It’s Inevitable

When it comes to issues of education reform and using technology to enhance teaching, I rarely find myself on different sides of the fence from Gary Stager (although we sometimes differ on the details).  However, when it comes to the bring your own device (BYOD) programs that many schools are currently implementing, including our overly-large district, we are in different zip codes.

In a recent post, Stager calls BYOD the Worst Idea of the 21st Century*, expressed in his usual definitive, how-could-you-possibly-not-agree-with-me approach.

Well, I disagree.

Not only is the concept of students using their own technology in school a great idea, it’s inevitable and unstoppable. It’s a very logical extension to the fast-moving evolution of how personal portable communications devices are permeating most of American society.  As teachers, our only option, and our professional responsibility, is to figure out how to make the best use of the powerful communications tools that will now be available in student pockets and backpacks.

Of course it will take time for the full impact of all this to be felt. And the transition from a culture of computers being organized into labs of identical machines in which students do programmed assignments and totally under adult control will not be an easy one.  But for those teachers who already understand the power of being connected to the world and want to incorporate that into their instruction, they will finally have the resources to make that happen.

For those teachers (and administrators) who are still dragging their feet, who are reluctant or afraid to share control of the technology with their students, the changes will come more slowly. But it will come, and I suspect the process will pick up steam quickly. In less than five years (which is a fast change in the culture of education), BYOD will be an accepted practice in all middle and high schools.

As you might expect, I’m looking at this exclusively from the point of view of the school system in which I work, one that is more affluent than many in this country. We have large numbers of families who are wired and willing to provide the technology their kids need for school. We are also fortunate to have a very robust digital infrastructure and very good technical and instructional support.

All of which makes me very optimistic about the possibilities for our teachers and kids.

On a related, somewhat self-serving, side of this issue, this coming Thursday evening (October 20th) at 7pm EDT, I will be co-moderating a webinar about student BYOD programs, sponsored by the Virginia Society for Technology in Education (VSTE). Please plan to join us if you have experience with these programs, have an opinion one way or the other, or just have questions (non-Virginians are more than welcome!).

And I look forward to continuing the discussion at the VSTE Conference in December.


*The title of the post ended with a question mark. However, the body of the entry leaves no doubt Gary was making a declarative statement, not asking a question.

Comments

  1. Sue King says

    I work in a similar type district and I am certainly not dragging my feet – I welcome students using various types of technology. I believe Gary’s concern (and mine that I shared in the comments) is that especially in affluent districts where the majority of students would have devices to bring in, BYOD will only contribute to the growing divide between the haves and have nots – something out country simply refuses to acknowledge. We seem perfectly content to allow those children who are fortunate enough to be born into families with wealth to have every advantage possible. The inequities of our public school systems throughout the country are growing – and are alarming and extremely troubling to me. Will you be giving devices to your economically disadvantaged students? Will they have identifiable marks on them so everyone will know who had to get a “handout” from the school? I find the way we contribute to the inequities by developing these kinds of policies and practices to be very disrespectful to students and to be in conflict with the fundamental principles of our public education system.

    • Teresa says

      Agree that BYOD will bring the “haves” and “have nots” issue into the spotlight, but at the same time realize that it is inevitable with the technological times we live in, and the budget crunch on most districts. Creating a BYOD policy will open the door for districts to afford the cost of providing resources for those who do not already have access. Resulting in the opportunity for ALL students to learn through technology and collaboration, which are required skills in the work place (as Scott mentioned BYOD is already in the work place today). The goal of education is to prepare students for their future. The important point is not if BYOD policies are going to happen, but districts taking the time to create policies in such a manner that eliminate or limit the inequities as much as possible.

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