Technology Integration — The BYOT Approach

A new trend in technology integration is sweeping the nation: Bring Your Own Technology, or BYOT, if you prefer.

A new trend in technology integration is sweeping the nation, and it’s even started to find footing here in Pittsburgh. The BYOT movement, which stands for “Bring Your Own Technology” has students toting more than just pencils and paper to class — it has them bringing their cellphones, laptops and even their handheld gaming systems into school too. So what exactly does BYOT mean for education, and how is it changing the way we think of tech in the classroom? Let’s take a closer look.

A New Level of Technology Integration

The idea is simple — instead of spending time in the computer lab or sharing school-issued tech tools, students bring their own devices from home. These devices don’t all have to be the same. One student can work on a cellphone, while another types on a laptop. Lesson plans are adapted in ways that allow for a wide variety of tech devices to play a part in classroom learning. Some of the benefits of BYOT are obvious. For one, the system allows kids to use devices they already enjoy. In doing so, it makes learning fun, and helps keep students more engaged. But a higher level of engagement isn’t the only positive effect of the BYOT approach. Here are some others:

  • Collaboration. When students bring their tech tools to class, they often have to share devices or collaborate to complete tasks. More than that, their devices help create a sense of collaboration with educators. Students will often know more about their devices than their teacher do, and in explaining their ideas and processes to teachers, they turn learning into a collaborative effort not just between students, but between students and teachers as well.
  • Responsibility. A funny thing happens when students bring their own belongings to class — they act a lot more responsibly. One 5th grade teacher explained the change to NBC News saying, “All of this is putting the responsibility on the shoulders of the students and [we’re] also trying to teach them and guide them to use their devices more effectively…not only taking care of their device and being careful not to drop it, but also wanting to make sure they know where it is at all times so it’s not stolen. [Using] it appropriately so they don’t post inappropriate pictures, so they don’t text inappropriate message to each other.”
  • Communication. Shyness, speech impediments, social anxiety and even Asperger’s and autism can make it hard for many students to communicate and participate in class. So while they may have something to add to the discussion, their fear or inability to speak up could make it nearly impossible for them to do so. But allow them to contribute using the devices they know and are already comfortable using? For some students, that can be a real game-changer.

The BYOT approach also ensures that the projects students work on can be part of their lives in and out of the classroom. The research of Mimi Ito and other digital learning experts has proven that children often experience real learning breakthroughs when they’re simply “messing around” and experimenting with technology. Allow them to carry their projects and devices in and out of class and that tinkering, and the breakthroughs that result, are far more likely to occur.

Of course, allowing students to bring their own devices into school presents a number of problems, including keeping children accountable for their belongings and ensuring they stay on task. Even more, the approach challenges traditional teaching models and could force educators to rethink lesson plans and develop projects that work with the new system. It’s not an easy transition, but more and more administrators are deciding their schools are up for the challenge.

The way we look at technology integration in education is changing, and the BYOT movement could be just the beginning. In 30 or 50 years, who knows what shape the modern classroom will take. Will students supply their own devices the same way they’re expected to supply rulers and erasers now? Will they supply their own robots? Will they be robots? (Just kidding… maybe.) We want to know what you think about the changing role of tech in the classroom. Stop by our Facebook page to share your thoughts or tweet your ideas to @sparkpgh.

Published May 15, 2012