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EdTech Update




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BYOD - a short list of resources

From this week's e-mail:

I've recently become interested in how BYOD programs are being used and implemented in schools around the country. My son's school (he's in 6th grade) seems to have a fairly open and not-thought-out policy of allowing students to bring laptops to class so that they can "take notes". As can be expected, most of these devices are used to play games and other disractions during class time. The teachers and administration don't seem to know how to combat this problem. Searching a little further, I've seen others relate to this problem.

As a parent I'm outraged by this. However, as a software professional and entrepreneur I'm quite intrigued. I'm asking myself if perhaps there could be a technological solution to this. After thinking about this for a little while, I've come up with a few ideas.

I've also started to look in the marketplace to see if anyone is currently addressing this issue and have found nothing. And so I was hoping to hear the opinions of the experts, which is why I'm writing to you. Do you think that student distraction in a BYOD environment is a real issue? If so, do you know of any methods that schools are using to combat this problem other than simply creating acceptable use policies and relying on students self-policing themselves?

Dear Outraged,

I do think that student distraction can be a problem - BYOD or no BYOD - if the classroom environment is not engaging. See Engage or Entertain, Education World, April, 2008 and Taming the Chaos, Learning & Leading with Technology, November 2010. I was distracted long before technology with comic books, doodling, girls, napping etc., so technology is not the only cause here. 

I guess I am not creative enough to think of a technical solution to this problem - some sort of device that blocks wi-fi and 3/4G signals at certain times (as I remember these exist but are illegal). I am not as dismissive of good policies and self-policing as you are. The ability to focus in classses, meetings, etc. will be a skill needed long after kids leave school. And good class rules do go a very long way. See  Mankato Area Public Schools Bring Your Own Device support page

Two other factors that should be consider is making sure there is a clearly stated rationale for the BYOD program in your child's school. See Project ELF-Tech (a BYOD initiative), Blue Skunk blog, December 28, 2011. Parents need to be kept in the loop as well. See  Advice on buying technology for students (letter to parents), Blue Skunk blog, December 1, 2011. I would also, as a school, have means of addressing the needs of students who cannot afford to bring their own technologies. See BYOD - an ethical dilemma indeed, Blue Skunk blog, October 14, 2011.

An Internet search on schools and BYOD or BYOT should turn up a lot of good articles and advice on this popular means of providing additional access to students. For example:



I wish I had better ideas regarding a tech solution, but this is more of an pedagogy/human nature problem.

All the best,


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Reader Comments (6)

Personal experience shows me that students will find a way to be distracted, even if it involves a piece of candy wrapper off the floor left from the previous student. I have tried to develop assignments that should require the student to not only be working all period but interacting with other student, and there are still some who will use Google Maps to look at their house for most of the period.

I fully believe in BYOD but understand that it would require much more oversight than most teachers are willing to give or able to understand.

Of course students will text each other, play games and wander electronically - when they were given their device there was no training or agreement or directions. Image if we required a specific amount of training BEFORE the student was given their phone, tablet or laptop? Why not have them prove to use that they know how to use it academically first - at least we will have some direction and instruction as a foundation.

November 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

Hi Kenn,

I believe it was Harvard when experimenting with giving students iPod Touchs, decide to ask each student to describe how he/she would use the device for educational purposes. I think that is where we need to be.

Training prior to use is essential. Thanks for the reminder.


November 7, 2012 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

We have an active BYOD here at American School of Bombay and I need to agreed with Doug (as usual) that it is not a technology issue, but a management issue. Two common practices here:
1) Lots of personalized, self-paced activities so that kids are responsible to get their work done on time
2) during group work - tell kids to "45 your screen" (put it at a 45 degree so it doesn't distract)
Hope this helps.


November 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim Staal

Hi Tim,

Good practical advice. One of our schools has a rule that all devices MUST be on the desktop at all times - no below the desk use.


November 8, 2012 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

I am a parent and a future teacher. This year my Edm310 class has really opened my eyes up to the importance of technology in the classroom. I feel that as a teacher, it is my responsibility to make sure that my students are not using the computers in a harmful way. I have also been at a lose of how exactly to monitor how they are being used. I know our school systems has certain safety nets in place and students can't view certain sites when using a school computer but I don't know how that would apply when they bring their own. I was reading about tools that allow the teacher to sit at their desk and pull up what is on the student's screen. These tools are Apple Remote Desktop, Vision, SynchronEyes. Once again these tools could be used on school computers but probably not on personal computers. I would be very interested in hearing what you come up with. Keep me posted.

Thanks, Stacy

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStacy Smith

Hi Stacy.

Filters will work on personal devices if students are using the school network, but not if their device bypasses the school network with build-in 3G or 4G data plans.

I still think the teacher walking about the classroom is the most effective means of insuring good student use of technology!

Thanks for your comment,


November 9, 2012 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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