Bring your own

Mobile learning is on the rise. It was inevitable that the mobile phone would be brought into the classroom, with or without 'permission'. Many children use their mobile phones in class even though school rules forbid them to do so. What would encourage schools to sanction the use of personal devices?

There has been a lot of discussion recently about Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in schools. There are two camps forming. On one side, there are those who believe that children should not be permitted to use their own devices in the school because mobile phones are distracting, can cause behaviour management issues and can also lead for example to serious issues such as cyberbullying and sexting. There are also teachers who fear that allowing children to bring their own devices will amplify the socio-economic digital divide - a kind of Bring Your Own Divide. Some children will have the latest, expensive devices while others from less affluent families will have cheaper, less enabled devices, or none at all. Concerns have also been voiced about liability and the potential loss, theft or damage of devices while children are inside the boundaries of the school.

On the other side, there are teachers who believe that allowing children to bring their own devices into school will liberate learning. Supporters of BYOD argue that allowing students to use their own devices, with which they are familiar, will give them a head-start where they don't need to learn to use a tool before learning through it. Children already use their mobile devices for a large variety of social purposes, including networking with their friends, accessing peer-related information and sharing content (images, links, status updates). The argument is that it would be natural for children to use their devices for learning in formalised settings. Teachers who support BYOD argue that children will feel more comfortable using their own devices, that BYOD will teach children to take more responsibility for their actions, and that policing their use should not be problematic.

This is a simplified version of what is shaping up to be a complex debate, but there is a strong case for both sides of the argument. There are of course many grey areas too. Some teachers have no strong views about BYOD, but for those who are actually implementing BYOD in the classroom, there are claims of positive outcomes.

In a post at the end of 2011 I reported on my visit to Albany Senior High School in Auckland, New Zealand, who have been supporting a school wide BYOD scheme for some time. To get around the problem of the perceived 'digital divide' the school also provides laptops and other tools for children who don't have their own personal device. They have also discovered that giving children the responsibility to manage their own learning through their own devices has largely eliminated behavioural problems. Children cherish the freedom to use their own devices, don't wish to run the risk of losing their privilege, and therefore take the responsibility to keep within the school rules seriously.

What are your views on the debate? Do you know of schools that have successfully implemented school-wide BYOD?  Do you have stories of BYOD failure?

Image by Freefoto

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Bring your own by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at steve-wheeler.blogspot.com.

Comments

Dook said…
I've still got a number of concerns about possible barriers to BYOD, as well as some people with their head in the sand about some concerns.
Some of them are highlighted here, http://www.grumbledook.org/2012/02/29/my-issues-with-byod/, but always interested in hearing how others overcome issues / concerns.
Sigi said…
When I still had students to discuss topics like this I also got many different opinions among the students on the use of smartphones at the time , see wallwisher result: http://www.wallwisher.com/wall/mobiledevices . The topic of BYOD could equally be discussed by the students who are finally the ones concerned by such decision... I wish I could still ask my students! Would love to bring this debate into the classroom!
Boyledsweetie said…
Is it perhaps interesting to ask ..... the children what they think? This would keep the decision within a group or class who could decide how and when using the devices would be appropriate and useful. The child' s voice should be heard in all of these kinds of debates. This would also help children to make decisions about when looking at a wee screen or looking your classmates and teachers in the eye is important , that's another blog post though !
RachaelHKnight said…
Whilst I think that BYOD has a lot of merits, I wonder what happens for the children who do not have a device / the right sort of device?
Steve Wheeler said…
Yes, I agree Lynn - students should be consulted, and Sigi above said something similar. But first, schools have to get over imposing rules that militate against the use of the tools.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for the link Sigi - and I agree, we need the opinions of the learners in the mix.
Steve Wheeler said…
It's a concern for many Rachael, but as I indicated above in the post, at least one high profile school has made it work by providing additional in house kit.
JulieV said…
I have a friend who teaches in secondary school, the school rule is no mobiles on or visible in class or playground, mobiles seen or used are confiscated and parents called in to collect at end of day. He describes children who have their phones confiscated as typically being 'beside themselves' with anger. They simply cannot conceive of being separated from their devices for even a few hours. I think this high degree of separation anxiety is very interesting (and would we be any different??) and needs further exploration. In the context of education, do we achieve anything by enforcing rules that are so alienating? I think we would be better to get the learners setting some rules and see how much more we can achieve when working together in the classroom. And yes, of course, we must look at strategies for inclusivity and that's not just about who has and who has not,but about who can and who cannot.
Steve Wheeler said…
I agree Julie, this separation anxiety needs to be studied, and in the context not only of separation from device, but also perceived loss of connection to one's extended peer group.

You are also correct that there is more than one digital divide. The cans and cannots appears to be a skills divide, but there is also a 'will and will not' divide - I guess some would describe this as technophobia.
Clare said…
The world has changed quite a bit in the 8 years since I last taught in a secondary school, but this has reminded me of spending my morning tea playground duty time confiscating phones, yet covertly encouraging my music classes to use their phones to record themselves when we were having practical music or composition sessions. I was always worried I'd be found out!
Steve Wheeler said…
Don't worry. Your secret is safe with me ;)
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for your comment and link, Tony. Hopefully others will share their experiences below.
Simon Ensor said…
Behind BYOD there are a number of battles being fought out. Technical versus pedagogical control of access to information. Student led learning versus content provider controlled transmission. Open browsing versus closed Apps. Student as creator versus student as consumer. Distant cloud control of data or locally maintained server. Public versus private education provision. Local versus distant or inexistant tutoring.

There are not simple either or answers which can be universally applied.

If one accepts that technology enhances learning and that we can't learn to live in a digital age if we don't learn with the tools which do much to define our social relations, it would seem absurd to deny the use of personal tools. Let's pool our resources and see where it gets us to. There is much to question, to analyse to debate. I may bring my own device but this not just my own society. Education is perhaps about dealing with what we don't own. We are not other peoples' devices.
Steve Wheeler said…
Astute and valuable comments as ever Simon - thanks for your contribution to this discussion. I agree it's not a binary set of issues, and that there is complexity behind the discourse on BYOD. I think your last line is the most telling - and that perhaps education is changing beyond the paradigm we are most comfortable with.
Lenandlar said…
I think it is a Ministry of Education policy in Guyana to not allow students to bring their mobile phones to class. Not sure what the rule is for laptops and so on.

The students are not even allowed to use the phones during lunch breaks. But the students will find a way to use their phones. Maybe in the washrooms or even right under the nose of their teachers.

My concern is captured by the JulieV above. One cannot separate even us adults from our toys - we are like fish out of water if our phone goes missing or if we have no access to the interest. Is it reasonable to expect the kids to live without their toys?

I think we are fighting a losing battle. Simon suggested a technical versus pedagogical battle as one. JulieV suggested an 'identity' battle?

My own view is that in the long run, if students are allowed their gadgets in the classroom, they will become more responsible with their use during classroom discussion sessions(this appears to be the biggest concern at the moment), and it will be win-win for all.
JulieV said…
Problem is both lack of crystal ball (how will education look in 2020?) and insufficient legs (on my part anyway) to keep up. Related commentary from JISC:
'Learning with mobile devices can bring many inclusion benefits, enabling learners to access content wherever and whenever they choose, and using a device they know they can operate. m-Learning therefore has vast potential to enhance learning opportunities for all, as well as levelling the playing field for learners with specific needs'.
http://www.jisctechdis.ac.uk/pages/detail/online_resources/upwardly_mobile
Lars Hyland said…
Interesting debate and one I hope I can contribute fully with following completion of a number of pilots in schools we are running trying out both teacher and student led mobile app creation and collaborative sharing to support a range of learning activities. The tool we use is Epic's GoMo mobile content authoring platform that allows building once and publishing out to all major mobile platforms - iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile as well as standard DHTML SCORM compliant modules that can plug straight into the VLE. The research is being monitored and we are letting the schools lead the way in how they make use of such a toolset. We should have some tangible results in the next month or so.

More at http://www.epic.co.uk and http://www.gomolearning.com.
Steve Wheeler said…
I agree with you Lenlandar - we underestimate children much of the time, and it's time to trust them more when it comes to policing their own use of mobile phones and other handheld devices.
Steve Wheeler said…
Julie, I think we are seeing just the tip of the iceberg of mobile learning. I think schools are on a losing wicket when they try to ban the use of mobiles. It's time to change tack, reappraise the current rules and regulations, and start to ask another question - ho do we harness what children and young people are familiar with using - their mobile phones (and social networking sites) and turn them for productive learning use.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for the link Lars - much appreciated.
Joe Bires said…
The more I look at 1:1 research, the more I wonder if we haven't already gotten to 1:1 through cell phones, which I guess supports the argument for BYOD, however what really is the counter argument to BYOD? Whether it is a school-sponsored 1:1 or BYOD the question remains; what are we doing with those devices (are we using them for truly transformative work as truly disruptive technology can be) or are we using them to digitize what we already do on paper?
Sigi said…
I was teaching in a vocational school and even though there was a no mobiles policy, I encouraged my students (16+) to bring and use their devices. Some of them had smartphones with their own flatrate and they were our "online dictionary" , having the task to check the words and create the glossary for the class.... others were reponsible to find additional information...etc.... there was never a problem that some of the students did not have a smartphone or tablet and others did, we were just working in groups and they used and shared their mobile devices lke they would with a textbook.... The only real obstacle to our work was that we did not have and did not get wireless access ... and this is something that can be changed easily- unless you are in Bavaria where WLAN has been banned from schools ..... if there is only one parent who objects, no one is allowed to have it..... these are the real problems, not the equal possession of equal mobile devices ... kids do have different or no bikes at all and still manage to come to school and move around .... I sometimes think its the adults who are creating these problems with the digital divide... what we need ismore flexibility and imagination to bridge gaps... if there are any.... I'd rather work with a class where not all the students have mobile devices instead of going to a PC suite with bulky hardware and tables arranged in rows- which is killing all communication and collaboration...
Anonymous said…
Its an interesting debate for sure but its what I like to call a inevitable nightmare - its a nightmare for all of the reasons listed such as security, digital divide, malware containment, backup etc but inevitable because unfortunately, where there's cost savings the public sector has to follow.....

I wrote an article about it that you might be interested in:
http://www.massineducation.co.uk/index.php/en/school-leaders/115-bring-your-own-device
well, i belong to the first school of thought that goes not in favor of BYOD! because school is a place where students are taught about equality, and with BYOD students who belong to less richer families will develop a class differentiation complex at a very early age, which can hinder in their personal development growth and level of confidence.

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