July 23, 2024

The ISTE BYOD Debate

I participated in one of the ISTE “Learning & Leading Debates” where you don’t know your opponent or their argument, about “Bring Your Own Device.” I reiterated my opposition to BYOD as policy.

Here is the text:

Gary S. Stager: No

In 1990, I began helping schools across the globe realize the transformational learning
potential of a laptop for every child. From the start, there was a recognition of the inevitability that every student would own a personal mobile computer in the near future, whether school provided it or not.

However, BYOD is bad policy that constrains student creativity, limits learning opportunities, and
leads to less support for public education in the future. It’s a reckless idea for the following reasons:BYOD enshrines inequity. The only way to guarantee equitable educational experiences is for each student to have access to the same materials and learning opportunities. BYOD leaves this to chance, allowing more affluent students to continue having an unfair advantage over their classmates. This is particularly problematic in a society with growing economic disparity.

BYOD creates false equivalencies between any objects that happen to use electricity. Repeat after me! Cell phones are not computers! They may both contain microprocessors and batteries, but as of today, their functionality is quite different.

We should not make important educational decisions based on price. A mentor told me that basing important educational decisions on price is immoral, ineffective, and imprudent. Doing the right thing is a matter of priorities and leadership, not price point.

BYOD narrows the learning process to information access and chat. Information access, note taking, and communication represent the tiniest fraction of what it means to learn. Looking up the answers to someone else’s questions online to type an essay or make a PowerPoint reinforces the status quo while failing to unlock the opportunities that computational thinking provides.

BYOD increases teacher anxiety. Schools have largely failed to inspire teachers to use computers in even pedestrian ways after three decades of trying. A cornucopia of devices in the classroom will only amplify their anxiety and reduce use.

BYOD diminishes the otherwise enormous potential of educational computing to the weakest device in the room. The computer is an intellectual laboratory and vehicle for self-expression that makes it possible for children to learn and do things in ways unthinkable just a few years ago. We impair such empowerment when we limit educational practice to the functionality of the least powerful device.

BYOD contributes to the growing narrative that education is not worthy of investment. We reap what we sow. If we placate those who slash budgets by making unreasonable compromises at the expense of children, we will find ever fewer resources down the road. We must not view education as some “every man for himself” enterprise that relies on children to find loose change behind the sofa cushions. Democracy and a high-quality educational system require adequate funding.

Check out the new Macbook Pro, iPhone, iPad, and high-def video camera carried by the tech coordinator who decided that students should be happy with whatever hand-me-down devices he can scrounge up. The message here is: “Let them eat cell phones!”

It takes chutzpah to ask a school to buy something for every student. You better make sure you ask for the right device. Kids need a computer capable of doing anything you imagine they should be able to do, with plenty of room for growth and childlike ingenuity.

—Gary S. Stager, PhD, is the director of the Constructing Modern Knowledge Institute

If you wish to read the argument for BYOD, click here.

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10 thoughts on “The ISTE BYOD Debate

  1. Huh. I had never thought of the discrepancies between machines. Your post makes me wonder whether or not some students with laptops would choose to not bring their devices to school because they feel them inferior to the newer products.

    I can also see how BYOD would increase teacher anxiety. Such a policy requires teachers to know how to trouble-shoot different types of machines, browsers, interfaces, and operating systems. Usually, I encourage teachers to let students find answer to tech questions (or ask friends) – but that would be more difficult when all the machines are different.

    Good food for thought.
    Janet | expateducator.com

  2. Janet,

    Our experience so far has been the opposite. Teachers, encouraged to concentrate only on the academic objectives, what we call “the verbs”, feel a freedom from the “how-do-you-create-footnotes-in-pages” questions. If students do not know how to push a particular button to make magic happen, they figure it out themselves through angry-birds like experimentation or take a trip down to the tech center to request assistance. Since the teachers accept that there is no way to learn every device and every app and every program (the nouns), they take a “make sure you get it to the homework-dropbox” or be-ready-to-present attitude.

    Our lived experience is that the stress goes down about technology, not up.

    Two disclaimers: This requires a technology department capable of working with students and relatively flexible across platforms and I work in the school that argued for the other side 🙂

  3. It was interesting to read this perspective though I didn’t agree with Mr. Stager’s thoughts. Having BYOT flourishing in my district, I have first-hand experience that is in direct opposition to the statements laid out here.

    I was more concerned with the lack of understanding about BYOT/BYOD and technology integration as a whole. It’s important to remember that BYOT/BYOD is not the curriculum. It simply allows the students to use tools to support and enhance the curriculum.

    I posted a blog response to Mr. Stager on my website at http://www.myweb4ed.com which addressed the arguments here. While I disagree, it helps to gain this insight so that misconceptions can be cleared up so that students can benefit from this amazing option.

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