In the history of the world, no one has ever washed a rented car.
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.)
But I can think of a number of reasons why schools should pursue a BYOD approach to technology for all staff.
- 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.)
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.