Bring your own device (BYOD) is the latest catchphrase to be bandied around schools and education conferences the world over. Coupled with the rise of portable devices like the iPad, we find ourselves in exciting times.
When thinking about BYOD for my own school, I constantly come back to the iPad over any other mobile device – smartphone, iPod touch, laptop, tablet pc, netbook, eReader.
- Relatively speaking, the cost of an iPad is cheap, or at least on a par, with devices of similar performance (yes, netbooks are usually cheaper, but they don’t perform on the same level)
- The variety of software (apps) available is astonishing (compare the number and range of apps available on the App Store with Android’s Market Place)
- The minimal cost of apps is not going to be a barrier or induce a ‘have vs. have nots’ situation
- The iPad’s battery life versus that of a laptop, for example
- The screen size versus that of a phone or mp3 player
- The fact that the iPad is incredibly easy to use and has yet to have a serious contender for the slate crown
Sure, the iPad does have it flaws (such as weaknesses in file management, limitations on printing, the availability of extension ports, and a sometimes less than adequate browsing experience especially with Flash and AJAX etc), but given that it takes up very little space in a students bag or desk yet can store a large amount of data, it’s hard not to consider the iPad for BYOD in secondary classrooms.
I’m sure the education sector would have had discussions about the introduction (and later mandatory student ownership) of scientific calculators in the 1970’s and 1980’s that had similar sentiments to the discussions in schools today about the benefits, or not, of implementing a BYOD programme. You can see the two camps can’t you; those teachers and senior management who are willing to sacrifice a large amount of their own time researching, thinking and experimenting with different learning opportunities that new technology may bring versus another group who simply want to do things the same way they have done for years. I remember not being able to use a calculator in Maths in Form 3 (Year 9) – mine was confiscated – yet in Form 4 (Year 10) we were expected to have one (an FX-82 I think).
When considering different approaches towards BYOD in schools, I always have that analogy of the scientific calculator tapping me on the shoulder. It’s not solely about the hardware or whether your slate or calculator is branded Apple, Casio, Samsung or Sony. It’s not solely about what software a device runs (regular calculator or graphing calculator anyone?). It’s about how the combination of hardware and software, mixed with infrastructure such as a wireless network, enhances learning.
A number of secondary schools in New Zealand are seriously considering mandatory BYOD implementation. Others are still in the early stages, but have an eye open to the possibilities, and hitches, that can and will surface. Schools in NZ that are at the forefront of this include:
Imagine what a typical high school classroom will look like 5 years from now. Will we see printed exercise books and text books, or will they be digital? Will we see any paper at all? Will students be engaged or disengaged? What kind of technology will teachers use on a daily basis? What technology will students have in their pockets and/or in their bags/on the desk – will it be a pocket calculator or will that just be one of many functions fulfilled by a device like the iPad? Will students be using technology all of the time and in every class, or will BYOD be a natural tool that is expected of and by students and teachers rather than being at the forefront of educational debate?
So much to process!