BSM considers new technology for next year

For+the+2021-2022+school+year%2C+students+and+staff+will+receive+new+devices.

Mason McGonigle

For the 2021-2022 school year, students and staff will receive new devices.

Every three to four years rumors arise amongst students that new devices––almost always MacBooks––are on the way. Recently, this has been confirmed true, but MacBooks are not a guarantee for next year.

After having had the current laptops for four years, the school administration has decided it is time for an upgrade. This is an exciting time for the students, faculty, and especially Bill Cheney, the help desk coordinator. “Every four years I have one summer to kind of set the table again for what technology is at BSM. This summer is that opportunity for me again. So I’m really excited to have that chance to set the new gold standard for what technology means at BSM,” Cheney said.

In the past, BSM has set itself apart from other schools regarding technology by giving every student a MacBook Air; there is a possibility for that to change next year. Although laptops are a key part of the way BSM does things, Cheney and the school administration have been exploring other options for next year, most notably, iPads. “There are some really positive things you can get from the iPad that the laptops don’t offer currently,” Cheney said.

iPads are attractive to the school for how versatile they are and especially their ability to use augmented reality. “So thinking about as simple as can I lift my iPad up and use the camera to find where the stars are and point out constellations,” Cheney said.

Laptops do have one major advantage over an iPad: keyboards, but this wouldn’t be much of a problem for BSM students. “We would give every [student] a keyboard, so you would get the case with the keyboard, you would get the full-size Apple Pencil for taking notes,” Cheney said.

One of the biggest reasons to not go with the iPad is the reality that not many people will show up to their first day of college classes with an iPad. As a college prep school, BSM is committed to providing real-world tools to its students. “We find from both alums, current students, current college students… that kids feel more prepared for what they’re doing in college and at their jobs because they have laptops rather than having some of the smaller devices that other schools might be using,” Cheney said.

We find from both alums, current students, current college students… that kids feel more prepared for what they’re doing in college and at their jobs because they have laptops rather than having some of the smaller devices that other schools might be using.”

— Bill Cheney

Although the specific device for next year is still undecided, students and staff can count on it being an Apple product. “We’ve been lucky enough to be an Apple ecosystem and being recognized by Apple as one of their premier schools in the nation. It’d be really hard for our teachers to completely switch ecosystems and completely change the way they do things,” Cheney said.

With new devices for next year, there is also a potential change for a new learning management system, or LMS for short. An LMS is where classes are stored, and students and teachers can see all of their assignments for the week—currently, BSM uses PowerSchool Learning. The toughest part about switching an LMS is that they all do similar things. “Coke, Pepsi, RC Cola, Dr. Pepper. Schoology, Haiku, Backpack: there’s all these different companies, so we’re constantly looking at what’s the best. The other thing we have to keep in mind, again, is professional development and time. If they all do very similar functions, there better be something really enticing for us to switch,” Cheney said.

Switching an LMS is difficult for many reasons. Most notably, teachers have lesson plans, tests, and quizzes they’ve been using for years that would all be gone. “If I’m going to ask 110 teachers to take all these pre-saved tests, assignments, class pages…and ask them to throw them away because most of them don’t convert. We need to have a real reason [to change],” Cheney said.

This has been a year of survival for everyone, as well as the current laptops. “Every day there’s something new, and every day we’re adapting to make sure we can make hybrid work. I’m excited to find new tools and introduce teachers to new things again and spend the time being able to push that technology track forward at BSM,” Cheney said.