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?
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:
- Fairfax County Public Schools RECOMMENDED BEST PRACTICES FOR PERSONALLY OWNED COMPUTING/NETWORK DEVICES fairfaxBYOD.pdf
- Neilson, L. 7 Myths of BYOD Debunked, T.H.E. Journal, November 11, 2011.
- Robinson, J. Lessons from Our One-Year Experiment with BYOT
- Valenza, J. Infotention and digital citizenship
- West, M. Making the Case for Mobile Tech. Expansion, Education Week Digital Directions, June 13, 2012
I wish I had better ideas regarding a tech solution, but this is more of an pedagogy/human nature problem.
All the best,