Students Asked To Bring Their Own Device To Class

Aug 5, 2013

Smartphones and other handheld devices are becoming more and more a part of our daily lives. With this in mind, schools are implementing policies that allow students to use their own gadgets in the classroom.

Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow takes a closer look at these policies and what it means to the changing state of education.

The art of education includes utilizing a student’s interests and applying that to their learning.

Years ago, teachers were competing with the entertainment kids found in television. Now the same struggle is happening with computers and smartphones, so just like they did with television, schools are beginning to use these high-tech devices to their advantage.

Districts around the state are asking kids to B-Y-O-D, which stands for “Bring Your Own Device.” Teachers in these classrooms are no longer telling students to put their cell phones away, instead, they’re encouraging the teens and pre-teens to use these gadgets during their lessons.

At Avon Lake City Schools, near Cleveland, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and e-readers are now taking the place of textbooks, worksheets and planners.

Bob Scott is the district’s superintendent he says it’s important to reach students on their level and adapt to their way of learning.

Scott: “Teaching kids in our world when they don’t have necessarily the same connections that we have as a 40-year-old or a 50-year-old or a 60-year-old—doesn’t necessarily benefit their learning. Sometimes we have to make the step into their world so the connectivity is there and the learning becomes easier for them because you’re speaking in their terms you’re connecting to things that they understand and how they view the world.”

BYOD and expanding the use of technology have the ability to create a flexible classroom environment where the teachers can be more creative in their instruction.

This means using YouTube for educational videos, asking students to Google the answer to a tough question, and posting homework assignments online.

But what about the students who don’t own their own smartphone or other devices? John Charlton, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Education, says that’s an issue districts need to tackle on the local level. 

Charlton: “If you’re telling kids that they’re allowed to bring devices and utilize them or that you’re allowing kids to bring devices to supplement what you already have in terms of devices I think that those are—again nothing wrong with that—but those are certainly policies that the local districts are going to have to work out for them and what’s best for their community.”

As for Avon Lake, Scott says the district supplies the devices for students who don’t own any of these gadgets.

This is a big change from the times when students could get in big trouble if they were caught roaming the halls with a cellphone.

Scott: “We looked at how much we were chasing cellphones at that time and it really felt like—well you know we could put things in place and work with our kids to use them appropriately. Why do we want to spend our time disciplining kids for bringing something that’s really becoming the way of the world?”

And it’s working. Scott says students are misusing their phones less now than they were when the devices were banned altogether. And you have to remember the adjustment isn’t just for the students, I asked Scott how the teachers were handling the change.

Chow: “The thing that I find interesting about all this is that I feel like this could create a sort of old school versus new school issue especially with the teachers?”

Scott: “A term that we use all the time is ‘digital native.’ And the kids today are digital natives. So we do have to spend time training staff especially our more mature staff. Not to necessarily use it—but not to be afraid of it.”

Scott urges that the “Bring Your Own Device” theory is a fluid process and the district has to create different policies and procedures as they continue down this path.

For example, in order for a student to bring in their own device they must register for a digital driver’s license to make sure they understand the rules to accessing the network.

As schools move down this path… it’s clear that the classroom environment may continue to evolve with the use of smartphones and other handheld devices, that is, at least, until the next big invention is discovered.

Andy Chow at the Ohio Public Radio Statehouse News Bureau.