BYOD: Embracing technology in K-12 schools

By: Jennifer Sicking, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
November 12, 2012

Schools should embrace technology and encourage students to bring their own computing devices, whether it's a smartphone, tablet or a laptop, according to one Indiana State University professional.

Jim Johnson, director of instructional and information technology services with the Bayh College of Education, said technology will only become more essential in kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms in the future and that schools should embrace and encourage the use of technology rather than embargoing devices. A growing number of schools are joining the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement to better integrate classrooms with technology.

While many K-12 schools would like to put a computer in the hands of every student, budget cuts have limited the amount of technology that schools can buy and use, Johnson said.

"Instead of using the school budget to buy technology, they should say, ‘You have a laptop, you have an iPad, we'll integrate you in, '" said Johnson, who worked for many years in K-12 schools before joining Indiana State.

He pointed out that people like to have and use their own computers.

"We should suggest minimum specs, but you could buy what you want," he said.

Schools could have devices that students could rent or borrow if their families cannot afford one, Johnson said. However, the latest study data shows that more and more students have some sort of technological device.

The latest national Project Tomorrow study data from 2010 shows 31 percent of high school students have smartphones. Additionally, many K-12 students have an MP3 player, while those with an iPod Touch would also have internet, audio and video capabilities. The study found 36 percent of kindergarteners through second graders had some type of MP3 player. Those numbers increase to the saturation point by the time children enter middle school with 80 percent owning an MP3 device and 85 percent of high school students owning one. As to students with laptops or tablets, 27 percent of kindergartners through second graders own one and those numbers rise to 53 percent for middle school students and 60 percent for high school students.

In the years since the study, Johnson said, those numbers would only have increased.

Johnson said schools should begin the BYOD process by discussing the pros and cons of students and staff bringing their own devices. Pros include being less expensive for schools as the users buy the device and the schools only provide support. Also, people tend to upgrade to new devices sooner than most schools can afford to do so. BYOD also allows students to use the same software and files at home as they do at school.

"You give people the choice of what they like," he said.

However, school officials must be aware of cons such as security issues and protecting data.

"Getting them on the internet is relatively simple, but where are you going to store everything they create?" he said. "What apps and programs are they going to use?"

Johnson pointed out there would be a lack of standardization of devices so schools needed to set minimum hardware requirements of what the school would support. Also, if schools decide to allow students to bring their own devices, then Johnson said schools need to have well thought out policies in place to protect students, and to prevent hacking or grade changing.

"I'm real big on keeping parents involved so they understand internet safety and using mobile technology," Johnson said.

Schools should conduct surveys to see what types of devices and software students would have access to use. Schools also would need feedback from the community, parents, teachers and students.

"They need to look at potential problems, solutions and what everybody can live with," Johnson said.

It begins with school administrators rethinking school policies and how the school support teachers and students, especially as many schools have policies not allowing students to have cell phones.

"They need to know what policies are in place to make this successful instead of denying access to these devices," Johnson said.

Johnson said there could be classroom management issues, but those happen even in low technology classrooms.

"What did they do before computers, before technology? They would sit and talk, sleep or doodle if they were bored," he said. "You've got to have good teaching and use instructional time effectively. You need creative, engaging lessons that use technology so that the students are active participants in learning."

By giving students real-world uses for technology, teachers could use social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter or use Edmodo which adds security and is designed for education, Johnson said.

"It's a small piece of the grand scheme that's going to be changing our educational environment," Johnson said about the BYOD movement. "Can we win as educators if we deny students bringing and using technology?"

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/ISUphotoservices/Jim-Johnson/i-rCHH5Vg/0/L/11_12_12_jim_johnson-4155-L.jpgJim Johnson

Contact: Jim Johnson, Indiana State University, director of instructional and information technology services with the Bayh College of Education, at Jim.Johnson@indstate.edu or 812-237-2921

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, associate director of media relations, at Jennifer.Sicking@indstate.edu or 812-237-7972