Nobody talking about BYOD is a good thing

I attended my state’s principals conference this week and heard a presentation from staff and students of New Berlin West High School. It was interesting to hear about the planning and the implementation process that led to their BYOD program working so well. Their presentation team consisted of administrators, staff members, and students. They had a great story to tell, and they told it well, especially the students. [Side comment– In most schools, students make up approximately 90% of all the people in the building, so why aren’t they included more in presentations about successes?]

One comment that really stood out to me from the presentation was when the principal said, “Eighteen months after we started our BYOD program, no one even talks about it anymore.” His point was that their infrastructure was in place and working well, the students were being responsible with their devices, and the staff was accepting of the power of students using their devices for learning. The focus was on student learning, not the gadgets. Too often, technology plans measure their success by counting ratios and numbers of devices rather than evaluating the impact the plan has on student learning. We need to change that. Like a pencil or a notebook, tech is just another tool that can help students and staff. The impact on learning, not merely the presence, is where our focus and work should be.

Student reminder board at Onalaska Middle School showing that tech tools are an aid to learning, not the end goal itself.

2 thoughts on “Nobody talking about BYOD is a good thing

  1. Thanks for your post on BYOD. The argument here presupposes that when teachers and students stop talking about technology, a policy is working because the alternative is technology as an end unto itself. In this case, devices are like pencils and notebooks, basic tools taken for granted. The photo has a message board alerting students that they may bring their devices all week to two classes, presumably because the teachers have some tech-friendly activities planned. One assumes no similar messages are sent regarding pencils and notebooks. Unfortunately, when we imagine tools as transformational as fully functional computers as analogous to legacy technology like a slate for writing, we fail to unlock the potential of these devices. The word device is a problem, of course, because an iPad can’t do what a Macbook can. Inequity and diversity of devices seem to make it more likely, to paraphrase dana boyd, that we do old things in new ways, use devices as books and notebooks, rather than as darkrooms and film studios. If a teacher or if students can’t assume fidelity of capability between children’s devices, working creatively together becomes more challenging. And when we aren’t cooperating, we’re not pushing our pedagogy in more student-centered, constructivist directions in ways that the technology begs us to do. I wonder how different your district’s experience would be in a rich, one to one environment?

  2. @Ian–Thanks for reading the post and for your spot-on comment. Your point about using new devices for transformational learner-centered teaching and learning is a crucial one to make. You’re right. We can’t use new tech devices to teach/learn in old ways. I also appreciate your comment about staff and students knowing when to use the right device (smart phone, tablet, lap top) for the learning task at hand. Sometimes it’s appropriate for groups of students to share an iPod for information retrieval, and then there are times when each student will need the resources made available on individual computers. In my district, BYOD is still a new venture, but a 1:1 environment would be ideal. This case is better defined by McLeod and Stager at http://dangerouslyirrelevant.org/2012/09/are-byod-programs-simply-an-excuse-not-to-fully-invest-in-11.html. Again, I appreciate your insightful comment. Curt

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