I have been hearing more and more about BYOD or “bring your own device” on Twitter and in the blogs and educational news sources I read. It seems to be a growing trend in the business world too. Yet, the controversy around this idea seems almost as large as the hype. BYO is not a novel concept for restaurants or even schools when it comes to basic supplies (everyone can remember being asked to bring that box of crayons or later your composition notebook) but apparently devices are a different story.
What really made me stop to think more deeply about this topic was reading a recent post by first grade teacher @kathycassidy on using Nintendo DS as an assessment tool during a BYOD day she held. Maybe it’s because I’m not into gaming much but when I had previously though of BYOD, I always envisioned tablets, smartphones, and laptops. The idea of using gaming systems seemed at once novel and practical, especially after I read her post. She was able to use a device that many of her students have and a device that she already has six classroom-owned units of available to share with students who did not have a device. Students used the Nintendo DS to practice writing and using the long a sound (ai), which allowed their teacher to immediately view their submissions via the devices, allowing for faster assessment of their skills. @kathycassidy also discussed how students were able to self-assess and help one another by being able to see each other’s work on screen, making suggestions for improvement to their peers.
To me, this is an example of why BYOD can be so powerful and worthwhile for teachers to explore with their students. After viewing the #edchat archive for this week’s discussion of “Do the positives outweigh the negatives of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)?” I was reminded of the controversy around implementing this practice. There are a number of concerns about educational equity and students’ access to technology and their ability to bring a device to school. Some have argued that for these reasons, BYOD “enshrines inequity,” puts limitations on how we define student learning, and promotes an acceptance of limited funding for school technology. As @stumpteacher commented in #edchat, “BYOD sounds great, but with poverty such a powerful variable, we can’t ignore access/equality.” Additional concerns include schools and districts that forbid the use of student devices in school and a lack of professional development for teachers who are unsure how to adapt their lesson plans to include these new devices.
Yet, even with all of these concerns, I am in the camp that the positives do outweigh the negatives for a number of exciting reasons. First, as this first grade classroom found, devices allow for a new immediacy and individuality because every student who is using a device has the power to contribute their ideas and receive teacher support or feedback in a more immediate way. This classroom in New Jersey found similar results when students were allowed to use their cell phones in a math class. Another benefit to BYOD and allowing students to use their own devices seems to be increased engagement and participation. At the first grade level, this was exemplified through their increased oral language use, and for older grades, through their note-taking and responses in class discussion.
I also see value in the opportunity for students to bring devices that they already know how to operate, might easily be more advanced or updated than school technology, and can be a launchpad for students to share their knowledge and expertise with teachers. I feel that we should be conceiving of student devices more like the box of tissues students are asked to bring to class throughout the year. Those tissues become part of the class community and they are shared among various students. If a few students in the classroom have devices that they would like to contribute to the class community when they walk in the door (of course taking them with them when they leave) why should we forbid that? As @jonbergmann said during the #edchat, “The key is to not have all kids doing the same thing at the same time. Rethink Ed.” BYOD can be a unique opportunity for an influx of new technology resources that allow teachers to rethink their pedagogical practices and allow for students’ individuality and a diversity of classrooms activities.
Of course, I agree that BYOD needs to be thoughtfully implemented. A number of great resources for creating a BYOD Policy and User Agreement for your classroom or school were shared during #edchat, along with valuable lessons and questions to consider before you jump onto the BYOD bandwagon. It should be a decision that is well-planned and includes opportunities for ongoing check-ins and adjustments, as well as student and teacher learning about the reasons for and possibilities of BYOD. All of the concerns I mentioned above should be thoroughly discussed and the students, teachers, parents, and administrators involved should make sure it is a feasible, fair decision for their class or school community.
At the end of the day though, it seems to come back to one key idea. As one journalist said recently, BYOD is “a chance to connect our children to the world that has moved most assuredly into the digital age.” Instead of holding students back and making our own judgements about how responsible students can be with bringing their own devices to class, using them for educational purposes, and sharing them with device-less peers, let’s educate them about ways they could do all of these things. Let’s let students demonstrate to us how valuable these devices can be in the classroom.
What are your thoughts? Do the positives outweigh the negatives of BYOD?