BYOD in Schools – High Definition Education?

BYOD in schools, Chris Gabriel looks at whether allowing school children to BYOD is a good idea or just a faddy notion.

There is an argument that the use of technology and new inventions, such as BYOD, “dulls the memory and results in people seeming to know much, while for the most part knowing nothing”. A chorus of approval might be heard from those who believe a good book, preferably a classic, can teach you all you need to know, and that a well written essay is a hallmark of a clear thinker; unless the book in question is Plato’s Phaedrus. Written around 2400 years ago it made precisely that point about a relatively new technology at the time - ‘writing’ and its partner in crime ‘reading’.

The point is that when new technologies appear and threaten to change the way we do things, there are many for whom this is unacceptable. The reason, more often than not, is the naysayers have spent much time learning and developing their modus operandi and, when they are presented with a new and/or easier way of carrying it out, it undermines their investment. The reaction is often negative.

BYOD in Schools - using 'grown up' tools

The first reaction when pupils brought phones and smart devices to school was to send a swift letter home reminding parents that school is a place for learning so please do not bring these devices to school. Presumably they were teaching our kids communication skills, how to research information and share it, all on tired PCs running Windows XP. Meanwhile their parents were at work grappling with a new smart phone that could handle e-mail, use apps to access the corporate sales database and play Angry Birds on the commute. At the same time, some of those parents were restricting their children’s access to technology; an hour a day, no more.

Then some really smart schools clicked. What tools will these young people be using when they enter the workplace? What do they use socially to communicate, research information and share? These schools understood that their pupils already had the user skills and, in many cases, the tools to receive a vast amount of information. They also realised that a pretty cool way of teaching their students would be to use the devices they already use to learn and communicate when not at school.

So BYOD in schools was born, and interestingly it seems that this market sector has it addressed in a way that others just do not – remember our BYOD research  showing that 78% of organisations do not have a BYOD policy? We will be elaborating on how schools have made BYOD work in further articles, but some of the issues they have overcome are:

  1. Security – child protection, exposure to viruses and malware, network vulnerability, and student etiquette and behaviour including cyberbullying.
  2. Equality – not every child may have access to smart devices. How is this managed sympathetically?
  3. Preparing for BYOD – training teachers, educating parents, developing user policies and managing expectations.
  4. Adopting best practices – finding an integrator, preparing the network, implementing security architecture and network policies, developing a network access strategy, and monitoring and managing activity.

The reality is students like using their personal devices, so they become engaged in whatever it is that they’re doing with them — including classwork, which becomes even more interactive when everyone has access to technology. Unlike a school-provided device, the personal device (and the desire to continue using it) goes home with the student. In this way BYOD in schools enables and fosters 24x7 learning.

This is not just a fad – a study in the US by the Jane Ganz Cooney Center saw an average 27% increase in vocabulary among five year olds after they used an education iPad app. A similar study showed a 17% improvement among three year olds.

One skill of all accomplished academics is not knowing all the information, but knowing where to find it. Library and research skills is a module taught on most degree courses. Go into any modern courtroom and the lawyers will be using electronic devices to find ‘the law’. The medical profession uses smart devices across all areas of practice, and business people access and respond to e-mail on the move and update the company database thousands of miles away from HQ while sitting on a beach.

Should we not then be allowing our children to use the tools they are already familiar with to access information in the same way the ‘grown up’ world does? What’s stopping us? In some cases, as we have seen, nothing.

Chris will be looking at a school in the UK where all staff and pupils have been provided with tablet devices, in a follow up post we'll also be examining how parts of  Arizona, USA have deployed BYOD in Schools.

Tags BYOD, IT trends, BYOD Education, digital natives

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