Across the country, students are walking into classrooms with personal computers in their pockets. These devices have more computing power than NASA when the first astronauts walked on the moon, but instead of allowing students reach for the stars, many school policies demand that the devices remain turned off, out of sight in backpacks or lockers.
A growing number of educational technology specialists are advocating that students should make use of these high tech machines. They argue that schools should implement “Bring Your Own Technology” or “Device” initiatives (referred to with the acronym BYOT, or BYOD.) A BYOT program encourages students to bring their own mobile devices, tablets, and laptops to use in the classroom.
Like most technology initiatives, there are many ways to design a BYOT program. Some educators focus on “devices,” particularly mobile smartphones. Others focus on more robust “technology,” including tablets and laptops. Both focuses emphasize slightly different skills, and may require an enhanced infrastructure.
Source for Tablet group photo: Flickenger, Brad. “Student iPad 014.” Flickr.
Many educators believe that student-owned mobile devices lead to better understanding of 21st Century learning skills. They argue that personal ownership of technology devices will foster a greater engagement with learning (Roscoria). Others look to BYOT as an ideal budgetary solution. Instead of building the cost for a 1-to-1 program into the operating budget, the cost must be carried by students and their parents (O’Hagan).
Some wonder if BYOT is not a solution, bur rather another piece to the edtech puzzle. In our information-saturated culture, forcing students to choose one device is limiting in its own way. In order to successfully manage information, students need to be familiar accessing information from multiple devices and contexts (Blake-Plock).
Even proponents of BYOT agree that there are strong arguments against the use of personal technology in schools.
Proper Use of Mobile Devices
There is a reason that mobile devices are banned in many schools; they have the potential to exacerbate behavioral issues. In order to effectively introduce mobiles into the classroom, teachers must design lessons to teach proper use. Students must learn to view cell phones as professional tools, and not just sources for social entertainment (Robinson, Keenan).
Security & Infrastructure Concerns
If the BYOT vision includes allowing students to access the school’s wireless network, that network must be prepared to handle the additional cell phones or laptops. If the school’s network is unprepared to handle these devices, it may cause access problems for the rest of the school. The cost of upgrading a wireless infrastructure may negate the cost-saving benefits of having a BYOT program (Roscoria).
Also, the security issues of managing personal devices are an issue. How can schools meet CIPA requirements when students are accessing the Internet through personal mobile devices, bypassing the school’s security controls? (Gardener, Stites).
Some argue that BYOT initiatives will reinforce inequity between the haves and have-nots. Students from wealthier families may be able to easily afford high-tech solutions, while poorer students may be left with cheaper, less functional equipment (Stager).
In order to effectively implement a BYOT program, many issues must be considered:
- What is the instructional purpose of the program? – The goals for a BYOT initiative needs to be written into the larger technology vision.
- Have the administration and faculty bought into the program? – Professional development must be available for teachers to figure out how to best teach with these devices (Roscoria).
- Will existing policies regarding cell phone use need to be rewritten? – These concerns may need to be addressed at an administrative level.
- Is the infrastructure able to handle additional devices? – More importantly, what will enhancements to the infrastructure cost, and are these enhancements financially feasible?
- How can the school address issues of equity? – Consider soliciting local businesses for discarded equipment and plan fundraisers for the purchase of devices (Nielsen).
- “Bring Your Own Technology Empowers Educators to Facilitate Learning.”
Converge. Aug 30, 2011.
The Forsyth County Schools district in Georgia has implemented a vast BYOT program that focuses on both infrastructure and instruction. As part of the program, teachers are changing their roles to “facilitators of learning.”
- “BYOD – Worst Idea of the 21st Century?”
Stager-To-Go. October, 2011.
In this blog post, Gary Stager, a proponent of 1-to-1 programs, outlines a variety of reasons why Bring Your Own Technology initiatives are a bad idea. The author argues that these initiatives foster inequality, decrease funding for 1-to-1, and force students to use limited technologies.
- “BYOC: Bring Your Own Context”
Teach Paperless. October 26, 2011.
In this blog post, Blake-Plock suggests that BYOT initiatives present some ideal solutions, but in the end, they don’t solve the entire puzzle. Instead, students should be learning on a variety of devices: laptops, smartphones, laptops and desktops alike.
- “Ideas for Bringing Your Own Device (BYOD) Even If You Are Poor”
The Innovative Educator.. October 28, 2011.
Nielsen outlines a variety of ways that educators might fund a BYOT program at their schools or districts.
- “Virtualized desktops spur use of ‘bring your own device’ in schools, allowing always-on access to educational resources”
ZD Net. October 31, 2011.
- “Embracing the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) culture?”
blog.andytang.com. November 2, 2011.
- “Rogue IT in Education and the BYOD, DIY model.”
williamstites.net. October 25, 2011.
- “It’s Time to Give Up Control of Ed Tech”
Ed Reach. April 11, 2011.
- “Time to Toss Out Cell Phone Bans and SM Filters and Be True Technology Leaders”
The 21st Century Principal. May 23, 2011.
- “A Vision of Learning with Mobile Devices”
Developing Education. May 30, 2011.
- “Creating the ‘technology switch’ in students”
Developing Education. September 28, 2011.