The landscape in education has changed more radically in the past five years than perhaps at any other time in our history. People now have access to information that comes from a multitude of sources and they can get that information within seconds. In schools, many students now carry “mini” computers in their pockets as their phones are more powerful (and can do more) than many of the desktop computers that fill their classrooms. Despite this obvious reality, many schools continue to push forward with policies that discourage the use of personal devices and prominently (proudly?) display “No Cell Phone Zone” signs throughout the school building. This includes the use of personal laptops, iPads, tablets, etc. In fact, NYC has gone so far as to prohibit any students from bringing devices to school whatsoever. This has resulted in numerous confiscations, unnecessary conflict, and a black market of sorts for individuals who set up shop outside of city schools and “hold” students’ devices each day for a fee. The obvious irony, of course, is that some of these city schools possess the greatest financial constraints yet have all that they need in terms of technology locked up in someone’s van outside of their school. Seems like a waste.

Thankfully, many schools outside of NYC have been rethinking policies around personal devices while some have fully made the leap into the world BYOD. As the Principal of a school who is making this transition, I am often faced with legitimate questions and concerns from parents about the potentially distracting nature of personal devices and how they can actually detract from overall student learning if not carefully monitored. To further this point, a parent recently indicated that she visited a top college and witnessed a student who was online purchasing clothing while sitting in class. The thinking was that if a college student is not mature enough to responsibly use a personal device, how can we realistically have that expectation for high school students? Again, a completely legitimate question. And while I could go on and on about the benefits of both BYOD and educational technology in terms of student engagement, differentiation, and overall learning, the truth is that this question was asking something different, and perhaps something more.

So here are my thoughts…                                                                       no-cell-phone-zone-printable-sign

The example of the student in college who was shopping online is precisely the reason why K-12 schools need to consider moving to BYOD. My guess is that if the student behaves in this manner on a consistent basis, she will do terribly in the course and will ultimately have issues when she enters the workforce since she is sure to have access to all devices at that time. So the question is whether schools who have policies against the use of personal devices are actually doing a disservice to their students. One can certainly make that argument since workplaces are unlikely to have a van parked outside for workers to “check” their phones before entering.

While many of us (myself included!) often think back with fondness to a time when teachers imparted all knowledge and textbooks made up for what was missed, the reality is that students in today’s world can access unlimited information with only a few touches of the finger. And what we are seeing now is only the beginning. The quality of technology is going to improve and increase to levels that we can’t imagine even by the time that our current ninth graders are in college. In ten years, the way that we view education will be completely different and the “traditional” schools that we have come to know are likely to be obsolete. As a result, both schools and parents need to embrace the use of personal devices while taking on the responsibility of teaching proper use, internet safety, purposes of social media, etc. In fact, we owe it to all students to make sure that we do just that. When we talk 21st century learning…well, this is as 21st century as it gets.


5 thoughts on “Why BYOD?

  1. The NYC policy around cell phones is ridiculous. All it does is drain resources and establish power barriers between faculty – all of whom have their phones on them throughout the day – and students, who could be using phones, etc for good reasons. As an example, I struggle to see why students must buy expensive calculators – which I don’t they need / ought to have until at least calculus anyway – when they can download an app that does the same things for free. Add to that the ability to research, etc. and your picture holds true for the power of personal tech.

    With regards to being distracted…yes, students need to be taught about the appropriateness of anything. My kids like to belch and my daughter spent her summer at camp learning about “armpit farts,” but we have successfully taught her that it’s not acceptable in most (if not all) situations. Have a phone out to shop during class is an issue that can be solved through more time talking to students about responsibly using technology and a class that prompts students to create and thrive during the time together instead of sit and listen.

    My BYOD specific question would be about equity. How will schools work on the issue of a student without tech being in a class with someone who’s on a tablet and someone else with a MacBook? Perhaps districts could have available “loaner” Chromebooks for students with families who just can’t afford good tech. It would look more like a 1:1 school where students could opt out of the school tech if they had a device they liked better.

  2. Good post and I agree with you and David. However, I know the middle school students I had would be on the phones all the time.

    If there could just be an app that the students have to install and it registers with a main teacher app, perhaps that would give some more control. Student A would have to go the class and run the app to participate, answer questions, polls etc. On the flipside the app would be able to limit texts, Facebook etc at the discretion of the teacher running the server. I have plenty more ideas. You two have any capital? 🙂

  3. Great post! I think the focus should be more fior teachers to create enagaing, rich, lessons or activities that keep the class engaged. If that girl can buy a dress and stil ace teh class, then what does it matter? If the girl buys a dress and fails the class…natural consequnces! If a teacher (esp in the elementary setting) is up and engaged and actively monitoring what her class is doing there is a lot less opportunity for misbehavior. If a student write a note to a friend, do you take away his pencil? No, we redirect and talk about our expectations.

    I’ve worked SO hard today, all day loing, but still managed to respond to a couple of texts and check my twitter notifications. We can multitask and I think we’re teaching our Ss a disservice if we dont model the same for them…

  4. BYOD is a reality. I have integrated Mobile devices and social media into my Music Curriculum since 2007. The internet plays a huge role in music marketing and technology.
    Teacher /student relationships play a major part in responsible use of BYOD. Without clearly negotiating and establishing digital citizenship agreement with classes, and building positive working relationships…..it could be out of control. I have seen some teachers happy for BYOD to be an almost baby sitting device….out of sight…out of mind. A substitute for worksheets……
    As in previous comments, technology evolves so quickly. We have the professional responsibility to move with it…

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