BYOD Red Herrings

There have been a number of thoughts about BYOD posted recently.  I think that many of them are red herrings, detracting from the real issues.

I should state right up front that I’m a big supporter of the Bring Your Own Device movement.  And, it’s not for the reason I’ve heard so often “They’ve got their smartphones on them; they should use them”.  I think that makes wild assumptions and is easily refuted.

Some of the red herrings I’ve heard/read…

Digital Divide
The use of BYOD reinforces the difference between the haves and the have-nots.  This makes an assumption that simply isn’t there.  Not all “haves” have the technology and not all the “have-nots” don’t have the technology.  And, just because a school invites students to bring their own technology to the classroom, it doesn’t mean that it will happen.  Many parents will be afraid of loss or theft and ask that they be kept at home.

So often the discussion about BYOD focuses on the SmartPhone, and one brand in particular.  That’s a narrow focus.  There are tablets, netbooks, and laptops that can do the job so well.

Dumbing Down the Curriculum
Because of the diversity of technologies, teachers will dumb down the curriculum so that everyone will be successful with BYOD.  I would hope that never happens.  The curriculum is why education exists.  Everything else is assistive.

Texting Is Distracting
Absolutely, and there’s no question that it is.  So were spitballs and writing cutesy words on a calculator upside down.  Somehow education managed to deal with that!  We’ll deal with this as well.

We Can’t Implement Until We Have a Policy
We have a lot of policies in place.  I’m sure that you do at your place of work too.  Do you know them all?  Are they enablers?  Are you only able to function once you have a policy in place?  Maybe we should step back and take a good look at common sense?  Doesn’t being a good student and being a good digital citizen mean that you know when and how to use it properly?

BYOD Promotes Single Use of Technology
Actually, any activity in the classroom could promote singularity, if you let it.  No classroom is going to go from 0 to 60 overnight just because of BYOD.  However, given some time to polish your practice, it won’t take long.

BYOD Takes the Responsibility of Buying Technology Away from the School/District
This is a biggy.  If it does, then it takes away from the whole premise of BYOD and the School/District gets a big “for shame”.  BYOD should be an enabler, allowing students to learn about their device and how it can be used to enhance their studies.  

All of the above are definitely issues and I don’t want to belittle any of them.  But, I think that they are all distractors from the bigger issue.  We’ve predicted the end of the educational world before with ball point pens, calculators, and even the desktop computer.

Instead of the negatives, a BYOD should focus on the positives.  Instead of doing things differently, why not focus on doing different things altogether?  Instead of focussing on one school purchased application, why can’t we allow for learning on the fly with diverse applications and technology enabled solutions?

It won’t be long before we look back on posts like this and say “Gee, that was really archaic”.



  1. I’ve expressed my concerns about BYOD in other places (, so won’t rehash it here except to say that my concerns about equity in BYOD are not theoretical, they are actual problems which have surfaced in my classroom, and need to be dealt with if BYOD is to be a useful strategy in deploying educational technology.

    What I will point out, however, is that the listed concerns about BYOD are really symptoms of other, much more fundamental issues. It’s these larger issues that need to be resolved.

    The digital divide clearly exists and it affects how students learn so how to do we address that? Are educators really comfortable with a two tier education system where some students have what they need for 21C learning and others don’t? That inequity exists today and it won’t go away unless we do something to change it.


  2. I like the point on type of device. I think the focus has been too much on the smartphone. I would imagine the Tablet and Laptops would have a much greater impact in the class room than the smartphone. I recently gave my iPad to my college age child because of how useful I found it in my graduate work.

    He called be a couple of days later to talk about how much it has changed his classroom experience.


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