For years, Belmont Hill has held steadfast on its device policy, providing students with access to iPads, Chromebooks, and computer labs, while also permitting boys to bring their own devices to campus. In a world increasingly dominated by “smart” devices of every size and shape, faculty and administrators on campus began to recognize that the device policy at school was in need of a drastic update, in order to keep up with the ever-changing technological world. From Form I to Form VI, boys are increasingly requiring a computer to complete even the most basic assignments. Signs of this new era of technology are scattered around campus: from smartboards, to online textbooks, and even the iLab in the Melvoin Academic Center. After more than three years of pilots, testing, and surveys, the Belmont Hill community will be embarking on an entirely different approach to electronic devices on campus next year; students will be required to bring their own device.
The basic principles of a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy are of relative simplicity: from now on, all students will have access to a personal computer for the entirety of the day. But what does this policy actually mean for the 441 students and 73 faculty at Belmont Hill?
Since 2012, Belmont Hill has been conducting various tests to see what policies would work best for the school. As a First Former during the iPad Pilot in 2012, I had a firsthand experience using technology through a “1 to 1 program,” in which the school technology department distributed one device (in this case, iPads) to all 53 of the First Formers for a year. The iPad was then integrated (somewhat) into the curriculum of many of our classes. I still remember the excitement we felt when we received the devices, but I also recall the myriad of problems that came with the tablets. Besides the numerous cracked screens the school replaced and the inevitable gaming that occurred with the tablets, it soon became evident that iPads just weren’t meant for every class on campus. I still had to carry around several textbooks, and eventually I even resorted to bringing my own laptop to school so I could complete my work more effectively.
Despite trying out a subsequent Chromebook pilot the next year, the school eventually recognized that maybe a 1 to 1 program was not the best fit. Last year, students were asked to complete a survey on the technology they used, both on and off campus. Carried out by the Academic Technology Committee (ATC) and led by Mr. Trautz, the results from the survey were utterly unexpected.
While all 431 boys who took the survey responded that they have access to internet at home, what was truly surprising was that a staggering 387 of those boys had their own personal computer (that was not shared amongst their family), with 349 of those boys owning laptops and 240 boys bringing a laptop or tablet on a regular basis to school!
These unpredicted results led to both a departmental review of the technology and the creation of a separate survey for faculty, before the ATC brought the policy to the Academic Policy Committee and Board of Trustees, with all of these events ultimately culminating with a final faculty vote and discussion in June.
A large majority of faculty (71%) believed that the use of personal computers would benefit their students both in-and-out of the classroom, while also reducing the amount of extraneous time spent in class retrieving laptops from carts. With such a high number of boys already owning their own laptops, it became apparent that a BYOD policy could be the solution to Belmont Hill’s device problems. As Mr. Trautz and the ATC expertly summarized in their Recommendation of the BYOD policy, “while this program might represent a change in philosophy, it will not be a drastic change to our student body, families, or even culture.”
With the institution of the policy next September, all students will be required to bring either a Windows PC, Apple Mac, or Two-In-One (Tablet/Laptop) to school for the entirety of the school year. While a majority of students (329) own Macs already, Belmont Hill will be requiring standard software for both PCs and Macs (i.e. Microsoft Office), and will be providing student discounts for both platforms.
Despite the establishment of a BYOD policy, during the 2016-2017 academic year (and potentially for future years), students will continue to have access to several of the laptops and tablets owned by the school (in case of emergencies or printing, etc.), although there will be fewer school devices throughout campuses. With significant changes on campus, the school has already begun updating the server capabilities on campus, improving WiFi connectivity around campus, and started planning the logistics of dealing with an increase of personal devices at school, such as storage and security.
Belmont Hill’s newly established BYOD policy is a step in the right direction for the school; this new approach will foster a sense of spontaneity and productiveness both in-and-out of the classroom, giving boys the chance to choose the device that works the best with their style of studying. As with any program that involves technology, there will always be glitches and bugs, but hopefully the school can use the experiences from previous technology programs to implement this innovative new policy effectively.
The willingness of Belmont Hill to innovate in their uses of technology truly illustrates the intrinsic belief at the school that a great education is found at the crossroads of timeless traditions and pioneering innovations, which, when coupled with a dedicated faculty, produces young men who are ready to take on the world.
Tech Survey Results
(431 out of 435 total students responded)
|Question:||Total (Yes Answers)|
|Do you have internet access at home?||431 / 431|
|Do you have a computer of your own (not shared amongst your family) to use for homework or school related projects?||387 / 431|
|If you have a personal computer is it a… (note: some students have more than one personal device)|
|If you have a laptop or tablet, do you bring it to school on a regular basis||240|
|If you have a device, is it a Mac or a PC (Windows)|
Class of 2018.