Sewickley Academy became a “1-to-1” school in the 2015-2016 school year. Using the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) model, we take advantage of the enormous power of technology by ensuring that it is in the hands of every student in Grades 6 through 12.
What has prompted this move?
This initiative ensures that each student has the tools necessary to do the increasingly collaborative and dynamic work that is at the heart of a robust 21st Century education – in the same way our math students who bring calculators to class have the tools they need for that work. Using a range of powerful digital tools, students are able to collaborate online as well as in class to discover, create, problem-solve, and leverage as never before the power of both in-class and online experiences. 1-to-1 access allows for what is often called a Blended Learning environment, which seeks to take the best of in-class practices and complement them with the best in online learning strategies.
How does this work?
As the vast majority of our students already have devices that connect to our network, what this means is that students without a device will need to bringing one from home – and in some cases, of course, this may mean buying a suitable device. The device will need to meet some minimum requirements for speed, internet access, and storage, but otherwise the choice of device will be up to each individual family. These devices will be owned and maintained by the students, just as students currently own their own calculators.
How did we prepare for this change?
First, with a generous grant from Home & School in March 2014, we provided every member of the faculty with an iPad. Our commitment was not to the iPad itself, but rather to the idea of mobile teaching and to harnessing the power of digital devices to enhance the work in and out of our classrooms. The Technology Committee of our Board of Trustees advised that we undertake an audit of our network capacities; the audit revealed that while the backbone of our network – our servers, routers, and switches – remains in excellent shape, our wireless capacity was not adequate to meet the needs of the significantly increased traffic that will occur in a 1-to-1 environment. Consequently, we completed the upgrade of our wireless network, installing more than 70 new Wi-Fi access points on campus.
In addition, faculty continue to experiment with and are piloting a range of digital tools. Regular “Appy Hours” have provided opportunities for faculty to share ideas and discoveries with one another. We reached out to a number of schools to learn from them how best to transition to this new model, and conducted one site visit at Hathaway Brown in Cleveland, which has an excellent 1-to-1 program; we reached out to the Department of Information Technology at Robert Morris University, which has provided support and guidance, as well. Soon we will be conducting additional site visits to two schools, Barstow in Kansas City and McDonogh in Baltimore, which have been particularly effective in their integration of digital devices into their day-to-day work with students.