Recently Forsyth County Schools convened a task force to consider issues of equity in our Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) program. The task force has examined a variety of data including information on what types of devices are being brought to school in our district and how many devices are in use.
On average we see between 15,000 and 17,000 devices connected to our network at any given time. The most popular devices (in order of frequency) are iPhones, iPods, Android Phones, iPads, Windows OS Laptops, Kindles and Mac OS Laptops.
Additionally, 95% of our middle school students report that they have a device with internet capability.
What we find to be still a problem is internet access at home. That’s where the digital divide really exists today. Mary Beth Hertz wrote about this in a A New Understanding of the Digital Divide for Edutopia.
FCS’ BYOT Equity Task Force started a campaign to develop a directory of locations in the community which are willing to allow students to come in and use their free wifi after school. This online directory provides a list and interactive map of free Wi-Fi hotspots, sponsored by organizations and businesses in Cumming-Forsyth County. The Free Wi-Fi Directory is available at www.forsyth.k12.ga.us/wifi and also accessible from the school district and school websites.
Using Google Maps, the locations can be viewed in map format so that a family can get directions to the location and there is also a alphabetical listing of all the businesses at www.forsyth.k12.ga.us/wifi. The map has already been viewed over 1800 times.
We’ve been pleasantly surprised at the types of businesses that have volunteered to participate. From a realty company to a karate studio to grocery store, more than 45 businesses have already signed up.
The school system provides a static cling that the business can put up in the window or door to indicate that they are a participating member. You can see the logo as part of this blog post.
The main reason I’m sharing our story is because the investment of dollars in this project is nearly non-existent (just buying the decals). It’s something that every single school community could do and probably should do.
I’m a realist – I don’t think that this addresses every equity issue that exists in our community and I think that it is a fantastic first effort. Stay tuned to hear about additional efforts coming from the BYOT Equity Task Force.