Cheesy title; I know, but what do you expect from a former dorky English teacher? (Though while I’m no longer an English teacher, the dorky part still stands.) We covered BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) in the classroom several months back, and we’re revisiting the issue this week because the debate is as heated and as relevant as ever.
As we spelled out in our last BYOD post, there are pros and cons to these programs, with pros being cheap access to technology for schools and cons being device inequality and IT nightmares. This week, The New York Times published an article featuring various schools who have decided to adopt the policy, for better or for worse. Because so many schools simply can’t afford to adopt 1:1 policies because of the price tag that comes with purchasing devices for each student, many view BYOD policies as the next best thing — giving students access to useful learning tools without the high cost.
Computer and learning science professors at various universities such as Stanford and Michigan, the article cites, have expressed concern about the policies, as there’s no evidence that personal devices truly enhance learning, and because they’re afraid teachers will have to sacrifice curriculum in order to incorporate technology.
Yet despite these concerns, schools and districts (such as the Volusia County school district in Florida and Forsyth County in Georgia) are choosing to press on and have asked students to bring personal devices to schools. Teachers are finding that most students have access to smartphones and other devices such as iPod touches and tablets even despite income disparities, and are using apps and online quizzes to help each other study both inside and outside the classroom.
Many teachers subvert the issue of students working on disparate devices by accessing tools online rather than downloading apps:
The fact that students in the same classroom can use many different devices is not a handicap because they are all using the same lessons on the Internet, said Lenny Schad, former chief information officer in the Katy Independent School District near Houston….“The Internet is the great equalizer,” Mr. Schad said.
He added that students’ devices were not meant to be a substitute for teachers, but could be used as tools for assignments. He noted that the concept was catching on; he said he had given dozens of presentations to other districts and educators about his district’s initiative.
“My message: It shouldn’t be ‘if’ we do it, it should be ‘when’ we do it,’ ” said Mr. Schad, who this year moved to the nearby Houston Independent School District, where he plans to employ a similar strategy. “I don’t know how districts can’t look at this model.”
Eric Sheninger, principal at New Milford High School, also explored the BYOD issue in his Huffington Post article, weighing it against 1:1 policies. ”As we continue to advance in the digital age schools and districts are beginning to re-think pedagogy and learning environments by instituting either 1:1 device programs or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives,” he writes. “In my opinion, schools that wish to create the most relevant and meaningful learning culture will go in one of these directions.”
Sheninger explains how he originally thought 1:1 programs were the best way for schools to go, as they ensure equal access for all students, and teachers only have to worry about technical problems with one type of device rather than twenty. And with the development of cheaper technology for classrooms such as Chromebooks and education-specific tablets, 1:1 programs are more affordable than ever.
Yet ultimately, Sheninger decided that a BYOD program was the best fit for his school because of the wide array of technology students were exposed to through the program:
Why would we want to pigeonhole our students to one single device and/or platform? Is that reminiscent of the real world that we are supposedly preparing them to flourish and succeed in? The fact is many students own and are comfortable with their devices. The digital divide in schools becomes smaller when bold districts, schools, and educators work to effectively integrate the technology that has been available for years outside their walls.
Sheninger cites the importance of creating a technology-rich environment for students through a variety of devices. In order to address the problem of digital equity, New Milford struck a balance between BYOD and 1:1 initiatives by purchasing technology for students without devices to borrow.
The decision to implement a BYOD program is a difficult one that schools must make on an individual basis depending on the average income among students’ families and the school’s own funds. For schools who can’t afford 1:1 programs, a blend of BYOD policies with schools purchasing technology for students without access to borrow seems to be a good compromise, but I’m interested to hear how that works in practice. Teachers, please weigh in on BYOD vs. 1:1 initiatives in your own schools in the comments below, or tweet at us to @Technapex or @ce_doyle.