Sad News for a School’s BYOC: Bring Your Own Carnival

With mainstream media picking up on the fad of BYOD in schools, most schools and individuals fail to see the social emotional cost their decisions have on children.

Although a slight tangent, let’s look at an issue reported in a New York City elementary school, where the parent association hosted a carnival during the school day, but only for children who paid the $10 fee. Those children whose families were unable or did not understand the school communication of the event (100 of the 1,000 children), were forced to sit in the auditorium as their peers enjoyed rides, snacks and prizes.

If an afternoon carnival can have such devastating impacts, what about those created by a BYOD for technology in schools that will impact every day of school?

While the even was hosted as a fundraiser for other events, the decision to maintain the BYOC model created conflicts with some parents and many teachers. One unnamed teacher took money out of her own pocket to purchase gifts for the six children in her class that weren’t permitted to attend.

Examining the Message

While school fundraising events are common across the country, what message do events like these reinforce regarding economic and immigration class structure? While the article reports that the poorest children were excluded from the must-pay requirement – likely as a result of qualifying for free school lunches – what about those children qualifying for reduce lunches or those just above the cutoff? For them, even a $10 payment can be a financial burden.

Further, with a high immigrant population, what efforts were made to clearly communicate this event to the parents? With parental engagement remaining a challenging task for many schools, but especially in urban settings, what efforts were done to ensure children don’t slip through the cracks? I feel very confident in saying that there was likely high correlation between parents who did not attend parent-teacher conferences, and those who failed to send in the money.

Looking at Student Impact

For the children left excluded, sitting in the school auditorium as they heard the sounds of their friends screaming and cheering with fun, there is a happy ending. Not only have local leaders stepped up, but even the company that ran the carnival, unaware that children were excluded, has personally offered to give a free party to the children that were kept away.

Seeing BYOD Inequities

If an afternoon carnival can have such devastating impacts, what about those created by a BYOD for technology in schools that will impact every day of school? School leaders have gone to great lengths to blur social lines in their schools in past years. For a BYOD program, families of affluence will have no problem purchasing the fastest computers with the best features and refresh those devices as often as they want. Families of need will be given standard devices paid by the school system, perhaps not with as much speed and refreshed not as often. And families in between will face pressure to spend extra dollars as the BYOD-inspired device becomes a new fashion statement, rather than merely an instructional tool for their child. How many low-income students will see an increase in absences as a result of the stigma of being seen with the “poor child” computer?


Elliott Levine is Americas Education Strategist for Hewlett Packard. There he works with schools and universities to support major educational technology initiatives and was co-inventor of the HP Personal Learning Engine (US PTO PCT/US2013/062777), an effort that has him featured as one of three employees at www.hp.com/go/jobs. A former K-12 official and regular public speaker, he has worked for and launched startups in the education and marketing industries. You can learn more about him at www.linkedin.com/in/elliottlevine/.

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