BYOD Concerns: Education vs. Prohibition

One innovation that is sweeping American institutions of learning is the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement.  The reasons are compelling.  Instead of schools and universities purchasing expensive technology and paying for its upkeep, individual students simply use the devices that they already have.  A recent ECAR survey reports that over half of collegiate students now own smartphones and over 85% own laptop computers.  Simply allowing students to use the devices they already own reduces the financial burden to schools.  It also allows students to use those devices with which they are already comfortable.  Many students customize the look and feel of their computers and phones to suit the needs.  Schools that embrace BYOD recognize the importance of individualized technological experiences for students.  BYOD schools also recognize the power that these technologies can have on learning.  Educators can use affordable student response systems like iClicker or PollEverywhere to engage and assess their students.  Additionally, through increased academic use, students will better understand how to use devices they already own as tools for learning.

When schools embrace BYOD, however, new challenges emerge.  For instance, a recent study by Junco & Cotten shows that multitasking during schoolwork can a strong negative impact on a collegiate student’s GPA.  While activities like Google searching during schoolwork do not significantly impact a student’s GPA, the study shows that using Facebook and Twitter does.  This study provides empirical evidence for what many educators already know:  Students can’t be updating their Facebook statuses or Tweeting when they’re trying to study and be successful students.  The study also reinforces work by Wood and her colleagues that showed the negative impact that off-task multi-tasking during classroom lessons could have on student performance.

These studies provide some interesting obstacles for those of us advocating for the BYOD movement.  With students using their own devices, isn’t there a greater likelihood that they’ll be tempted to check their Facebook page or their Twitter feed during classtime?  Don’t these research studies show the BYOD is doomed and we should just ban students’ distracting technologies from our classrooms?  While some may argue that the studies would support a prohibition of technology from our classroom, I tend to read the research more broadly.  The studies absolutely show that technologies can have negative impact on student performance. But examined collectively, the studies also show that students will be distracted from their schoolwork whether they’re in our classrooms or not.  We can’t ban technologies from their lives completely.  It’s really an age old challenge that parents, educators, and politicians (and others) find themselves facing time and time again:  Education vs. Prohibition.  Do we ban soft drinks and sweets completely or do we teach children to balance their diets?  Do we ban certain types of literature or do we teach readers the value of great literature?  Do we ban sites like Wikipedia completely or do we teach students how to critically analyze information and vet sources? Do we ban distracting technologies or teach students how to better manage their technical lives so they’re less distracted?

I believe we need to educate students about appropriate use of technology and show students that they will be more productive and more engaged when they focus on a single task without the distractions from Facebook and Twitter.  This is a 21st Century life skill that will help them be better students, but it will also help them be more attentive friends, partners and parents.


7 thoughts on “BYOD Concerns: Education vs. Prohibition

  1. The second half of your last sentence is the most important reason to educate students about technology. How technology is affecting social skills is my primary concern.

  2. Ollie–I vote for education, and will be emphasizing similar points related to BYOD and enabling engagement in a talk to the trustees later today. Good post, as always.

  3. I am sorry I can’t cite it but a recent study actaully found that attention and comprehension increased if BYOD was used to focus student’s attention on class content. The study showed a difference existed between simply having technology as a distraction in class and being asked to use technology as a learning tool. I think it was a link sent by the Linked In Higher Ed updates I get about weekly. I use PollEveryWhere (thanks to you) when I guess lecture and the students love it. There is, as always, some abuse. But I get especially good feedback for open ended questions. And, when I interact (which I still include as part of my process) I might get 10-20% of the students to answer questions. When I use PollEveryWhere I have gotten as high as 98% of the students to “discuss” or share their perspectives. It really allows the quiet students to participate. And, the depth and variance of perceptions was refreshing.

  4. This is a perfect post for my recent endeavor in my sixth grade classroom. Students are accessing social media sites and posting updates about their lives. They’re not sure what’s appropriate to post and they’re always connected with their devices.

    Since Twitter and Facebook are blocked in my district I found a way to integrate Edmodo into the classroom. Edmodo offers an app for iOS and Android devices. My students are permitted post on Edmodo throughout the day. They can post about what we’re learning and what’s happening in the classroom. This makes our classroom instantly transparent for our parents and the community because the feed is also linked on our blog –

    I control whether or not the posts are public. If I don’t make the post public I meet with the student and explain why. Maybe there were convention errors in the post or the post wasn’t relevant to what we’re learning.

    With the BYOD movement, we have a lot of power in tiny hands. I feel the classroom is a great learning environment for the students to learn how to successfully integrate these devices into their educational experience as well as their lives.

    The scary part for educators is the management aspect of these devices. Throughout our careers educators work to manage all aspects of our classrooms. We tweak and shift our management philosophies to better meet the needs of our students. Now we need to make adjustments in our management styles to successfully integrate technology instead of prohibiting the devices.

    If a student sends a text message in class to a peer we take their device. Do we ban students from paper and pencil if they’re caught passing notes? I think there needs to be a big push in establishing management techniques and strategies at all levels of education so teachers can overcome the fear of integrating technology into their classrooms.

  5. Great post Ollie. I think it would be awesome if the new library could be designated as a BYOD facility on campus. We could have some select workstations (maybe in the media development room??) but we could also just check out a few standard devices at the Circulation Desk for students who don’t want to carry their laptop around with them. Imagine the $$ savings if we didn’t have to outfit, troubleshoot, and update computers. We could focus more on helping students learn about technology and their personal devices. They either already know or are going to need to learn how to install new operating systems, recover data, instal programs/apps, etc. Librarians, faculty, IT, and student assistants could all help to develop those skills in our student body instead of just fixing the problem for them. It’s an interesting idea to say the least. You’ve also really struck a chord with me re: education versus prohibition. This is something that comes up so often in the world of librarianship and, in my field, is closely related to improving the user experience.

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