Technology in the Classroom: The Growing BYOD Trend

According to USA Today, the United States has more Internet-connected gadgets than people, meaning about 90 percent of Americans own a computerized gadget. A new movement gaining mixed reviews from educators and parents is embracing mobile technology through smartphones, laptops and tablets that students already own.

The approach is called bring your own device (BYOD), a termed coined by Intel in 2009, when the company noticed a majority of employees were using their own devices in the workplace. The trend is seen in colleges and universities, and typically is introduced somewhere between 8th and 10th grade in school districts. Now this trend is gaining favor in elementary and middle schools across the country.

Through the BYOD method, students have access to the same devices at school as they do at home, extending learning opportunities outside of the classroom. Multiple schools in the United States, such as those in the Cheshire Public Schools in Connecticut, the Katy Independent School District in Texas and also Robert Gray Middle School in Oregon, have developed and launched BYOD programs that strategically incorporate technology into academics through the New Media Consortium Horizon Project (NMC).

Launched in 2002, the NMC Horizon Project charts the landscape of emerging technologies for teaching, learning, research, creative inquiry and information management. The NMC Horizon Project notes in its 2013 K–12 edition that both school districts in Connecticut and Texas, as well as the Robert Gray Middle School, show evidence that the method can increase productivity and engagement in the classroom, saying, “A growing number of schools are launching BYOD programs partly because of how BYOD impacts budget. Schools can spend less money on technology overall if students use their own, while funneling the funds they do spend to help students afford their own devices.”

Educators in favor of the BYOD movement agree that it promotes a greater percentage of participation in the classroom setting. Concordia University in Portland, Ore., found that when new technologies are incorporated into everyday learning at schools, students become more engaged and interested in the material, increasing opportunities for students to succeed. Supporters of BYOD also point out that 21st century education requires a specific set of digital skills that traditional methods of teaching cannot facilitate. By providing their own technology, supporters say, BYOD can help students and educators acquire these skills and increase the engagement and motivation essential for increased learning outcomes.

Some parents, educators, and district and school-level IT personnel say the presence of devices will serve as a distraction for students and that not all students can afford these devices, potentially increasing the divide between students from high- and low-income families. If school districts want to go forth with the BYOD movement, opponents argue, there must be a financial assistance program in place for families to help cover the cost and maintenance of school-owned devices.

As technology continues to become an integrated part of our everyday life, handling the integration of technology in the classroom is sure to affect more schools across the country. Calling on our local legislatures to put policy into place now, ensuring our students receive an equal opportunity when it comes to technology, is key; taking this first step opens doors for positive change rather than adding more variables into the challenge of closing the achievement gap.