A logical step in implementing a workable BYOD plan in a school is to put a device (or a selection of devices that meet a set of specifications) on the school supply list. A $150-$200 tablet or Chromebook seems a reasonable purchase for most families if such devices will last at least two years and actually be used in school*. (Yes, I've blogged about this before. See BYOD and the school supply list.)
But one thing that may be holding such a plan back is the monopoly TI has on the graphing calculator biz and the death grip it has on math teachers. In "The unstoppable TI-84 Plus: How an outdated calculator still holds a monopoly on classrooms" (Washington Post, September 2, 2014), Matt McFarland writes:
Texas Instruments has been so dominant in part because of its ecosystem around its calculators, which keeps teachers and students happy with services such as 1-800-TI-CARES. Since 1986 more than 100,000 U.S. teachers have partaken in Teachers Teaching with Technology, which offers workshops in person and online to educate teachers on how to teach effectively with Texas Instruments calculators.
Once Texas Instruments had teachers and school districts comfortable with its calculators, offering low prices or cutting-edge hardware weren’t required to run a successful business.
He also observes:
Smartphones have steadily eliminated the need for other electronics, be it wristwatches, cameras or flashlights. Could graphing calculators be next? The average smartphone today has gobs more memory and a sharper screen than any graphing calculator on the market. Free graphing calculator apps are available. But smartphones can’t be used on standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT. Schools are understandably reluctant to let them be used in classrooms, where students may opt to tune out in class and instead text friends or play games.
So for now, overpriced hardware and all, the TI-84 family of calculators remains on top and unlikely to go anywhere.
Smartphones? How about iPads or Chromebooks or tablets running $2 graphing calculator software?
So parents, do you want to pay $100 for a calculator or $150 for a Chromebook that runs a calculator but also functions as a work processor, search engine, camera, photo editor, spreadsheet, slide show maker, e-mail station, weather station, digital textbook reader, ...
Let's figure out how to break TI's monopoly on mathmatical devices and SAT/ACT's paranoia about using networked devices during tests.
There has to be a solution.
*So my biggest fear is that we ask parents to buy a device and then have their kids come home saying they didn't use it. My goal would be to use personal devices every day in every class.