BYOD and Student Reality

imageI had the opportunity recently to sit with a group of secondary school students to listen and understand how they mostly use their mobile devices and tablets. What I discovered, and quasi-knew through many conversations and student interviews this past summer, is the disparity between the reality as to how students use and prefer to use their devices and the excellent efforts put forth to embrace technology in the classroom through initiatives such as 21st Century Learning, flipped classrooms and “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD).

My experience in hundreds of schools around Ontario suggests that this direction’s success, of which I am a huge advocate, will advance at exactly the pace of the skill, motivation and curiosity from leadership and faculty within each school, separate from Ministry and individual Board expectations. To draw an odd analogy between adult and student proficiency in the mobile/online world, a Seinfeld character, Elaine, mused in one episode on quite another matter; “I only really have access to the equipment, what, 30-45 minutes a week. How can I be expected to have the same level of expertise as one who owns the equipment and has access to it 24 hours a day, every day.”

Students are digital natives who love texting, Liking content, gaming, snapping, uploading and sharing pics and videos, and visiting their social apps – every minute of the day and night. This is their reality and their connection to one another and the outside world. So when a refreshing and liberating idea such as BYOD is unveiled, we as educators need to realize that while we are becoming acclimated to the connective power, flexibility and range of mobile devices and apps, students are already there and have been there long before we got there. What’s more, even if they’re new to a particular device, they’re still light years ahead of an adult as their inherent hard-wiring to technology kicks in. Their devices are with them 24/7 and in many cases their social apps, and the content they post, serve to define them and represents much of their developing reputations.

So as educators learn how to encourage and keep students interested and enthusiastic in learning with mobile (BYOD), it’s invaluable to understand that much of student life is directed first and foremost by the buzzing, clicking and notification sounds of incoming content, which in many cases represents personal validation. Learning with the things? Well, that’s all new.

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