Perhaps one of the most interesting discussions at this afternoon’s Dell Vision session, centred around the ‘Bring Your Own Device/BYOD’ old chestnut. It was interesting both because I found schools who were going down that path, and also to see the response from people who are not. I know it’s a polarising topic, but it never ceases to amaze that the old issues of control are amongst the first to surface.
For those playing at home, BYOD is a debate that has been raging – particularly in the US – around whether or not schools should allow students to bring their own devices and to interact with school networks, rather than be confined to school owned devices. Up until recently (probably this afternoon, to be exact), I’ve been fairly much on the fence; but the conversation this afternoon has pushed me into the pro camp for a few reasons:
- It’s coming regardless – The Horizon report has been flagging BYOD for some time, but it is actually starting to happen with Universities and some schools starting to play in the space, as well as some employers. I know there are issues around security (both data and network), but when the door bell starts ringing we need to at least peek through the peep-hole
- It makes financial sense – In the wake of the eternal ‘bad economy’ rationale, schools are increasingly being asked to do more with less. We don’t necessarily provide pencils to every student (unless they are unable to provide their own, in which case there are options to ensure equity), so why – when technological devices are the 21st Century answer to pencils – should schools be continuing to provide devices that are often less technologically advanced than the devices that the kids have in their pockets or school bags?
- It’s about the pedagogy – This is the most important for me, and the bit of the conversation today that pushed me off the fence. When you don’t have a standardised platform in front of you, you can’t set a PowerPoint presentation as your assessment piece; you can only ask for a presentation and rely on students to express that in the way that best suits the unique combination of task, context and personality. Without the comfort of a standard piece of software, there is the potential that the teacher might not know how to do a particular task in the student’s chosen software package – this also provides the potential for teachers to become learners alongside their students and to teach how to learn. This is surely the utopia that we as edTech pioneers have been searching for – a learning environment where it doesn’t matter what colour your notebook is, so long as you can take the notes; it doesn’t matter what device you use, so long as you complete the task.
There is still a lot of water to go under the bridge before we can do whole-scale BYOD in all classes, and a lot of work to do before we can adequately address the issues around data and network security; but for me, those are the only two issues worth talking about. The majority of the rest of the arguments can be neatly bundled into a bucket labelled ‘fear of lack of control’, which as I’ve discussed previously, we really need to get over.