We are quickly becoming a hyper-connected society, and this trend for having technology at our fingertips is starting at a younger age than ever before. Smartphone ownership among children aged 5–15 is now at 50%, and adults are even more connected: 75% of UK adults own a smartphone, rising to 90% of 16–24-year-olds, while 70% of UK households have a tablet.
The ever-increasing use of mobile devices by young people in all aspects of their lives outside of school challenges us to reflect on whether these devices can be purposefully used for learning in schools. Many young people use these same devices outside school time for ‘informal’ learning using apps, games and educational websites. Rather than devices staying at home, idle, during the school day, there is a significant global shift towards using these same devices as mobile learning devices in schools, using an approach referred to as BYOD. (Bring Your Own Device)
It is widely acknowledged that technology plays a huge role in students’ everyday lives and should, therefore, be an integral part of their learning. However, for most schools, it is financially unsustainable to provide every student with state-of-the-art technology. BYOD is therefore considered an attractive, cost-effective alternative; recognising that many students already own devices that are superior and more up-to-date than those available in schools.
Familiarity with their own devices means it’s easier for students to use them for learning and teachers don’t have to spend precious time introducing them to the device, focusing instead on enhancing the lesson with online connectivity. The key reason to consider using these devices in schools is to support, enhance and transform the learning experience in order to improve learning outcomes.
BYOD will continue to gain momentum around the world, given the proliferation of personal devices at hand, shrinking IT budgets and the huge costs involved in both issuing student devices, and in keeping pace with developments in technology. Schools in many countries are implementing BYOD because of its’ potential to deliver benefits to learning. Schools are beginning to see the potential of BYOD to support a more student-centered, active learning approach, with students taking more responsibility for their own learning. This also presents potential opportunities for differentiation for learning within classrooms.
Despite lingering concerns about network capability, affordability and e-safety, the BYOD global trend could be the next stage in the evolution of schooling: one that will provide students with the skills they will require for life in the technological age.