As kids return to school all across the country, a quiet revolution is taking place: we are seeing more and more teachers encouraging their students to bring mobile devices into the classroom. These laptops, netbooks, tablets and smartphones are becoming an integral part of the daily learning experience and are being embraced by teachers and students alike.
There are numerous reasons why bring your own device (BYOD) has suddenly become an acceptable option. First, advances in both networking and cloud-based computing are allowing students to access the same information and perform the same tasks from almost any connected device. Secondly, educators are seeing the inherent value in the many collaborative learning tools that are now available online. And thirdly, the tough economic times call for unique solutions to ensure that everyone has access to appropriate technology resources.
There is also a realization that connected devices play a major role in the lives of students outside of school, and that role will continue to grow as they get older and move on to their professional lives. Rather than banning those devices or pretending they don’t exist for 7 hours a day, schools now see it as their responsibility to help students develop the skills required to be a productive and responsible digital citizen.
At my own daughter’s middle school, they haven’t incorporated mobile devices into formal classwork yet but they do allow students to use iPads and other tablets for reading. Of course, there is a fine line between using a connected device as a learning tool and introducing a distraction. Teachers need to have clear objectives for BYOD classes and understand when to reach for the devices and when to put them aside.
But there are clear benefits from a more consistent approach to technology. As students discover how to learn with their devices, or about the Top 10 Apps for High School Students, they are able to extend the learning experience beyond the school day, revisiting educational web sites and participating in group discussions on their own time. It’s a very powerful experience for a child to feel that he has a learning tool with him at all times. A smartphone is no longer just a device for texting or playing games but a gateway to knowledge.
One of the most frequently voiced objections to BYOD is the so-called digital divide – the fact that wealthier kids have access to iPads and smartphones while other kids do not. However, it’s becoming harder to find a student above third or fourth grade that doesn’t have some kind of connected device. And by allowing the “haves” to bring their own devices, schools are freeing up scarce technology resources for the kids that need them most.
So instead of banning connected devices, let’s welcome them with open arms. When it comes to the education of our kids, we should use every available resource at our disposal.
Do you agree with allowing students to bring their own devices to school? Is your school participating in a similar program? Share your thoughts with us here!
Monica Vila is “Chief Technology Mom,” born and raised in Mexico and co-founder of The Online Mom, the market leader in providing online and off-line tools to make parents of kids K-12 smarter and more comfortable with the technology that touches their family. The Online Mom is a website, an online newsletter, a forum for discussion, a network of certified experts and a social community devoted to promoting a healthy understanding and appreciation for the positive role technology can play in a family’s life.