East Grand Rapids Public Schools is considering a plan that would require all third through 12th graders to use wireless devices in class by the fall of 2012, according to a school official.

But the district is considering holding parents responsible for acquiring the technological devices, which is raising some eyebrows.

Jeanne Glowicki, the East Grand Rapids Public School assistant superintendent of instruction, said parents would be given options of how to get the wireless devices.

“Parents will be given a menu of options which include purchase, lease, technology tools used already in their home, use school technology tools, and scholarship,” Glowicki wrote in an e-mail.

Glowicki said the school board hasn’t made a final decision yet.

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Martin Ackley, spokesman for the Department of Education, said the program is legal.

“Whether it is equitable or not is another question,” Ackley said in an e-mail. “The district is implementing a BYOD (bring your own device) program.  The inequity issue is summed up quite well by Gary Stager, a leader in educational technology use.  ‘The only way to guarantee equitable educational experiences is for each student to have access to the same materials and learning opportunities. BYOD leaves this to chance with more affluent students continuing to have an unfair advantage over their classmates. This is particularly problematic in a society with growing economic disparity.’ While the district is meeting the guidelines of the law, BYOD may not be the most equitable manner in implementing a 1:1 environment in a public school.”

Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said he’d be concerned if the technology was needed for classes that were mandatory and not electives.

“The unanswered question here is what if a student chooses not to purchase, lease, apply for a scholarship or use their own personal devices,” Van Beek said in an e-mail.  “What happens then? Will they be able to fully participate in the school’s programs?”

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See also:

Back-to-School Daze: Can Public School Districts Require Parents to Buy Necessary School Supplies?

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