Over the past week, I have seen a lot of posts written about “Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)” or “Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT)” as an answer to the integration of technology in education. These BYOD or BYOT endeavors are fighting against 1:1 initiatives in school, and almost always are anti-iPad. I saw one tweet which stated, “1:1 initiatives are so 2007.”

As a music teacher and as a technology person, I’m against BYOD as an integration strategy. I’m not against students using their own devices in the classroom, but again, I’m against BYOD as a strategy. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. BYOD assumes that students know how to use their devices. The ability to surf the web, play games, and text message does not mean that you know how to use your device. Although students are growing up in a “technological age” (think about what people 100 years from now will think of that statement), most of them are not as technically savvy as you think they are.
  2. BYOD puts the burden on technical support on the teacher, who most often will not have a background in technology. In fact, most of our current educational institutions are doing a terrible job of integrating technology into the training of teachers. When students don’t know how to use their devices, they are going to ask their teachers how to use them. Teachers will not know how to support or use those devices, and schools will never provide teachers with the range of devices or training that they would need to be able to use those devices.
  3. Put another way, BYOD is a strategy devised by “techies” that is hard to implement in the real world. As New York Times columnist David Pogue once wrote, We geeks tend to forget that the huge majority of the world’s population are NOT geeks.”
  4. Battery life. What happens when that BYOD device dies? What happens when the student forgets their charger (they will)? BYOD guarantees that you cannot have a backup power source for the student because you can’t possibly stock every adapter in every classroom, unless you require the student to have a second adapter permanently housed at school.
  5. Technology integration is more than surfing the web and writing a paper. BYOD assumes that this is education.
  6. What is the future of textbooks? I’ve seen a lot of angry posts about textbooks being an outdated form of education. The best teachers that I know use textbooks as a reference and teach around a textbook. A textbook gives them source material to work with; and also gives students who don’t learn well in the classroom setting a chance to still learn the material on their own. Digital textbooks take away many of the challenges of printed textbooks, including the ability to update information, correct mistakes, and storage/distribution (are you aware of how many hours are spent in schools handing out and collecting textbooks). Meanwhile, interactive textbooks offer the opportunity to have live quizzes in books, provide videos to help students learn, and to avoid the weight and challenge of transporting books in school or from school to home. Back to BYOD…can a cell phone adequately display a textbook? Do interactive textbooks work on all devices?
  7. Education is more than math, science, English, and history. Right now, the only platform that works for the display and annotation of music is the iPad (You could make a case that a Windows Tablet could; but battery life is still an issue on most of those tablets). Can you use BYOD in Foreign Language? Family and Consumer Science (Home Ec)? Physical Education? Business? Technical Education? Visual Art? Theater? Music? Whatever device/strategy you select must be useable in as many fields as possible.

BYOD is a belief that “There is more than one way to skin a cat.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve never eaten cat (to my knowledge), and I have no intent of eating cat if I can help it.

I do think there are issues with schools providing hardware for students. I do think that it is more fair to the taxpayer if devices are provided by the family. So, in a sense, I do believe in BYOD, but a BYOD that specifies what the device is. Schools have been doing this for years, such as in math classes (e.g. “You must buy a TI-84 Graphing Caluclator), and I know of a number of colleges which have a minimum specification for any computer brought on campus (e.g. they either give the student a notebook as part of their tuition cost, or they specific a baseline Mac that can be ordered through the campus store).

Yes, I’m an iPad evangelist (not officially, of course). I’m a person who has used (and continues) to use Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux products (although, admittedly, the Linux is the weakest part of my experience). I know the pros and cons of most technology integration strategies, from the aspect of the student, the teacher, the administrator, and the IT support person. Each strategy has its own benefits and its own flaws. In my opinion, the iPad offers the most useful platform at all grade levels, and is the only platform that has a chance of impacting music classes (which tend to be performance-based) at the middle school and high school levels–as well as bringing those classes to new directions with apps that make it easier to go in those other directions (e.g. composition).

Again, I’m not against students bringing their own technology and using it when appropriate for instructional purposes. But I think it is wrong to develop an entire integration strategy around BYOD. As a final example, I have a number of students who now bring Amazon Kindle Fires to my class, in addition to the twenty or so students that bring an iPad (our school is NOT a 1:1 school, and we have an acceptable use policy that allows students to bring their own devices and use them as long as the teacher allows it). The screen of the Kindle Fire is significantly smaller than the iPad, and there is no app on the Kindle Fire which allows for the annotation of musical scores. There is no app on Android that allows for the annotation of musical scores. The iPad is the only platform that allows this–and annotation is a KEY factor of music education in performance classes. Although I let students use those devices in class for their music, without the ability to annotate music, they are actually at a disadvantage to their peers using iPads (even the iPad 1) or actual sheet music. When BYOD actually puts students at a disadvantage, either to other devices or even the lack of use of technology, there is a problem!

Do consider BYOD…but do so with a standard “D” that students have to bring to school.


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