Bring Your Own Device: Mobile Technology’s Place in the Classroom

Mobile technology might work better when embraced by class teachers instead of outlawed by them. At least that’s the way schools like Avon Lake High School in Ohio see it. In January 2012, ALHS announced what it called BYOD—Bring Your Own Device. Students are bringing their personal Androids, iPhones, iPads and other tablet computers to class with them while teachers also break out their devices to connect with their students. Lesson plans are formed that utilize mobile technology in order to find new and modern ways to engage students.

In Avon’s January newsletter, the school claims “Having a computer in your hand is proving to be a very powerful tool for accessing ‘right now’ information and stretching academic lessons beyond what might be considered usual and typical.” How many times have you Googled something basic like how many ounces there are in a cup while at the grocery store? Students can benefit from the same quick-access knowledge to complete assignments.

According to a Pew Internet report, 23% of Americans between the ages of 12 and 17 own smartphones and almost half have gone online on their phones in the last 30 days. Schools are beginning to understand that the popularity of this technology can be integrated into the classroom rather than removed.

While teachers must continue to remain vigilant against the misuse of mobile technology for instances of cheating or other ethical violations, there’s an argument that can be made for enhancing lesson plans using personal devices. A Periodic Table in every pocket could brighten up chemistry experiments. Got a vocabulary test coming up? Pick up the Flashcards Deluxe app for iOS and practice on your own … or in those precious ten minutes before the teacher remembers there’s a quiz on the agenda.

Some schools are issuing smartphones directly to their students with the messaging and calling capabilities disabled. Students can still connect to the internet for the purpose of sending emails and scheduling assignments, and teachers use QR codes so the students can link to vocab sites, reading sites and more.

The unfortunate reality is that not all schools will be able to immediately flip a switch and integrate high-tech lesson plans with mobile technology. Not every school has the same privileges of an institution like the Denver School of Science and Technology, which issues a laptop to every new student. Inadequate budgets make it so schools in low-income areas can’t keep up as much. But as technology continues to grow in prevalence and affordability, it is possible that over a long enough time period, even low-income schools will begin to boost their technological capabilities. Schools may not be able to provide the technology for students, but perhaps they can create a curriculum that takes advantage of whatever devices that students currently own?

Not all kids are going to own the latest mobile devices or be as connected as many of their peers. There was a time, however, when hardly a classroom in America had a computer in it, and now they’re about as popular as chalkboards. Is it possible that given enough time, the next step in classroom technology is the inclusion of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices?