Do We Need to Lock Down When We Power Up?


While most secondary schools have had to wrestle with the influx of technology coming with the students, elementary schools have been mostly immune to these changes. But it is coming our way. I am sure some elementary schools have already had to address this, especially in more affluent areas where there may be more access to these resources. Kids receiving eReaders and tablets for birthdays and holidays are becoming more the norm than the new. The most notable rationale when I speak with parents about these purchases is, “I have one now, and so does my husband/wife. We thought he/she should have one too.”

I am finding myself agreeing with their reasoning. My wife and I have even discussed purchasing a simple eReader for my son. He’s an avid reader, and the idea that a book is only a click away would seem like a great way to encourage this essential skill and habit. It would be a part of his larger literacy diet of both paper and digital text. But once the technology starts coming in to school, how do we ensure that these tools are safe from damage or theft? In my school, we don’t lock the lockers. Thankfully, theft isn’t an issue I deal with often in my K-5 setting. But we are not talking about securing nominal items. These devices are significant investments, financially and in their child’s learning.

Some schools have a form that families must sign before bringing the tech. It absolves a school of any liability in case of lost or stolen items. With more families requesting that their kids bring their digital tools to school, this is something I am going to have to employ pretty soon. But they are also requesting that these tools stay secure, including putting locks on the lockers. My biggest issue I have with this is the message this sends. Locks on the lockers may convey a lack of trust. We are in an elementary school! This is not considering the more practical issues, such as how to conduct a locker search in a timely manner. A rare occurrence, but something else to consider.

As you can see, I have many more questions than answers. With technology continuing to become cheaper and subsequently more ubiquitous, I’m sure other elementary leaders have similar concerns. I hope that any readers here might share the wisdom of their experiences in the comments.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District ( Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD ( and Lead Literacy (

2 thoughts on “Do We Need to Lock Down When We Power Up?”

  1. This is the second year of BYOT in a title 1 elementary school. You will not believe the array of devices that show up at school. The major problem is that many of the cheaper and older devices will not get on our network, something about wifi cards etc. Apple devices seem to work better than android on our wireless system not sure why.
    We have had very little theft and parents have to sign a statement that the device is not the schools
    The bottom line is that technology engages the students and we are
    Going to have to learn how to use it.


    1. Stan, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree that the engagement factor of tech is something we need to harness in our learning environments. Doing it in a way that will augment our instruction is the goal.


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