Light Offerings

Will BYOD be the next EdTech “failure”?

Posted by jturner56 on February 8, 2015

A few weeks ago some colleagues returned with the story of a nearby school whose Principal had advised the staff that from the following Monday the school would be going BYOD. The staff were aghast. Elsewhere BYOD has been referred to as Bring Your Own Disaster.

I look at this a little differently. While acknowledging the importance of teacher inclusion and support, I asked why not look at this as an opportunity to build (or at least consider) a new curriculum approach that recognizes what BYOD could offer. One that recognizes

  • demands of new information dynamics
  • opportunities for literacy development through digital communications and collaboration
  • importance of educating for digital citizenship
  • publishing digitally to authentic audiences
  • how creating a Cloud ecosystem could connect resources and people (students, teachers and the great beyond)

Such an approach also might help overcome one of the founding problems of computers in schools; that they are a cost add-on that requires constant reinvestment at an unprecedented rate (courtesy of Moore’s Law). OK for well off schools (who also can invest in teacher support), even if still all too often treated as an add-on. So much harder for low-income schools, even though many teachers have demonstrated what is possible. Ultimately it will depend on the conditions set: What learning is valued, in what ways?

But then I thought, maybe BYOD will be just the last digital advocacy that will flounder in contested and ultimately sidelined debate. While for some such as Terry Heick a solution to a required shift in education, for others a disaster unfolding in front of us. Larry Cuban sums up the historical system view in his latest blog post “The Lack of Evidence-Based Practice: the Case of Classroom Technology.”

From my experiences, digital technologies DO NOT automatically lead to increased achievement as defined by standardized testing (usually in non-digital environments). It is a much more complex question. Effective change in schools is even more difficult when educational decision-making and advocates (be they “measurement” based or future sellers) are divorced from school realities. Whatever the technology, we need to treat Teaching as part of the solution, and not the problem, or as individual, isolated judges. The teacher is at the heart of good education. Whatever digital consideration, there is a complex question of cognitive value.

Ultimately BYOD, like so many edtech “solutions” that have gone before, will more than likely be seen as a “if only” success for advocates, or be assigned to “another failure of technology to meet what is claimed.” Perhaps BYOD will bring on the conditions for evolution Papert saw twenty years ago, perhaps there is “opportunity in chaos“, but then maybe yet another “disappointment” and relegation to fragmented add-on. What do you see in BYOD?


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