When I was a first year teacher, the last thing I wanted to do was to stop everything, and try to figure out how to implement technology in my classroom.  I just didn’t have the time OR KNOW HOW, to make it work.  So my first few years of teaching did not include a lot of “edtech”.  What I’ve learned since is that classroom technology can be (if done right) an extremely valuable class resource tool….especially when personal devices are allowed.

I’ve heard it said (too many times) that personal devices have no place in today’s classroom.  I’m not a big proponent of cussing, so I’ll just say, “That’s a load of horse poop!”  C’mon!  It’s the 21st Century!  Everybody and their dog has some form of smartphone / cellphone / tablet / laptop that they use on a daily basis.  Pew researchers found that over 80% of the students in the U.S. have access to the interwebs via some form of personal device.  They basically walk around all day accessing information through their devices…why aren’t we leveraging that in the classroom???

The main argument is that by allowing student the opportunity to use their devices, we are opening up a can of worms in the form of technology abuse.  I’ll admit, students will try to take advantage of the system.  Hey, I remember being a student…it is in our nature to try and push the privileges we get from adults to the limit.  With that being said, just like any other classroom procedure, if there are usage guidelines that are enforced by the teachers and administration, then when a student abuses the privilege…he or she suffers the consequences.  

Students are smart.  

They will begin to put 2 & 2 together to get 4.  They will take note when a classmate loses their device for doing something outside of the usage policy.  Personal device usage can be controlled, as long as there are clear policies with crystal clear consequences for policy abuse.

A second argument lies in the area of fairness.  “Some students won’t have a personal device so they will feel left out.”  True, some students won’t have personal devices.  We seem to think that students will feel left out or ostracized if they don’t have what others have.  This is a bit of a misconception.   I’ve been in education for almost 15 years now, and I’ve seen the student population go from being a very selfish and clique-ish population to a very accepting and welcoming group of people.  

The bringing in of student inclusion has created an educational environment that sees special needs students working hand and hand with their peers.  And because of this inclusiveness, students are learning to see past trivial things like physical, mental, and even poverty issues.  In addition, there are many students out there whose families have money, but don’t want their children to have a persona device…not just yet.  So there will always a handful of students who don’t have a device.

The Solution…

Class Sets.  Instead of purchasing 5 laptop carts, how about purchasing 2 laptop carts and then using the remainder of the money, that would have been spent on laptops…on sets of 5-6 tablets for each classroom (at Best Buy right now, you can get 5 tablets for the cost of one Chromebook…and that’s even before you begin to enter “school discount” prices).  If a student does not have personal device…they simply use the a device from the class set.  

Allowing students to use their personal devices can, in the long run, save schools money as they begin to phase out multiple computer labs and laptop carts because students already have access to the internet via their personal device.

Finally, there is the argument that personal devices don’t add value to instruction.  What!?!  There are so many apps out there today that have been designed to help students gain knowledge in the classroom.  Students can download their textbooks, access online dictionaries and encyclopedias, and even access teacher websites where lessons and rubrics are posted.  Add value to the classroom?  I’ll argue that not allowing personal devices in the classroom decreases the value of instruction.

Bottom line: Personal devices in the classroom are not only doable, it is getting to the point where they are a necessity.  Personal devices are ubiquitous.  The majority of the people have them, and they know how to use them efficiently.  Yes students will abuse them, and yes some students won’t have them, but with proper policies in place and with proper equipment in place, personal devices can make the learning experience an out of this world experience for the student…and the teacher.

~Mitch

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