BYOD – Be brave!

The decision to move ahead with a policy shift to ask students to bring their own device (BYOD) was the subject of much concern and trepidation. As teachers responsible for the  learning of 180 middle school students, any potential added confusion gives you pause for thought. Many of the issues that we had been concerned about didn’t end up causing problems and we found some unexpected ones that we hadn’t considered.

Concerns that didn’t turn out to be issues:

  • Access to software that teachers needed (perhaps the greatest pre-BYOD worry) caused few problems with teachers switching to more web-based applications, specifically the use of Google Suite and online editing programs. Nearly everything we want to do is available online and students choose which application they want to perform the task. What software? What were we thinking?
  • Technical problems (the second greatest pre-BYOD concern) did not inundate the technical staff. Students know their own computers well and even though they bring a variety of PCs, Macs and tablets, rare technical issues are dealt with at home. A renewed focus on technological integration in the classroom was possible with the reduced focus by school staff on maintaining school computers.
  • Cell phones causing a huge distraction was a concern, and they in fact were and continue to be, however, no more or less than pre-BYOD. Cell phones (treated as a secondary device) are used at teachers’ discretion and have been incorporated more and more as a useful tool in classroom activities. Videoing (vlogs etc), capturing images of notes/homework and the use of reading applications such as Kindle are examples of common uses that have increased greatly. Under the desk texting still happens, but it is still less problematic than the parents texting at the wheel when picking students up from school. Texting restraint is a broader societal issue, not a BYOD specific problem.
  • Printing wasn’t a problem, as we asked students to do all printing at home. This saved time in class and resulted in much less wasted paper. It’s a good thing that student computers don’t link directly to printers with an inexhaustible supply of nice fresh paper, ready to print random articles during a quick Google search masquerading as research. Yes, no student printing at school is definitely a benefit, not a problem.
  • Forgotten computers were not an issue. In fact, in some cases, the computers were one of the only things that weren’t forgotten on a regular basis. With cloud-based storage there is less and less to forget to bring to school.
  • Lost and broken computers. Students treated their own devices more carefully than the school ones. We have a small stock of old ‘back-up’ school computers to use in case of emergency. This has been sufficient.
  • Wifi overload did not happen, at least any more than pre-BYOD.
  • Mayhem during online standardize testing was not experienced. The download by students of a secure browser was simple. Without the constant technical difficulties experienced when using communal computers, the process was easier after BYOD.

Unexpected issue:

  • Battery life and supplying electric outlets. We found that this has been the major problem derived from either short battery life on older computers or excessive gaming before school. This has been a self-correcting problem in many ways. If ten years ago, you had asked a student to draw a map of available electric outlets in the school, they would have looked at you blankly. Now, they can draw it from memory.

In short, we worried about many things, and experienced few of the woes that we had imagined. If you are considering BYOD and are concerned, be brave. You may be worrying for nothing.