Friday, May 11, 2012

Is BYOD A Cop-Out for Schools That Should Be Providing Technology to Students?

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This morning, I read an excellent article from The Journal called Why BYOD, Not Banning Cell Phones, is the Answer. I bookmarked it, because it lays out in detail the positive aspects of BYOD and gives great strategies for helping teachers help students use personal devices in learning.

Then, I started reading the comments. And one of them drew a response out of me. A response that got so long I decided it was blog-post worthy. First, the anonymous comment:

This article is about the advantages of one-to-one contact with technology in the classrooms, not BYOD. BYOD is only one method one getting one-to-one. It is also the method which makes students responsible for bringing their it own learning resources. We don't expect students to purchase their own textbooks or desks, why devices? Schools need to step up and provide devices for students if they think they are required for 21C learning.
Granted, I have not personally gotten to experience a BYOD environment yet, but I have been doing extensive reading on it in hopes of being involved in a BYOD project in the near future. Based on my reading, as well as attending presentations and talking directly with educators involved in BYOD, I've formed some understandings. So, in regards to the anonymous poster who commented that "Schools need to step up and provide devices for  students if they think they are required for 21C learning," I would like to point out a few advantages of allowing students to use their own devices.

First, it's personalized. The student can manage their own settings and choose their own tools for accomplishing their tasks. The device is also seamlessly integrated into their life; it is not a device "for school only". The student can use it during the day to enhance his/her studies, and use the same device outside of school to do homework, keep in touch with friends, pass the time with a game or ebook, and keep school assignments and personal obligations on the same calendar. Students are also more likely to care for and respect a device they personally own as well as devices their peers own.

Second, it's real-world. More and more businesses are expecting their employees, especially ones who work from home or the field (telecommute), to provide their own devices for work. The enterprise may provide web-based applications and virtual desktop solutions so everyone has access to the same suite of tools, but the hardware is owned by the employee and is the responsibility of the employee.

Third, it is a more cost-effective use of taxpayer money in an era when states are consistently cutting back on education funding. Most schools/districts will never get to a sustainable 1:1 model due to cost of maintenance and replacement. If students can bring their own devices and the schools simply have to provide bandwidth and supplement for those who cannot provide their own equipment, the chances of classrooms moving into more connected, technology infused learning are greatly increased. Schools have always expected students to bring tools required for learning - paper, pencils, notebooks, folders, rulers, etc. while providing the content. And we have supplemented for those who could not afford their own tools. Today's tools are more sophisticated, but personal ownership of the basic tools of learning is not a new concept. 

What do you think? Are schools copping out when they make moves toward BYOD? Please add your contribution in the comments below!