I have seen the future and it is a scary place, and many will indeed be saying, “I want more”.
Our school board is undergoing a major philosophical shift by adoping a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) approach to equipping classrooms with digital devices. Their intent is to;
- put their money into fewer and fewer computers, especially full classroom labs,
- encourage students to bring their own devices, thereby saving the costs for that equipment
- use more and more freeware as much as possible
- give students increased access to the internet, including Youtube which is now available to them
- buy school-based equipment such as laptops, notebooks and tablettes which will live on carts so they can be rolled to any classroom (and since the whole school is now a wireless zone cabling is not an issue) in order to offer this support to students unable to bring their own devices
- keep a few specialaized labs such as our two multimedia labs and two business labs, because of their unique technicala and ergonomic requirements
On the surface this is both scary and wonderful. I am heartily in favour of allowing students, even encouraging students, to work more independantly including using their own digital devices. The obvious downside is – they won’t have the “correct” software and there is no money for them to get it through the school. As budgets dissolve and needs increase this solution will be seen in increasing numbers all over the world. Yes, the school board has immediately recognized that they must, and in fact have, set aside money for laptops, notebooks and tablettes for the students who cannot afford them. And of course, those machines will be loaded with the required software. On the surface it looks very interesting. Score one for student and teacher freedom…. score one for budgetary restraint… not so sure about the rest….
The push to use more and more Freeware is also interesting, and problematic. On the positive side, every student will be able to now have the software used at school, and it will be free. You simply cannot get better than that, assuming it actually works, and that it allows sufficient growth for the students to buld their skill sets appropraitely. After exploring several free alternatives to Photoshop I found that both Sumo Paint and PixLr were kind of interesting. They really evoke the look and feel of Photoshop so using these tools now would still allow a student to transfer their skills to Photoshop at a later date quite easily, disarmingly easily. I was quite surprised at how similar they were. And no, they do not do it all. They are not the real thing. But they were surprisingly good. And they were free. As of this moment I have not seen a response from Adobe or from our provincial Ministry of Education regarding the modification of their province wide licences for Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 and or Premier Elements 8 and Adobe CS4 Web Standard such that students would be able to use this software on their own devices, versus the surrent status on school devices only. BYOD may demand that this arrangement be redefined.
There are many, many other areas of concern, but this at least recognizes a few to start. On the surface I am very interested, but under the surface I see many problems. I also see a re-arranging of the old world in which software companies will need to redefine how and where they make their money. Freeware is not great, but the students I know who use Open Office, for example, are very happy with it and their parents are delighted with the cost. Kind of makes you stop and wonder – doesn’t it.