As children settle into a new school year, many armed with new laptops, tablets and smartphones, the fierce debate about bring your own device (BYOD) picks up where it left off. This generation of technology natives think, communicate and engage differently, and few would argue that the skills they will need in the future are changing. But what is the best way to navigate such uncharted territory?
For anyone who’s tried to separate a fifteen-year-old from their phone for long enough to do their chores, it is easy to see why many parents fear unfettered access to technology. Schools might meanwhile shudder at the security and support implications of being inundated with many, varied devices running diverse operating systems. The opportunity, though, is undeniable. It will be the youngsters most adept with digital systems who are best positioned to thrive in the outside world.
The key is management. A well-designed system with strong policies will benefit students, parents and schools in six key ways:
It is no secret that students perform better when they are fully engaged in learning. A Grattan Institute study found that disengaged students are typically one-to-two years behind their peers, and while many of the causes are outside the control of the school, creating engaging classes is an ongoing preoccupation for most teachers. Like it or not, most youngsters are accustomed to engaging with apps and online content. It makes sense, therefore, that well-designed digital content incorporated into lessons can help.
2. Teaching varied needs.
In most classes, especially at primary level, teachers are expected to accommodate a significant range of academic abilities. It takes time, effort, and repeated explanation for typical children to comprehend complex topics, but for advanced learners, this can feel excruciatingly slow, while others may feel stressed when they cannot keep up. Technology can be a tremendous tool for differentiating content, allowing some children the opportunity to independently research a topic in more depth while teachers offer extra help where it is needed.
3. Computational thinking.
Prioritised in the newly updated curriculum, computational thinking is the use of computers to better solve problems. The focus is on helping students to become digital creators, rather than just skilled users. A BYOD program means that youngsters always have technology available, giving them the tools to explore new ways of overcoming challenges.
4. Reduced IT overhead.
Aside from reducing the number of devices the school must acquire, the management of those devices can be largely handed over to someone else. This frees up technically skilled staff for other activities, such as content creation. Feedback from our BYOD education customers also indicates much lower classroom disruption because devices are well-maintained and always up-to-date. The consistency of device types and operating systems makes classrooms run more smoothly.
5. Choice without confusion.
Choosing the right device for school can be a stressful and bewildering experience for many parents. It is a significant expense, and nobody wants to spend a big portion of their household budget on a laptop that doesn’t keep up with the demands of schoolwork. As with adults, though, children all have preferences and enforcing a one-device-fits-all policy is equally unpopular. While BYOD programs vary, we find that offering a range of approved devices via an easy-to-use school portal means that parents can shop with confidence that any device they choose will meet the school’s minimum requirements. They can even take advantage of special education pricing negotiated with vendors.
6. Extending the classroom.
From monitoring nature for biology class to collaborating with tutors in other cities or countries, the opportunities to explore the wider world are endless. Rather than tell students in Auckland about Te Papa Tongarewa, they can have a virtual guided tour. And for homework, instead of reciting times tables, primary students can compete in fun online games against their peers in Singapore, England or Canada. BYOD can provide supervised and managed opportunities to safely explore the online world.
The concerns of parents and schools are not unreasonable, but the right BYOD program should address them fully, creating the right balance between security, enhancing skills and education outcomes while making technology provision affordable.
Time to make BYOD work right for your school? Chat with one of our education specialists about uniquely tailored programs that increase the benefits and avoid the pitfalls.