Bring Your Own Technology Fails to Live Up to Expectations

Last school year, BASH was the first school in the Boyertown Area School District to incorporate the Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) program. The BYOT program allows students to bring personal electronic devices such as laptops and cell phones to school for use in the classroom, as long as they register them. It was supposed to enhance 21st Century student learning at BASH, especially as teachers incorporated technology more into lessons and as “blended” classes became available.

 

While a great idea, the BYOT program, now in its second year, has fallen short on its promises thus far, due to a lack of technology training and awareness of the program.

 

First of all, not all classes incorporate opportunities for students to use devices they bring in from home. Many classes do not even use school-issued technology, and others use it only for mass text message updates or Edmodo reminders; these, however, do not feel like learning enhancements. The notifications, while convenient, are little more than a second assignment book. Teachers are offered technology training in specific areas, but there is not an across-the-board mandate to use anything.

 

Perhaps the largest issue of all is the lack of student enthusiasm. Few students are taking advantage of the BYOT options. Of the 1,700 students currently enrolled at BASH, only 216 are taking advantage of the program with a registered device. Not much is done to publicize the program. Beyond speeches at first-day assemblies, where the program is thrown at students along with dozens of dates and fundraising opportunities, little is done to encourage students to participate in the BYOT program.

 

BASH Principal Dr. Brett Cooper said that the district plans to eventually incorporate the BYOT program into “blended” course options, which are classes that combine cyber learning with traditional classroom teaching. However, these courses, like the BYOT program itself, have not been publicized very well. Blended courses were not clearly outlined to many students, nor were many encouraged to participate in them. The second semester of the school year will see the district’s first blended program, a cyber graphics course, but it was a course designed with little fanfare.

 

Though slow to start, the BYOT program is full of strong ideas and has the potential to make Boyertown a better place to learn. Some teachers are starting to regularly use technology in their classrooms, encouraging students to use their laptops and smartphones to optimize the amount of work the student can get done in one school day. For example, foreign language students might use an online dictionary or English students might post a written response on a blog.

 

However, the high school needs a more across-the-board approach to publicize the BYOT program and provide teachers with technology training. One step in the right direction is that more blended courses are being designed and prepared for implementation for the 2014-2015 school year.

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