14 Tips to Make BYOD Programs Work for You
- By Patrick Peterson
Schools that experiment with bring-your-own-device policies have reduced their costs but must cope with a variety of student devices, some of which don't meet minimum standards for computer instruction.
And if a student misuses a device, it could be taken away from him or her, creating the exact opposite situation that benefits education. Naturally, the student who is prone to misuse a device is often a student who needs the device most. Textbooks don't generate such tricky issues.
"How many teachers take away a textbook because students are misbehaving with it?" said West Coast-based educator Susan Brooks-Young, one of a trio of experts who conducted a BYOD workshop at FETC 2016 in Orlando.
The educators who attended the workshop listed the pros and cons of having students supply their own computers for schoolwork.
Benefits of BYOD: The student invests in the device, so there's more flexibility and lower initial and maintenance costs to the school. Support costs are also lower.
Drawbacks of BYOD: The school must supply IT support for a variety of student devices. It becomes a big deal for students who do not to have a device. The school must guarantee access for everyone, control unwanted use and maintain the balance between security and students' needs. Administrators must handle breakage, discipline students for misuse and prevent parents from purchasing low-quality devices. And what if the student doesn't have Internet access at home and can't finish his or her homework?
A laptop is most often the practical choice for a BYOD program, but schools are keen on iPads, which limit what the student can do digitally.
Additionally, the layout of the classroom sometimes becomes an issue. Rearranging the desks so the students can work in groups is preferable, but administrators often believe neat rows of desks facing the front is the only way to maintain order, said Dan Morris, one of the workshop facilitators from Colorado.
Proper training for teachers and minimum technical standards for parent-purchased devices can help students get the most out of BYOD programs.
Electronic devices are changing how students learn. Some two-thirds of ninth- through 12th-grade students text classmates about assignments. This collaboration slows the pace of homework, even though it teaches students how to work together.
"Homework is a very social experience now," said workshop facilitator Ryan Imbriale of Baltimore. "It takes a long time to do your homework," he often tells his own children, "because you asked everyone in the world about it."
While teachers struggle with inadequate, confusing or non-existent training, they soon will face new privacy issues over the security of students' personal information held in their personal computers.
Another problem with BYOD plans is that teachers might not have the technical ability to help students make each device function correctly.
"(Teachers) are pretty flipped out by 30 kids walking in with 30 different devices, which they are supposed to make work overnight," said Brooks-Young.
And that situation might not even be the worst case, she added.
"I just finished working at a school where the teachers did not know from one day the next whether there would be Internet access."
Patrick Peterson worked for Florida Today, a Gannett daily newspaper in Brevard County, Fla., from 2005 through 2013, and earlier was embedded with U.S. Marines as a reporter during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In Biloxi, Miss., he was a reporter for The Sun Herald newspaper and also founded and ran a charter boat company. He is a journalism graduate of Louisiana State University.