Below is a comment I left on Sam Sotiropoulos‘ blog. As a trustee running in Ward 20 for the TDSB, he expresses opposition to BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology, sometimes known as BYOD) as a system initiative. I’m still waiting for him to approve my comment, so I decided to post it here in the meantime. Click here for the original post/podcast.
My name is Royan Lee. I am a teacher in the YRDSB who uses technology in hopes of fostering a more creative, collaborative, critical thinking environment. I have some questions about your post and podcast on BYOD.
First of all, I notice you don’t mention whether you have either seen BYOD in action or have talked to anyone who has. Should you be so adamant about your stance considering this? I have been ‘doing’ BYOD in my classrom for three years. Please read about my experiences on my blog. I would love to talk to you about this some time.
Secondly, are you sure you’re not confusing equality with equity? As I see it, equality with technology exists when students do everything using the same tools at the same time. We’ve been doing that for a long time. Equity, on the other hand, is evident when students have voice, take increasing charge of their own learning, make meaningful mistakes, and are able to reflect on the right tools for their own learning.
Third, is your argument based on the assumption that students are not to be trusted with personal technology? I find it strange that you simultaneously position yourself as a ‘technology trustee’ who seeks to get more tech into their hands. I’m very confused by this paradox. Please remember that BYOD cannot exist without a strong pedagogical and practical plan to ensure its success. BYOD is not about having 3 students tapping away on a MacBook Pro while 2 others sit without access. It is not a laissez faire approach.
Fourth, it would be great if you mentioned the other forms of inequity that are currently embedded into our system, rather than citing BYOD as a main target. Is this topic really one that you should base a significant portion of your platform on? Remember, please, that BYOD is far from being widely adopted. What about homework or parent engagement as an equity issue?
Many of the arguments you put forth certainly are not uncommon to anyone who has ever had a conversation about BYOD. In fact, most of them need to be considered very deeply before launching such an initiative. The discussion, however, is much more nuanced than you’ve posited. I urge you to please avoid fanning the flames of fear around such paradigm shifts (remember, all shifts in thinking that are positive usually start with great opposition inspired by fear and myth). Instead, perhaps you can start by at least speaking to individuals experienced with it in practice.
No one should be arguing that this new way of looking at technology in schools is a panacea. Imagine if school reform was that easy? But should the challenges and barriers to its success stop us from at least trying it out?
Is equity really the issue when we have students bringing these devices to our buildings whether we are ‘permitting’ them in class or not? Or is it that, similar to most hegemonic forms of inequity in society, we would rather pretend it doesn’t exist? Because, I assure you, we do not have the power as a system to ban technology from students’ backpacks, pockets, or homes. Ask the people who’ve already tried (of which there are many).
I wish you the best of luck on your campaign, and give you props for opening up your thinking on a blog. I eagerly await your response.