BYOD in the Classroom

Lindsey Lipsky M.Ed.

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Recently I went to a school on the outskirts of the Western Chicago suburbs to lead a Teacher Training in-service. What I saw in one classroom almost stopped me dead in my tracks. It was a sign about proper BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) use in the classroom.  I was amazed.

BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, refers to the policy of allowing students to bring their personal mobile devices, such as smartphones, laptops and PDAs into the classroom for use and connectivity while learning. A new approach to integrating students’ technology into the classroom, BYOD is slowly gaining ground in the K-12 arena.

So why was I stopped dead in my tracks by a sign? Almost three years earlier, as a special education teacher, my school enacted a zero tolerance policy for any and all cell phones. A common scenario in my classroom went something like this:

Me: “OK, John, I see the phone in your pocket. It’s actually blinking, and singing a lovely rap song for us.”
Student: “But, but, Mrs. Lipsky, it’s not FAIR. My mom tells me I need to keep my phone on me for emergencies. Besides, Elysha and Jake both have cell phones in their desks… See, they just texted me.”
Me: (laughing slightly) “Ok, guys, I’m sorry, but you know the rules. Hand over the cell phones, or put them in my top desk drawer for safe keeping. You can pick them up after school.”
Students: Groaning in unison, all get up to put cell phones in my desk.

In my school, it was no secret that students had cell phones at school.  An unspoken rule though was that as long as the phones were out of sight (or sound) during class time, they could be out of mind (and thus without punishment).  This was in stark contrast to the view of our Administrators, who if found phones on students, would provide harsh penalties.

Due to this, throughout my day, my desk drawers became littered with confiscated student cell phones and mobile devices; a proverbial graveyard of untapped technological learning potential.

Interestingly enough, a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center found that 78% of Americans aged 12 to 17 have cell phones, and nearly 1 in 4 (23%) of teenagers have a personal tablet. Another study found that 38% of kids under age 2 have used smartphones or tablets, Despite the fact that technology is becoming an ever-increasingly important aspect of kids’ lives, a June 2014 report by EdNET Insight found only “20% of elementary schools, 28% of middle schools and 40% of high schools” currently implement any type of BYOD policy in school.

Given the huge integration of technology into the lives of our students, why haven’t more schools begun implementing BYOD in the classroom? After all, aren’t more children today prone to using/having personal devices at home? To begin with, here are a few very valid and real barriers or concerns:

  1. Personal device inequities in the classroom (This is a biggie for me – how have others dealt with this? )
  2. Lagging Wi-Fi, or school bandwidth issues which make it difficult to support multiple devices on campus
  3. Need for more IT specialists and support  to help with increased tech demands
  4. A mind shift in general teaching practices, movement away from cell phone use as a distraction, to learning augmentation
  5. Need for broad behavior interventions and school regulations on proper use of technology

Despite the lengthy list of barriers to implementing BYOD, many schools have found that with successful support, tech integration, and training, BYOD can be an amazing tool for students. Some of the positives schools have seen when enacting BYOD on campuses include:

  1. More engaged students and learning environments
  2. A classroom that more closely mirrors outside technological realities and allows for good conversations/modeling of proper use
  3. Better collaboration across classes, students, parents and other teachers
  4. Differentiated learning that can extend beyond classroom
  5. Less cost associated with tech purchases like those for 1:1 models

Still interested in possibly implementing BYOD in your classroom? Get started by reading some of my favorite BYOD articles below:

What are your thoughts on BYOD in the classroom? Has your school begun implementing this concept? Why or why not? Leave a comment below, or let’s discuss on twitter @LindseyLipsky