The IKEA Effect of BYOT

Many of us have ordered furniture or other items from IKEA and spent a weekend assembling those products to be proudly displayed as our handiwork.  Earlier this year on National Public Radio, Shankar Vedantam, author of The Hidden Brain, reported a story in Research News entitled “Why You Love That IKEA Table, Even If It’s Crooked.”  The basic premise of this research is that when we labor at something that we personally create, we value it more although it may have some imperfections.

According to research by Mochon, Norton, and Ariely (2012),

Building your own stuff boosts your feelings of pride and competence, and also signals to others that you are competent.

projectThis phenomenon is known as the IKEA Effect, and it has repercussions that could extend beyond the field of business marketing.  Some outcomes may include a desire to create a product; valuing one’s handiwork; and increased competence.  On the other hand, another consequence is that when people feel incompetent, they may be more vulnerable to the IKEA Effect.  Mochon, Norton, and Ariely (2012) found that with increased self-esteem, people appear to be less interested in proving their competences to others.

As I listened to the broadcast, I reflected on the IKEA Effect’s possible implications for learning within the Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom.


One of the most obvious results of BYOT is that students have the potential to produce content instead of solely consuming it.  There is no need for the teacher to lecture about information that the students can readily access on their devices, and the classroom has to become a more hands-on learning laboratory where students are empowered to discover new ways of researching content and sharing what they have learned with others.  According to the IKEA Effect, this act of creation can lead to a sense of competence.


In the BYOT classroom, students expect to contribute to the growing body of knowledge accumulated by their learning community.   These contributions may be in the form of original products that can be housed and viewed online.  Think of a repository of resources, tutorials, and projects that are uploaded and reviewed with a larger audience than just the teacher and individual student.  This sharing reinforces a sense of pride in one’s handiwork.


Because students in the BYOT classroom are creating new products for a real purpose, rather than just recalling information for the test at the end of the week, there is a sense of validity to their learning. Students are able to make new connections to what they are learning via their connectivity to their personal technology tools and each other.  They know how their devices work, and their teachers can help them brainstorm possible new uses.  Their technology tools take on new meaning as they are used to construct new experiences.


Through the act of construction, students have more ownership in their learning. This shift occurs because the students’ devices have different capabilities, and the teacher can’t force everyone to create the same product in an identical manner.  The students are also able to lend their expertise in their technology tools for the good of the learning community and provide technical support and instructional assistance.  They may choose to present what they have learned by creating a video, building in Minecraft, or designing a game.  The possibilities can be endless with the power of choice.


communityOne negative aspect of the IKEA Effect is that we sometimes can’t see the imperfections in our own work.  How do students learn how to improve the quality of their work within the BYOT classroom?  Of course the obvious answer is that the teacher facilitates these learning experiences by asking questions.  The students can also collaborate with the assistance of the teacher to develop rubrics and strategies for evaluating their products.  Because of the bond within the supportive learning community of the BYOT classroom, the students can critique their work and learn to view their products more objectively.

One difference between the practices of a BYOT classroom and assembling a product from IKEA is that there is no blueprint – no master design to follow.  The directions for success are constantly being refined by the teacher and students – the designers of the learning community.  Eventually, you will proudly display your own IKEA creation to your family and friends while ignoring those little nicks and scratches you accidentally caused during the process of assembly.  Know that the feeling of accomplishment that you achieved with your tools is a daily occurrence in the BYOT environment.


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  1. #1 by Kathy D. Shields on April 18, 2013 - 4:14 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this article because you sound like a practiced observer of student interactions with technology. The connection between the IKEA Effect and the use of BYOT has the ring of authenticity.

  2. #2 by Lee Green on April 22, 2013 - 3:08 pm

    Great article! I heard the news story a few weeks ago on Marketplace and it totally jives with the purpose of BYOT. If we want to make learning meaningful we need to get the students to actually make something! BYOT is an important policy to allow students to produce!

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