The reasons why schools move to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) are all about creating better learning opportunities for students. At least, that’s how it would be in an ideal world! In the real world, one impelling reason for many Australian schools is necessity brought on by the end of Government funding. There is no longer any money for schools to update student devices. At our college, the newest of our school owned devices are in their fourth year while some, at six years old, are busy at the moment writing their Last Will and Testimony. None will be replaced! Did I mention that there is no money?
BYOD is our only sustainable option. While some teachers welcome BYOD, to others it feels like a Tsunami on their 2015 horizon! Why? There are many reasons, but I just want to focus here upon one. It is something we have seen before.
About 10 years ago or so, (I forget exactly), there was officially a big push for all teachers to shift from one size fits all curriculum and pedagogy to differentiated instruction. Many teachers were already catering for diverse needs within a classroom, but for those who were not, the idea of moving away from a one lesson plan for all students classroom was daunting. There were questions. How could the class be managed if everyone was doing something different? Can students be grouped? What will this mean for preparation time? What about assessment? What about expectations around Standards? How will I manage multiple resources? There was anxiety: ‘Before I knew exactly what I had to teach and now I am not sure!’ That was how some teachers felt when they first had to get their heads around how to differentiate instruction.
I see BYOD as just another facet of differentiation.
This does not apply to all BYOD though. When a teacher wheels in a laptop trolley, or whatever arrangement they have to provide access to technology, then all students are working on the same type of device, all using the same software. For schools with a Bring Your Own Strictly School Specified Device Only policy it is much the same. Both of these are one size fits all situations. They require minimal adjustment for teachers. The only real change is that previously teachers had to supply the devices and now the students have to provide them. The devices are still all the same with all the same software. Students are all still nicely contained. It feels like order and security have been preserved. No new skills are required by teachers.
Schools who encourage students to Bring Your Own (whatever device you like) Technology (BYOT) risk creating the situation described by the picture above. Students bring to school their own preferred devices. These are the devices students are familiar with and they use them in the ways they like to use those devices. Here the student, not the teacher, is in control of how students use the technology. Uncomfortable! There are uncertainties. There are questions. It feels like chaos at first. How can I be sure students have appropriate software? What if students don’t have MS Word or Excel or whatever other software I usually hang my hat on? What will we do then? I don’t know how to use an iPad so how can I allow them in my class until I do? How can students do a PowerPoint presentation if they don’t have PowerPoint? How can I be expected to know how to use all the different devices and software that are available? I’ll need new skills, but I don’t even know what skills. What exactly is an Android?
BYOT is just another facet of differentiation. Sure adjustments are needed, but these are less challenging than you might think. There will be no chaos. For teachers, there will be less focus on the technology and more on learning. Like the sound system at a concert, the technology will be present as an enabler, but not the focus.