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BYAD system expands to entire Upper School

This year, Malvern tested a bring your own approved device (BYAD) program with the freshmen. Now, this program will be used with the entire Upper School.

As the world turns electronic, Malvern has decided to go with the trend and require all students to bring a device to use for learning beginning with the 2017-18 school year. With mostly positive feedback from the freshman trial run this year, the school is ready to take the next step.

Details and specifics on devices that students will be expected to bring have yet to be announced, according to next year’s Assistant Head of School for Academics Mr. Patrick Sillup.

“We are not ready to talk specifics in terms of device and support, but what I do know is it’s happening, and there’s an excitement around that,” he said.

BYAD Technology Requirements from Parent Communication, May 12

BYAD Technology Requirements from Parent Communication, May 12

FROM PARENT COMMUNICATION SENT ON MAY 12:

All Upper School students will be required to bring an approved computing device to school on a daily basis.

Malvern Preparatory School recommends Google Chromebooks. The IT Department has vetted several brands and we recommend the HP Chromebooks. We are recommending the HP Chromebook 14-inch as we use this device on campus on a daily basis.

If you decide not to go with a Chromebook, below are the minimum requirements for a device:

  • Windows laptop that can run Windows 8 or 10 with full keyboard and an 11 to 14-inch display.
  • Mac OSX 10.11 (El Capitan) or 10.12 (Sierra) with full keyboard and an 11 to 14-inch display.
  • A charger is required.
  • A case or sleeve to protect your son’s device is recommended.
  • Extended warranties and/or accidental coverage are recommended.
  • The laptop must have a track pad or external mouse, a touchscreen only device is not sufficient.
  • The laptop will need to have Google Chrome installed. It is available free from their website. Download Google Chrome.
  • Tablets do not meet the minimum requirements as they do not have full keyboards, often the displays are too small to effectively work and the software experience is somewhat limited compared to a full-size laptop.
  • Cell phones and portable game consoles do not meet these requirements and may be restricted from use in a classroom at the teacher’s discretion.

Head of Upper School, Mr. Ronald Algeo was an advocate for the BYAD process. He collaborated with other school administrators to see what would be best for the students, and they came to the conclusion that each student should have a device to enhance their learning experience.

This decision was made largely because of a positive reaction to this year’s test with the freshmen, according to Algeo. “It’s been fantastic. The kids have loved it and done a great job with it, and the teachers have enjoyed it,” Algeo said.

The devices are not limited to computers, so students can bring devices such as an iPad or other tablet. However, this does not include phones, which Algeo says serve their own purposes.

“The phone can be helpful if you’re trying to look something up, but when you’re trying to do work, especially collaborative work, then it’s much more difficult, much more cumbersome,” Algeo said.

Malvern will be introducing this for the first time to the rising juniors and seniors, as the rising sophomores and incoming freshmen understand that a device is already a part of their curriculum. As next year goes on, necessary changes and improvements will be made based on observations and feedback, according to Algeo.

“I think there’s a lot of things where we look at this and say, ‘Hey, what’s most beneficial for the student?’” Algeo said.

Freshman Kyle Faggioli supports the school’s implementation of a BYAD program, but believes that it should be the school’s duty to provide devices for students who don’t already have them

“Even though it’s not a big deal for me, considering how much the school tuition is, we should be able to get [devices] from the school to use,” Faggioli said. “I have my own computer, but I think the majority of people who need to buy [devices] or don’t already have one should be given one.”

In case of any issues, Malvern does have a backup plan for any student who might have a problem with a device they have or are not able to purchase one.

“To me, it opens up their classroom beyond those four walls. And I think just spatially it will have an impact. Curricularly, I think it will take time as it kind of takes its way in the Upper School.”

-Mr. Patrick Sillup

“We will have some laptops here available on-campus for students to be able to use, which will be much cheaper for students who don’t already have something at home,” Algeo said. “If anybody couldn’t afford one, we want to be able to help, so we are prepared for that, 100 percent.”

Sillup also talked spoke about this issue, stating it was a deep discussion that he and other administrators had been having.

“I think it would be unfair to offer that or say this is where we’re going and not have those mechanisms in place. We’re not sure exactly what it would look like, but there will be access to a device for all students,” Sillup said.

With devices in the hands of all students, the classroom atmosphere will be changed.

“I think there’s always great opportunity for a classroom to go from one level, and level up, when students have really a true learning tool at their disposal,” Sillup said.

Sillup described that students and teachers may be able to work with space more flexibly with the BYAD program in place.

Although there are many great opportunities, there is also a set of challenges, according to Sillup. Putting devices in students’ hands could also add distraction.

“Classroom norms and rules might need to shift as well. Do we all have screens open when a teacher is delivering a lesson? If they are, then we have to be open to the fact that maybe students are engaged in note-taking but they might be engaging in something else,” Sillup said.

Sillup said that he is excited about the initiative and that it is necessary at Malvern because of the high level of work students are doing. He said that this high level of work can be enhanced with a laptop and can be expanded with the addition of a device.

“To me, it opens up their classroom beyond those four walls. And I think just spatially it will have an impact. Curricularly, I think it will take time as it kind of takes its way in the Upper School,”  Sillup said. “Although changes in curriculum will take some time to come about, there is some idea of what that may look like.”

Sillup said that there has been an increasing demand for Chromebook carts in classrooms. Algeo said that many teachers already use web-based content.

“These teachers have been using technology in the classroom already, and it just got a whole lot easier,” Algeo said.

However, Algeo said that the reservations for the Chromebook carts has increased each year to the point where not every teacher’s demands can be met.

The increasing demand for computers from teachers along with the learning opportunities were main reasons for the policy, but there was another piece.  

“When [our students] go to college, they will receive or purchase a device that is necessary for their college experience,” Algeo said.

To get a device into the hands of a student now is important for the transition to college. According to Algeo, it is important for Malvern students to learn the responsibilities of taking care of their device and use it appropriately.

Freshmen Jordan Dissin and Cameron Conley have enjoyed their experience with devices as part of Malvern’s curriculum. They believe it makes learning much easier. Dissin, for example, said he is more organized due to his use of the computer.

“I like to take notes on my computer compared to my handwriting, which isn’t that neat,” Dissin said. “It’s just more efficient.”

Conley said that having the material on his computer is much more accessible than trying to copy notes from a board or a projection.

“You get to look at your own computer, rather than everyone trying to see the board,” Conley said. “You have [the material] right in front of you, which is great.”

However, not everyone has been on board with the BYAD system.

“We’ve gotten some feedback from the parents as well, really good feedback, but not all of it pro, which I understand completely,” Algeo said.

Now that the change has been announced, Sillup thinks that there seems to be a lot of excitement around campus.

“I’m ready for it,” Sillup said. “I think there are a lot of advantages, and students can really benefit from this process.”

Director of Technology Mr. Terrence Norko declined comment for this story.

About Kyle Leonard

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Kyle is a sophomore at Malvern, and has been involved with the Blackfriar Chronicle for two years. A resident of Malvern, PA, he is the Co-Friar Life Editor along with Mike Harrington. Outside of the paper, Kyle is a part of the winter track and baseball teams, MTS, and the Diversity Awareness Club. Kyle also plays piano, trumpet, and some guitar.

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