Is BYOD good for learners and teachers?

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) certainly seems to be a topic among many school leaders – locally and nationally. In fact, at the state technology conference in Pennsylvania (PETE&C) this past February, there was an entire strand of sessions on BYOD. I do not work in a BYOD district so I do not have any direct experience with a BYOD implementation or evaluation/assessment. (I do work in a 1:1 district that provides laptops for students in grades 6-12.) From reading the pros and cons, I do have some thoughts about whether BYOD is best for learners and teachers.

Whether BYOD or school-provided 1:1 programs, it is often unclear to me what the goals are of such programs. The goal of access is often implied. If access is the only goal, then BYOD is a good idea that provides increased opportunities for learners to access information while saving the school or district money. However, if the only goal is access – “Let’s get a device in the hands of every kid so they can consume information from the internet.” – then I see that thinking as quite short-sighted.

One of the major challenges with education today is that it has always been and continues to be driven on a consumption model. Learners consumed information through textbooks and teacher-created packets when I was in school. Now in the age of technology, school leaders and teachers still embrace a consumption model but through the substitution of technology. Instead of reading from a textbook, we can now access course e-texts. Instead of researching in the library, we can now research through the library portal or anyway we want now that we have access to virtually any information on a digital device. (We are not asking the right question – How does the classroom change now that learners have access to just about any information they need?) The consumption model is limiting, especially as a goal of any one-to-one program. How is information on the internet created? It’s created by those who are willing to share their content and creations. How are we teaching students to be contributors of content and knowledge as well as consumers of information? And if we are going to teach kids to be creators and not just consumers, I wonder how feasible that is on devices such as smartphones, Kindles and to some extent tablets. I do not see BYOD supporting the goal of content/knowledge creation because devices are not created equal when it comes to creation.

If a school’s goals for one-to-one computing are more expansive than access and include creation and connection, then curriculum and pedagogy need to change at much deeper levels than substitution of an e-text for a paper textbook. (See Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model.) Doesn’t BYOD make the design of technology-rich lessons more difficult? How does BYOD create a teaching/learning environment that actually is conducive to the changing roles of learner and teacher in a technology-rich environment? Until I can see evidence from an actual BYOD school or district, I don’t believe it does.

My last thought is this. From what I hear and read, it seems the major driving factor behind BYOD is financial. While this is a reality, especially in tough economic times, it is sad we are at this point with technology in education. The situation we are in is, in my opinion, an indictment on the leadership of our educational institutions. Leaders need to be proactive and forward thinking. Leaders need to work with their various constituencies to create a vision for the future – a proactive vision for the future that includes technology. BYOD is a reactive vision – We can no longer afford to put off providing access, yet we have no funding. We also have crummy infrastructure that we’ve let sit for years, so we’ll have to dump money into that, too. Leaders, at all level, have not been proactive and are now scrambling for a solution. BYOD is the best they can do. And who loses out in the long run? Learners and teachers do.

Push my thinking on BYOD. What am I missing? What are the best BYOD schools or districts that have demonstrated evidence of success? I’d love to learn more.

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3 comments on “Is BYOD good for learners and teachers?

  1. Pingback: Is BYOD good for learners and teachers? « appleupdatesdotcom

  2. Pingback: Is consumption versus creation a red herring in the BYOD debate? | In the pICTure

  3. You have some extremely valid points here Randy, not least that the principles underlying a BYOD programme often aren’t clear. Increasing access isn’t sufficient reason, though it might be *one* of the benefits. Nor indeed are the financial savings; a robust and well-supported BYOD implementation might indeed not guarantee them. However I’m less convinced that BYOD, even with its potential plethora of devices (let’s call it an embarrassment of riches ;-), need restrict content creation.
    I started to ramble on a bit, so thought it more polite to post a more extensive response here – http://ianinsheffield.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/consumption-versus-creation/ . Hope you don’t mind?

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