“If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.” -John Dewey
There are many tools for learning, collaboration, and creation that are available online. Unfortunately many students don’t have access to a home computer, don’t have a study hall to come to the school library, and can’t get to the public library because of geographic distance or restrictive hours. Many schools are shifting instruction to a digital platform by incorporating google apps for education as a learning management system. These apps are essential tools for maintaining communication outside of school hours and adding flexibility in instruction.
Instruction can go beyond even google apps to allow students create unique products to demonstrate learning using the myriad of web sources and Web 2.0 tools that are available free online. Incorporating online tools also allows students to learn and practice online research and digital citizenship skills that they will use for the rest of their lives in a place where they are moderated by teachers. These tools have many benefits including accommodating various learning styles and special needs.
A Pew study found that teens living in the lowest-earning households (under $30,000) are just as likely as those living in the highest-earning households ($75,000 or more) to own smartphones. That study also found that they’re “just as likely and in some cases more likely than those living in higher income and more highly educated households to use their cell phone as a primary point of access.”
According to the same Pew study, 41% of students who live in a household with a yearly income of $30,000 or less go online using a mobile device(Pew, 2012). Yet, these devices are not allowed in schools. Students from higher-income homes are more likely to have an internet-connected computer at home. They are provided with instruction on how they can use their internet-connected computer to enhance their learning and connect to learning environments at school. The students who have only mobile devices are denied this instruction because the devices that they own are persona non grata in the school building. Many apps for learning (including google apps for education) are widely available on mobile devices, and a BYOD device policy can allow teachers to show their students how their mobile device can work for them.
Until shown differently, a cell phone is a window to the world of texting, games, and communications with friends. These uses are fine for leisure time but do not impact learning in a meaningful way. A trained teacher can unlock the learning potential in a cell phone or other mobile device by teaching students how to collaborate with google apps, have a Q & A with a famous author via twitter or skype, access articles and other resources for learning during downtime, and compose emails to ask questions as they come up. In short, students will become familiar with the information-seeking behaviors that most educated professionals take for granted. We are all most comfortable working with our own personal devices, and teaching students to unlock the learning potential of their own devices is one step toward creating a community of lifelong learners.
A clear BYOD policy lets student know where they stand. There is a lot of well-justified concern for student safety when implementing BYOD. There needs to be not only a clear and well-understood BYOD policy for use in the school, but also a clear policy for misuse. There are many grave concerns with young people and internet use, from bullying and inappropriate content to simple inefficiency and misuse of instructional time. The school can balance these concerns with the need to provide 21st century instruction by focusing on student behaviors rather than trying to establish bullet-proof filters and security measures.