Principals Message – October 2012 – WiFi – We Are Here!

After much conversation and planning,  Blueberry School is excited to be providing WiFi access to our students. We are excited to be embracing the opportunity for students to bring in their own technology to school to support their learning.    While one short Principal’s Message  cannot possibly address all of the questions and conversation surrounding such a significant topic, I encourage you as parents to read my thoughts below, discuss your thoughts with your children and community members and certainly contact me for further conversation.  I welcome the opportunity to share ideas, answer questions and to work with you to support our kids.

While we are aware that with this new opportunity come new challenges, we know that as a learning community we are ready to face them.  We are confident that with guidance for our students and support from our parents we can work with our kids to see these devices not only as a tool for social communication, but rather as a means to further their understanding, to develop new ideas, to deepen existing learning and to create products which are the culmination of their learning.

We recognize that  a change such as this  brings with it several challenges and questions that cannot be ignored.  I have been asked by parents, and have discussed with the Blueberry Staff, how we plan on ensuring that our students are using the technology in an appropriate manner.  How can we be sure that kids will not be on inappropriate websites?  How do we know that they will not make inappropriate posts on social media?   These are fair questions which are important to discuss but one must also realize that the number of questions along this line of thinking is endless.

When discussing challenges such as those just identified I often find myself reminding our parents, staff and students that the vast majority of our students meet the expectations that are placed in front of them.  We have placed high expectations on our students in regards to citizenship in our building and during extra curricular events and our students consistently exceed these expectations.  They are wonderful ambassadors for the Blueberry community wherever they go!  What I am trying to say is that while there may be an extremely small number of students who try to use their technology in ways that do not meet the Blueberry School expectations (Respect Self, Respect Others and Respect Property),  I choose not to remove a privilege and critical learning opportunity from all students because of the behavior of a few.  I choose to deal with those who may not meet our digital citizenship expectations and celebrate those who do.

Our experiences have shown us over the past several years in the Blueberry Learning community that the vast majority of our students use technology in an appropriate manner.  They conduct research, collaborate with others and create products to demonstrate their learning.  Students who access the WiFi network at Blueberry School are still restricted in the content that they have access to.  Our school web filter continues to operate on this network, just as it did when students used our school owned technology.

Middle years kids make mistakes.  They will make mistakes with their technology and when they do, we will be there to work as a team with their parents to deal with those issues,  and to educate them on how to make more appropriate choices in the future.   As an integral part of the Blueberry community, Blueberry School staff must support our parents in the journey to educate kids on digital citizenship.  How can we do this if we don’t provide the opportunity for kids to use technology?!

As we discuss the power and potential of “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) the conversation inevitably turns to the question of equity.  “What about those kids who do not have an iPad or cell phone or tablet?  They are going to be left behind.”  There are many possible responses to this line of questioning.

The reality which has existed for several years around technology (and various other aspects of our students’ lives) is that there has always been an inequity.  There are students who have multiple computers and personal devices at home and those who have no computer, no devices and in some cases no access to the internet. We provide many supports to our students to bridge this gap.  We have computers distributed throughout our school in our computer lab, in our pods and on our laptop carts that kids can access, in addition to iPads in some classrooms and very soon to be placed in our Learning Commons.  We encourage kids to use this technology to support their learning.  I believe that we create an inequity when we say to all students that everyone must learn using the same (school provided) device.  We do not honour the fact that many of our students are more capable with their own devices and technology and that these new technologies provide new opportunities for students to teach us!   For further thoughts on this question, please refer to BYOD The Myths Debunked.

I look forward to many future conversations that I am excited to be able to have with the members of our learning community.  As I close, I encourage you to follow my Principal’s Blog on the Blueberry School Website  where I will be sharing the highlights for the month of September as well as the events that are upcoming in October.

Shaye Patras

Principal, Blueberry School

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About Shaye Patras

I am a husband and father of two fantastic girls. I currently work as the Principal of Woodhaven Middle School in Parkland School Division in Alberta, Canada. I am excited to be continuing my administrative career in this learning community!
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