There is a transformation happening in classrooms and lecture halls around the world,” says Alyssa Atkins, content specialist at Top Hat. “Students’ devices have become an integral part of their lives, and naturally will continue to become an integral part of their educational experience. The technological standards students have will continue to increase.
Now that bring your own device, or BYOD, debate has been largely settled in the corporate world, it has moved to the education arena. School districts and universities across the nation are implementing BYOD policies that allow students to use their own tech devices to access curriculum. Supporters say it’s a way to improve education without placing large financial burdens on the schools.
BYOD allows students to use personal mobile devices, which can include laptops, tablets, e-readers, smartphones and even MP3 players as tools for learning. Long says the most widely used tool is the smartphone, although they do see some tablets and, rarely, a laptop being used.
When schools in Alberta, Canada, began considering BYOD in the classroom, the organization Alberta Education created a pilot program to study its effectiveness. In 2010, it launched an 18-month study with teams from 10 schools to see how widespread BYOD affected students and the education process.
At the end of the study, educators and analysts concluded that it enhanced student performance. Teachers reported that students who used their own devices were more engaged and invested in their own learning. And, because students were already familiar with the devices they were using, teachers didn’t have to spend time educating them on how to use the technology.
The BYOD practice is also extremely helpful for students with disabilities, who now can use their existing assistive technologies to access learning materials. And, since not all students learn the same way, there’s the added benefit of multiple forms of learning – some may study by reading a PDF, others by watching a video tutorial. File sharing through tools like Google docs or Dropbox can enhance collaboration and improve communication between students and teachers.
For all its benefits, experts also caution that there can be drawbacks to BYOD implementation in the schools. For example, Alberta Education’s report noted that technology can be distracting and students might use it to access non-school-related programs when they should be studying. And, for economically challenged families, purchasing devices could create a financial burden.
However, most schools that implement BYOD policies also create guidelines that address these issues.
By Paula Felps