Magazine article Internet@Schools

BYOD: An Opportunity Schools Cannot Afford to Miss

Magazine article Internet@Schools

BYOD: An Opportunity Schools Cannot Afford to Miss

Article excerpt

While walking into Park Center Senior High School recently, I passed three girls. One was jumping off a bench and the others were trying to capture her action on camera. After watching them fully engaged and enjoying their creativity, I walked over to ask them what they were doing. Their response was that they were taking pictures for photography class. I continued the conversation working toward my actual goal- to learn about the devices they were using. One showed me a camera from the class and the other held up her phone, telling me that they were able to use their phones in school, so she was using hers to take photos for class. That is one small example of the power of BYOD.

BYOD or BYOT- it doesn't matter what people call the concept of students bringing their own devices to school; nearly everyone has strong opinions about it. Online opinions range from Eric Sheninger's "BYOT: An Idea Whose Time Has Come" to Gary Stager's "BYOD- Worst Idea of the 21st Century?" And that range can be found in almost every conversation about it.

What is BYOD? Wikipedia describes it simply as a "business policy of employees bringing personally owned mobile devices to their place of work ..." and it is something that both business and education are dealing with at this time. An internet search for BYOT, or Bring Your Own Technology, returns more results related to education. But behind the simple words stands a world of opportunity for students and learning.


There are many reasons that schools decide to move toward BYOD. The primary reason whenever anyone begins the discussion is cost. True 1:1 programs in which the school provides a continual stream of technology for every student can simply be unsustainable and unmanageable. Another cost incentive that is mentioned is that it takes pressure off the tech support structure as students are responsible for their own devices. But schools that begin the journey soon find that the monetary reason becomes a minor factor as the impact on learning becomes evident


Project Copernicus, a BYOD initiative in Osseo Area Schools, a suburban Minneapolis school system with about 21,000 students in 25 schools, began in August 2009 at three sites- a high school and two elementary schools. As it was a voluntary program for teachers, the only thing the same across the schools was the concept. At Osseo Senior High School, three science teachers decided to participate. At Weaver Lake Elementary, a STEM school, two teachers participated, and Woodland Elementary had a team of nine fifth- and sixth-grade teachers. The school district supported the project by putting in wireless access points, offering three devices per classroom, and holding some initial training. Because of the foundational concept of the project's voluntary aspect, each school was given the choice of devices to allow and ways to implement the project. At the high school, the teachers selected netbooks for support and allowed all devices, including cellphones. At Weaver Lake, they selected iPod touches as their devices and allowed all devices. At Woodland, they selected netbooks and only allowed students to bring in laptops or netbooks. It was a small start, but it was a start.

Since then the project has grown. Two more teachers began in the spring, and in the fall of 2010, there were 45 people from five more schools at the training. Here's the most compelling of the stories shared when the teams were asked why they were there: The junior high principal said that a student had come to him, explained how he was using his device for learning, and asked if he was going to be able to continue to have that opportunity. It has continued to grow, and now, all but four of the elementary schools allow student devices to some extent. Participation ranges from one or two teachers who allow them in their classrooms to the entire site allowing students access to their devices throughout the day. …

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