“Bring your own device” (BYOD) is more than a hot topic in education technology; it’s a revolution. Many of today’s students already have a mobile device, such as a smartphone, tablet or notebook computer, and some have more than one. Although some district IT leaders view this reality warily, others see it as opportunity to allow students to empower themselves — both in the classroom and at home.
As mobile devices become even more affordable and widespread, schools will find they have no choice but to include student- and teacher-owned technology in their long-range IT plans.
Because many schools, colleges and universities around the country are following the BYOD movement with deep interest, EdTech: Focus on K–12 hosted a webinar on the subject on May 3, 2012. “The Best of BYOD: How to Prepare Your Network and Your Stakeholders” convened a panel of BYOD innovators in both K–12 and higher education to share their best practices and answer audience questions about some of the most pressing issues institutions face when they roll out a program.
Alex Inman, director of information services for the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., moderated the hour-long event, which also featured remarks from Bailey Mitchell, chief technology and information office for Forsyth County Schools in Cumming, Ga.; David Jakes, coordinator of instructional technology at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, Ill.; Raechelle Clemmons, chief information officer for Menlo College in Atherton, Calif.; and Marla Clark, managing editor of EdTech. (Read more about the presenters here.)
According to Mitchell, elementary schools are leading the BYOD charge. Younger students aren’t transitioning to mobile devices; they have grown up with them. As they approach middle and high school, they will depend even more on these devices.
This is where the schools come in.
All of the presenters acknowledged that BYOD presents certain challenges. For instance, bandwidth has to increase dramatically to fully support the demands an influx of student- and teacher-owned devices place on a network.
Bandwith is big hurdle.The more you provide, the more students use! - @rclemmons
— EdTech K–12 Magazine (@EdTech_K12) May 3, 2012
Content filtering is another concern, given the requirements of the Children’s Internet Protection Act. Devices enabled with 3G and 4G capabilities can bypass filters, giving students access to potentially inappropriate content at school. The panel agreed that teachers, parents and students must work together to manage this challenge responsibly.
The fact that not every student has his or her own device is equally problematic — and a cultural challenge that must be tackled in the classroom. Schools can provide a pool of “loaner” devices, but the panelists agreed that for those who cannot afford to do so, group projects offer an excellent work-around. Not only do group projects promote collaboration, students can use devices to which they might not otherwise have access.
The panelists also emphasized that successful BYOD programs are driven by pedagogy, not by the devices. Mobile devices can empower student learning, but only if they are leveraged properly.