The entire schooling experience of any child born in or after 1995 has, or will have, occurred in the 21st century. Many of those who began school in the year 2000 are now in their third year of university. Others are now in the work force spread across the whole gamut of employment options. It’s not just computers, but NETWORKED devices that have ALWAYS been a normal part of their everyday lives. That’s worth emphasising: NETWORKED devices have been a NORMAL part of the life of the children of today forever, from their perspective.
Even so, it’s only now that schools are commonly opening to the idea of students being permitted to bring these devices to school. Finally students no longer have to leave the devices that they are so thoroughly familiar with at home. At last BYOD has arrived … but wait a minute! There are disturbing problems; heaps of them!
- What if students bring iPads to school and we don’t know how iPads work or we don’t know how to connect them to the network? No, we’d better exclude Apple gadgets (personally I prefer PCs anyway).
- What if students want to connect their iPhones or Android phones to the network? They might be texting their friends in class time instead of working! We can’t risk that, so we had better exclude phones, even though they would allow students to access the Internet anywhere anytime. If only we could trust students. Just imagine the learning possibilities today’s mobile phones would open up!
- What about if they don’t bring their devices to school fully charged? What will happen then? Disastrous! That situation never arose with text books did it? I can’t put this responsibility onto students can I?
- What if students rely on “Apps” instead of real software like MS Word and Excel? What are “Apps” anyway?
- How can I be expected to know how to use all the different devices that are available? Teachers have to be the ones to impart new knowledge to students … it’s always been that way! If students choose to use a device I am not familiar with then we can’t expect students to take on the responsibility to learn how to use it can we? That’s my job!
As the teacher, I must take full responsibility for all of this. I need to control what device students bring to school. I need to keep the ghost of computer rooms past and laptop trolleys alive! Pure BYOD is too risky, too hard. I need to tell students which device they have to buy and only let them bring that device to school. That will be practical, comfortable and keep everything under control. We’ll still call it BYOD, but what it will really be is BBYOSSSD (Buy & Bring Your Own Strictly School Specified Device).
There is no question that allowing students to bring any device they they have at home is more challenging, but really is it too challenging? Why can’t they bring to school the Android tablet that Uncle Bob bought them? What would happen if we just let them bring the devices they already have to school? What would happen if we just let them use these devices while we just get on with the learning?
Students already have these devices along with the skills to work out how to use them. What they lack is the opportunity to explore, themselves, how they can best support their learning using their devices. We can give them that opportunity if we choose to do so.
Instead of debating which devices we will allow students to bring to school, what if we just got out of the way and let them really B.Y.O.D.?
What about if the main questions schools felt they need to be addressing are about whether their network is sufficiently robust to support the connections of many students devices? Questions about bandwidth. Questions about supporting those students who, for whatever reason, do not have their own device.
If we leave behind our 20th century computer room and laptop trolleys thinking and just let students bring the devices they are using everyday at home to school, what would happen then? What could happen then?