A recent article, Driven to distraction: bringing your own device to school could hinder learning, reveals some of the anxieties people have about technology in the classroom. It suggests that there is some evidence that technology could be distracting students more than it’s helping them, however an analysis of the arguments reveals that some of them can be applied to other older technologies as easily as they can to current technology, and perhaps the concern is more about change than the specific devices or technologies. Let’s look at the pros and cons contained in the article:
“The downside to students bringing their own devices is that there is a need for better infrastructure and support services that can work across multiple platforms and operating systems.” – Is this really a down side? Or does it mirror real life workplace situations and provide an opportunity for students to help each other to troubleshoot, collaborate, and learn about multiple devices?
In the Pro column is the suggestion that “we are using mobile devices as a way of extending our cognitive capabilities by outsourcing some of the mundane work our minds do. Calendars, to do lists, reminders and other tasks can now be managed by our devices. More interestingly, the capacity to blog, take endless photos and to share our experiences with others means we are using our technology as a memory aid as well.” – We have already been outsourcing these tasks for decades. Paper diaries, writing on your hand, knotting a handkerchief, asking someone else to remind you, or having a personal secretary or assistant in a workplace. Who hasn’t sat through long slide shows or showings of photo albums with holiday snaps? Using smartphones or tablets is just the current way we are documenting and organising and sharing our lived experiences, from mundane shopping lists to sophisticated travel writing or photography.
“The downside to BYOD is that having constant access to social media, YouTube and other sources of entertainment can be tempting distractions for students that detract from the time they could be spending on assigned learning activities. These learning activities must therefore compete for attention with the mass of information, communication and other distracting elements portable devices now give students constant access to.” – This seems to be more of a concern about losing control, whether it be of the students, the technology, or the modes of communication. You can read about the strategies and classroom expectations set out by a teacher who has successfully integrated BYODs into her classroom here BYOD: The Benefits of Embracing Diversity, and I recommend that you do. One that stood out was the sense of ownership her students have when using their own devices, and how this empowers students and allows them to apply what they learn in the classroom beyond the classroom as the devices they learn on are their own.
Finally we are presented with some research which shows that “more than 80% of them reporting that they use their devices for “non-class purposes” when they are in class.” – To this I suppose my first thought is ‘how different is this to similar surveys of workplaces’, and ultimately ‘does this matter’? Interestingly, the NMC Horizon Report > 2013 Museum Edition notes that “in early studies, the act of an individual using his or her own device has proven to increase productivity and engagement.” Perhaps the sense of ownership of the devices translates into ownership of the tasks and responsibilities.
What does this mean for museums and education? The Horizon Report also states that “As more people rely on smartphones to navigate in their daily lives, the potential for museums to engage and reach visitors via their devices is vast.” The V&A has responded by offering iPads for Parents workshops:
1 DAY DIGITAL WORKSHOP: Children may use technology every day in play and in school but how can adults support them in staying safe and finding suitable apps to use? This workshop will show you how to set up parental controls on your device and share with you some of the best apps and activities you can do with children to encourage creativity and learning. Participants can bring along their iPad or use one of ours.
The Horizon Report shows that the Time-to-Adoption Horizon: for BYODs is One Year or Less. What should we be doing to prepare for this?