As part of a push to increase student access to technology, Marrington Middle School of the Arts in Goose Creek recently reached a ratio of one electronic device for each of its 499 students.
“This has been a fiscal and academic goal for several years,” said Principal Jim Spencer. “The realization of this goal would not have occurred without a strong day care program, which generated the funds, and Berkeley County School District’s Office of Technology, which helped us every step of the way.”
Device-to-student ratios, which take into account laptop computers, netbooks, tablets, and other mobile devices, vary from one school to another in Berkeley County. Berkeley Middle College, for example, has a 1.3-to-1 ratio of devices to students, while Cane Bay High School has a ratio of about 0.3-to-1.
At a school board meeting last week, BCSD Technology Director Diane Driggers presented a digital learning proposal to the board that included a goal of one device per student districtwide — an ambitious goal given the BCSD’s rapid population growth. Driggers said that providing each student with a mobile device to use in class would help students work together on web-based collaborative projects that more closely resemble the modern workplace. She quoted educational speaker Jerry Blumengarten, saying, “Tech gives the quietest student a voice.”
BCSD schools gained 930 students this school year, more than twice what it had expected, bringing the total student population to 32,330. The district’s network currently supports 17,354 mobile devices. Factoring in an average device lifespan of three years, Driggers estimated that the district would have to spend $6.6 million per year to maintain a device-to-student ratio of 1-to-1.
Some BCSD schools already have a Bring Your Own Device policy, allowing students to log onto school Wi-Fi with tablets and computers that they bring from home. Some classes are also using Google Apps for Education, a free software suite used for collaborative projects.