DAILY INSIGHT: Smartphones for BYO

By Steven M. Baule, CIO Advisor

At our bi-weekly technology meeting last week, we took a couple minutes to discuss what people read over break. Now, one of the members is on a statewide book award committee, so she always has a number of titles she's read, and one of the other members is a voracious reader as well. I wish I had the time to be as well-read as either of them. (A side note: All the really smart people I know are well-read and continually read.) One of the other guys in the group then pulled out his phone to show us how he reads books on his phone.

Several of us were a little horrified (I think the Kindle Fire has about the smallest screen I would want to use to read a complete book), but he was completely OK with reading in that format. (He is young and has better eyes than I do.) Again, the nearly ubiquitous smartphone raises its simple head among the tablets, notebooks, and all of the other devices we keep trying to bring into schools. Of course, many schools are still trying to keep cell phones out of schools. However, I think it is time we admit that the smartphone might be the easiest BYO device to get use in our classrooms.

Teachers can already ask our students to use their phones for some of the polling sites in class. People of all shapes and sizes use their phones to look up trivia questions or answers to questions in college courses and workshops. Effectively, outside of our classrooms, smartphones have already replaced almanacs and atlases for most simple ready reference questions. Why don’t we let students do so in classrooms?

We let our high school students use their cell phones during lunch as an incentive to reduce tardies. The world didn’t end and, in fact, the lunchroom was calmer for some time. Unfortunately, some students just like to be late so that privilege was lost for a time last quarter.

As smartphones seem to increase screen size and memory, we need to take another look at them as the de facto BYO device of choice in schools.

Some other opinions on the topic can be found below:

Mindshift’s Mobile Learning, May 2012

Huffington Post, November 2012

Columbus Dispatch, October 2012

What do you think?

Steven M. Baule is superintendent of North Boone CUSD 200 in Poplar Grove, IL. He has written several books on aspects of library and technology management and planning.