Tuesday, August 13, 2013

So Why BYOD?

Teaching and learning is happening in every classroom. Some of these classrooms are using methods honed from years of experience, some are using the same packets and PowerPoint presentations year after year, and some are attempting new ways to increase student learning. No matter which camp you find yourself in, all of these methods are being disrupted by our world and the innovation that occurs everyday. With this innovation comes new challenges and at the same time new opportunities, both being exhilarating and scary to teachers, parents, and administrators. But there is no escaping the fact that our world is one of connectedness, information, and fast-paced change. The pressures of our technology-driven world are being felt in our schools and the BYOD movement seems like it is moving full speed ahead. 

My district is officially going BYOD for the first time this year. And as the first day of school arrived, you can feel some of the anxiety and excitement around this issue. So is BYOD the right answer...I think yes. Why?

1. School should not be an isolated place detached from the real world - The world is run by connecting technologies and the rate of connectedness only seems to be growing. Schools need to reflect the world for which they are preparing students to thrive in and succeed. Within the standards and curriculum, personal technology can be one more tool that can aid a student in their learning journey. Would we deprive a student of a learning aid if it were supplied by the school? No...so should we deprive that student of a learning aid if it is student owned? I say no to that one too.

2. BYOD begins to level the playing field - One of the arguments I often hear against BYOD is the issue of equality. Doesn't BYOD just widen the digital divide? In my opinion, BYOD actually closes the digital divide and makes technology more available to students. A given classroom might have access to 10 devices (desktops, laptops, tablets, etc.) and with classes of 25 - 30 students, we have around a 3:1 student to computer ratio. Now let's say 10 students bring in their own device. With those 10 students using their own devices, the 10 district owned devices can be shared amongst the remaining 15 -20 students. That classroom is now operating at a 2:1 ratio for those students who did not bring in devices. We are closing the digital divide, at least at school. I will fully admit that there is not equality in this example. For there to be equality, we would need to operate at the level of the lowest common denominator...that would mean no BYOD. Looking at the math above, I don't feel that is a sound decision.

3. Fear of change is not a valid excuse - There is a certain amount of fear and anxiety that surrounds BYOD. Student devices bring about a new set of challenges to teachers. This was probably no different from when the dreaded calculator started making its way into the classroom! A successful BYOD classroom puts a premium on good classroom management. Clear expectations, consistent procedures, and appropriate consequences must be in place for success. Funny thing is...this sounds like the characteristics of a well run classroom (BYOD or not BYOD). Teachers who struggle with classroom management will struggle with BYOD too but that is no reason to disallow student owned devices. Procedures and classroom expectations will need to change for a BYOD classroom. No longer is ok to require every student to create that PowerPoint, or write that book report. Students need the freedom to use their devices in a way that best shows their learning. All of this change brought about by BYOD can be frightening but fear should not be an excuse to limit students on their learning journey.

So as the BYOD debate rages on and as we roll out our program this year, I am excited to see the change. I am excited to work with teachers in creating a successful BYOD climate in their classrooms. But my greatest excitement is for the students, and I hope they take full advantage of this opportunity.

The world is changing quickly. Innovation will continue to grow and grow. If are not ready for student devices in school now, what will we do in the near future when the cutting edge becomes the norm?