The death of the pen and paper? BYOD in schools

School has been a place synonymous with the fear of boredom, long days and detentions in the minds of near on every child at one point in their lives. School is currently run by the mighty pen and paper, even still to this day – children are taught in pen, write in pen and learn in pen. Sometimes even pencil. But this out dated technology, pens, pencils, paper, might in fact be stunting the growth and imagination of children within schools. The fact is that most of these children will not be using pens or pencils outside of the classroom to carry out the tasks that they would easily do on a computer or tablet at home. However as tablets become more and more dominant within students home lives, it makes no sense for schools to prolong the adoption.

The biggest road block to the use of IT within every lesson is the fear of adoption and staff who wish to remain ‘closed minded’. Some may take the approach that :

“IT in class is a load of faff, keep it in the computer rooms and out of my maths lessons.”

Staff are scared on the implications and issues that the use of tablets bring into the classroom. And this is completely understandable. Students would no longer be slacking off and throwing paper around the class but instead would be posting pictures to Facebook, tweeting and abusing the system. These can prove an very serious issue for staff to handle and can lead to serious offences that may cause more harm than good.

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Tablets and smartphones allow the ability for teachers to become more involved and create in depth lessons. Smartphones and tablets can be interactive, exciting and engaging. The possibilities are endless and teaching could seriously benefit. The use of technology to help aid factors of our lives outside of education has shown great success. Technology can be useful for more than just research and independent learning. A diverse range of apps exist on both the Android and Apple app stores to enhance learning experiences and replace out dated methods. Apple’s ecosystem slows for staff to interact with pupils and teach with ease. AirPlay and Apple TV allow for streaming of tablets to a projector and therefore the ability to show off the students work. Android is getting there. Currently they are behind Apple in the educational market, but are releasing the Google Play Store for education.

Apps such as Notability and Evernote replace pen and paper, iMovie and Google Drive replace boring word processing and staff can engage with those students who they previously couldn’t with fun interactive games that will boost their confidence. 6262296086_ba0b3dab16_o

Apple has an extensive library of apps and content providers, but this will soon be matched by Android as communities grow. Google has a different approach to Apple – Google has always been a different story and now they want to bring that ethos to their educational business policy. Google’s platform offers a more open business strategy for schools and consumers – schools have the free ability to place the apps from their own sources, control their user base and be a more independent system. Android is the open source haven of the tablet/smartphone industry and now Google has set it’s eyes on education they will go all out to dominate the market. Apple has had a noticeable position in the current industry and has somewhat let their attention slip over the last year. But when it comes to expenses – schools prefer Android. The Nexus 7, the comparable product to iPad mini is only £150 instead of $270 for an iPad mini. Many argue that Apple’s diverse app store is the pay off for the steep price. But as an educational institute focuses on their wallet then maybe they shouldn’t spend thousands on apps…

Bring your own device (BYOD) would alleviate the stress on school finances and allow pupils to use familiar systems from home. It was shown that only 16% of schools would prefer  BYOD. Analysts from BESA said:

“This result shows a strong shift to bring-your-own-tech, with only 19% of secondary schools saying that they will not consider this option”

BYOD introduces headaches for any IT department. Over half of the schools surveyed said they’d only consider purchasing tablets for pupils and would keep them in-house. That said the price should become less and less of an issue for schools to consider. Again BESA said:

“As the preference for devices in… schools shifts from Apple iOS to Android tablets, it is reasonable that these schools are setting a lower price-point than previously considered”

As institutes change platforms – many will be considering BYOD as their main preference. However schools have to be careful. They do not want to stigmatise pupils who can not afford the most expensive and luxurious tablets but also ensure that every pupil has the right to chose. As technology and culture changes the issue of ‘choosing’ is becoming more and more important. The ability to chose Android or iOS, Mac or Windows, XBOX or PlayStation. Schools that do not implement BYOD and buy tablets may have to consider these issues and ensure the correct platform is picked that suits their needs now. The downside to buying in tablets is again the speed of tech. Technology changes at a fast moving pace and within the five years a pupil may be at a secondary school – these will be out dated and useless. Therefore BYOD offers an assurance that schools won’t be buying into a dying product and leaves the control in the pupils hands.

BYOD has both good and bad prospects. The current issue with BYOD is that the variety of devices and diversity of them means anybody could bring in anything to schools. Fred could have a iPad, Harry a Windows Tablet and Hannah an Android tablet. Maybe some poor soul could have even bought a Blackberry Playbook… Therefore ensuring that there is a core system that pupils can save to, access and work from would be difficult. Systems would be fragmented and a therefore not every pupil could access the same content or apps and means school can only rely on those resources available on every device or online. This inevitably defeat the point of tablet investment and could leave staff confused.

Apple Inc. CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs unveils the much anticipated iPad

Nevertheless schools need to be forward thinking in their introduction of tablets within schools. The debate between Apple and Google will be endless. Therefore it maybe easier to suggest a BYOD scheme to save the loss of life over the battle between Android and iOS. To be sure than schools and pupils will see the benefit after implementation then the schools must properly train staff to know how to put these tools into the curriculum. Staff need training to efficiently incorporate the devices and avoid the mass purchasing of paper weights.

The most important thing to remember is that the longer schools wait to implement these tools then the more students suffer. Schools need to prepare pupils for after education, where these devices will be used daily. The educational opportunities can’t be missed and the ability to collaborate, create and independently learn are all skills useful for later life.

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