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Report: Principal Support for BYOD Initiatives Nearly Doubled Since 2010

The number of principals who say they are unlikely to allow students to use their own mobile devices in class has dropped by nearly half in four years, from 63 percent in 2010 to just 32 percent in 2013, according to the latest report based on Project Tomorrow's annual Speak Up survey.

The latest report, "The New Digital Learning Playbook: Advancing College and Career Skill Development in K-12 Schools," relies on online survey responses from more than 400,000 teachers, administrators, students and community members to examine attitudes about technology's role in preparing K-12 students for higher education and the professional world.

The benefit of mobile devices in the classroom most often cited by both teachers and principals surveyed was increased engagement in learning, at 74 and 86 percent, respectively. Teachers in 1:1 classes and principals who responded were largely in agreement on other benefits of mobile devices in the classroom, though there were some differences.

One-to-one teachers, at a rate of 68 percent, identified access to online textbooks as the second main benefit of using mobile devices in the classroom, yet online books didn't even crack the top five benefits cited by principals. The benefit principals identified as the second largest, at 67 percent, was the ability to personalize learning for each student. Personalized learning came in third for teachers working in 1:1 classrooms, at 57 percent.

Other benefits of mobile devices commonly reported by teachers and principals included:

  • Mobile devices were cited as a way to extend learning beyond the school day by principals at a rate of 62 percent and by teachers at a rate of 54 percent;
  • Approximately half of principals (51 percent) and 1:1 teachers (46 percent) surveyed said mobile devices in the classroom help develop critical thinking and problem solving skills;
  • More than half of 1:1 teachers who took the survey said that mobile devices provide "a way for students to review class materials as often as needed" (56 percent) and that they facilitate "greater student ownership of the learning process" (55 percent); and
  • "Development of collaboration and teamwork skills" rounded out the top five benefits of mobile devices cited by principals surveyed at 47 percent. It came in eighth place for teachers in 1:1 classes at 42 percent.

"Interestingly, 50 percent of the teachers also saw the inclusion of mobile devices in the classroom as a catalyst for teachers to improve their own technology skills," according to the report. "This may seem counterintuitive to many districts who believe that teachers need technology training prior to the adoption of a one-to-one model in the classroom. Speak Up national data findings have repeatedly documented a linkage between teachers' development of a personal value proposition with digital tools and their subsequent greater interest in using those tools in the classroom. Based upon the views of the teachers who are on the front lines of mobile learning with in their classroom, it may make sense for teachers to learn how to use these devices within instruction alongside their students, rather than in a formalized learning environment that is beyond the class room context."

Teachers of all experience levels who took the survey indicated that topics associated with mobile devices were on their professional development "wish list." "How to differentiate instruction using technology" topped the list at about half, ranging from 51 percent for teachers in their first year of teaching to 44 percent among teachers with 4 to 15 years of experience.

"Identifying mobile apps" took third place for the professional development topic teachers are hungriest for with first-year teachers again expressing the most eagerness at a rate of 39 percent. Teachers with more than 16 years of experience were the least likely to say they want professional development around mobile app identification at 35 percent.

Using tablets rounded out the professional development top-five list at a range of 32-30 percent, and about a quarter of teachers said they'd like to receive professional development about implementing a blended classroom.

Other key findings of the report related to mobile technology include:

  • Use of tablets and 1:1 initiatives were the mobile topics principals were most likely to identify as "having a significant impact on transforming teaching and learning in their classrooms today," at 41 and 28 percent, respectively. Apps for the devices and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs came in third at 22 percent each;
  • 53 percent of principals surveyed said they had a school-provided tablet and 35 percent said they have a tablet of their own for personal use;
  • 32 percent of technology administrators who participated in the survey "noted that having students use their own mobile devices was an explicit school or district strategy to address ongoing budget challenges," according to the report;
  • The number of principals who told researchers they were likely to allow students to use their own devices in class jumped from just 22 percent in 2010 to 41 percent in 2013 with another 10 percent saying they had already changed the policy;
  • 68 percent of administrators in the survey said they saw BYOD programs as a way to mitigate costs associated with school technology, 61 percent said BYOD policies help ensure students take ownership of their learning process and 56 percent told researchers BYOD could be a catalyst for changing teacher practices; and
  • Parental support for BYOD initiatives hovered just below two-thirds, with 64 percent of parents from rural and urban communities telling researchers they "desire to have their child in a class where using one's own mobile device is allowed." Parents of elementary students (58 percent) and those from suburban communities (59 percent) were least likely to want their children in classes that allow personal mobile devices.

The full report is available at

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].