A response to Sam Sotiropoulos, candidate for School Trustee

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.

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9 thoughts on “A response to Sam Sotiropoulos, candidate for School Trustee

  1. Thanks for such an excellent description of how well the BYOD program is in the classroom. I have bookmarked your post so that every time some one pulls out the “fear factor” to discourage innovation I can point them to you.

  2. Well argued, Royan. I’d relish the opportunity to visit your class and see how BYOD is working in your classroom. Perhaps we can Skype in to one another’s classes sometime before the year is over? One of my IICT2 candidates described how their school has a “Tech on/Tech Off” policy, whereby the students are required to follow the instructions depending on what’s planned for the class i.e. the pedagogy put in place. Is that how your class works, or are student’s allowed to choose the differentiation that best suits their learning needs t any given moment?

    • Hi Rod!

      The tech in my class is just lying around the room for use on demand. When we’re doing an activity that works best with no technology, we just say, “alright, please put away your devices” and that’s that. I’d be happy to skype any time!

  3. Dear Royan,

    I get what you are saying about the kids having those devices already present and enabling them with this opportunity. My only drawback is the divide that is created between those with smart phones and kids that can’t afford them. I see examples of this in my 3/4 class! I have about four children that have no access to a computer once they have left the school and it gives them a lot of frustration that they can not post from home or do or hand in some of their work digitally. I do not want this to hold some of the most vulnerable back, while giving those that have the technology a leg up! I am working towards bridging the gap somewhat, by providing them some technology enrichment time during silent reading or making it possible for them to use the computers during a rainy lunch period. I have not had to deal with the byod issue because they do not have devices at this age…when it gets to that, hopefully there might be a solution…
    Thoughts straight from an Alien mind…

  4. I think it’s a moot question. See this Globe and Mail article on the topic:
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/education/primary-to-secondary/back-to-school-for-smartphones-toronto-loosens-ban-on-devices/article2156008/
    Just as books and computers in the classroom are a fact of life, mobile devices in the classroom are quickly becoming a fact of life. Rather than giving up on the idea and cow-towing to the teachers’ unions, trustees need to be working together to find the funding so that all students will have equitable access, regardless of income.

  5. Hello Royan,
    I am curious, can you share some indicators that demonstartes the value proposition of using BYOD as an intervention to foster creativity, collaboration and critical thinking in your classroom?

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