BYOD -- "Bring Your Own Device" - is being heard more and more these days in and around our schools. The devices, in most cases, are mobile phones, tablets, and/or laptops. Should schools establish policies allowing students to use their own technology tools in the classroom? I say, yes, with some caveats.
First, why are we even asking this question? Good technology, when used properly, is the window to the world, and we must be sure we are teaching our students the best way to use these tools. If handled properly and equitably for all students, BYOD programs can increase student achievement while saving a lot of money that schools can use for other needs. Additionally, many schools can't afford to provide a device for every student, but they can afford to supplement a BYOD program. It is very important that all students have equitable access; schools must provide devices for students who can't afford their own.
Allowing students to use technology only at home is just unacceptable in today's world. When a student walks into a classroom, he or she should have these learning tools available. Not permitting students to use available technology for classroom learning would be like sending a carpenter to work without a hammer or saw or other tools needed to get the job done. Imagine a surgeon who was denied the use of technology during an operation. Teachers and students need to use the most up-to-date tools available.
As with anything we do, there are going to be downsides and obstacles to a BYOD program. As schools and districts move forward with BYOD programs it is important to have strong acceptable use policies in place. Students need to understand the expectations before the program starts. For example, a student should not be permitted to interrupt a class by having his or her phone ringing (and/or taking a call) during instructional time. He or she should not be allowed to use the device to play non-instructional games or visit social media sites that are not connected to the learning process. These and other potential issues must be dealt with before a BYOD program begins.
As a self-proclaimed (novice) techie, I can't imagine how I would be able to get my work done every day without constant access to my technology. These tools will direct and assist the work world our students will enter, and we need to be sure they are ready. School leaders must either find ways to provide the technology for students or develop smart policies allowing them to use their own.