Wednesday, February 25, 2015

One librarians perspective on the BYOD debate

Recently, I read an article in NEA Today, written by Kinjo Kiema, regarding schools lifting bans on cell phones. According to the article, the New York City school district, the largest in the country with 1.1 million students, is ending its ban on cell phones in schools. 

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) debate has been raging for a few years now, as cell phones in the hands of students have become ubiquitous. Almost every student has them now, including middle school students. I’m not sure how prevalent cell phones are in elementary schools, but I know some young students have them.

The primary argument against cell phones is their non-educational use in class. Some educators believe that students will use their cell phones to entertain themselves rather than focus on what’s happening in class. For example, one teacher cited in the article states, “Students persistently use them a great deal for personal interactions via social media when they should be paying attention to what is going on in class” (qtd. in Kiema). 

The primary argument for cell phones is that everyone has one, so why not use them to their advantage? An elementary teacher notes, “We need to stop pushing against the technology and start embracing it….The more we push back, the more we separate ourselves from students. It is time to incorporate and collaborate instead of ban and punish” (qtd. in Kiema). 

So what’s the answer?

As someone interested in educational technology’s uses in the classroom, I am all for BYOD. I understand the qualms of teachers who are hesitant to allow students to use their cell phones. We must consider, though, that best practices would say that students should not have them out at all times, where students can definitely be distracted. Schools must have clear policies regarding device usage: where, when, and how. It can’t be the Wild Wild West out there where anything goes. The article mentions some schools in Michigan where signs are posted on doors indicating whether or not students can use their devices. Although not every teacher there is embracing the concept, at least some are, and this may lead to the resistant teachers to eventually embrace BYOD. 

I also want to stress that BYOD does not necessarily mean just cell phones. Many students have tablets, Kindles, and laptops. These must be part of the discussion also. You may also see the acronym BYOT, where the “T” is for technology. One common complaint about technology use in schools is that there is never enough to go around, especially when some computers are being repaired. This dilemma would be eliminated, or at least lessened, with BYOD/T. Students who do not have cell phones or other technology would be able to use the technology that’s available. 
There are so many things that can be cell phones and other technology that not allowing their use in schools is doing our students a disservice. We want our students to be technology-proficient, so why are we denying them the opportunity to be so? Sure, implementing this concept is going to have its headaches, but the payoff will be worth it.

To see some sample policies, follow this link.

Be empowered,

Like what you read? Read more from Scott at his blog Empowering the Natives

Work Cited
Kiema, Kinjo. “As School Lift Bans on Cell Phones, Educators Weigh Pros and Cons.” NEA Today. National Education      Association, 23 Feb. 2015. Web. 

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