July 7, 2022

BYOD – Worst Idea of the 21st Century?

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 certain inevitability that every student would own their a personal mobile personal computer in the near future, whether school provided it or not.  Twenty-one years later, way too few students have a personal computer and the very issue seems to become more controversial with each passing day.

Schools and school districts who have come to the personal computing party decades late now have conjured a cheap less-empowering way to produce an illusion of modernity. They call it “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) or “Bring Your Own Technology” (BYOT) and it’s a terribly 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 with more affluent students continuing to have an unfair advantage over their classmates. This is particularly problematic in a society with growing economic disparity.

Real people don’t want a device
What was the last time you walked into a Best Buy or Apple Store and asked the clerk, “I’d like to buy a device please?” Nobody does that. You buy a computer. A device is something you buy for other people’s children when you’re pinching pennies or have too low expectations for children.

BYOD simplistically creates false equivalencies between any object that happens 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.

It is miseducative to make important educational decisions based on price!
A wise mentor of me told me long ago that important educational decisions should not be based on price. It’s immoral, ineffective and imprudent. Who is to blame when BYOD fails to realize its potential or creates unforeseen problems. For forty years, visionary educators like Alan Kay, Seymour Papert, David Thornburg, David Loader and countless others have demonstrated that the cost of providing every child with a powerful personal computer (laptop) is between 2-5% of the cost of schooling. These costs have fallen in recent years. Plenty of schools and districts have reordered priorities to provide each student with a personal laptop. Doing the right thing is a matter or priorities and leadership, not price point.

BYOD narrows the learning process to information access and chat (when students aren’t being punished for either)
Information access, note-taking and communication (presenting, sharing, publishing) are the low-hanging fruit of education and represent the tiniest fraction of what it means to learn. Looking up the answers to someone else’s questions online in order to write an essay or make a PowerPoint presentation reinforces the status quo at best while failing to unlock for children the wondrous opportunities provided by computational thinking.

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

BYOD diminishes the otherwise enormous potential of educational computing to the weakest “device” in the room
Some educators are excited by using “technology” to teach things we have always wanted kids to learn, perhaps in a more efficient fashion. My work is driven by an understanding that the computer is an intellectual laboratory and vehicle for self-expression that makes it possible for children to learn and do things in ways and domains unthinkable or unavailable just a few years ago. Such empowerment is impaired when educational practice needs to be limited 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, educators who placate those who slash budgets by making unreasonable compromises at the expense of children, will find ever fewer resources during the next funding cycle. Education must not be viewed as some competitive, commercial, “every man for himself” enterprise that relies on children to find loose change behind the sofa cushions. Democracy and a high quality educational system requires adequate funding.

Oh yeah, check out the brand new Macbook Pro, iPhone, iPad and high-def video camera being carried by the tech coordinator who decided that students should be happy with whatever hand-me-down devices they might scrounge. Let them eat cell phones!

It takes a special pitch to ask a school or school board to buy one of something for every student. You better make sure you ask for the right “device.” Kids need a personal computer capable of doing anything you imagine they should be able to do, plus leave plenty of room for growth and childlike ingenuity.

Of course teachers should welcome any object, device, book or idea a student brings to class that contributes to the learning process. Every thing a child brings to school in her heart, head or backpack is a potential gift to the learning environment. However, BYOD is bad policy that constrains student creativity, limits learning opportunities and will lead to less support for public education in the future.


81 thoughts on “BYOD – Worst Idea of the 21st Century?

  1. I’m not going to call it the worst idea ever, although now that I think of it, standardized tests and scantrons are a 20th century invention, and the 21st century is still pretty new. So you could be right.

    Here are the benefits I see from BYOD:

    * students own their own devices and schools cannot control (entirely) the software they choose to learn from
    * if BYOD is the future, then we’ll need to support applications and e-books across platforms. No more vendor lock-in from Apple, Pearson, Amazon, and the like. You won’t have all your student data and student portfolio trapped in one student information system. Or, as is the case of Apple and Amazon — iPads and Kindle Fires — only on devices that support certain locked-down file formats.
    * if BYOD “wins,” the device itself won’t get to be the focus. As you point out, it can’t be. The focus will be (or, okay, could be) the Web. The Web, by and large remains open. Resources on the Web are free.

    But your points are important, particularly in terms of the digital divide, particularly in terms of decisions NOT to invest in education (and ed-tech), particularly in off-loading support for the public realm onto the private realm (in this case “private” being parents’ pocketbooks).

    Great post, Gary.

  2. Thank you for a wonderfully written post. I have shared this sentiment with the administrators in my district to no avail. The response I get is that BYOD is the only way to move forward. I say it is a matter of priorities. It is a very discouraging situation. I will share this, however. Perhaps your words will have more power!

  3. I never looked at BYOD from a student perspective. I agree the equity gap could or would probably widen. I have approached BYOD from the perspective of technology reluctant teachers. Can you imagine the possibility of 25 students walking into a classroom with what could amount to 25 different devices and not knowing or having the ability to be able to troubleshoot all the different devices? With a teacher afraid of computers? I had been willing to do BYOD if it ment every kid had some type of computer, but now I am not sure it would be worth the price that might have to be paid.

  4. Audrey, Sue and Angie,

    Thanks so much for your comments!!

    In my experience, student ownership does not deter schools from attempting to control content, access and use of student “devices.”

    The fact that schools need a policy to allow kids to bring stuff to school is evidence of how megalomaniacal some schools have become.

  5. Agreed. Great post. Nothing wrong with kids using extra devices if they have them, but if we want kids to actually use tech in a meaningful way, we should provide it.

  6. BYOD always seems to come up right after someone says, “But half the kids already have laptops/iPods/device of the moment.”

    I enjoyed the point about the percentage associated with supplying students with devices; I wonder if that factors in maintenance and repair. That is where some might say BYOD has an advantage.

  7. BYOD would be the worst idea if schools abdicated all responsibility for providing technology, and left this in the hands of those who can’t afford it. But schools don’t do that. Certainly, I have never heard of a school NOT providing computers, whilst mandating that students bring their own ‘device’ (it’s just a word, Gary. Fancy quibbling over that!) without supporting them in acquiring a device that is actually useful. Do you have any examples of this occurring?

    I would love every student in my class to have a ‘device’ that could send/receive emails, take video/photos, plus whatever other things the kid felt useful, and that they could take home at the end of the day with whatever content they have created. Isn’t this preferable to them NOT having this available?

  8. Thanks for the reply, Gary.

    I have read the first four of those links, and not a single one refers to schools ditching their own technology, and forcing kids to bring whatever they have/can afford. Should I bother reading the rest?

    I agree with the nonsense regarding having such tight regulations about it. Do you disagree with the notion of students being allowed to use their own computing devices (I’m going to keep using that word!) at school, regardless of its manufacturer?

    The majority of your arguments in this post rely on a context of schools not providing technology, and relying entirely on students bringing what they have.

  9. I made it abundantly clear in the article that kids should be allowed to bring stuff to school, if for no other reason than it is wrong to be arbitrarily mean to children.

    That is not however, a basis for policy.

    Admittedly, I didn’t spend a lot of time researching links for you. Trust me. I hear the BYOD argument every day in schools and at professional events.

  10. You did make it abundantly clear, true. So, on one hand you are posing the question that kids bringing their own devices may be the worst idea of the 21st century, and then suggesting that kids bringing their own devices could be a “gift” to the learning environment. So, which is it? You can’t make two such general statements that are in complete opposition to each other, and expect people to swallow that.

    It has taken me until now to understand that your post, I think, is about schools who wish to abandon the provision of technology and get kids to bring a device that all kids allegedly already have, so that the school can save money on having to buy anything themselves. This is a bad idea. I entirely agree.

    Perhaps you could explain this in the post, as BYOD, as I see and experience it occurring, is not this exclusive model to which you refer.

  11. What kids do or don’t own or bring to school is not a matter of policy. An institution deciding that whatever “technology” kids will use in schools is dependent on the random possessions of children, is.

  12. I disagree with your claims. BYOD is the future (like it or not) largely because schools lack the resources (money) and some lack the knowledge to successfully implement 1:1 technology. BYOD allows collaboration, sharing of resources, and mirrors thenoutside world. Tough reality out there, but some people drive a Mercedes and some drive Fords. I don’t understand why we continue to strive for unrealistic equality when life isn’t equal and it often setes kids up for a major letdown when theymleave the safe/constructed/dillusional walls of school. BYOD allows students to learn appropriate use as teachers and factually model appropriate behaviors. This is true learning.

  13. Dylan,

    “I don’t know why we continue to strive for unrealistic equality” – because these are PUBLIC schools and an underlying premise of the public education system in this country is that a quality education is provided to ALL students regardless of their socioeconomic status. There are plenty of private schools that the children of people who drive Mercedes can attend and there they can bring high end devices, pursue study and travel abroad, enjoy very small class sizes, etc. But a public education system should not contribute to the divide between children from differing socioeconomic groups. After K – 12 education, the inequalities play out on if/where one can attend college. But children from ages 5 – 18 should be provided with as even a playing field as possible – elitism and the growing divide between the classes produces enough other significant inequities (think healthcare, for one).

  14. Excellent points- will share. I wonder if schools are so loathe to spend in this area because decision-makers still see technology as a “tool” at best, rather than as an “opportunity” that, when leverages, advances 21st-century learning processes, and thus opens doors to excellence to those who might not have had such opportunity before. For example, a school admin team might easily pay hundreds of dollars per IB student so that they can write IB exams at the end of grade 12 (and that is ONLY the cost of exams, let alone instructional accommodations), whereas they would quickly override any thought of providing a $500 computer to any student in any regular stream under the theory of BYOD. Generally, the IB student comes from a home that values education, and, these days, often carries his/her own laptop. Other students, whether or not university bound, often don’t have computer because of financial reasons at home. To what extent then are school decision-makers not only perpetuating the digital divide, but also worsening it by investing thousands of extra dollars into the upper end only?

  15. Gary,
    As always, you stimulate thought. The fact is that schools don’t WANT one to one computing. As you correctly state, this would be amazingly cheap to do. One to one was fought because it is a real game changer. Now to the point. The reason BYOD is interesting is because it is a consumer-driven revolution – children are bringing their own tools to class with every expectation they will be allowed to use them. Schools are clamoring to set up the right backbone to handle traffic from myriad devices. While you are right to say that a phone is not a computer, that vision is blurring. The rise of powerful, inexpensive tablets will have quite an impact. Maybe you never heard of anyone going into Best Buy to purchase a “device,” but I’ve never heard a kid ask for a new “clicker”. What passes for technology adoption in many schools is a sad attempt to co-opt the revolution.

    Like you, I believe children should use their tools as tools for creativity and deep understanding. This is why I’m so actively supporting the Scratch and AppInventor projects at MIT, especially now that they are merging. While you are correct to point out that some devices (like the iPad, for example) do a horrid job of supporting kids creative expression through programming, this is an Apple issue, not a platform problem. Android devices are far more flexible, and the release of Scratch on that platform later this year will bear that out.

    If there is a downside to BYOD, it is simply that the establishement of education actively fought student technology until the kids brought it into their own hands. As Papert said, “Unless schools change, the students will create a revolution” The revolution is at hand.

  16. Cell phones and laptops from home have been permitted and even encouraged in our HS for the past few years. The district discussed going 1:1 via BYOD and decided instead to purchase iPads for every high school student. This meant that everyone had an equal starting technology level (students may also bring in their own devices). The iPads belong to the district but students take the iPads home and have access 24/7 although a few students do not have wifi at home. Parents have the option of purchasing 4 years of comprehensive insurance for a low cost and I believe most, if not all, have done so.

    It also made it easier for teachers to integrate web-based / technology resources into their instruction without needing to worry about a wide range of differing compatibility issues. Even teachers who aren’t entirely ready to jump on board with lots of online resources can step back and let students take the lead in finding and sharing those resources.

    As for controlling access and content, our district unblocked sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr years ago. We work on teaching our students appropriate use rather than banning or blocking material. We liken it to passing paper notes when we were kids in school – the teacher didn’t ban paper and pencils, we were taught there were consequences for misusing them. There are still blocks on “adult” themed websites.

    Now, I have to convince the district that my fifth graders can make good use of 1:1 computing with iPads. Having use of a class set one or two weeks a year and only during the school day does little to empower them to take learning beyond the classroom or class hours. This is the age, if not younger, when students should be allowed to use their curiosity and the tools available to them to create their own learning.

  17. Granted I may just be in a mood this morning, but the whole discussion seems kind of moot. Let’s say for one minute that schools provided a MacBook Pro to every student. In our current education environment (on the whole), what would we gain? What would we lose? What would stay the same? Or, take it one step further, let’s pretend that personal computers were never invented…Ah heck! … We’d probably be looking at the same answers to my previous question. Sorry, just venting…

  18. Some observations from teaching with tech for a few years:

    Kids know how to use tech for entertainment very well
    Kids do NOT know how to use tech for educational or productive tasks
    If you provide tech for kids they will not take care of the equipment
    The real expense in tech is not the initial cost; it’s the ongoing maintenance
    Tech can actually reduce student productivity if they cannot control their impulses/delay gratification

  19. I can’t say if BYOD will work or not, but I can tell you that I don’t have enough technology in the classroom for all students to use it. I just wrote a blog post to try to collectively gather a list of tools that teachers could use in a BYOD classroom. Without owning one of each device, I have no idea if it will work on each one. As I learn more about these devices, I could make better decisions about which tools to use. For now, I started a Google Form to start collecting ideas of what a BYOD teacher could use with students so most devices can use the tool. I welcome anyone to add to the knowledge base because, like it or not, BYOD is here in many schools. We can argue about it for a long time but teachers, like myself, who are already in classrooms where this is the policy, need help in figuring out which tools are universal. http://academy21.blogspot.com/2011/10/jeopardy-labs-will-this-work-for-byod.html

  20. Brian,

    A couple million or so kids with laptops from Harlem to Nepal to Peru to Sydney over the past twenty-two years have proven you wrong. Not only is there no problem with abuse, loss or theft of student laptops, but the maintenance problems are equivalent or less than those found in corporate America.

  21. Gary,

    The problem with the term BYOD is that it is so all inclusive and condemnation condemns all implementations, not just poor ones. Some forms of BYOD bring value; others bring far less value. I implemented a BYOD 1:1 program–and in a blatant appeal to your ego, some of the principles we used I had learned from you. I finally realized during implementation that we could separate technology from transformative teaching because, if we waited until all teachers were “transformed,” we would still be waiting. A post outlining the pilot is on http://collabucators.net. Yes, this was at an independent school, but in talking with public school district technology directors and coordinators, I can see how elements of the approach can be usable.

    So, let’s touch on a few issues in your post.

    “BYOD simplistically creates false equivalencies between any object that happens to use electricity.”
    I have seen this implied in some of the writings, but that factor needs to be controlled. Let’s look at BYOD as 1:1. We specified netbook equivalent or better with specs for minimum RAM, minimum boot time, minimum storage, 802.11g or better connectivity, physical keyboard suitable for touch-typing, minimum screen size, and the ability to run Flash and access certain websites. When the iPad came out, we determined that it was not acceptable, even with an add-on keyboard. Our goal was not information retrieval or web surfing, but collaboration and creation. We kept going back to Bereiter’s concept of creating conceptual artifacts. Not everyone involved understood this, but it helped guide our decisions. And when it came to integration of the tools, we kept pushing the idea that use wasn’t enough–integration depended on using the tools to do things that could not be done before. For example, simultaneous editing is something that just could not be done until recently, no matter how hard you tried.

    “BYOD narrows the learning process to information access and chat (when students aren’t being punished for either)”
    That was just not the issue. Our goal was not information retrieval or web surfing, but collaboration and creation. We kept going back to Bereiter’s concept of creating conceptual artifacts. Not everyone involved understood this, but it helped guide our decisions. And when it came to integration of the tools, we kept pushing the idea that use wasn’t enough–integration depended on using the tools to do things that could not be done before. For example, simultaneous editing is something that just could not be done until recently, no matter how hard you tried.

    “BYOD increases teacher anxiety”
    Increases teacher anxiety beyond what? Any change increases teacher anxiety. We found, anecdotally, that BYOD could decrease teacher anxiety for those who got beyond they concept that they were the expert in the room. Because of the plethora of devices (pretty powerful laptops in this case) with different interfaces and languages, teachers had little hope of helping every student with a tech problem–and everybody knew this up front. Teachers had to tell students they had to work together and figure it out, and students had work together and figure it out. (Hey, who keeps pushing that concept?) Yes, some teachers were very uncomfortable with that concept–but they wouldn’t be stellar examples in a regular 1:1.

    “BYOD diminishes the otherwise enormous potential of educational computing to the weakest “device” in the room”
    Not at all–that is exactly what traditional laptop programs where the school supplies the device does. Since the school supplies the device, the teacher has to aim to those five-year-old laptops. “My work is driven by an understanding that the computer is an intellectual laboratory and vehicle for self-expression that makes it possible for children to learn and do things in ways and domains unthinkable or unavailable just a few years ago.” Now we are getting somewhere. That’s the beauty of BYOD as 1:1–students with drive explore higher domains, and in doing so, share with their classmates and raise the stakes. Those who have newer machines can also raise the bar as they show what can be done with emerging technology.

    “BYOD contributes to the growing narrative that education is not worthy of investment”
    Yes, the concept that education is not worth the investment is a narrative, but BYOD as 1:1 doesn’t contribute to that. Implementing 1:1 with school-owned devices is expensive and maintaining it is expensive. When I buy several hundred computers for the school, there is a list of factors that any tech department has to consider, which includes software, network operating connections, maintenance, suitability for multiples roles, etc. When I buy for myself, I get something completely different–and cheaper–because I am making certain personal tradeoffs that I can’t make when purchasing for a school. And when students own the equipment and we don’t require them to buy any software, their costs go down and our costs go down. In particular, we don’t have to try to connect them to the “bizarre, idiosyncratic, school network,” in the words of Chris Dede. They go straight to the Internet. And they do it with their personal device, not some school device that they view on the same level as a textbook with transistors.

    We addressed equity in our pilot and implementation, although it wasn’t a big issue as an independent school. What do public schools do? They found that BYOD allowed teachers to effectively be 1:1 as they could use their mobile labs for the students who weren’t BYOD. Forest Hills uses this approach–you linked initial information at http://thejournal.com/articles/2010/08/05/bring-your-own-technology.aspx, but later information is in http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/1105/journal_201105/#/24. What is not evident in the articles is that the technology director at Forest Hills continues to look for ways to get take-home technology in the hands of those who cannot afford their own device.

    Really, we need at least two categories of BYOD to discuss: BYOD as supplemental for information acquisition (Bring your smart phones, kids), and BYOD as mandatory for collaboration and creation with equity addressed. I’m sure we will come up with others.

  22. Derrel,

    It’s always nice to hear from you, but I have to ask, “doth protest too much?”

    I don’t know how I could possibly be any clearer. I said at the top of the article that kids bringing their own laptops to school has been an eventuality since I began this work more than two decades ago.

    Requiring private school parents to buy their students a laptop with minimum specifications is the way a large percentage of schools have implemented laptops since day one.

    That is NOT the policy I am addressing. There are many schools that equate cellphones with laptops. There are other schools that require policies to allow kids to be in possession of a cellphone. I was addressing both misguided policies.

  23. I have found very few schools that do a pure BYOD 1:1. While many schools may have student-owned devices, most require specific software and connection to the network. Some even prohibit students from installing anything but approved software and will do random inspections and provide detentions for those who flout the rule on their own machines. The new trend is BYOD where students use a browser window to get a virtual desktop on a school server and do all of their work through that. Both implementations have more of a focus on control and teaching rather than on learning.

  24. Derrel,

    Given the current fiscal and political climate in America, imagine the worst and then make it 1000% dumber.

  25. Hi Gary. At our University we are going to probably implement a BYOD policy but it is not bring just any old device. We will identify minimum specifications and have a loans system for those not able to afford a device. Then we can focus on providing the best value add through purchasing licenses and subscriptions and support for all our students. The aim is to ensure everyone has an adequate device for use all the time to support our learning programs. In my mind that is better than the current position of computer laboratories.

  26. Paul,

    Of course that’s the sensible direction for a university. Ours stopped using the computer labs and required student laptops, based on minimum specifications fifteen or so years ago.

    Higher-ed is quite different from K-12 education though.

    That said, I hope you university allows the kids to use them. As a doctoral student at Melbourne I was treated like a pariah for wanting to use my own laptop on campus. If I could get online, the evildoers would win.

  27. “Requiring private school parents to buy their students a laptop with minimum specifications is the way a large percentage of schools have implemented laptops since day one. That is NOT the policy I am addressing.”

    Your words… and yet you cited our district as one of those who are “choosing the random chance of BYOD over setting priorities and supporting 1:1 computing” in your reply to Deon above. (http://thejournal.com/articles/2010/08/05/bring-your-own-technology.aspx.) To correct your mistake, students in our middle school were permitted to bring in a netbook, notebook or tablet pc; we didn’t forbid tablet devices but did not recommend them either.

    The fact is, many school districts will never, ever be able to afford a true 1:1 laptop program even with the “special pitch” to school boards. Teachers are being let go, programs are being discontinued and levies are failing. The reality is that we’re all going to be called upon to come up with alternative solutions and while I don’t believe our BYOL program is perfect, it has done more to move us forward in our understanding of the shifting nature of learning than anything else we’ve done in the past 10 years.

    Because students walk into the classroom with a variety of devices, the one-size-fits-all mentality is beginning to blur. Instead of talking about everyone opening up Microsoft Word or Glogster, we’re helping our students understand how to choose the tool that works best for their learning. Yes, students and teachers are still doing some “low-hanging fruit” types of work on their computers but I think we would all agree that everyone, everywhere is trying to figure out how to use technology in powerful ways. It’s going to take some time.

    If we continue to wait for that 1:1 laptop program, everyone loses, Gary; I know what I speak of…I’ve lived it. Instead of fighting the inevitability of BYOL, wouldn’t it be more productive to figure out how to do it right?

    I would like to thank Derrell Fincher for his response to your post. Contrary to your reply that he “doth protest too much”, I found his response to be thoughtful and dead on.

    Thanks for this conversation.

  28. Wow, Cary!

    NEVER is a very long time especially when there are a couple million laptops in the hands of school kids TODAY around the world.

    NOT forbidding and NOT providing “devices” doesn’t seem like a policy, does it? At best, those two opposites are offsetting penalties. It simply maintains the status quo without punishment.

    As for the T.H.E. article, I already copped to just grabbing a bunch of URLs to demonstrate the growth of such BYOD policies.

    If Microsoft Word and Glogster are your best examples of “choosing the right tool for learning,” you and I have a very different notion of what learning is and what the future of education should look like. Information access and personal productivity represent really low-level uses of computers.

    Do kids pick the algebra text of their choice based on their learning needs? Can they skip spelling quizzes, handwriting instruction or standardized tests because they are incompatible with their learning style.

    I cannot believe that people are giving me grief over this issue. I want better stuff for you and your kids so that schools may become more productive contexts for learning. I’ll show you how to fund it if you wish, but BYOD is still a ghastly education policy.

  29. C’mon Gary…you don’t really think all we do is Word docs and Glogsters, right? You should see the powerpoints our kids are doing. Wink, wink.

  30. The section that states “education should not be based off money” is very true. Too much competition is bad for schooling, because in the end it is the students that lose. Yes, the school that acquires the most money and technology opens doors for their students, but the students at poorer schools lose out big time. Also, once schools hit rock bottom, it takes ages to get back or they never go back up to where they were.

  31. Gary,

    Thanks for giving us something to ponder. Discussions are necessary instead of blind acceptance.

    It’s not exactly the same, but 20 years ago did we tell kids to go get their own history book?

  32. Gary, can you direct me to a post where you expound on your vision of what learning should look like using technology as a tool for learning? I am most interested in what types of learning tasks students will be engaged in and the role of teaching in helping the students to achieve their academic goals.

  33. Jon,

    Not sure I understand your comment:

    “It’s not exactly the same, but 20 years ago did we tell kids to go get their own history book?”

    But if I am understanding it correctly, I would probably answer it with something like,

    “Perhaps we should have allowed them to bring in their own history book…or anything that might help them understand and appreciate history.”

  34. Sharon,

    I’m about to embark on about two days worth of flying, so I’m a bit short on examples or links off the top of my head, but there is a lot of stuff at http://stager.org/handout, I’m writing a book and I agree with Seymour Papert on nearly everything. This video might be interesting or one of the ones linked in my newsletter – http://eepurl.com/gjFQX

  35. Hi Cary,

    Glad you weighed in. I know what successes you are having with your program.

    I guess the parallel I was looking for would be that if one student brought in a “lesser” book, (s)he might be at a disadvantage. True, the multiple perspectives would be an advantage though. Or the idea of bringing in a supplemental book would be a good thing…like the freedom to bring in whatever devices you wish.

    And I was also mentioning “20 years ago.” I hope some attitudes have changed since then.

  36. In your article, you mentioned the “low-hanging” fruit of education. Could you elaborate a bit more on what the “higher fruit” are? Perhaps tell more about what you mean by computational thinking…

  37. David,

    I have twenty year-old articles by you laying out how we could afford a real computer for everybody. Why are you now settling for phones?

    I’m definitely not shilling for Apple here because I believe that iPhones AND iPads are currently inadequate for the construction of knowledge.


  38. Hi Doug,

    I’ll reply here and on my blog. I may include some of this in a future blog post as well. I appreciate you reading my blog. (or at least this post)

    Ah, where to start?

    1) I am amazed, slightly disappointed and not surprised by the amount of “traffic” this blog post has received. It is hardly my best or most important blog post (http://stager.tv/?p=2171, http://huff.to/pwjPbB, http://huff.to/gvjHlL & http://huff.to/ddTfAT are infinitely more important articles). However, this post earned more comments than anything else I’ve ever written.


    Is it because I had the audacity to suggest that education should be better funded? Because I believe the once revolutionary edtech community lurches between self-congratulatory and catatonic? Because I believe that we should advocate for the richest possible educational experiences?

    In this case, the great isn’t the enemy of the good. The cheap seems to be the enemy of the good.

    2) It is difficult to pretend that there are not a lot of schools who have figured out how to fund a real multimedia computer for all students. I’ve been working in them for 21+ years.I suspect you’ve given speeches in some of them too. Alan Kay and Seymour Papert began advocating for this in 1968. One million kids in the developing world have an XO and if we decided to provide every kid with a laptop in America, the costs would drop dramatically AND it would create jobs.

    I wonder why the organizations alleged to represent edtech don’t do so? (ISTE, COSN, SETDA)

    3) You allude to this, but if schools didn’t enact moronic reflexive policies banning arbitrary objects (cellphones, etc.), then schools would not have to adopt policies allowing them on campus. I said over and over and over again in the post and comments that 1:1 is inevitable and that schools should not be capriciously mean to children.

    4) Critics of my post have largely ignored the issues of:

    • False equivalencies
    • The narrowing of computing
    • Increased teacher anxiety
    and contributing to the growing narrative that education is not worthy of investment

    5) Turning my argument for equity into an argument against equity is the sort of rhetorical trick I’d expect from Fox News.

    6) Too few people seem to understand the purpose or meaning of “policy.” Again, I’m not accusing you of this, but making compromises for what may seem like a good reason at some point in time isn’t the same as setting thoughtful policy.

    7) The screenshot you include above breaks my heart. After 30 years of trying to use computers in ways that we know can revolutionize learning and liberate kids from a system designed for another era, R&D is being invested in tracking homework assignments, attendance and grades? Please don’t argue that such technology serving the system increases agency for the learner.

    8) Perhaps we are talking past each other since my vision of computing in schools may be dramatically different from yours (or other critics of my blog post).

    The October 13th edition of The Daily Papert – http://dailypapert.com/?p=648 says this better than I can:

    “To skeptics who might ridicule seeing learning as the most important issue in a deeply troubled world, I will only say that none of the world’s troubles will be resolved unless people, especially those of the next generation, learn to think in better ways than those who brought the troubles about. Having said this I shall from now on confine myself to far more specific and immediate questions about what changes in how people learn may come about via the computer. These are not simply changes in curriculums or test scores. They include changes in the human relationships most closely related to learning-relationships between generations in families, relationships between teachers and learners and relationships between peers with common interests. The debates between Utopians and critics are as fierce in this “limited” arena as anywhere.” (Seymour Papert, 1996)

  39. I guess it all boils down to what it is our expectations for how digital devices or computers are used by students. If schools think that a phone or an iPod/Pad can do everything that is needed this tells me they are satisfied with students being the recipients of information and not necessarily the creators. The BYOD are typically passive, consumption tools and not often used as creation tools. As Seymour Papert said, we should not be letting the computer program us, but we should be programming the computer. Sure, there may be a place for using smaller personal devices in the classroom, I have my students do it all the time, but I would be worried about the educator that thinks that is the most powerful computer necessary in the learning process.

  40. One option to overcome the haves vs. have-nots issue of BYOD is for schools to consider Google’s Chromebook for education program. This would allow all students to have the same devices, while hopefully controlling costs.

    If you institution is already considering Chromebooks, but you still need access to Windows apps, you can also look at Ericom AccessNow, a pure HTML5 RDP client that enables students and staff to connect to any RDP host, including Terminal Server (RDS Session Host), physical desktops or VDI virtual desktops – and run their applications and desktops in a browser.

    Ericom‘s AccessNow does not require Java, Flash, Silverlight, ActiveX, or any other underlying technology to be installed on end-user devices – an HTML5 browser is all that is required.

    Ericom offers special pricing for education customers.

    For more information on Ericom’s AccessNow solution for education, please visit:

    To download the evaluation visit:

  41. Much discussion on this topic: Just curious how many folks reading/posting on this topic currently work in K-12 public education? When you witness student and teacher daily use of technology while balancing budget, policy, and supporting curriculum requirements, views broaden. BYOT appears to parallel the discussion on social networking in schools–it is a push-up from students rather than a push-down from teachers/schools. Students have already figured out the benefits and drawbacks of technologies.

    Review the past Speak-Up collections from Project Tomorrow http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/

    Two caveats school districts need to address:
    1) teacher and administrator awareness of what the technologies can and can not do
    2) equity for those students whose families don’t have the means to provide the technology

  42. Hi Gary,
    I don’t agree with everything you say but I agree with every single thing you say in this post. We’re spending billions worldwide replicating what kids have always done on paper. To solve big problems, we need a combination of human creativity and machine power. Yet, we don’t want to teach students how to give instructions to a computer(ie how to program). The Maths curricula most of us teach continue to assume that the equation is the key abstraction of the world. If you can turn a problem into an equation, preferably with one unknown, then you can solve that problem. Today, a mathematician is just as likely to solve a problem through an algorithm which a computer can execute. This has been the case for a long time and yet programming is yet to make the mainstream.
    I leave you with two thoughts: 1- Maintain the rage; 2- Go Tigers!!!

  43. I think it might help because we have to do a Persuasive Essay on it and it will open new oppertunitys for kids with disabilitys but it might affect kids that dont have a lot of money. But on the good side, it might work. Peace out! ~~Lukas Iforgot Jaeger~~
    BTW add me to Facebook! ( Lukas Iforgot Jaeger)

  44. I’ve never been a proponent of the BYOD movement — I actually call it the ‘Beyond the Divide’ movement (yes, you’ll have to ‘stretch’ the connection between BYOD and ‘Beyond the Divide’). I fear that the divide will become a chasm that will be difficult to bridge if we allow any and all ‘devices’ into our classrooms. I am more concerned about leveling the field and BYOD appears to make it more apparent between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’.

    Aside from the logistical nightmare for educators — will we need to be versed in trouble-shooting all forms of ‘devices’ and operating systems? Will our lessons need to have additional modifications based on the iOS? Or will this truly reform our lesson designs to make them uniform regardless of ‘device’ or OS?

    Who knows? I for one would like to see our focus return more to the pedagogy and less to the equipment.

  45. I do understand the hassles that come when kids bring, or are unable to bring, their own computers to school. However, when will we stop making excuses for teachers who are “not comfortable” with technology? I am an old teacher, closer to 60 than 50, but I saw this coming, got on the bandwagon, and try to lead the way in this area. I’m really tired of hearing from teachers in many age ranges that technology “isn’t their thing.” They are doing their students a great injustice by not recognizing the connections that can be made from classroom to the real world.

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