When I discuss the implementation of BYOT in classrooms, I am often questioned about the issue of equity. Is it fair that every student doesn’t have the same device? What do you do about the students who don’t have devices? There is no easy answer to the equity question; however, I have made several observations about equity when BYOT is in practice.
- We do have school technology resources in my district – four desktop computers in every classroom and access to laptop computers. The students without their own devices now have even greater access to school-owned technology since students are bringing their own technology devices to school because of our BYOT initiative. When I walked through classrooms before the implementation of BYOT, the desktop computers were often unused because the teachers directed so much of the one-size-fits-all instruction. Now, teachers are differentiating instruction, partly because of the different devices.
- I can’t predetermine which students will have their own technology tools. Many parents find a way to provide for their children. If teachers have high expectations for how technology will be used in their classrooms and empower students to use their technology tools as needed, students begin bringing their devices more consistently. It isn’t equitable to assume that students won’t have devices or to keep students who do have devices from using them.
- Another issue related to equity is that some teachers want to qualify the types of devices that the students should bring to school – thereby determining that some devices are “better” or “more effective” than others. I think that the students should bring whatever devices they have and then we will figure out together how to use them for instruction. Having the variety of devices can lead to greater opportunities for differentiation and collaboration as students work together to solve problems and develop new solutions.
Strategies for Achieving Equity
- Survey the parents and students to determine what types of technology resources they have available and reassure parents that every child will still have access to the school’s resources. Parents are also more likely to send devices to school when they understand the transformational goals of BYOT.
- Design open-ended lessons that encourage collaboration and open access to school technology resources. Our main goal of BYOT is to help students to become more productive in school rather than just being consumers of information. When students are encouraged to utilize their own devices and school technology, they often congregate in “BYOT Huddles” because they are eager to share what they are learning and creating with others.
- Re-purpose older technology devices for new uses. We have younger students that receive hand-me-down devices from older brothers and sisters, as they upgrade to new technology. Some students also bring slightly cracked iPhones to school that no longer have a data plan, but they work great as iPod Touches on our wifi network.
- Work with the community to brainstorm ways to achieve greater equity. It may be that a business partner can offer access to resources. One great side effect of our BYOT initiative is the dialogue that has occurred among schools and community members and has caused us to develop a BYOT Equity Task Force to tackle the issue of equity in our district.
- Begin your BYOT initiative! How can you even determine what the needs truly are until you begin? One of the early “A-HA” moments of our BYOT Equity Task Force was when we realized that most of our secondary students do have devices in their pockets, but the real access issue was the device they go home to at the end of the day. Some students may still only have that device in their pockets, but they don’t have a home computer with broadband access for more complicated assignments. Now that we have identified that issue, we are developing some plans for addressing it.
Don’t let the issue of equity stop you from implementing BYOT in your districts. It is usually an excuse to keep from embracing new teaching strategies and transforming instruction.