(Photo of Fairfax County Public Schools, February 2013, via Creative Commons)
More than half of U.S. adults have smartphone and a third have tablets. As advanced computing gets into the hands of more Americans, the utility in the workplace has given way to the bring your own device movement.
This phenomenon has been particularly prevalent in education, where BYOD has been accepted as a way to enhance education and improve staff productivity. Of course, not all schools or teachers are open to students bringing phones and laptops to class, and some still persist in prohibiting using personal devices during school in order to prevent distractions and keep students’ attention on the teacher, not social media. However, more and more educators are realizing the advantages of allowing students to use their devices.
Three advantages of BYOD include:
1. Increased Staff Productivity
One advantage for teachers and professors is that they are already familiar with the device they are using. This allows them to focus on getting work done—preparing presentations, emailing students, creating handouts—and spend less time figuring out how to work with a device they are unfamiliar with. Another advantage is the teachers will be more familiar with the technology as they present to their class, avoiding wasted time getting help connecting a laptop to a projector, for example.
2. Engage Students in Active Learning
The traditional classroom format involves a student reading information presented in the textbook and then having the teacher expound on that information. This is a very passive form of learning that makes it easy for students to stop paying attention, and then try to catch up through their homework and studying for the exam. Technology, on the other hand, would allow teachers to use a more active form of learning.
3. Cater to Interests with Greater Flexibility
Oftentimes a student’s or teacher’s personal device will be more advanced than a school’s technology because updates for large systems take a lot of time and are expensive. This means that students can be more creative in their assignments if they can use a personal device to create a video or document a project with photos than they could if they were limited to the school’s PowerPoint software.
This is why the Kahn Academy model is getting so much attention.
The model allows more variety in student options and allows school districts to do more with less, when devices are available. Think of the savings boasted by Howard County in suburban Baltimore.
The biggest concern when students and teachers use their own devices is whether this will encourage increased a further inequality between the students with access to more advanced tools with faster speeds and the newest applications and those in lesser situations.
Subsidizing these efforts and offering scholarships or other ways for students to reach an agreed standard can help, but it’s still another way for wealthier students to get ahead.
Security is probably the number one challenge when it comes to BYOD — as enterprise organizations already know. IT managers for schools will have to determine how to control who has access to the school’s network and how to keep sensitive data shared within that network secure. It’s a real fear for governments of all kinds.
Networks will have to adapt in real time to the demand of multiple devices students and teachers carry with them and use throughout the day. It also means managing users and devices becomes much more complex when devices can connect in various locations and through various means.
Keeping the IT budget under control while handling the demand from a surge of devices is, of course, a challenge for any organization.
Schools are under constant scrutiny to improve student outcomes and justify any increased spending. Thus, adopting a BYOD policy will require a clear outline of the benefits for students in order for such a plan to be approved in the first place.-30-
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