Mobile Computing | Viewpoint

From Cell Phone Bans to BYOD

Christopher PiehlerA couple of years ago, the first and last word in mobile devices for education was “iPad.” The Apple tablet’s dominance of the ed tech market has been gradually eroded by an armada of Android and Microsoft tablets boasting lower prices, easier enterprise management and integrated access to the Google or Windows cloud ecosystems. These days, though, with districts across the country preparing for online assessments that require keyboards, it’s no coincidence that the most-purchased category of device is the notebook, with the Chromebook especially popular.

But the era of one device dominating classrooms is over. Notebooks face competition not only from tablets, but from new categories of devices such as convertible laptop/tablets and phablets, as well as a device that many districts once banned: the smartphone. As our cover story shows, an increasing number of administrators, teachers and parents are giving up on cell phone bans and coming out in support of BYOD. According to Project Tomorrow’s most recent Speak Up survey, 60 percent of parents said they would like their children to be in a class where BYOD was allowed. And perhaps more importantly, two-thirds of parents said they would purchase a mobile device for their child to use in class. The same survey shows that a large majority of students in sixth through 12th grades already have access to smartphones.

BYOD achieves two key goals that all ed tech leaders share: controlling spending on devices and meeting students where they are. The former is pretty straightforward, but the latter brings up a couple of questions. First and foremost is the equity issue: What do schools do for the students who don’t have devices? Second, does it ultimately help or hurt learning for students to do schoolwork on the same device they use for texting and games? I’d love to hear what you think.   

You can see more great feature articles in the latest issue of our monthly digital edition.

About the Author

Christopher Piehler is the former editor-in-chief of THE Journal.