Looking at BYOD From All Sides

In recent years many educators have taken the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” stance when it comes to technology in the classroom. Instead of continually patrolling the classroom for texting-under-the-table offenders, teachers have shifted their pedagogy and adopted a BYOD (bring your own device) or BYOT (bring your own technology) policy in the classroom.

This policy has proven successful even–or especially–in underprivileged districts that don’t have the resources to provide technology to students. Socioeconomic levels don’t seem to significantly impact cellphone ownership. A 2012 New Media Consortium Horizon Report revealed that 61 percent of Americans age 12 and up own a mobile device, and 44 percent own a smart phone. Other potential pros are that students may be more likely to engage in learning lesson content when their own technology is integrated into the activity, while simultaneously increasing their digital literacy.

However (you knew that was coming), educators caution that a BYOD policy must be implemented with specific and diligently enforced boundaries around when, where, and how devices can be used during class, as they can easily become a distraction. Students also need guidance in vetting the information gleaned from the Internet when using it as a resource, requiring some preparation on the teacher’s part to find sources and limit where students are searching. (Read more about the Pros and Cons of BYOD.)

I have seen technology used effectively in many classrooms and many situations. Inquiry By Design encourages and incorporates technology and internet use: most notably the Search and Study strategies in our Close Reading of Informational Texts microcourses. But the biggest drawback for me is the tendency to let technology usurp human interaction in the forms of speaking and listening (which, ahem, are part of our standards).

I recently spent time in a classroom where students were accustomed to working regularly on iPads using Google docs and other shared applications. They had been reading a book together as a class and the teacher asked them to discuss a reading response question at their tables and then to record their ideas in the form of a claim on their iPads. I, and the other observers, noticed that very few students discussed the question at their tables as directed, but rather went straight to their iPads. Looking over their shoulders I realized that several of the students were, in fact, discussing the question through their shared document. They were typing their conversation rather than verbalizing, even though they were sitting right next to each other. It was actually a little weird. When our use of technology is hindering communication more than helping it, I would say we are leaning in the wrong direction.

Despite students’ apparent tech addiction, a recent study by Naomi Baron, linguistics professor at American University, surprisingly affirms that the majority (92 percent) of students still prefer to do “real reading” on the printed page.

Other key findings by Scholastic reveal that while the percentage of children who have read an e-book has increased across all age groups since 2010 (from 25 percent to 61 percent), the majority of children who have read an e-book say most of the books they read are in print (77%). Nearly two-thirds of children (65%)—up from 2012 (60%)—agree that they’ll always want to read books in print even though there are e-books available.

As educators we have a history of jumping on the swinging pendulum and riding it to the extreme. As we look for useful ways to incorporate technology into our classrooms, let’s continue to be cautious of technology for technology’s sake.

Do you have a BYOD policy? How have you effectively incorporated technology in your classroom? Share your successes and questions in a comment!