Should Students be Allowed to Bring Their Own Devices to School? The B.Y.O.D. Debate
Not too long ago I wrote an article entitled Should Students be Allowed to use Cell Phones at School? In it, I outlined a number of arguments for and against students bringing cell phones to school. This piece generated a lot of great discussion and emails about the topic. One of the overriding themes in the discussion was that I was too narrow in my topic choice. The point was made that I should have included all devices such as laptops, tablets and smart phones, not merely the traditional “cell phone.” I would have to agree with this point! The truth is that we are seeing a wide variety of electronic devices which are being brought to school by students. In many cases this is actively encouraged. In fact, there is even a term for this and it is called B.Y.O.D. (Bring Your Own Device). The question however is whether this is a good thing or not?
Bringing the traditional cell phone to school certainly has its own set of pros and cons. However, when we extend that freedom to all electronic devices it really complicates the issue even further. Is it in reality a sustainable idea? I do believe that there are many sides to this issue which need to be explored. However, while I usually like to provide both sides to an issue, and then let the reader do the rest…this time I am coming out clearly in support of students bringing their own devices to school.
There are many factors which are put forth as reasons against students bringing their own devices to school. For instance, inappropriate usage, including such things as cyberbullying and cheating; distractions within the school due to the device itself; restlessness and headaches caused by excessive usage, and the potential inequity amongst students. Nevertheless, I think these issues can all be addressed by the schools and I do not believe that prohibiting students from bringing in their own devices would solve any potential problems. In fact, by bringing their devices to school, students will be able to be instructed first hand on how to use them in a balanced and proper way. Also, it is a perfect opportunity and environment in which to teach the dangers of such things as cyberbullying. It is much better to do this at the school where the students have access to a wide variety of support and resources. If we think that not allowing kids to bring their devices to school will mean these issues will magically disappear…we are sadly mistaken.
There are simply too many advantages which accompany the B.Y.O.D. movement to overlook. In an age of tighter educational budgets letting students bring their own devices to school will save the education coffers immensely. Also, some of these savings can be put back into the system to provide devices for students who cannot afford their own due to socioeconomic concerns. This is simply a win-win for all. By bringing in their own devices we will literally be on a “1 student- 1 device” ratio! That is outstanding and it will truly engage the learners. There are modern, advanced technology skills which students will need. Bringing their own devices to school will let them learn in safe, productive environments and then bring that information home with them after school. That vital school-home link will then also be established.
Undoubtedly there always has to be a balance in everything we do. I am not recommending that we stop everything else we have been doing and just focus on teaching with technology through personal devices. Far from it in fact. I am advocating that we use the personal devices as powerful tools to compliment what we are doing and thus engage the learners on a whole new level. Technology is certainly not going away…it is the way of the future. As educators, instead of wasting our precious little time and energy ensuring that students do not bring personal electronic devices to school, we should invest that same energy into showing them how to use them properly. That is the mission and responsibility of all educators as we prepare our children to lead in an ever changing world.
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