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The BYOD movement in North Carolina

The “BYOD” concept is sweeping the nation and the trend is currently hitting many North Carolina schools. Wake County, Newton-Conover City Schools, Johnston County, and schools in Charlotte-Mecklenburg are implementing the BYOD initiative in elementary, middle, and high schools.

BYOD, or “Bring Your Own Device,” is an attempt for schools to create mobile learning communities where students can bring in and use their own personal technology devices during class time. This is a more cost-effective strategy for schools to consider when ensuring students have devices to use in class, especially since North Carolina’s Digital Learning Plan states in one of their goals that all students will have technology access in classrooms by 2018.

Though BYOD sounds wonderful in theory, there are still kinks to work out with the model. Here are some ideas to consider regarding BYOD.

Technology in the hands of all: The equity of BYOD

When students are able to bring their devices to use technology at school, a classroom has the capability to implement 1:1 technology instruction. This means that every child would have a technology device at his/her disposal. Students could create videos, type reports, access Google Classroom, and post their exit tickets to Padlet all in one period before the bell rings to dismiss class…so long as the technology they have is functional and up-to-date.

Here’s where an issue arises: what if students don’t have a device to use during their classes? Poverty persists in many schools of North Carolina, leaving many students without tablets or cell phones or laptops to bring to class. Some schools address this by having devices for students to use at the school.

The laptops in my classroom are older Lenovos. Sometimes, it takes up to a third of the class period for the laptop to log onto the network. If I have students using these computers in my classroom with others bringing their new state-of-the-art tablets and up-to-date laptops, what message of equity does that convey?

Going forward, all schools will need to have reliable broadband wireless Internet access to support potentially hundreds of devices being used at one time.

Digital and real worlds collide: Dual citizenship for students

BYOD opens the door for a conversation about digital citizenship. This generation of students, all born in the era of smartphones, are known as “digital natives” for their use of technology and ultimately not knowing what life is like before it. Generation Z students consume information instantly and are even stronger with their use of social media than Millennials. It’s because of this that we need to take time to seriously have discussions with our students about the value of digital citizenship.

Just because these students are known as “digital natives” does not mean that they are knowledgeable of how to use technology in a school-appropriate way.

Will teachers be trained to teach students about digital citizenship and how to use various pieces of technology such as publishing systems and online interfaces for academic purposes? Will schools have the opportunity to allot time in teachers’ schedules for this discussion to happen? 

Finding solutions and pressing onward

An article from Teaching Tolerance, a project run by the Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama, outlines these equity issues. It is imperative that we as educators, parents, business owners, community members, students, and all other education stakeholders engage in these tough conversations so that we can truly make real digital progress in North Carolina.

Moving in the direction of BYOD, we need to be proactive and prepare for what’s to come. We must ensure that schools have Internet access to support the technology used; we must ensure that good, working devices will be provided for every student; we must ensure that all children are receiving high levels of digital instruction. We must be strategic with our teacher preparation for this large undertaking. We must ask for student input as we move through this process, as these are the people who will take these skills into the competitive workforce and university climate to create a better society for future generations.

Allison Redden

Allison Redden (formerly Stewart) works as an education research analyst with RTI International’s Center for Education Services (CES). A former public school educator in the Triangle, Allison participated in several teacher leadership programs in North Carolina, including the Kenan Fellowship and the Education Policy Fellowship Program. She was the Public School Forum’s Beginning Teacher Leadership Network Coordinator for Wake County before moving to Tennessee to pursue her Master of Public Policy at Vanderbilt, specializing in K-12 Education Policy. She is interested in engaging in conversations and actions to advance equity, while navigating the intersections of education, economics, and policy. Redden is a proud product of North Carolina public schools, from Cabarrus County Schools to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.