Bring Your Own Device…and do what?

This recent article in the TES (http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6162155) is a typical argument for schools to let children bring their own devices to school (BYOD). It is cost saving when resources are scarce and it connects education with the rest of the children’s lives.

This view stems from Stephen Heppell’s observation that schools used to stop biro pens at one time. This argument positions schools as Luddites who block and wreck new advances. Teachers are painted as 1950’s disciplinarians unaware of the changing tide. It does not recognise that bringing certain things into school causes challenges.

Ewan Mcintosh suggests (http://edu.blogs.com/edublogs/2012/01/collaboration-7-implementing-the-wrong-…) that all we need is a “superb media literacy solution”. The hope would be that teenagers would no longer share pornography by Bluetooth and they wouldn’t message (maliciously or not) during lessons.

My greatest difficulty with the BYOD argument is what will the children do with them?

In the TES article above Graham Brown Martin lists the technology sold this year that could be brought to school. This Christmas there was an iPod Touch, a Sony Xperia Play (Android), a net book (Windows Starter Edition) and a laptop given in our family. Add this to the Wii, PS3, desktop and portable macs, and Nintendo DSis already owned. Which device would these children bring to school?

Then when it comes to school what kind of learning experiences will the teacher orchestrate for the children who have brought their own devices? They can access the, “gateway to all human knowledge” on most of these machines; but how will we provide concrete maths experiences, social interaction or creative expression.

If everyone has an iPad then we might have a chance but someone is using their mum’s old Blackberry 9360 which isn’t so well equipped. Someone just got an Xbox 360 and this is a bit harder to set up. We could use Facebook but the Sony K770i has a tiny screen. The 3D DSi does great animation but only 3 children have them. In principle it sounds great but in practice it might be tricky.

I suspect the plan makes sense if you think ICT in learning is finding things out on the Internet or playing games. In fact the teachers who are so roundly condemned see learning as something a bit bigger than that.

Alternatively these people may have very self motivated and privileged children who could cope in this environment of multiple devices and little teacher interaction. Sadly the children I work with don’t have all of these opportunities and can’t all bring in a device. I think we need a plan for them.

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