I think there has always been a part of me that thinks of the worst possible case in any scenario and this certainly holds true for what content students will access in schools. Despite this I think we have to accept at some level that this almost impossible to control and that our most effective defense against is not to barr use, but to teach responsible practice. If we can promote educational tools, teach digital citizenship and inspire creative uses for technology we will be far better off. That said I think before I would allow student BYOD access I would have every students complete a course on digital citizenship, with a test at the end. I don’t think this would be hard to create, and it could even be part of a school goal. I think this may also go a long way to ease any parents with concerns.
There is no doubt in my mind that our personal devices can provide endless, mindless distraction. From Netflix to Angry Birds, texting to Candy Crush, I will never be bored waiting in a lineup again, and I suppose the potential for distraction is increased as we promote students to bring these devices into our classrooms. Realistically, I’m not sure the device is the problem. We can’t force students to be engaged during a boring lesson. I have always believed that the onus of engagement rests on the educator at the pedagogy they are using to engage the learning. Is the assignment, meaningful, relevant, practical, does it have an element of inquiry or personal choice and buy in? I consider myself perfectly capable of sitting in certain meetings, listening as information points are read, while I distract myself with my phone. While some may perceive this is rude, the reality is that if I am required to be personally engaged in the discussion all distraction will evaporate. Some people doodle, others day dream, I don’t think we can expect 100% engagement unless we provide an activity that is engaging.
I remember the paranoia that preceded Y2k. Many experts believed that our world would collapse as we entered a new century.20th century technology would not be able to adapt to the transition in a 21st century world. I feel much the same about bandwidth. The reality is I don’t know exactly what will happen if we increase student BYOD access to our network. From the recent discussions that I’ve had with my colleagues in these past weeks, this is not necessarily a problem and I suppose if it were to become one, solutions could be explored to deal with it. In any case I don’t think there is any sense blocking an important and positive learning technology based on a paranoid fear of an unknown factor.
One of the most powerful ideas to come out of our BYOD seminar this week was the idea of a blended BYOD program. The idea being that schools promote students to bring their own devices and in turn school provided technology is used to provide devices and access to technology tools for students who don’t have their own. What I like about this is that schools still must invest and commit to technology, instead of simply using BYOD policies as a cost cutting measure and an excuse not to invest and support technology education. Also this provides a diversity of different devices which may be capable of producing wider display of student output.
In conclusion, I have simply run out of excuses not to pursue and adopt BYOD. While I don’t believe that the responsible promotion and introduction of BYOD program requires careful planning, student, parent and teacher communication, the benefits to student learning far outweigh not making a constructive effort to work around the negatives. No more excuses, its time to make this happen.