July 17, 2019

Professor vows laptop access for every student

Basiyr Rodney is coordinating to get every School of Education students by fall 2019. 

After Basiyr Rodney saw students struggle with their devices he had the idea to give every students in the School of Education a laptop. A laptop lending program would create a universal platform for students to learn and use software.

“I have computers everywhere,” Rodney said. “So they’ll come and borrow one. Right? It’s mostly School of Education students, but that tells me that there are other students on campus that may have similar considerations.”

In most classes he teaches, Rodney said he will almost always engage students with technology. He said he believes Webster operates on the assumption everyone can afford a laptop and every course has the same technology necessities.

“Everybody doesn’t have to call IT now because they can’t get onto Wifi because if I’m in a room with 20 people, five of those people know how to get onto Wifi,” Rodney said “I just need to find which one of my classmates knows.”

This past fall semester, a pilot program started to expand the laptop loaning program in the library for School of Education majors.

“The idea is to give teachers in training access to the kinds of technologies they could use to develop as teachers and make that access universal,” Rodney said.

Rodney says he wants to parallel a one-to-one program where each student has access to at least one device in class. For fall 2019, the School of Education ordered 120 Microsoft Surface Pro devices which will be available at the bookstore at a discounted price for School of Education majors.

A one-to-one program is the idea that each student in a classroom has an actual device and their own computing device. Rodney said many K-12 schools use this program. School districts provide a piece of technology to students that they can use to carry out their daily work or assignments.

Rodney said he submitted a biannual survey about the kinds of technology used in school districts around the St. Louis area. He found that many of them use Chromebooks or Microsoft devices.

“It’s hard to beat $150 computers and the access it gives you to Google Drive and all the things around that,” Rodney said. “We took a different type, we wanted to kind of look at devices that the teacher was most likely to use.”

Rodney suggested that the School of Education invest in Surface Pros. He said the Surface Pros allowed students to make better use of tools and technology already available such as Office 365 and the Adobe Creative Cloud.

Student Government Association (SGA) Ambassador for Student Inclusion Matt West helped facilitate the pilot program. West agreed that access to laptops would be beneficial for all students, not just School of Education majors.

West said the goal of the pilot program was to communicate the loaner laptop program is valuable and students need it. The library reported the three original laptops were checked out 24 times in December

After seeing this success, SGA allocated $3,500 dollars to purchase five more Surface Pros available for checkout along with a case, pen and detachable keyboard.

“I’m still learning this stuff [Surface Pros] too, but it’s really this sense of how do we adapt more of this technology that’s so accessible for us now?” West said. “We pay for these Microsoft services. Why don’t we use them to the full extent of which they can be used?”   

West wants to use the loaner laptop program to promote a user-friendly culture at Webster. Properly utilizing Microsoft Office 365 and OneNote can help students get engaged, West said.

In the case of the School of Education, Rodney said he also believes that providing better access to technology creates more equality between students. He also believes it helps faculty and students work together.

“Sets of problems are the same set of problems, good and bad. But at least we can support each other in solving these problems rather than call the help desk and wait 20 minutes,” Rodney said. “So that actually takes out some of the weight off of our IT resources. Now students can support students, faculty can support students, students can support faculty.”

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