Topic: Will the idea of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) help or hinder education?
It’s Thanksgiving week, so I thought that this week’s #edchat would see a much smaller and more intimate group of regulars. Wrong! Yesterday’s conversation was just as frantic and bursting with insight as every week. I guess that’s what keeps us coming back for more. I saw one tweet saying that this was the best break; the best way to recharge your batteries, and although I can’t exactly describe #edchat as relaxing, it definitely gets your education motor running strong.
In the interest of full disclosure here, I figure I should remind readers that I am not an educator. I don’t teach students, and I have very limited experience being in charge of even a small group of them. And, of course, I work for a company that feels very strongly about integrating mobile devices into education. So naturally I approached this conversation thinking that BYOD can definitely help education.
What I found is that I am not alone in thinking this. That’s no surprise, of course. Those that participate in #edchat are a progressive bunch, generally far ahead of your average teacher on the tech curve. They’re here because they already know that new technology makes some amazing things possible. So would we waste an entire hour congratulating ourselves and agreeing with each other?
Again, the answer should be obvious. Of course not! Nobody does #edchat for the glory. They sign on every week to share insights and increase their own supply of knowledge and great ideas. In other words: they get down to brass tacks, and that’s what we did this week.
Very quickly, it seemed, the overall topic was already decided, and the discussion turned to what difficulties might arise when instituting a BYOD policy in a classroom or in an entire school. There were three main objections raised, and I will go through each of them in the next section.
Main themes from the discussion:
- How do you handle all the tech issues that will inevitably arise? This one was brought up almost immediately. Probably in the first few minutes. You see, some teachers are already dealing with classrooms that are BYOD, and they know that when students have electronics in front of them they will naturally have questions and need help. How is one teacher supposed to plan lessons that are compatible with every conceivable platform? How is one teacher supposed to find the time (and the expertise) to solve every conceivable problem?
- Fortunately, many of these teachers also proposed solutions. Some had found that students could generally solve problems on their own if instructed to do so. Others found that putting student groups in charge of troubleshooting specific devices freed up valuable time. A few admitted that they were quietly trying to learn everything they could about all the most common devices. I think a combination of these approaches could go a long way. The important thing would be to make it a school-wide strategy. We can’t have some teachers holding students’ hands all the way and others expecting them to walk on their own. It needs to be consistent.
- How do you level the playing field for those students who can’t? This was another issue that was brought up rather quickly. I think it’s a valid one, but also one that can be misleading. Sure, we want to equip all students the best way we can, but the fact is that schools have differing resources at their disposal. And so do students. But do we handicap everyone in a class because some people can’t afford to bring in their own iPad or smartphone?
- Again, many teachers chimed in with some great suggestions. It was pointed out that for every laptop, smartphone, or tablet that one student brings, that frees up one from the school for a student who needs it more. I think that’s an important point, and one that should not go understated. Every little bit helps. It’s also easy to forget that many of these resources can be shared by several students with little loss in productivity, as long as they can work effectively in groups. But the bottom line is that some money will need to be spent by many schools to provide resources for those students without them. That seems inevitable.
- How do you keep your classroom safe and on track? This point didn’t get made until a little later in the discussion, but it’s still a valid one. How does a teacher, looking out at a sea of faces behind computer monitors, tablets, or smartphones, know who is working and who is playing? How do they keep everyone focused and productive? And how do they make sure that those “distracted” students aren’t digging around on the internet for illicit material? Both these questions are ones that I, personally, am unequipped to answer.
- I do know, however, that both tech people and teachers are pretty darn smart. Sure, a student here or there might be able to slip through the cracks and play solitaire instead of participating once in a while. But students will always find ways to zone out – and teachers will always notice. Similarly, I’m sure that a school’s tech team could find a way to police what gets accessed online by multiple devices if they put their minds to it. Every problem has a solution, even if its imperfect.
My favorite tweets from the discussion:
mikevigilant: LOL that’s today’s #edchat topic? In my state it’s *illegal* to BYOD to school! Might need to fix that first!
teacherdebra: #BYOD implies teacher is not the expert in the room; this is a shift teachers have to make. #shifthappens #edchat
jasongraham99: Teachers also need some lessons from the kids. Got a G10 teaching me about iMovie at the moment. #edchat
TestSoup: I wonder why it becomes the teacher’s responsibility to help a kid with whatever tech he brings? Why not let them figure it out? #edchat JJW
TestSoup: In HS, I could bring in any calculator I wanted, but my teacher told us that he could only troubleshoot TI-83s. It worked. #edchat JJW
MertonTech: I am constantly amazed at how few people, even with the internet, learn to do small things for themselves. #edchat
MertonTech: Imagine how much less you’d have to pay people to do simple things if you had 2 more hours a day for #education. #edchat
(Sorry if I seem like I was a little self-serving this time with my favorite tweets. This week’s discussion was so fast and frantic that I fear I missed some of the best tweets that weren’t directed my way or a response to a conversation I was following. I strongly recommend looking up the archive, when it’s up.)
To follow the complete discussion, look for the full archive here.
Looking to discuss #edtech in depth? Check out the LinkedIn group: Edutech Trends, Visions, Passions.
New to #EdChat?
If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 400 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts:
- If you would like to join others in transforming the discussion into action, please feel free to join the Edchat group on the Educator PLN ning.
- Jerry Swiatek does an incredible job of posting each archived transcript on the #edchat wiki created by Steve Johnson. This way you can look back at your favorites!
- Find previous summaries here on this blog – see #edchat category on right sidebar
- Follow other Edchatters and make sure you are on this Twitter list if you participate in #Edchat!
- Read summaries of the 7pm EST/1 am CET Edchat discussions.
If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat.
What do you think? Leave a comment! We would love to hear from you.