Ryan Petersen

Mar 29 2012

Why BYOD Makes Sense for Schools

“Bring your own device” is a hot topic among educators these days, and for good reason: We just can’t seem to live without our mobile devices.

We all love our gadgets. Mobile devices have become such a part of our everyday lives that it's hard to go through dinner, much less a workday or school day, without turning to them for information, communication and entertainment. Even my 2-year-old daughter recognizes the appeal of the "'Angry Birds' machine" that my family can't seem to resist for more than a moment.

I think that's the biggest reason why so many educators and technologists are talking BYOD. We just can't live without our devices. And why should we? Many students are asked to leave theirs out of the equation when at school. But does that make sense? Several educators I've spoken to have raised the important issues of security, bandwidth and equity — and for good reason. But the "bring your own device" discussion is unavoidable, with schools struggling to find money for ­the technology they need to better teach and communicate with students.

Edina Public Schools in Minnesota, for example, opted for BYOD ­because its regular computing labs and notebook computer carts simply weren't meeting teachers' and students' needs. Its two middle schools have multiple computer labs full of desktop PCs, but for two to three months out of the year, those computers are booked for state assessments. Besides, learning is more immediate and organic if students stay in the classroom and use their own devices, says Secondary Technology Integration Specialist Michael Walker.

"Instead of walking down to the lab to 'do technology,' ­having immediate access in their classrooms makes more sense. It's better use of instructional time," he says.

Something for Everyone

Meanwhile, David Fry, the technology ­coordinator at Hanover Public School District in Pennsylvania, says the recent release of the Amazon Kindle Fire gives him hope that the district may one day be able to afford a one-to-one computing program for students. "I'm hoping that as these devices get cheaper, we will get to the point where the district can afford some sort of device for everybody," he says.

But with tight budgets, Fry foresees his district and others implementing a hybrid approach of one-to-one computing and BYOD for now. "The sweet spot, from a financial standpoint, is convincing as many students [as we can] to bring their devices to school, and then we buy enough to have on hand for the rest of the students," he says.

This issue offers many examples of how schools are tackling BYOD's challenges. To learn more, read our feature on the one-to-one transformation. And then hear from school leaders who are finding BYOD success in our webinar at 2 p.m. Eastern on May 3. To register, go to edtechmag.com/k12/webinar.

<p>Matthew Gilson</p>