It should not be a surprise to anyone that technology has evolved over the 16 years I have worked at Harrisburg Academy. From the late 1990s, when desktop machines in fixed locations were the norm, to today, with our immensely successful Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) program, standard in 5th through 12th grade, the Academy has gone through many changes in technology. The BYOD program has proven to be most reliable and efficient, not only for the Academy, but for each individual student, and the Academy’s program has become a model for other schools looking to streamline their technology.
About the same time as the BYOD program kicked off, tablet computers began to appear. Some thought that it would not be long before tablets replaced laptops, due in part to their smaller size and longer battery life. However, in our experience at Harrisburg Academy, tablets aren’t creative and flexible enough to fulfill all the needs of our older learners.
The Academy now supports several distinct groups of technology for student use. All have found their place at the Academy and have proven to be the most efficient solution for students, teachers, and parents:
- School-supplied student desktop computers are inexpensive, easy to maintain and last a long time, particularly with the use of new computing strategies, like Virtual Desktop. They are still used regularly in computer labs, libraries, and as devices to run the SmartBoard in each classroom.
- School-supplied laptop computers are found in Lower School classrooms grouped into “mini-labs,” which support small group activities. Dedicated to one classroom, they are quite reliable.
- School-supplied tablet computers, both iPads and Android tablets, have found their niche in the Early Childhood division. Here the intuitive operation of tablets and the proliferation of apps geared for these grade levels make these the standout.
- Finally, the BYOD program itself has had great success in the Middle and Upper Schools. Students can use nearly any platform and device available, including Windows machines and Apple Macbooks. Interestingly enough, very few Middle and Upper School students choose a tablet for their BYOD device, as they simply aren’t creative enough for the varied uses in MS/US. At this time, Chromebooks are highly discouraged, due to their inability to install software or operate offline.
There you have it! Windows desktops and laptops, Apple Macbooks and iPads, and Android tablets have all become part of the seamless fabric of computing at Harrisburg Academy. There are lots of new and better things on the horizon, so don’t expect these generalizations to stay put. Come back next year to see how they evolve!