Should Schools Allow Kids to BYOD?
A battle is rocking school districts around the country about the appropriate role for electronic devices in schools and the acceptableness of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies.
Many schools have strict policies governing the use of cell phones, tablets, and personal computers on school grounds. Schools often ban devices entirely or require that they stay in lockers during school hours. However, a growing number of education advocates believe that a BYOD policy may better serve students and teachers alike.
What is a BYOD Policy and Why Should Educators Care?
Enacting a BYOD policy transforms typical school policies about electronic devices. According to the National Education Association, use of novel technologies in public schools is pervasive. Approximately 90% of school districts report use of electronic white boards (although not in every classroom), while 64% offer wireless Internet access on school grounds. Furthermore, 54% of public schools use e-readers or tablet computers in classrooms. School districts often offer a limited number of these devices to students to use in class or check out from the library.
The BYOD system would not limit classroom devices to those purchased by the school district. Instead, any student would be permitted and encouraged to bring a smartphone or tablet to class. These devices would be used to access class materials, perform additional research, or complete class projects.
Specific Rules Governing BYOD Policies
Concerned parents and teachers wonder if a BYOD policy will turn the classroom into a free-for-all of Tweeting, texting, and Facebook use. In general, schools with BYOD policies have strict rules governing the use of electronic devices. Frequently, school districts ban the classroom use of devices for younger students, often those in elementary and middle school. Older students must agree to a set of rules restricting the use of devices. In general, schools ban the use of Facebook and Twitter while limiting device use to specific classroom hours or activities.
Benefits of Devices in the Classroom
Proponents of BYOD policies claim that bringing electronic devices into schools ensures that students have access to the best learning tools available. Specific arguments for the enactment of BYOD policies include:
- Greater classroom participation. Most students frequently engage with electronic devices in their free time. Classroom use of these devices keeps students motivated and interested in the course material.
- Affordability. With increasing state budget cuts, many schools have cut back on technology spending. Technology resources such as laptops or e-readers are expensive for schools and soon become obsolete. Allowing students to bring personal devices reduces the economic burden on school districts strapped for cash.
- Promotes the school’s image. Employing new technologies in the classroom shows that a school district stays current with trends in education. This boosts community support for schools and improves a school’s reputation with students.
Drawbacks to Allowing Devices in Schools
Many educators and parents worry about the negative effects of a BYOD policy in classrooms.
- Devices are distracting. Outside of school, students constantly use smartphones and other devices to check Facebook, Tweet, use SnapChat, and text their friends. Many teachers worry that they will spend valuable class time policing the use of devices rather than educating students.
- Some students cannot afford electronic devices. There is growing concern from families about placing the burden of bringing devices to school onto students. Lower income students often experience teasing or bullying, and inability to afford a smartphone or tablet could exacerbate this problem. Many educators worry that a BYOD policy would initiate an “arms race” among students competing to have the fanciest devices.
Despite concerns about the use of devices in classrooms, BYOD policies are on the rise. Rather than fighting the use of technology, teachers are learning to embrace it as another tool to engage students and present material in new ways.