To BYOD or Not BYOD, That is the Question

“As the link between the use of personal devices and learning has crystalized in recent years, the question is no longer whether to allow them in the classroom, but how to most effectively integrate and support them” (Johnson et al., 2016).

As an instructional technology coordinator on a K-8 public school campus, I have had many heated debates about this topic: Should we allow students the ability to bring their own devices to school? I have held my ground for years. Yes. Without question. Yes. To do anything else would be a disservice to their development as 21st-century learners, and inevitably, citizens.

But, how can I be so passionately for something that has so many angles in which to cause concern? That is because I firmly believe technology usage, especially in an academic setting, needs to be taught. It needs to be taught to the students like any other skill; how to enter a classroom correctly, how to put a heading on a piece of paper, where to turn in papers, how to make a line in the hallway. Students do not come into Kindergarten knowing these skills. A teacher took time and energy to not only teach them the expectation but to practice that expectation over and over again until it became ingrained.

Students do not come to us knowing how to write an essay or work collaboratively. These are taught skills, just like their technology usage should be.

Here are my top five concerns I am met with on the subject and my response to them.

Number 1: The technology will just be a distraction when I am trying to teach.

“Worse, the designers of operating systems have every incentive to be arms dealers to the social media firms. Beeps and pings and pop-ups and icons, contemporary interfaces provide an extraordinary array of attention-getting devices, emphasis on “getting.” Humans are incapable of ignoring surprising new information in our visual field, an effect that is strongest when the visual cue is slightly above and beside the area we’re focusing on” (Shirky, 2014).

This is a common complaint about technology (not just BYOD) in the classroom. It is so bright…and shiny…and great… OH MY I MUST LOOK AT IT! (Please, forgive my humor.) I have seen this phenomenon with my own eyes. As soon as the screen is placed in front of students and starts glowing, you the teacher are lost to the background. I get it. However, this is procedurally problem, not a technology one. Procedures in the classroom need to be put in place (at any age) on when and how the technology is to be used. I have encountered many different ways to combat this problem to include:

  • Flipping over and closing lids for the first X amount of minutes of class so full focus is on directions.
  • Having a red, yellow, green light system when each color represents a different position of technology. (Red everything is away, yellow it is within reach but flipped or closed, green is you are good to go)

    Link Here

Number 2: We just don’t know what they are actually doing while on the technology.

True. But there are safeguards now-a-days that can help prevent naughty online behaviors. If a BYOD system is rolled out correctly, then the school would essentially create a student wi-fi access point that would block certain hazardous websites and apps. Also, if all the technologies are on the same wi-fi, there are monitoring systems out there for little to no money that can monitor real time what the students are up to. Examples of this include:

There really are so many choices out there that this is almost a non-issue.

Number 3: Multi-tasking is not a real thing. If we let them bring their own devices won’t they be tempted to multi-task and therefore not be as engaged in their work.

“Students who tried to listen to the lecture while using these distractive windows had significantly lower scores on homework, projects, quizzes, final exams and final course averages than students who looked at mostly productive windows” (Weimer).

Also, valid point… Hold on, some just texted me. Oh wait, I got an email. Dang, Facebook notification. See, we as adults even have this problem. But instead of my husband grounding me from my phone (haha, he wishes) I have to learn how to manage my time. Therefore, I view this concern a lot like I view number 1. This is a skill that has to be taught. I personally spend some time teaching my students different ways to manage their digital time. My favorite way is to teach them to use The Pomodoro Technique. (If you have never heard of it, check this out. It changed my whole homework time). There are also a ton of apps and extensions that can be downloaded onto devices that can block out “distracting sites” for a predetermined amount of time.

Number 2: But not all the students have their own devices. Those students are going to fall behind.

This is true, not all students are fortunate enough (if you view it that way) to have parents that can buy them technology to bring to school. However, I have worked in very poor inner city schools, as well as poor rural schools and somehow a large majority of these students still have phones. (A different topic of conversation.) But alas, this still means that, yes, not all students are going to have the technology. This brings me to my conviction that this is where school districts need to step in. School districts that provide computers or tablets to students along with BYOD initiatives are “enabling students to learn using the technology with which they are already familiar and comfortable, providing them with a greater sense of ownership over their learning” (Johnson et al., 2016). If districts allow for BYOD that could essentially save them money in purchasing and the upkeep of enough computers for school-wide use and therefore free up funds to be able to help provide technology to those students who do not have access by their own means.

Number 1: I don’t even know how to use the technology, how am I suppose to integrate it when the students are way above my comfort level.

I am not blind to the fact that not all teachers are master technology wizards. In fact, most teachers I have met (even younger ones) are apprehensive on some level to integrate technology usage into their curriculums. However, I am unwavering in my opinion that if we do not teach them the proper ways in which technology can be used for academic purposes, we are truly doing them a disservice. My advice to teachers who deliver this concern to me get the same response every time. Start off small. You do not have to go full BYOD or online classroom right out of the gate. Find one little technology piece you can embed into your already established lesson. 12 Easy Ways to Use Technology in the Classroom, Even for Technophobic Teachers or Top 22 Ways To Use Technology in the Classroom. Pick something, anything, and see how it goes.

Also, for your viewing pleasure, an Adobe Spark outlining some pros and cons to going BYOD.



2 thoughts on “To BYOD or Not BYOD, That is the Question

  1. Your post is truly inspirational. You took a great number of articles which discusses the subject and through good design and formatting of text, laid out a well crafted argument. Your use of bold type face, links to further information and webpages, and the BYOD stoplight, made it clear, organized, and easy to read and understand.

    I noticed that your approach to students who do not have outlines the role in which the school district should step in and support the students. Your style of writing also made for an amusing read, as the added voice in section three made for a more personal take on a subject we seemingly only applied to younger students. Also, I noticed, the numbering went 1, 2, 3, 2, 1. Perhaps ranked by importance?

    I often wonder what the ideal technological integration would look like. If I gave you 1 million dollars to spend on anything learning related – what would that money go towards? What is the ultimate objective of the space, and how does the additions add to towards that goal? Would this new learning space provide devices or tools, or require learners to bring their own device? I am not sure whether BYOD is an answer to a learning challenge, or a financial challenge..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Ashley,
    I have almost the same exact title for my blog post–haha. I guess the old great minds think alike saying is true. But in all seriousness, you bring up some excellent points in your post. I like how you present counter arguments to common complaints on BYOD. In terms of point #3 (MULTI-TASKING IS NOT A REAL THING. IF WE LET THEM BRING THEIR OWN DEVICES WON’T THEY BE TEMPTED TO MULTI-TASK AND THEREFORE NOT BE AS ENGAGED IN THEIR WORK), I think if tasks are well designed and if technology is integrated in a meaningful way, the possibility of students getting off task or distracted will hopefully be mitigated. Also, your Adobe Spark is awesome!


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