We’re in the digital age where practically almost all students are digital natives and almost every student owns a device that they usually bring to class. So why not encourage students to use their devices as tools for learning? BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) classroom setups are very common nowadays, but there are a few aspects to consider before implementing them.
I’m imagining a school environment where students get to bring their own device, and they have access to different learning resources over the internet. I tried to BYOD when I was in college and the reactions of my teachers were mixed – some were totally open to it, while others were a bit cautious. In some educational systems where bringing devices to schools is a school offence, there has to be a change. I already know some students who want to BYOD because they find it very convenient. I think it’s just apropos that in a world where almost everyone can tweet, post a selfie, and basically own a mobile device, it should be the time to consider BYOD in schools, right? Well, here are some aspects school administrators might want to consider before implementing BYOD:
While there are schools with IT infrastructures ready for a BYOD setup, there are still those who can’t keep up with the others. I’d like to address here internet-readiness because for BYOD classrooms to be sustainable, schools must have a reliable internet source. There are countries, such as the Philippines, where internet speed is atrocious (around 3.55 Mbps). Apart from a reliable and fast internet, schools must also be ready to address working areas so students can work with their devices. Even tablet users still need a table to put their toys on it right?
There’s still this idea that mobile devices are a distraction to the students in the classroom because instead of being used for learning, students might just play games. But that is a 20th century thinking, when most handheld devices were Gameboys. Today is different. There are apps such as NEO, TED and Khan Academy downloadable from app stores. Teacher-student interaction is enhanced because there is content and information sharing. Blended classes greatly benefit from BYOD scenarios because most of the class instructional materials are on the cloud and all students need to do is to sync them on their devices. Sounds easy.
Of course, even if schools want to BYOD, are they really ready for BYOD? For schools to benefit from BYOD, they must have some level of expertise, resources and budget to effectively manage different technologies across various platforms. It’s not easy managing a class where students use different platforms. Teachers must be capable of handling problems such as basic troubleshooting on Android, Apple and Windows devices. School IT teams must also be competent and well-trained so they know how to deal with problems ranging from login problems with the LMS, improper device configuration, to device synchronization errors.
Existing school policies generally forbid the use of devices during class hours, and even if they allow it, they generally have no control over the content students use on their devices. According to Anywhere Learning Foundation’s Bruce Dixon, in his whitepaper entitled Bring Your Own Device To School, it is important to develop a clear policy for schools in conjunction with parents and students (well, at least in the primary and secondary level). He also added that school policies on BYOD should cover such areas as mandatory or optional laptop insurance, a process for reporting lost/stolen devices, a school’s personal software policy, and more importantly, a procedure for when devices are left at home.
Regardless of how well schools have cutting-edge IT infrastructure and school policies which reflect modernity, there still lies the issue of security from malware. Because USB thumb drives are a common way to share and transfer files and be a vector for malware, there has to be strict USB security policies implemented to prevent such malware from infecting and spreading to devices. There has to be measures to contain the malware and minimize any damages it might do. And in the worst-case scenario where a device gets infected, there has to be solutions to disinfect it without deleting personal files and system settings.
Practicality comes into play when discussing BYOD. The basic assumption is that schools which want to go BYOD should be able to afford and provide devices to students who don’t own one. Or, local government units can opt to subsidize funding for buying devices to be provided to school districts.
Today’s teachers know how to use Excel to compute grades or Word to create documents, but that’s not enough. Teachers must feel comfortable and confident managing a BYOD classroom. They must know how to teach with technology. These teachers don't just innovate – they transform.
Social media control
When I was in college I’d always tweet random things using any device I would bring to class. But now, schools must enforce policies on social media use during and beyond class hours. For example, policies may dictate that sites such as 9gag are not allowed during certain class hours.
Already, there are schools starting to play catch with BYOD. As a former student myself, I see the advantage of BYOD. It’s not about being in, it's not about joining the so-called e-learning bandwagon, but it’s about how schools and educators respond to change. Students are changing. Every one of us owns a device. So, now is the time for schools to change and apply BYOD. Trust me – it’s fun.
So, what are your thoughts on BYOD? Do you think it would do more harm than good? Post them below!