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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