BYOD – standing for Bring Your Own Device, has been around for a while now; ever since schools opened up their networks and went wireless, students and teachers alike have been able to access the wealth of information that is available on the internet today.
But as a speaker at Interface Xpo 2014 put it, BYOD is more aptly put as ‘Bring Your Own Distraction’.
I chuckled, as I’m sure many of you have as well. Then I realised the truth in it.
When I say ‘Then’; it did take a while. It took two terms of teaching in a 1-to-1 Chromebook classroom of Year 3-4 students to realise that for many the device in front of them was not a learning tool; it was a distraction.
Instead of harbouring the potential wealth of knowledge available to them, the students were more enamored with watching youtube videos by the bucket load, changing their background picture, and making their Chromebook talk to them. The question “Are we going to use the Chromebooks today?” became almost as common as “Can I go to the bathroom?”. Searches changed from ANZAC Hero’s, to Superhero’s, to Iron Man, Marvel, and at one point which was bound to happen, ‘sexy girls’. Oh for the love of Pete!
Unless absolute specific tasks are set, the devices become a source of fun and free time, and trouble.
Let’s face it: these devices are a distraction. And it isn’t an age thing.
I don’t know how many staff meetings I have ‘missed’ because I was on my laptop organising my calendar or checking emails. I don’t know one single time I have been given a wifi-password at a conference to listen to the speaker and follow their online notes without a Facebook tab opened in the background. All of these distractions are at the core of technology. Because it can do so much, and meet so many ‘needs’, we have become accustomed to accessing and integrating all of these different sources at once. Even as I sit here writing this, I have two other tabs open, my phone next to me with Facebook and Twitter updates coming through, and Stephen Fry Gadget Man playing on the TV in the background. And this has become my norm.
Upskill the Distractions
I was then disheartened by the following report about tech in schools.
In it, we hear from the Education Council about upskilling teachers to keep up with the technology. “A recent government survey showed only 14 percent of teachers felt they were up to speed on using digital devices for learning. The Education Council wants to see more opportunities for teachers to up-skill.”
There are some initial issues with this. Firstly, many classrooms, schools, etc. do not have the resources for “tech” classrooms. I know for the class I am in with 1-to-1 Chromebooks, that large amounts of money have been put into making it a reality. The reason I got the task, is because I am tech savvy, much more so than any other teacher in the school. Without blowing a trumpet of any kind, I would put myself in that top 14% of teachers in terms of technology know-how or capability.
So why does this article dishearten, rather than invigorate? Surely I should be at the forefront, championing the likes of Taupaki School?
I find myself somewhat over it. Maybe I’ve just given up on the use of technology in the classroom. Maybe it’s just too big, too fast to keep up with. Maybe it is just because the age of students I am teaching, in that technology for practical use is a few years away for them. Maybe because most of my technology learning has been self taught, and most of our students are self taught with technology as well. Maybe I’m just coming at this from my primary school teacher point of view. I don’t know. At this stage in their life, technology is for entertainment purposes. Maybe for secondary teachers, the upskilling to use technology throughout their classes would be more beneficial, and might be what the article is really getting at. But for me, if these students are going to be using and learning the technology anyway, why should schools put financial pressure on themselves, why should teachers upskill to try and be cool for the kids by ‘speaking their language’. Are going too far to bend over backwards for students, rather than the other way around?
But it concerns me when a teacher in the video says the kids don’t want to go outside at lunchtime. Does this not create further ammunition for the ‘childhood obesity epidemic’ scaremongers? This is a whole other debate which I won’t get into here.
It concerns me that we know how quickly technology moves, and we have no idea where it will take us, or the skills that students will need in the future. But no doubt they’ll cope. Why does teaching need to be at the forefront of all things technology? For decades, teachers and classrooms have been decades behind the rest of the world. While offices were getting filled up with beautifully fast, glamourous Macbook Pro’s, schools were left back in the 90’s with iMacs clogging up desk space. A scientific calculator was about as BYOD as it would come. Why is there a sudden need to ‘keep up’ with the kids, rather than focussing on teaching (and them learning) the ‘basics’; such as spelling; such as handwriting; such as mixing paint colours, adding and subtracting in our heads, catching and throwing, or even how to make friends, keep friends, show resilience, or learn respect? Do we need an app to teach students to read? Will methods that have been tried and true for decades and decades, and taught us to read, work just as well for students? Or have students become too addicted to ‘entertainment’ that if it’s not a fun game, then I don’t want to do it.
It concerns me when “This tsunami of digital kids just keeps coming through our system.” is referred to like a natural disaster. We are essentially creating this ourselves. We enable our students by providing these opportunities under the guise of engagement, when really, we’re creating dependency for screens, an addiction to devices. Do they need it? Or is it a distraction from real learning. Yes, I can show you evidence that technology in and of itself motivates and engages students. The very comment earlier about kids not wanting to go out demonstrates this. But at what cost? And is motivation and engagement enough if there is no learning, or not the right learning associated with it. I guess this comes back to having learning specific tasks.
I always had a bit of a joke when someone would ask about whether we should go ‘BYOD’. I would respond with once students can bring their own lunch, then you can start to worry about them bringing their own device.
I would appreciate some input on this issue. As you can probably tell, I’m still trying to formulate my standpoint on this one. On the one hand, I love technology and want to share that passion with my students. On the other hand, I have seen technology distract from real learning, and seen schools getting away from the basics of learning. Please feel free to comment your thoughts below and I will look into including more thoughts into this article.