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EdTech Update




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Seven reasons why teachers should UTOD

In the history of the world, no one has ever washed a rented car.
                                                                                 Lawrence Summers 

Do you use your personal technology to do school work? I do.

I've been thinking again about the off-hand proposal I made last fall (BYOD - to work) in which I suggested that instead of a school providing teachers a computer, it instead provides them an annual stipend to supply their own computing power. (Use Their Own Devices). 

The idea was met with pretty much universal negativity in the comments with concerns related primarily to the complexity of supporting multiple devices, operating systems, etc. The infographic below shows that workers themselves are divided about BYOD to work. The more "mature markets" are more resistant to such plans; the "high-growth markets" are far more receptive. (Oh, if there ever was a "mature market," education must be it.)


Worried Workers: BYOD Or You’re SOL

But I can think of a number of reasons why schools should pursue a BYOD approach to technology for all staff. 

  1. Cost neutrality and increased productivity. OK, let's give each employee a $500 per year, tax exempt, stipend toward a computing needs. Contractually, the device must have certain capabilities, be less than three years old, and be in school when school is in session. Other than permanently fixed classroom technologies (IWBs, projectors, sound systems, network infrastructure, etc.), no other staff technology would be provided. My guess is that we now spend probably about this amount each year on providing, supporting, repairing etc. school supplied computers. (See below some possible cost savings on support and repair.) Having personal computing devices to take home would increase the likelihood of school work being done outside regular school hours. (I know, like teachers don't do this now.)
  2. Economic advantage and fewer ethical concerns for staff. Staff could choose to use the technology stipend to by several lower-cost devices (cheap computer, tablet, smart phone) or one powerful device (a fast laptop). One would not need to worry about doing personal work on a school computer (or vice versa) and violating board policy. Careful policies on privacy would need to be constructed. Would the school be able to search one's personal device if there was probable cause of wrong-doing?
  3. Fewer repair costs and less equipment downtime. People are more careful of their own property. Repair would be the responsibility of individual with a contract possibly worked out with a local computer store for doing repairs. Fewer coffee spills and greater virus protection would be logical outcome.
  4. Drive to universal applications. With a diversity of devices, teaching materials and applications would need to selected for universal access and usability. This simplifies training and support as well as helps students who bring their own personal devices.
  5. Greater use by staff. The more familiarity one has with a tool, the better it tends to be use. And familiarity is bullt through use. If one can select the interface and weight and size of the tool, the probability of use goes up. We use the things we like; we avoid the ones we don't.
  6. Better utilization of tech staff. Not repairing school owned computers frees up technology staffing dollars to be spent on training and support. Same economic rational for moving servers and applications to the cloud. 
  7. Greater potential diversity of tech use. Different devices present different opportunities for use. Educational monocultures are no healthier than botanical monocultures. Teaching and learning should both be deeply personal and allowing choice of computing devices enables personalization. 

I forgot my smart phone at home one day this week and I was once again shocked into recognizing how much this external brain supports my life. I expect than in the near future that forgetting one's external brain will be nearly impossible as computing devices are embedded in eye glasses, jewelry, clothing, or skin.

As computing becomes ever more "personal" and ubiquitous, having one external brain for school and one external brain for one's life outside of school makes less and less sense. Technology enhances us all in highly individual ways. Let's honor that individuality and let teachers choose the technology that works best for them.

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Reader Comments (3)

It doesn't seem that long ago that my kids called my Palm Pilot my "brain."

Good thoughts. I'd rather use my own device, and I do. (And my school isn't giving me a stipend.) They are kind enough to let us access the network, though, which I'm aware some schools do not.

January 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnnette

It certainly is an attractive idea for me, but then I don't mind buying some of my own stuff when the school equipment bugs me. I brought in my own slide show clicker and even bought an IPEVO document camera because it's more portable than the big school ones.

I might change your rule #1 to "be less than 5-6 yeas old" because most decent laptops last that long easy. And maybe give teaching staff $500 year one, then $200-300 other years for repairs/updates, discounts on other devices or saved up for better devices every 2-3 years--whatever they wanted to do with it.

I doubt MY district (which I like nickname "China") would go for it because they seem to be allergic to anything that's not PC-based and love the ability to block/snoop. But it sounds great to me! Can't wait to see what your other commentors have to say.

January 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim Randolph

Hi Annette,

My guess is the "external brain" description of such devices will become less and less humorous/ironic as more of us depend on them and they become more a part of our body or clothes. We can tell out kids, "Back in the day, we didn't have implanted computers...."


Hi Ninja,

I suppose the details of the finances could be left to negotiators. And yes, five years old may be a better requirement, although we a lot of complaints from laptop users about the speed and capabilities of four year old Mac laptops - people are ready for a trade in!

There seems to be a real schism between districts that are permissive and those that are locked down. I wonder if their educational programs reflect a similar mentality?


January 12, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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