handful of lost and broken devices among my friends and neighbors.

Of course, the teacher writes in the letter that no child will be left out, that it's not mandatory, that there are a few classroom devices for kids who don't have one, etcetera. On the way to school this morning, Hank brought it up. "Mom, the permission form for BYOT is in my folder." (The way he says BYOT, with emphasis on each letter, is adorbs. Bee, Why, Oh, TEE.)

I said, "Well bud, what are most people doing for BYOT?" He had the precise metrics: 16 kids in his class have an ipod touch, he said. And Christopher and Max have ipads. The remaining six of them can use the classroom computers and the three classroom ipods. 

Having to use one of the classroom devices sounds fine to me. Hardly a deprived situation, right? And he didn't complain or whine about it. I just said, "Well honey, you don't have an ipod, I don't think you really need one." 

But this morning I told Laura that I would like for her to do her brother a favor and lend him her ipod every Friday, with the understanding that if it gets lost or broken, I'll underwrite the loss, and she was fine with it. 

What do you think? Is this the norm where you are? 


Leigh said...

First let me say I'm so glad you're blogging again! I love reading your take on everyday life.

Secondly, I'm very surprised that they'd have this system in a public school, although I probably shouldn't be surprised--technology is such a huge part of learning and it saves the school money if the kids can bring their own devices. It seems like it would divide the haves/have nots, but that division is probably already there anyway; my 5th grader has friends who've had iPhones since 3rd grade, and she saved for for a year to buy a DS with her own money around 2nd grade because she felt like she was the only kid in her class without a game device.

Lisa said...

We just gave our 6 year old son a CD boom box for his birthday, so no, you're not alone on holding out on the tech for this age. He wanted to listen to music in his room, and yes, we could have gotten him an iPod, but the CD player can't get lost.

I think it's more about the parents wanting their kids to have things than about what the kids necessarily want.

Holly said...

I don't think this is common up here. My son is in private school, and I think they are required to have laptops in fifth grade. He's in 3rd grade now, and does use some kind of AlphaSmart wordprocessing device at school fairly often because he has writing issues, but I'd be shocked that kindergarteners would be bringing iPod touches etc to school. What do they use them for? How does the school make sure they all have the same apps/programs? How do they keep them from using other stuff? At home, he doesn't have any video games etc, just my old iPod nano with music on it.

Nina said...

Didn't I see a video somewhere on the WWW of a baby that thought a magazine was a broken ipad?? This makes me feel so old, but when I was in primary school there was 1 computer (running MS-DOS) for the whole school. It got moved around from classroom to classroom on a big trolley. And we were all taught how to find books in the library - does that still happen?

Anonymous said...

I have a lot to say. I will try to be brief. We are, for people who live in a home supported by the industry, totally lo-fi. I have a desktop computer -- which, with its 28-inch monitor is also a nice alt for the teevee we don't have -- and a smartphone device. Mr Sloane has a employer-issue laptop + 2 Blackberries from same. The children have wristwatches & boomboxes. I think my son has a flash-drive thingy somewhere for portability of his files.

I will share my computer with the children as necessary. The physical machine; they have their own user thingies. They do not have the passwords. They don't have cell phones. I'm like you, "Do what?"

People are aghast all the time. One particularly nosy ballet-school mom asked me, "So you're just never going to let them have an iPod?" Maybe she said iPad. I forget. But I said to her, In a couple of years, they can get jobs and then they can buy what they want, if they still want it so much.

And this idea that I put out there for everyone to see! That I would make them work! For minimum wage! At a site! Where people might be lifers!?! The response in the room was one of those squirmy times. (Not mine, I have no shame.)

The baby wants an e-reader of some kind & she could afford it with all her saved-up income, but she has not bought it yet. She would love it if I would, yk, for her. Which is what I was saying already.

One time, when some "expert" was trying to blame all our problems on homeschooling, she said, "By this age, most children are doing their work on a computer." I asked her to consider that this slide away from kinethesis is on the list of reasons we, in fact, do homeschool. And that wasn't just me being a bitch. It is, truly. Do what, indeed. xox

Marsha said...

In my hamlet, it's a pretty common thing to have ipods, ipads, MS Surfaces, phones, etc. in the classrooms, sometimes as group resources, sometimes owned by individuals. My son recently informed me that he is the only kid in his group without an iphone. I'm pretty sure this is actually true but he has a different kind of smartphone that costs me a grand total of $35 a month. If he wants an upgrade, well the "earning opportunity chart" is on the fridge and ready for use.

Back to the point, a lot of his homework does come in the form of google drive-based assignments or using online textbooks. But he's in 6th grade. My daughter's 3rd grade class also uses this kind of technology, but in more group-oriented ways. In K technology was more a "watch the teacher use the smart board" kind of thing. Then again, that was several years ago for us. Who knows what they're up to these days.

Keely said...

For serious? In kindergarten?

There's no effing way that I'd send something like that with Xander. I sent earphones with him and they immediately got lost. He plays with Alfred's iPad (which we won, not bought), and it has a giant crack in the screen.

We are a "plugged in" family, I suppose, but I count those devices as "screen time" and schedule them accordingly (none during the week, some on the weekends). I sort of assumed that school is not teaching him to stare at a screen all day, but perhaps I am mistaken.

Becky said...

Yeah, the more I think about it, the more it troubles me that the teacher, who is a wonderfully warm and skilled communicator in the classroom, is outsourcing any part of their learning to these crap devices.

Erika W said...

Seems like there are two strands to this. 1) The "TEE" (the premature technologization of our kiddos) and 2) The "Oh." (the idea that these they can own or have easy access to expensive stuff). Both are issues that I wonder about and would love to hear more about from you, access vs ownership. Dev, like many kids his age, has been iPad savvy for a while and he used to want to play with it all the time. We learned from our parenting guru (that's you) about the benefits of saying yes more than no. And it works. Because although he still enjoys the iPad apps, and although yesterday he asked for some "private time" with my phone to watch videos of himself (another story), he now spends most of his time with legos and lincoln logs and library books and "the air and the sky" (love!). As far as sending this stuff to school. I don't think so. I'd probably talk to other parents and the teacher about this (if I had time). I think your solution is a good one, though I might do something really perverse and send a walkman.

Beth said...

Wowza. I am kind of shocked by the BYOT in kinder. Although, now that I think about it, maybe we are just spoiled because our school has a cadre of iPads for the kindergarteners to use during their "free period." There's a point during the school day (not sure if it's every day or only several times a week) when they have "Block Room," which is obviously still named for a time when they would, you know, play with blocks. Now the room has several computers and a bunch of iPads and other toys to play with. Neither of my children has any e-device, although sometimes I let my older son read on my 1st gen Nook. But Erika brings up a good question about ownership v access. Somehow, it seems like ownership is more egregious, like it takes that "T" relationship to a whole new level. It's not just casual dating; now you're going steady. So I'm fine letting them borrow my tech or use it at school, but I'm very hesitant to let them have their own.

Anonymous said...

Well, our schools don't have this program for any age, though there some discussion (at least among students)about the possibilities of using portable tech devices in some new planned schools.

Really, I believe it comes down to two issues 1)keeping it equitable and 2)knowing how to use it.

I understand the schools are saving money here and asking kids to use devices they already have. I get that. But this does separate the haves from the have-nots, and this is an issue for me, putting unnecessary social pressure on kids and parents alike. Plus then you're all using different types of devices. Better for the schools to invest in devices to be kept at school or checked out to students for a day, a week, or a year at a time.

2) An ipad can be used to either help cure cancer or play 20 hours straight of Bookworm. Not that Bookworm isn't awesome, but you know. It's not exactly productive. Using an ipad with 5 year olds to help them explore math concepts in addition to the use of physical manipulatives, conversation... well, what's bad about that? We have many tools, and I think we should be ready to use them all. But they should be used in conjunction - not in exclusion. And under the tutelage of a teacher who knows how to use it. I once watched a math teacher spend about 30 minutes on an interactive whiteboards playing with pen color choices. Boo. Bad choice. But in the hands of teacher with appropriate training and knowledge, these things can be might in their possibilities.

Cassie said...

Our kids (first grade and young fives kindergarten) aren't really allowed to bring anything from home. They have daily access to computers at school during "centers". So no BYOT here, which is probably a good thing since our kids come from two parents who have a very difficult time keeping track of our own technology (and we don't have much of it). Something would definitely, definitely get lost or broken.

Also, the rebel in me wouldn't want to buy it just because someone was telling me I should. I want to be the one to decide when my kids are ready for their own tablets, iPods and whatnot. But my desire to Stick It To The Man is my own issue.

We do some TV and games on the iPad here but like you we also do a lot of the air and the sky. (And snow. Because, you know, it's Michigan.)

David said...

Do what, indeed? This is a crazy ball of issues, and to add two more to the mix: the increasing saturation of public life with corporate branding and the neoliberal shift toward more aggressively normalizing while also obscuring both economic inequality and privatization in the name of "better education for our children."

Just, no.

I'm with Erika. Be perverse. Send him with a Walkman and a Betamax. Maybe even a flint stone.

AlGalMom said...

I dont know what I love more, the blog post or the comment thread. BYOT is not something we have encountered in the Baton Rouge public schools, although perhaps that will change when our oldest enters middle school next year.

We have begun to struggle with the problem of when/what to allow our children with regards to internet technology. My mom has offered Kindle Fires as Christmas presents, but I don't like the idea of my children holing up in their bedroom with access to Netflix and YouTube all day (and night!). Even if I knew they would only consume "approved" entertainment, that kind of thing rots your brain--we'd never allow them to have a TV or desktop computer in their room, and a tablet device (and, now, even an ipod touch) is both.

Amy said...

Our school doesn't do this...I'm pretty sure kids aren't allowed to bring their own T's. Nate has a DS, but we haven't set it up so he can use it to go online. Ava had an iPod touch but it's missing in action, so she ain't getting another!

The kids use the internets at school but it's via the computer lab or I think the school has some iPads. At Hank's school, it is surprising that they expect kindy kids to be responsible enough to deal with that!

Kate said...

The school in which I work is a Title 1 school, and there is a cart of ipads that teachers use as bribes. No learning takes place when the kids have them in their hot little hands. As an educator, I think it is ridiculous but we don't have that policy in my son's school, so I haven't had the chance to get my feathers ruffled about it. I have blogged before about silly, wasteful "games" that teach children to read. I'm sorry but a LeapFrog is no substitution for a teacher or parent sitting down with a child and helping him sound out words in Go, Dog, Go.

Michele R said...

My 11th grader and 9th grader in school near you but not in your county have never been asked to BYOT. My 11th grader has an iPod that is now broken and we found things on it several years ago that made my head spin (wifi means kids can sit in bed and look at WHATEVER). We have two family computers for our three kids to use. The 9th grader has no devices and woe is him because all his friends I guess can look at whatever/write whatever/do whatever they want to on the web and their parents have no clue. Or think their kids need technology privacy. We have rules and still our kids mess up and forget what you put out there is permanent. The 9th grader is on Amish lockdown right now. Till they pay for their own device and internet service they don't have own personal device. BTW, in their high school if it is not glued down it gets stolen--even my 9th grader's smelly shoes.
I digress on your issue. My 6th grader just this year, has one teacher who has initiated BYOD which stands for device. We said no on the permission form. He uses an iPod as the teacher got 8 of them from school and other kids bring in devices.

There are too many unanswered questions. How does the school control what is viewed? SOMEONE I know ;) knows of two 5th graders who brought in their devices (even though a class didn't have a BYOT policy)....and on the school bus they showed other kids porn and the driver reported it or maybe another kid did and those two 10 or 11 yr olds are suspended. So are schools willing to take responsibility for these things when they ask for a BYOT policy? It is bullcrap crazy.

Camp Papa said...

Granted, I am an old guy, but I've supervised early childhood programs for a lot of years. Kindergarten shouldn't be about this.

Becky said...

I love hearing everybody's thoughts on this, and those of you who have older kids, I really value this glimpse of the road ahead. (Amish lockdown!)

I think the pressure and inequity it creates is a huge issue. I'm surprised my dad hasn't chimed in, because I remember him saying once that, when he was the superintendent for elem schools in the county I grew up in, there was no way they could have done something like this. It would just leave too many people out.

And then of course, as you all point out, the other huge thing is whether good use is made of any of it. I'm dubious about this, for this age group. Hmmm.

Becky said...

Well there you go, while I was commenting, my dad chimed in.

It is only a short time for one day a week, so I don't feel that it's taking over their instruction time too much, but there is also a bigger point that David states so well: this infiltration of a public space by branding and consumption. It's enough already.

Steve said...

We never allowed any sort of electronic gaming/entertainment device in our house when the kids were growing up (other than a TV set and radio). Their only school requirement was to have their own flash drive for transporting files–and that wasn't necessary until they were in high school. Our kids were only allowed to use a computer at home for school work (writing papers, etc.). I am a firm believer that a child doesn't learn critical creativity/problem solving skills by staring into a screen, going on facebook, or downloading apps. Those skills are gained with blocks, legos, puzzles, board games, crafting materials, musical instruments or playing outside with other kids and the like. There have been a number of studies that have arrived at the same conclusion. They will learn far more from an "imaginary friend" than they will from Super Mario. One of my kids is a junior in high school, and the other is a freshman in University of Oklahoma's honors college. Both a 4.0 (unweighted) students. Both have no regrets about not having those electronic devices while growing up. They refer to those electronic devices as "electronic pacifiers." I think Camp Papa knows what he's talking about.

M said...

As a parent of older kids, I cast my vote with Steve and others on this one. Son graduating college in May and currently writing an honors thesis would probably agree with me. We chose multiplicity of kinds of experiences for brain development and stayed well behind the techno and consumerism curve with boundaries like you and many of the commenters have identified. Have no regrets whatsoever. Judicious use of tech and other tools can obviously enhance all kinds of learning. You wouldn't believe the layers of knowledge directly attributed to my son playing Age of Empires, for instance. But I would sure be wary of others resetting your boundaries.

Also, I reject two narratives currently governing our universe: if you don't do this now, you will be behind & parents are not as smart as their kids re technology. I have pointed out to my 16yr old that I have mastered and had to reject more technology in my lifetime than she can imagine ever existed. ; )

gretchen said...

I'm actually pretty impressed by how "plugged in" their school is. Jude's tiny, very old-fashioned Catholic school is very slooooooooowly being drug into the 20th century. The 21st is still a few years away. They do have computers in the classrooms, which they use regularly, but nobody is even allowed to BYOT to school. Jude has had an iPod for about a year, and has miraculously managed not to lose or break it. But I would never have given him one in kindergarten. And he has an ancient desktop computer which he is supposed to use for homework, but really just uses to look up silly YouTube videos. And btw, I recently had the keyboard on my old laptop replaced after spending at least a month without a working "b". I had to copy and paste it over and over. It was actually an interesting challenge to find words that don't have any "b"s in them.

delaine said...

Okay, you know I have an opinion about this. First of all, there is a thing in education talk called " curriculum compression " wherein concepts and topics begin to be introduced in lower and lower grades. I saw this often in my thirty five career in elementary school. An example comes to me of the agony of teaching and learning the differences between mode, mean, and median in third grade. That was insane and cruel unnecessary punishment for eight and nine year olds! And for what purpose! They needed to learn so many other critical things. Still makes my blood boil! Now to the issue at hand. I think it's a fancy, smancy electronic worksheet. What if parents can't afford the technology and yet are ashamed to admit it? So many reason! I would much prefer that kindergarten children be engaged in: group art activities making a mural, making paper bag puppets and acting our little plays and stories, measuring and pouring with containers at a dry rice table, blocks, finger painting, dictating stories, playing dress up. My gosh! The list is endless. Kindergarten should not be hip deep in this foolishness. Let them remain children. There is time enough for technology at an appropriate time and age. I could be wrong, but I don't think so.

BrownHouse said...

I am having a hard time supporting the BYOT for my kindergartner Amelia; yet I have an I pod touch packed for her tomorrow because I don't want her to feel left out. I have caved to social pressure! I am shocked to hear so many kids this age have I pod touches. For my family, I am calling it BYPT (bring your parent's technology). My child does not have in her possession anything more than a Leapster. Up until this year, she wasn't even allowed on MY computer. RAZ kids is the only thing she is allowed to do. With permission, she can use my I pad. I think 5 and 6 year olds are too young to be consumed with electronics. Free play, outside time, and books rank much higher in developing the mind of my child.

Initially I wasn't on board. But I decided to let her borrow my office I pod touch as a reward. I thought it would be a good motivational reward for those smileys. Loose a smiley, can't bring in the device on Friday. She would then have to use the classroom devices or share. Plus I must rationalize that the future of education will revolve around technology. I just hope it's use is very structured and controlled on Friday.

So here's to hoping and to praying that BYPT is a positive experience and MY i pod touch makes it home in one piece!!

Jane said...

I would be pretty uncomfortable giving a kindergartner such a device, mostly because I'd prefer to ration game and video time. But I also wouldn't be thrilled about the public school even encouraging this. For every kindergarten, I'm sure there's at least one set of parents who just can't afford to let their child keep up with the Joneses, and winds up feeling bad about it.

Christian said...


Erika said...

my kindergarten daughter has her own iPad - she's had it for about a year and a half (ever since the iPad 2 came out). she goes to public school in an affluent area, and they are encouraged NOT to bring anything from home - which I like. What if it gets lost, broken, stolen, etc. at school? Also - this kind of widens the divide between kids - in my day, it was all about what kind of shoes you wore. now it's about technology??? anyway- we don't have a tv, and our daughter's screentime is carefully monitored - but anyway - I don't like the idea of bringing you own technology to public school. It just doesn't sit well with me - to each their own, but for some just seems a little crazy to introduce that in public school so young. shouldn't school be someplace where we interact, learn social skills, and are not glued to a screen???