With technological innovation spreading at a breathtaking pace, and today’s students fully immersed in the digital world, it not only makes sense for schools to incorporate tech devices as learning resources, but it’s critical. Students can have instant access to information. They can explore their interests, dig deeper into topics, and often do so in a way that doesn’t seem as mundane as an old textbook might. Students have access to video and music, interactive quizzes, and more.
But the cost of supplying every student with a laptop, or an iPad, or any device that may soon become obsolete, can be staggering. Even the savings of materials—switching from printed textbooks to digitally shareable ones for example—cannot offset the cost of a device, at least in the short term.
For many schools, BYOD is the answer.
How does BYOD work?
Under a typical BYOD framework, classroom digital devices are purchased by the school district, but students have the option to use their own smart phones or tablet computers to complete their class projects or access learning resources while at school.
BYOD presents a large number of challenges. For example, it may be difficult to limit student access to social networking or gaming sites while at school. But many feel the benefits far outweigh those concerns. Says Roger Broadie, a former teacher and now a consultant and board member of Naace, a UK-based IT teachers’ association, when asked about BYOD: “It means hugely more tools, hugely more resources and hugely more opportunities for collaboration and conversation. If children have a device in their pockets that can add to their learning, it would be a crime not to use it.”
The obstacles of BYOD
Distractions from websites, videos and social media are large obstacles. Some districts rely on web blocking technologies to prohibit access to certain sites, but computer-savvy students can often sidestep them. Signed contracts between schools and students are difficult to enforce.
But these challenges can be overcome, or at least reduced, with proper planning. Per Concordia Online University, in a 2015 article titled Pros and Cons of Allowing Digital Devices in the Classroom: “There are school districts that have seen great improvements by allowing the use of digital devices in the classroom. What is clear is that if such use is permitted, there should be guidelines and rules in place. Students should be taught online safety, the use of judgment in determining good quality sources of information, and restraint from personal use in the classroom.”
Additionally, a large number of BYOD devices can tax the schools’ wireless networking system, making searching for information frustratingly slow.
The benefits of BYOD
Many Educators find BYOD promotes greater participation in the classroom. Students often become more interested and engaged in the material, and some schools even report attracting students outside of their district lines.
But for most schools, the financial benefits are the overwhelming advantage of BYOD. Every device a student brings, is one less device the school needs to supply. When students opt to use their own devices, the district’s savings can be directed toward other needs.
Moving forward with Single Path
The majority of experts believe that the technical, teaching, security and managerial challenges will all be overcome, especially by schools who are more technologically attuned. Still, even these schools will need help designing and implementing a broad network for students to work wirelessly in the classroom, especially given the broadband requirements and access needs for students using a variety of devices with different operating systems.
At Single Path we are already working with school districts to implement networks, help craft restrictions and give advice on best practices. Many experts feel BYOD is an inevitable and crucial ally to learning. We agree, and are excited that we can help pioneer this new educational resource.