When do BYOD programs start?
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has been marketed to parents as a requirement for the 21st-century learner, to ensure personalised learning and to achieve digital literacy. We are often told that children need constant access to devices as they will have them in the workplace, and they need to use them as a tool much like we 'would have used a dictionary.' We are told learning no longer has to take place in the classroom, it can take place 24/7.
But adult workers who have constant access to work and emails due to mobile technology have higher rates of depression and anxiety. Research has shown that in order to restore resources used during the day at work, employees must be able to detach both mentally and physically from work.
Additionally, digital devices are not comparable to a dictionary. While they provide learning opportunities, they can also provide an endless source of distraction. Many parents are finding that rather than choose to use their devices to learn '24/7,' children are choosing their devices for recreation. Due to the ability to flip between educational and recreational games, this can make school work difficult to monitor. With the friction that can come with managing screen time on children's personal school devices, many parents are finding this too disruptive to their families, and supervision of screen time is let go. In fact in NZ, almost 70% of 9-year-olds have unsupervised, unrestricted screen access (CensusAtSchool).
Although there is no specific research indicating that BYOD improves learning outcomes, some schools start BYOD from Year 3 or 4, and others have iPad 1:1 initiatives (one device per child) starting as early as year 1. Schools can have a BYOD policy with moderate screen use of 1 to 3 hours per week, but many have significantly higher levels of use than this or even full immersion. Similarly, schools without BYOD policies may still have significant levels of class device use. There can be advantages when students bring their own device to school, such as being familiar with their own device and relieving financial pressure from schools, but some studies back parent reports that students who have their own personal device are spending time playing video games on it out of school hours instead of the homework that the device was intended for. Researchers have also concluded that the displacement of other activities such as reading, is the main reason for the decline in reading literacy that is seen when children gain access to computer use at home. This is highly relevant when parents are finding that it is more difficult or they are unable to monitor screen time when children bring their personal mobile school devices home.
It seems reasonable to question, particularly in the primary and intermediate years and when considering the risks - why a BYOD policy is needed when research indicates that moderate device use has the greatest impact on both educational outcomes and digital skills.
While student engagement and motivation is frequently cited as a rationale for digital technology use in schools, research has shown this does not translate to improved outcomes or even ICT skills.
"There is no doubt that technology engages and motivates young people. However this benefit is only an advantage for learning if the activity is effectively aligned with what is to be learned,"
"There is evidence of the 'novelty effect' but not evidence of engagement leading to achievement,"
If you have questions about your school's BYOD policy, you can discuss this with your child's teacher. If you are not happy for your child to bring their own device to school, it isn't a legal requirement. However, despite this, parents can feel pressured to purchase a device so their child is not left out or ostracised.
If you are unhappy with the BYOD policy or level of device use in your school, go to 'What can I do?' for an easy letter template that can help you write to your school. You can email this to your school principal, your board of trustees and the Ministry of Education. The MOE's email address is email@example.com.