What is BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and Why Should Teachers Care?

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While the staggering pace of technological innovation has brought a multitude of opportunities to the world of education, it has also proven a great challenge for teachers and students. Two of the biggest issues that arise from technology-based forms of education: paying for gadgets that quickly become obsolete and getting students to focus on using electronics for learning — not social networking. Some school districts are suggesting a revolutionary approach to solving both of these problems: BYOD, or bring your own device.

How does BYOD work?

Under the BYOD system, classroom digital devices would not only be purchased by the school district; students would also have the option to use their own smartphones and tablet computers to complete class projects or access learning resources while at school. Bring your own device (BYOD) schools often ban devices among younger students but allow older students to bring their electronics to class. The BYOD option is typically introduced somewhere between eighth and tenth grade, although some schools only allow upperclassmen to bring personal devices to class.

Bring your own device (BYOD) schools typically have very specific policies concerning respectful use of electronics in the classroom. Websites such as Facebook and Twitter are often banned because they cause serious distraction. Students may be required to sign agreements restricting device use to certain times in the classroom. Those failing to oblige by the rules are banned from the BYOD program either temporarily or permanently.

Advantages of BYOD

Educators in favor of BYOD feel that it promotes greater participation in the classroom. When new technologies are incorporated into everyday learning, students quickly become more interested in the material, and thus more likely to succeed. Schools looking to remain ahead of the curve in terms of innovation find that the BYOD program fosters a positive image in the community and can work wonders in attracting students outside of district lines.

Economics also plays a huge role in the argument for the bring your own device system. Technology investments are expensive, especially given that new devices are likely to become obsolete in a few years. When students are allowed to bring their own devices to school, the district is not required to purchase as many tablets or laptops. These savings can then be directed towards other technological advancements, such as the acquisition of interactive whiteboards.

Concerns surrounding BYOD

The advantages of BYOD are certainly worth noting, but opponents claim that these benefits do not outweigh the negatives of this system. The main concern among teachers is that the presence of electronic devices in the classroom will promote distraction on the part of students. Although certain sites and applications may be blocked, tech-savvy students are likely to find ways around these restrictions.

Educators also worry that implementing bring your own device will increase the already significant divide between students from high- and lower-income families. While most BYOD schools allow low-income students to check out laptops or tablets, it is easy to distinguish between students who have their own devices and students forced to borrow from the school. Low-income students have always faced bullying because of their cheaper apparel, but this could take it to a whole new level. Opponents of BYOD feel that, if such devices are required in the classroom, all students should be on an even playing field.

Despite the many concerns voiced by opponents, the prevalence of student-owned devices in the classroom continues to grow. The decision surrounding this issue ultimately must be made while taking factors such as student performance, teacher training, community preference and financial viability into consideration. And for those schools choosing to implement BYOD, clear policies must be established so as to prevent online misconduct.

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