Recently, I’ve read some articles from folks opposed to BYOT/BYOD (Bring Your Own Technology/Device). In one blog post (The ISTE BYOD Debate) featuring a debate of topics format, Gary Stager discussed his thoughts on the BYOT/BYOD as a policy. In his post, he writes: “However, BYOD is bad policy that constrains student creativity, limits learning opportunities, and
leads to less support for public education in the future.” He goes on to site a variety of reasons for his disagreement such us inequity, the idea that cell phones are considered computers, a narrowing of the learning process, to an increase in teacher anxiety, and more.
Mr. Stager is missing the point of BYOT/BYOD and of technology integration in the classroom as a whole. First, let’s start with the equity issue. This is definitely a consideration and one that must be addressed. This can be done by simply having a classroom set of iPods, iPads, laptops, or other Internet accessible devices for those students without their own technology. There’s other alternatives, as well, such as collaborative work or booking a school’s computer lab. In our BYOT district, we employed all of these options and effectively dealt with the equity issue. To use this argument, we could also argue against the use of pencils or paper should be discouraged since some of the students do not have access to them. This is ridiculous, of course, and we should employ the same policy we do in those circumstances which is to ensure loaner technology is available.
The argument that BYOT/BYOD is an implication that cell phones are the same as computers is a narrow generalization and shows a real misunderstanding of BYOT/BYOD and technology integration. The focus should be on what the technology devices CAN do for the student when compared to what can be done if the student did not have access to them. As a very simple example, consider the student who is able to snap a picture on his device of the problem-solving steps for solving a algebraic equation. The student then has instant access to the steps and can reference them literally anywhere they can access their device. The student can then move into some hands-on experience using manipulatives in the class to improve their understanding of the concept. Without the device, the same student would likely copy down the notes, possibly making errors, spending considerable more time on the lower-level recording process, and taking away from the preferred hands-on experience with the manipulatives. Assuming the student is keeping these notes in a traditional notebook, they can be taken with the student but are not near as accessible or accurate as the snapshot of the process. The device and improve the student’s efficiency and organization in the class which can then allow more time for higher-level exploration and experimentation.
BYOT/BYOD is not the curriculum. Mr. Stager seems to imply that the device drives the possibilities in the classroom. Far from this idea, the device is simply a tool to SUPPORT the curriculum in the classroom. The device cannot limit the potential in the classroom and the possibilities that exist lie in the creative teaching methods of a dedicated teacher. This is another indication of confusion about what is means to integrate technology in the classroom. The focus is not about the tool used when integrating but on how the tool enhances learning for the student. Lessons must still be comprehensive and rich, exciting and interesting, purposeful and goal-oriented. However, now the lesson can be enriched with collaborative work through messages posted in Edmodo or by a Wiffiti backchannel discussion during class. A student who has an idea can look up additional resources on the Internet and access a global smorgasbord of knowledge. Or, the student can simply note the due date of an upcoming test and continue to focus on the class discussion knowing that this important date is in a secure and easily accessible location.
Teachers need support through this process. It’s important for schools to recognize the needs for the campus technology integration support specialist who can encourage, persuade, support, guide, and, yes, sometimes console them as they come to understand the realities of BYOT/BYOD and what that means for their classroom. However, teachers need this even if there is not BYOT/BYOD policy in place because our students need to be taught and supported using the very best of what we know. In today’s world, that means using technology as a support tool for learning. It’s my hope that Mr. Stager is not implying that any new initiative that strikes anxiety among teachers should be shot down. Instead, the approach is to listen and learn from the concerns and ensure that the initiative addresses them so that the students receive the best academic program available.