The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) programs are currently being rolled out across schools worldwide in an attempt to bring the benefits of advancing technologies into the classrooms. The level at which these programs are being introduced is varying, some starting as early as prep or first year primary school, whilst others are rolling out the changes much later into the upper primary or early secondary years.
At recent cyber safety talks, I have been asked numerous questions about the BYOD programs. Many parents are finding themselves about to embark on sending their little preppies off to school on day 1 with a brand new ipad or tablet, purchased by themselves. Naturally they have concerns and questions about their feasibility, benefits, risks, challenges and safety. How do we maximise the benefits of the technology, whilst minimising the harm of a pretty big responsibility with increasingly younger children ? What do the teachers think about the devices in the classroom? And what must schools do to ensure they are still providing the best environments for children to learn?
The positive reasons for BYOD
- Teachers are able to engage students in a way that is relevant to them. It is a familiar tool that they have usually used outside the classroom and thus the transition is smooth.
- Allows for different presentations of work. More scope for the way information can be used and presented. i.e. essay form, video, slideshow etc.
- Encourages teachers to be flexible in their teaching methods
- There are lots of free apps, offering a lot of versatility
- Greater chance for more creativity even with ‘non creative’ subjects
- Less paper usage/wastage . Able to email class worksheets rather than printing, or use dropbox, Edmodo and other apps to share work
- Great for kids with literacy issues, learning issues and other disabilities
- No need to book computer rooms at schools, schools not having to fund and replace computers
- Not overwhelmed by paperwork, a lot of worksheets online can be seen as less daunting
- Develops students sense of curiosity. Always happy to google things to find answers
- Easy to transport/ lighter than heavy textbooks
The Potential Problems with BYOD
- Keeping them on track and avoiding the distractions will often be difficult
- Expensive, especially if you are sending a few kids to school (although many will argue that the costs are saved on text books and other stationary)
- Losing them……a tad more expensive than a lost school jumper!
- Breakage…those of us with boys have seen the way they throw their bags on the ground
- Lack of monitoring/understanding by parents of what their kids are doing with the devices when not at school
Considerations to minimise the bad and enhance the good
- A great chance to develop good digital citizenship and policy for schools and home use. The BYOD program would need parents to become more active in finding our what their kids are doing online and how they are using the technology.
- Teachers would need to have strict systems and boundaries in classrooms. i.e. no student opens an ipad/tablet until instructed.
- Teachers must be selective about how they use them and how much they devote to the technology and balance this with more traditional forms of teaching.
- Teachers would need to make sure they were not using the device as the sole teaching tool.
- Students still need to write in books.
- Teachers must maintain control in the classroom and this must be backed up by parents enforcing similar rules at home.
- Parents must continue to attend regular talks and presentations so they can keep up with the sorts of things kids are doing with the technology and stay in touch with the changes. They need to continue to monitor usage at home which requires a continued level of conversation and understanding
- It also needs to ensure that teachers are adequately supported and trained in the technology and that it isn’t taking them away from other valuable lessons and teachings.
Many secondary schools have been using devices as part of their teachings for some time now. To see what advice they had for parents and other teachers taking on devices in their classroom I have interviewed some teachers from both the public and private school systems. Here are some of their responses to working with technology in the classroom:
“I think BYOD at a primary level is a terrible idea. Firstly, the students are not mature enough to cope with the constant distraction that instant digital media/comms creates. Nightmare. Secondly, it will create competition and coveting for the latest device. And lastly, there are serious implications for privacy and security”
“Our generation has expectations for control that simply are outdated. Apps can’t be blocked for long enough as the students can find new alias sites as fas as IT can block. So we need to teach students to self manage device distraction. Handing them BYOD is like giving a toddler a loaded gun but saying ‘don’t fire it’. They don’t have the brain capacity/maturity to be consent of this until year 9 at least. Hence I don’t believe in iPads/laptops until Year 9 either. At best, parents can offer devices to young children at home and teach them appropriate usage- and how the brain learns, and how distraction works to hinder learning”
“Without a doubt- unquestionably- it is much much more difficult to teach with the technology”“Although most teachers don’t monitor apps, stay up to date. Simply b/c of time- we are expected to teach with the same outcomes- but really- we need 6 mths of planning time to re-create all courses for iPads/technology- noone has that- so it is incorporated. Technology always created more problems than it solves educationally. We use it when we want, but nothing can replace real human interaction, passionate teaching”
“There is a greater opportunity for kids to be off-task as it is very easy to toggle between games, texting and work set by the teacher. Internet research, presentation of work through a variety of means offered by the technology are all great advances and will prepare students for a world that is different from the one we experienced. It does however come at a cost. Faith in the veracity of what is found on the internet, exam response still written by hand and cyber dangers all still need to be considered”
“Using the internet for Business Management and Legal studies is extremely relevant and beneficial. Google for example have an excellent recruitment video that reveals a totally different work culture to other organisations. Videos become a great starting point for comparison and discussion”
“There are subject areas in which technology is more relevant and useful than others. In the humanities and LOTE areas I feel it is hugely overrated. If I had 2 French LOTE classes of equal ability and was allowed to teach one using textbooks and one using ipads I would back the former every time in terms of achieving better outcomes. Unlike 30 years before, textbooks now are lively, well written and full of diagrams, photos and pictures. The tasks and questions are of a high standard. Sometimes I feel textbooks are abandoned because it is “the thing to do”
“Whilst the technology at the moment is the conventional wisdom, in some circles, to doubt this wisdom puts one at risk of being labelled a dinosaur or perhaps not coping with change. This can make meaningful debate difficult”
The debate must continue however as more and more schools require kids to bring their own devices. We must continue to ensure that the problems we have been seeing with their use are addressed by students, parents, teachers and schools to ensure a smooth transition and an assurance that we are giving kids the very best of what the technology offers, without compromising the safety and effectiveness of their learning environment.
What are your thoughts about BYOD? What are the experiences of your children thus far? Would a schools policy on whether they adopted this program determine whether you would send your kids to a particular school? If you are a teacher, what are your experiences?