Teaching BYOD: Using Your Personal Devices in the Classroom

What’s working for business may also work in the classroom.

At least, that is what schools with shrinking budgets and expiring tax levies are hoping for. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is a growing trend in multiple industries, established companies, and startups as well.

The reasons just make sense. Mobile technology is changing the way companies do business, in marketing, advertising, and sales. But it’s not often we look at education as a business, even though it is.

Our product as teachers is education, our measurement of return on investment is graduation rates and student test results, and our public image is created by how we interact with our communities. With shrinking state budgets, and rural schools challenged with passing levies to cover costs, schools are looking for ways to cut expenses. Technology is typically one of the first areas to go, despite the need for students to be prepared to use it in their future.

 

One option is BYOD for both faculty and students. There are some clear advantages besides the cost savings to schools:

  • Students and Teachers are more comfortable using their own devices
  • Both are more likely to work at home, students on learning in off hours, teachers on grading, curriculum and parent contact.
  • Personal devices are usually more up to date than those the school can provide

At the same time, teachers and parents have legitimate concerns. Parents and teachers may not want to purchase devices with school use in mind. Besides the personal cost, there are other risks:

Theft

The more devices there are in use at schools, the more tempting they are to thieves, whether other students and school staff or others like vendors and parents who may have access to the school during student hours. While cell phone lockers and computer locks can certainly be a determent, device security and school liability to protect personal property are all concerns.

Cheating

BYOD could potentially offer students additional opportunities to cheat. There are good arguments on both sides of this issue. Students could already be using devices to cheat, sometimes without teachers being aware of the devices at all. At least with a more open BYOD policy, faculty would be aware the devices were present, and therefore more cognizant of their location and students interactions with them.

Either way, it seems that eradicating cheating is a nearly impossible task. If a student wants to cheat, whether using technology or not, it’s likely they will find a way to do so, while others are likely to utilize technology in the way it was intended.

Distraction

Even as adults, it is easy to become distracted by technology, even with the best of intentions. Looking at and sharing one article on social media can lead to an hour wasted scrolling through posts and cat photos. These things are just as tempting to students, who also may not have robust self-control.

But how does this affect the overall classroom? Does it make teaching easier, more difficult, or does it remain the same? What about the student experience? It is enhanced, or does technology take the place of legitimate interaction? The answers come down to the most important thing is education: people.

First, many schools that have implemented BYOD have done so as a voluntary program: teachers can choose whether to participate or not. This allows individuals to assess their subject, curriculum, and student demographic to determine if the program will work for them.

Teachers can also determine how much or how little they want to use their own devices, and allow their students to use theirs. Many districts already have Google Apps for Education (GAFE) and so teachers are already equipped with excellent tools to collaborate with students.

Giving teachers autonomy lets them structure lessons around the technology, utilizing it rather than relying on it entirely. BYOD does mean teachers must instruct across platforms and be familiar with a number of devices and their interface.

Also, depending on the ability of the school’s wifi network, too heavy of reliance on online resources can be detrimental if the system becomes overloaded by the volume of devices connected. Instead of facilitating and speeding the learning process, this can result in a slowdown instead.

So is BYOD the answer for your classroom? There isn’t a single right or wrong answer to that question. Each district, each school, and each classroom will have to determine what works best for their situation.

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