Friday, July 26, 2013

The Technology Fee Question

Since posting my first blog post yesterday, I have received several emails from parents concerning the new technology fee that was instituted by the Board of Trustees last spring.  Parents have asked me the following questions:

1). Why are we paying a fee that costs more (over the course of the lease) than buying our own MacBook would cost?
2). Can we buy our own device and bring it, thereby, avoiding the full cost of the technology fee?

Let me explain the rationale behind the lease (which predates my arrival, obviously).

I have been at a school for the last five years which has operated under a "bring your own device" model.  In short, it was an unmitigated disaster from a pedagogical standpoint.  When students "brought their own device" students had a wide range of devices. These devices varied from handheld devices, to tablets, to MacBooks, to Notebook PCs. Teachers were unable to plan or integrate technology into their lessons because the students had such varied devices with divergent capabilities within the classroom.  Basically, teachers were relegated to having students surf the web.

In order for technology to be truly integrated into teaching and learning, I firmly believe students need to have the same software and devices as their teacher, AND the school needs to have some degree of control over what is downloaded onto the computers.  Our goal, after much study and research, is for the MacBooks to be a transformational device -- a "game changer," if you will.  Whatever, the quality of other devices out there, we think it important for the technology that the children use in the classroom to be the same.

In addition, if we allowed everyone to bring their own devices, we would not be able to pay for current program and lease (to which the Board has made a commitment). The technology fee does not merely cover the costs of the MacBooks, themselves. It is going to pay for infrastructure (such as wifi), server upgrades, software, hardware, repairs, faculty development and training, and staffing (which has had to increase with the 1:1 initiative).   In short, if we let everyone bring their own devices, we would have to shut down the program we have, entirely.  That being said, we are at the cutting edge of educational change in our region. Unfortunately, being on the cutting edge is expensive. The Board instituted the program at no cost to our stakeholders and gave everyone their MacBooks "for free," but we are going to have to charge everyone, going forward, if we want the program to continue.

 I know that for most of us, an HA education is a huge financial commitment. However, it would probably surprise everyone to know that, while we have sound finances and operate in a fiscally responsible manner, HA tuition does not cover the entire cost of educating our children here. Our teachers are paid significantly less that the public school teachers in the area, and our tuition is significantly less than our NAIS peers throughout the Southeast.  Obviously, we do not receive state funding, so fees like the technology fee are essential if we want to continue to provide the finest education in the Wiregrass.

I hope that addresses your collective concerns.

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