I have always been quite vocal about my support for BYOD. A few years ago, I clearly remember drawing the line in the sand when my convictions were challenged. Some agreed with me, or at least recognized that ubiquitous access to internet-connected, mobile devices was shaping the trajectory of where schools were headed. Not everyone agreed. Bring a cell phone into the classroom as a learning tool? No way! I don’t want my students texting or making phone calls in class! That was 2012, a mere 4 years ago, let’s fast forward to 2016.
Most have heard the argument that the devices our students are bringing to school are more powerful than the computers sitting in our classrooms. Many also recognize that students have access to a world of knowledge in the palm of their hands. This is good, and I’m not at all surprised to see these realizations surfacing, even from the most stanch opponents of BYOD. In large part, it can be explained through the Technology Adaption Model. (See below)
I’m a Innovator, a member of roughly 2-3% of the population. When I was having conversations with colleagues in 2012, they likely represented greater than 80% of the population. My audience was a mix of Early Majority, Late Majority, and Laggards – not in a position to recognize the potential of these technologies in their classrooms because they were not using them in their personal lives. To them, they saw a smartphone (or cell phone) as a distraction, a device for texting and making phone calls.
Four years later, many are coming to realize the potential I was articulating in 2012. However, one sticking point that I still hear in 2016 is equitable access for all students. I’ll be the first to admit that it was difficult to skirt this issue in 2012. Clearly, some students had mobile devices, and others did not. What do we do about those students who didn’t have a mobile device at their disposal? Well, we could provide them with access to a school computer, but these computers weren’t plentiful, they were cumbersome, and for the most part, they weren’t mobile.
However, let’s examine the issue of equitable access through a present day lens. Mobile technology is growing at an exponential rate. Just 3 years ago, a school may have had 10 Chromebooks, a year later, 20 Chromebooks, and a year after that, 40 Chromebooks. This year, that same school may have 80 Chromebooks to put into the hands of students. This is fantastic, but in a school with several hundred students, there is still room for growth.
This is where BYOD gets us closer to filling the gap by equalizing technology access for students. Yes, not every student brings a personal device to school, even in 2016, but for those students who can, let them, and provide board-owned mobile devices to students without a personal device. A school with 100 Chromebooks, and a population of 500 students, provides a 1:5 ratio, but what if students were permitted to bring their own device to school? In most cases, I’m confident we’d start to see a 1:2 ratio of devices to students. Let’s get closer to equalizing access to technology by leveraging the opportunity provided by BYOD.