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What’s subjective & absolute about BYOD?

Posted on: January 5, 2015

When I read this ST article, I was pleased to find out that at least one enlightened primary school principal allowed kids to bring mobile phones to school.

I know of other schools that allow this, of course, but only one was mentioned in the article.

As expected, the writer or editor preferred to focus on naysayers who cited the age of kids, the risk of losing or damaging the phone, and potential distraction.

These arguments are old and subjective. How old is old enough to be responsible for a phone? We can try an approach similar to movie, video game, or even LEGO age ratings and recommendations. But who are we kidding? No two kids are alike. What is good for one is not for the other.

Some parents do not want their 10-year-olds taking the bus home on their own and carrying their own bags. I trained and trust mine to do that. If we lived in the midwest USA, one 10-year-old might handle farming equipment while another would still need help with shoelaces.

Who are we to say that kids cannot be responsible with phones when they are introduced so early to them and need them for work and play?

I know adults who are not responsible with their phones or who misplace them constantly. Some of their phones look like they have been used in war zones or used to deflect projectiles!

What is absolute about this BYOD impasse are unfounded worries. School authorities and parents cannot be sure that kids will be irresponsible and distracted. They do not look to other systems that have already implemented BYOD schemes and gone past that stage of worry.

What is also absolute are the ignorance or excuses that will stop BYOD initiatives. For example, a common concern is that those that have will show off and those that do not will lose out. But this divide is not as significant as the administrative and pedagogical divides.

Schools that adopt BYOD create AUPs (acceptable use policies). The better ones create ownership of the AUPs by having students craft or co-craft them. If you make your own laws, you keep them and keep to them. If you break them, you only have yourselves to blame.

In countries like Singapore, the access divide shrinks daily. One needs only access statistics about mobile access or survey one’s own students. There will still be a few who do not have devices or some who are not allow to use them. This is not a barrier, but an opportunity instead.

Recently, I advised a group of teachers that students use mobile phones in groups; one phone per group of three or four for example. This could help with classroom management, collaborative lesson activities, and sharing bandwidth.

The disruptions are not in discipline or classroom management. They are in facilitative teaching and technology-enabled learning.

Here are the questions that administrators and teachers might not ask but should. Do you want to lose some control in order to create trust? Can you afford to maintain the status quo and risk not learning new strategies?

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