BYOD in the classroom: preparing digital natives for the digital workforce

Posted by: Schepisi - Friday, November 07, 2014

Once considered taboo, being caught using your mobile phone during class was more often than not a good enough reason to delegate after-school detention! So why are schools now allowing, encouraging and even requiring students to bring their own devices into the classroom and integrate them with learning?

BYOD in the classroom

Preparing children for the 21st century workforce

We’re familiar by now with the revolutionary technologies that change the way we perform mundane and complicated tasks at work. BYOD in the classroom introduces students to the way of their future; it’s becoming significantly important in training the next generation of workers.

BYOD in schools makes traditional computer labs appear outdated

It can be difficult (not to mention expensive) to maintain a large computer network. BYOD devices are normally more robust and maintained so as they are running their most current (and secure) versions. 

Schools can take tremendous advantage in substantial cost savings: instead of having to provide a desktop computer for every student, existing devices - the students’ own - are used.

The reality for the education system is that many students already have access to a variety of devices, and BYOD in schools eliminates the need to purchase (and maintain) an “extra”, pre-existing device.

Flexibility in the classroom:

We've got to remember this vital fact - students of today are “digital natives”. This generation has three distinct qualities. Digital natives:

  • are born during or after the general introduction of digital devices
  • have grown up with them, and
  • are comfortable using them

How comfortable? Well, according to this article, the average American teenager sends 2272 text per month! Some teens even prefer communicating via text messages or social media, rather than face-to-face

Unlike digital natives, older generations - or “digital immigrants” - had to learn about and adapt to their new technological environments; they had a lot to get used to! 

The impact of Bring Your Own Device on education:

So after all that, what’s the outcome? Well, for one, education is now propelled by technology. Merging education and devices seems like ‘the way to go’ in this new age of technology (actually, it isn't even that ‘new’ anymore).

One U.S. teacher has found her students are participating more than students past, while another allows her class to use Twitter to ask a question or submit a comment that gets broadcast on a screen for all other pupils to see. This marries well with the research referred to above, where some teens prefer communicating digitally, rather than face-to-face. 

One traditional (and common) mode of teaching involves having a student read a passage of text before the teacher spends more time expanding on it, while students listen. This tried and tested technique often provides the perfect opportunity for kids to zone out and rapidly lose concentration. An active classroom keeps students engaged and participating in not only conversation, but research, too.

A BYOD program in schools needs support...

...and support comes in the form of not only technology and infrastructure, but from parents, students, and teachers alike. Case in point: Sydney Boys High School has recognised the exponential growth of personal devices in the corporate world, and that introducing this system to their students in Years 7 to 10 can help prepare them for their future in the technologically-fuelled workforce. They also want to grant students the freedom to use their own - preferred - device. They’ve also got a clear BYOD policy outlining rules and guidelines for students, parents and teachers.

Understandably, there are some concerns:

Parents are concerned about security: Sydney Boys School addresses this, and makes the following research observation:

Experience from the previous Commonwealth-funded Digital Education Revolution indicates that students who took care of their device ... rarely had device security issues (Source)

Parents are concerned about costs: many schools are stressing that BYOD should not be something that requires families to buy a brand-new product purely for this system. Instead, schools want to capitalise on devices that many students already own and use in their personal time, and integrate it into the school curriculum. 

Many schools also bring up the point that one good quality device can last the duration of the second half of students’ high school years.  

Parents are concerned about children who do not have their own devices: is there a solution? Does the school’s BYOD budget allow for such instances? Perhaps a number of devices that can be loaned? This needs to be set in stone before any changes occur: you must always be prepared for outliers! Another concern here is that this will only broaden the inequality divide between students and their families in the school.

How can BYOD be implemented properly?

This can be answered in just five words: it’s underpinned by a strategy. 

In many more words, though, your BYOD strategy needs to address the following:

- How will the devices be charged? (Do students need to bring their own chargers, too?)

- Where will devices be stored during lunchtimes, etc?

- Will students be connecting to the school’s secure WiFi network? (And will the school need to monitor usage? If so, how?)

- Who’s responsible for software and app updates?

- How will you keep sensitive and private data secure?

Keep it transparent:

BYOD in schools can be a bit of a shock to parents who aren’t fully familiar with the program, benefits, or purpose. Keep the communication channel flowing: schools considering or slowly implementing BYOD need to make it’s easy for people to get in touch with them for any further concerns or general questions and feedback. They also need to make sure that they’re constantly providing updates and the latest news to keep parents in the loop.

BYOD in the classroom, in short:

- Prepares students for the technologically driven workforce

- Makes collaboration with other students, classes and schools easier

- Marries with the growth and popularity of gamification (learn more about gamification here)

- Makes learning more fun and interactive; encourages participation

- Reduces school financial pressure

- Arms students with unlimited information

- Transforms learning from a passive activity to an active one

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