Is BYOD Fair?

8/7/2012 12:00:00 AM
...fairness isn't an objective feature of the universe. It's a concept that was invented so children and idiots can participate in arguments. Scott (Dilbert) Adams

Long before the term BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) became popular, our district permitted personally owned student devices on our wireless networks to give students Internet access. We've never had a district-level policy banning phones, laptops, tablets, or other student technologies. And while our buildings and individual teachers certainly have rules guiding such use, students can use their own equipment on all our campuses.

So an interesting thing happened last year that was at least a partially enabled by this open-access policy. Our student information system, Infinite Campus, released an iOS app so students and parents could get to their information using their iPhones, iPads or iPod Touchs. We put the link and instructions on our portal's website at 11:00AM and by noon, students were already using it to track assignments, grades, attendance, and schedules - and enabling notifications when new data was added by teachers.

I was feeling pretty good about that until reading Gary Stager's post: BYOD – Worst Idea of the 21st Century? in which he laments:
  • The only way to guarantee equitable educational experiences is for each student to have access to the same materials and learning opportunities. BYOD leaves this to chance with more affluent students continuing to have an unfair advantage over their classmates. This is particularly problematic in a society with growing economic disparity, and that
  • Information access, note-taking and communication (presenting, sharing, publishing) are the low-hanging fruit of education and represent the tiniest fraction of what it means to learn. Looking up the answers to someone else’s questions online in order to write an essay or make a PowerPoint presentation reinforces the status quo at best while failing to unlock for children the wondrous opportunities provided by computational thinking.
Stager makes some interesting arguments why schools, not families, should be providing computing devices for students. Read the whole post.

Can these problems of inequity and "lowest common denominator" of technology use be ameliorated by an actual BYOD plan*? Here's what we've been working on:

Determining just how great the digital divide is among families in the district by conducting surveys and then formulating means of providing access to those students without technology access outside of school. Providing ready access to technology in school via computers in open labs, libraries, classrooms, and circulating netbooks.

Defining the capabilities of a student-owned device based on basic tasks it needs to perform - see Specs for Student Devices.  I hope we can honor individual preferences of students in type of device. Some may prefer a laptop; others a smartphone.

Using these capabilities as a selection criteria when adopting textbooks with online supplementary materials, other curricular online materials, and classroom activities.

Stager makes some compelling ethical arguments against BYOD. But there are also ethical questions raised when we do not provide all the learning opportunities possible to as many students as possible--realizing some students will not be able to take advantage of them. If the cure rate of a vaccine is 9o%, do we not treat anyone since it would be unfair to the incurable 10%? Do more powerful computers equal more powerful uses of technology in schools, as Stager suggests? Is no computing access at all preferable to access to a less powerful device? When does education become "fair"--when all students in a classroom, a grade level, a school, a district, a state, a nation, or the world have equal access to equal technologies?

If we wait for the perfect conditions to begin anything (100% if students all having access to a powerful portable computer, for example), many of us will be waiting for a very, very long time. Let's work with what we have and continue to work for better access to technologies and more powerful ways of using them.

* I have never quite decided if BYOD is a project, plan, philosophy, policy or just a buzzword.
 
Read more of Doug Johnson's work on the Blue Skunk blog
comments powered by Disqus

ETIN Releases Guidelines for Research on Educational Technologies in K-12 Schools

Changes in education technology and policy spur updated approach to in...

Edthena’s New Commitments Feature Allows Teachers to Quickly Create Their Professional Learning Plans

During the video coaching process, teachers can turn comments into an ...

New Study Finds Alabama Students Improve Test Scores Using Fuel Education’s Stride

Study by the Auburn University Center for Evaluation (ACE) found Fuel ...

StudySync Presents the 2017 MyStudySyncTV Contest Winners

Each year, StudySync awards prizes for the top middle school and high ...

Dremel Unveils DigiLab Product Suite with New 3D45 Printer

MOUNT PROSPECT, ILL. (JULY 19, 2017) — Educators and l...

Educators and Advocates Travel to Fort Collins for Renewable Energy Education Training

The 26 hand-selected participants, all of which have a passion for spr...

T&L Partner Post
Tweets
Photo GalleriesView All Galleries >
Acer C720-2844 Chromebook

(www.acer.com) The Acer C720-2844 Chromebook model delivers speedy performance, a quick boot time of seven seconds, and a matte anti-glare display tha...

Britannica ImageQuest

(www.britannica.com) Britannica Digital Learning has upgraded ImageQuest, a resource for schools and libraries that provides nearly three million rig...

ClassFlow

(www.classflow.com) Promethean has released ClassFlow, a free, all-in-one, cloud-based teaching tool that lets teachers create and deliver interactive...

Adobe Voice

(www.adobe.com) Adobe has released Adobe Voice, an animated video app for the iPad that lets users create and share video stories. The app incorporate...

DeskBoard

(www.boxlight.com) The BOXLIGHT DeskBoard mobile cart adjusts both height and tilt for the P8 ultra short throw interactive projector on a white surfa...

Core 36M

(www.bretford.com) Bretford has introduced Core 36M, a 36-unit charging cart that is optimized for Chromebooks but which also supports most tablets, l...

Edmentum Sensei

(www.edmentum.com) Edmentum Sensei is a mobile optimized solution that helps administrators visualize and track overall school, teacher, and student p...

HMH Player

(www.hmhco.com) HMH has released HMH Player, a new native app for iOS and Google Chrome that streamlines the learning experience for improved digital ...

Juice Power System

(www.bretford.com) Bretford has unveiled an easy-to-use modular power system with exchangeable power components. The Juice Power System uses unique &#...

LightSail

(www.lightsailed.com) LightSail Education has announced a literacy accelerator that combines books with in-text embedded assessments and real-time dat...

myON

(www.myon.com) myON has expanded its digital library to include a set of literacy tools to further personalize the reading experience for students whi...

Nervanix Clarity

(www.nervanix.com) Nervanix has released Clarity, an application that monitors student attention levels as they study and guides them to revisit conce...

MathBall

(www.robotslab.com) RobotsLAB has introduced MathBall, a smart sensor basketball and tablet system that offers curricula in algebra, pre-calculus, phy...

MobileAsset.EDU

(www.waspbarcode.com) Wasp Barcode’s MobileAsset.EDU solutions include everything administrators need to account for their assets, from software...

OpenEd Assessment Creation Tool

(www.opened.io) OpenEd has announced a free tool that lets teachers easily create assessments with the question types required by Common Core standard...

Panasonic TH-80LFB70U

(www.panasonic.com) Panasonic’s TH-80LFB70U interactive LED display features high-speed, multi-touch, interactive capabilities to promote partic...

penveu interactive display system

(www.penveu.com) The penveu interactive display system is a handheld device that turns projectors and large screen displays into interactive whiteboar...

PresentationPro

(www.califone.com) Califone has updated its PresentationPro speaker. The PA310 readily connects with computers, LCD projectors, mobile devices, intera...

PowerSync+ Mobile Companion App

(www.bretford.com) Bretford Manufacturing, Inc. has announced the availability of the companion app for its PowerSync+ enabled charge and sync produc...

PureCharge Carts and Stations for iPad

(www.bretford.com) Bretford Manufacturing, Inc. has debuted the PureCharge family of iPad and iPad mini charging carts and stations. By offering pre-i...

ProQuest Research Companion

(www.proquest.com) ProQuest’s new information literacy product, Research Companion, offers videos that guide users through the research process,...

Sphere2 & Class Send Student Engagement Software Platform

(www.averusa.com) AVer Information has developed a Student Engagement platform, providing teachers and students with the tools to transmit document ca...

TabChargeCT2

(www.averusa.com) AVer has released the TabChargeCT2 charge cart solution, which can hold up to 40 Chromebooks, iPads, Android or Windows tablets, lap...

VoiceLift with Instant Alert and Emergency Video Monitoring

(www.extron.com) The Instant Alert function of the Extron VoiceLift Microphone, combined with a PoleVault, WallVault, or PlenumVault classroom AV sys...

SMART Board 6065

(www.smarttech.com) The SMART Board 6065 is an ultra HD, 4K interactive flat panel that offers collaborative capabilities while ensuring lessons run s...

Gaggle Unity Partner Program

(www.gaggle.net) The new Gaggle Unity Partner Program provides free data integration services for all educational technology vendors. Through the Gagg...

Waterford Early Learning, Reading, Math & Science

(www.waterford.org) Waterford Early Learning Cloud can be used at home or to supplement lessons in classrooms. It can also be used for individual adap...

NetSupport School

(www.netsupportschool.com) The latest version of NetSupport School allows teachers to monitor and collaborate with any mix of technology. An enhanced ...

Camtasia

(www.techsmith.com/camtasia) TechSmith’s Camtasia gives teachers the tools to record lessons, create videos, and engage their audiences. Educato...

Panasonic 3E

(www.panasonic.com) Intel has teamed up with Panasonic to announce the Panasonic 3E, which uses the Intel Education 2-in-1 reference design. Designed ...