On Campus

Laptops for everyone New US policy sets one-to-one standard

Thanks to a new “one-to-one” laptop policy at the Upper School (US), students won’t spend any more class time searching for working computers from the elusive unlocked carts. The policy, which begins this school year, requires all students to own a laptop and bring it to school on a daily basis. 

Director of Information Technology Demetri Orlando, who spearheaded the initiative, said the plan is a result of recognition that computers are essential to the educational processes.

“Having a defined policy for this will enable more flexible use of laptops in and out of classrooms during the school day,” Mr. Orlando said. “The decision to implement this ownership expectation is largely based on the desire for equity of access to this important tool for students.”

The requirements for a laptop are minimal: any model that can browse the internet and run Microsoft Office is acceptable. For those families whose financial situations would make buying and maintaining a personal laptop a hardship, Mr. Orlando has worked with former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Thom Greenlaw, Director of Enrollment Management Geordie Mitchell, and Director of Financial Aid Genieve Rankel to secure appropriate support.

With both Google Apps—Google Drive and Gmail—as well as Microsoft Office free to students, the school hopes for a smooth and easy integration of this new policy, Mr. Orlando said. Families were sent a letter from Mr. Theobald detailing the new policy in December of 2017.

Until now, teachers assigning work had to consider that a student’s access might be limited to a school or shared home computer. To plan for in-class technology use, teachers had to anticipate that not all students would have—or consistently bring— laptops, and thus had to arrange to borrow laptop baskets from the library. With the new policy, teachers can reliably expect that laptop access is available to all students, inside and outside the classroom, allowing for a more fluid and unrestricted integration of technology into the learning process. 

The process of implementing a “one-to-one” policy began in 2012, when the curricular implications and impacts of technology use on school culture were discussed in multiple faculty meetings, primarily at the Middle School (MS). Over the years, various forms of this policy have been put in place at different grade levels.

In the fall of 2013, the school began to provide iPads for use at school by every student in the fifth and sixth grades and shared iPad sets for other Lower School grades. In the fall of 2016, the MS implemented a “one-to-one” policy requiring Mac laptops for all of its students. 

The policy has arrived late to the US partly because most students already own laptops. A survey conducted in April 2017 revealed that 94 percent of US students at the time had a personal laptop that could be brought to school whenever needed. Still, Mr. Orlando said, the official change will have a significant impact on academic technology use, and the success of previous policies has been encouraging. 

“BB&N is a very thoughtful place, and new initiatives like this are given thorough vetting, analysis, and adjustment by leadership and faculty before implementation,” Mr. Orlando said, adding that former Head of School Rebecca Upham, Mr. Mitchell, and all three campus directors were key to the success of the “one-to-one” initiatives.

To account for the inevitable increase in internet usage as more computers will be running, the US technology team—which includes Network & Technical Projects Manager Kevin Huang, Technical Support Manager Hong Chan, US Technical Support Specialist Samson Po, and Mr. Orlando—has also been working to improve the availability and speed of network access.

“Thanks to our technical team, we have increased the school’s network bandwidth, reliability, and security and are in the process of upgrading wireless access points to increase their capacity,” Mr. Orlando said. 

Meanwhile, to make tech support more readily available to students with laptop problems, Mr. Orlando has positioned Mr. Po in the library and seen to it that students will have access to a loaner laptop if their own computer needs repair.

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