Sunday, August 7, 2011

Student Owned Devices

Student owned devices, and their use in the classroom, are becoming a hot topic on Twitter and in education circles that I'm part of.  Generally speaking, the people I talk to tend to be in favour of them.  That being said, however, thats possibly because the people I'm talking with tend to be of a similar mind to me :)

There have been some reasonable arguments against allowing students to bring in devices into the classroom which I would like to explore.

First, my position:  I firmly believe that, issues aside, allowing student devices to be used in the classroom will better promote a technological literacy in students, as well as better engage them in their own learning.

Now, the issues "we" have to work out as a school and education community:

1.  It's too hard to manage.  This issue has popped up the most of any and I can totally see the perspective of the people commenting on it.  It's usually network administrators or IT support people who say this and they absolutely have a point.  Having managed two school networks before I can understand the difficulty of having to deal with different configurations, abilities, settings and systems all the while keeping everything working.

Possible solution:  Set a standard for your school - we will support XYZ for this task, and XYZ for that one.  Then, when teachers want to use another device, have them implement and support it themselves.  Of course, offer support when it's convenient and continue working towards improving the "standard", but for heavens sake don't tell everyone "You can't use this because we can't support it".

2.  Not everyone has a device.  This gets sticky because it can show obvious levels of wealth and split students into categories.  It also causes students to go home and say "Mr. Campbell says we HAVE to have a cell phone in class" when that's certainly NOT what I said.

Solution:  Other than the obvious piece that everyone already KNOWS the have's and have not's in the classroom because students share and use cell phones constantly outside of the classroom, I have found that when devices are used grouping students tends to work best.  I will say "Okay, I need 5 phones, who will volunteer to use their phone to be part of a group".  This allows students to hide behind "I don't want to use my phone" rather than "I'm the only one in my group that doesn't have one."

3.  PD issues.  This goes along with "we can't support it" in that teachers can begin to expect that they HAVE to use these devices without any training, and then get upset because they aren't used effectively.  A very valid concern and one that needs to be addressed quickly after initiating a student owned device program.

Solution:  Provide very simple activities for the less "techy" amongst the teachers that doesn't require any serious support.  Also make it clear that this is not an expectation (yet?) in the school and therefore, to try what they want or ignore it completely.

Hopefully we can work past these (and other) complaints so as to utilize the tools that most of our students already have...


  1. Just catching up on your comment on my blog now. I'm going to vivit a colleague at Meadowridge this fall. He's apparently made some good progress with BYOD. I'll let you know dates and maybe we can get a group together.

  2. Thanks! That would be great - it's always so helpful to see what others have done.