BYOD: Normalizing PEDs in schools

“Student with iPad studying” by Flickr user UBC Library.

It is old news that teaching with technology is not “about the technology” but more “normalizing the technology” so that it is an integrated part of day-to-day learning for students. BYOD is currently an initiative in many school districts but it is really just the name given for the catch up period for schools. I think one success criteria for BYOD is this: a few years on from the start of a BYOD initiative, will it seem odd to use the phrase, bring your own device? If not, then perhaps, use of these PEDs (personal electronic devices) in schools will have yet to be normalized.

Many non-digital technologies are, of course, fully normalized and integrated and we don’t think about how to effectively integrate them because they already are: written language, electricity, mass produced codices, pencils, pens, rulers, math manipulatives, and so on. I am reminded of this amusing video when I think of the early days of the codex.

As well there are various digital technologies that have been normalized in schools such as calculators, clocks, timers, alarms, meters, and so on. Outside of schools, cell phones and other mobile devices are pretty much a regular aspect of life; BYOD is what we’re calling the normalization of mobile digital devices in schools. There is quite a bit of focus right now on supporting teachers with how to best use these devices in the service of learning, how to manage them, and how to promote and model good digital citizenship. Luckily, conventional computers have been in schools for over three decades; there is the knowledge about how they have been/can be used to build upon when using PEDs.

I was recently speaking to an educator who remembers conducting workshops years ago for teachers concerning the use of calculators in the classroom. At the time, she told me, there was much anxiety and fear around their use. Additionally, she said that some teachers saw it as a threat to real learning of math skills – the argument was that students will just use calculators to get the answers instead of learning how to do it themselves.

The old “calculator initiatives” compare with what is happening now with BYOD. I think the anxiety and fear that some educators feel is normal, expected, and temporary. These emotions will most likely fade as the PEDs become normalized in schools. As well, the wide variety of positive, creative, and constructivist uses of PEDs in classroom are sometimes obscured by anxieties about possible negative, distracting, or irresponsible uses.

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