BYOT: Bring Your Own Technology

I teach in a small, rural Midwestern school district where poverty is an issue. Thankfully, we have a technology staff that has been very active in procuring grants for technology, and we are ahead of many school districts like us.

However, plenty of poverty-stricken school districts don’t jump into the new world of educational technology because they simply can’t afford it.

As technology moves forward and everyone’s gadgets get more powerful, there’s a push toward using them in class.

Instead of slapping kids on the hand for having their cell phones or devices in class, why not find a way to incorporate them into the classroom? These devices have great capabilities. We can access the Internet to research, collaborate and share through them. We can gather information, images and videos with them. We can use specifically crafted applications on them to do tasks smarter and faster.

If someone approached a school district and offered to supply it with devices like these, most would jump for joy.

Imagine what technological innovations — or supplements to existing technology — that could be purchased if we didn’t have to buy enough computers, iPads, iPods or tablets to go around. Buy devices to supply students that don’t have their own and invest the rest in tools to make classrooms thrive.

Mind/Shift — which is a super interesting and very well-done blog — published an article about Mankato public schools in Minnesota and their decision to take this route (http://mindshift.kqed.org/2012/02/in-cash-strapped-schools-kids-bring-their-own-tech-devices/).

I think the pull-out quote in the article hits a very valid point — “The common theme from parents: ‘If I spend $500 on an iPad for my kid, I hope the teacher uses it!'”

But what if kids text in class? What if they get on Facebook or Twitter? Won’t this decrease productivity? And what about network safety concerns? The doubts can mount pretty quickly.

Isn’t it our job to teach our students how to function and thrive in the real world? And wouldn’t appropriate use of technology be a great lesson to equip our students with?

Fact: The kids that really want to text in class are going to do it anyway. In their pockets. While you’re not looking. In fact, they’re doing it now. But if they’re doing it blatantly when you’ve asked them not to, let’s handle this like any other type of disciplinary issue.

Kids will probably have access to technology in most any line of work they choose. They need to know social norms like refraining from texting on the job, silencing cell phones during certain work situations and using their time wisely without squandering it on frivolous ‘Net surfing.

If we as educators monitor their work time in class, as we should anyway, productivity could hit a new high.

And network threats are going to happen regardless. If we teach proper use and are diligent in watching how our kids work, we should be able to head off most problems.

Imagine how we could prepare our students for those “jobs that haven’t been created yet” that we keep hearing about.

Imagine the type of adults we could help produce — ones that can access the digital world in a responsible, productive fashion.

Imagine the relevant teaching we could create.

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