How can today’s educators engage tech-savvy students that use some type of technology device in most of their free time? A couple of options that Henry County Public Schools researched are BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and a 1-to-1 laptop program where every student would be provided with a laptop.  BYOD seemed to best fit the bill for Henry County.  Being a small county and school district, HCPS doesn’t have the funds necessary to support a 1-to-1 laptop program.  BYOD relieves the school district of some of the financial burden of providing every student with some type of technology device. BYOD allows students to bring the device of their choice to school, i.e., cell phone, laptop, iPod Touch, iPad or any other brand of tablet, etc.  For those who bring their own device have access to the device at all times during the school day. For students who are unable to bring their own device, HCPS has laptops and desktop computers available for their use when needed.

Today’s young people have grown up immersed in technology. They play video games, listen to music, take pictures, create videos, learn new information, solve problems, and communicate through social media using computers, cell phones, tablets, and other devices.  Using technology is part of their everyday life.  They are considered to be digital natives; they haven’t known life any other way.  Older generations have always been comfortable using pencil and paper to learn, create, and communicate.  Digital natives view technology as their “pencil and paper”.  It is no longer a question of whether or not we should be using technology; it is about how we integrate it appropriately.  Teachers must help students learn through a method in which they learn best.  For many students, that way is through the use of technology. 

BYOD can transform a classroom by creating new opportunities for learning.  When teachers embrace the technology tools students are comfortable with, the student’s learning becomes more interactive, engaging, and meaningful.  The teacher can become a manager or facilitator of the student’s learning allowing them to formulate their own questions on topics they need to learn about. This puts the student in a position of having control over their learning.  

BYOD allows teachers to more easily differentiate to meet the learning needs of all students.  Students with disabilities can use accessibility tools to help them read, learn the meaning of words, or hear written passages; ELL (English Language Learner) students can use it as a translation tool and gifted students can research more advanced topics.  All students can use their device to help them solve real-world problems, demonstrate their learning by creating products, and collaborate with people outside their school, i.e., community leaders, students/teachers in other schools, and experts in any field to gain first-hand knowledge on a specific topic. These people may be located anywhere in the world.

Learning doesn’t have to stop when a student leaves school. Students can use their devices at home for learning as well.  They can use it to collaborate with other students on group projects whether at school or at home. They can text each other to discuss homework, arrange study groups, etc. If a teacher is using a resource such as Edmodo, an online social learning website, students can interact with their teacher and classmates after school hours.  Through Edmodo, students can turn in homework, access handouts used in class, watch an assigned video, or have a discussion with their teacher and classmates among other things.

Below are two video excerpts from a webcast hosted by KDE Office of Knowledge, Information and Data Systems (KIDS) held in February of 2013.  They show how some Henry County High School teachers are allowing students to use their own device at school. It is evident that these students are using their creativity and are excited about learning through the use of their own device.

Cheryl Taylor - English teacher   Lauren Niemann - Biology teacher

In closing, it is the responsibility of educators to prepare students to be college and career ready. BYOD is one method that HCPS teachers are using to help achieve this goal. Technology is used in all facets of life and in the workforce, so students need exposure to many tools and a variety of ways to use them.  These tools are used to help students learn to use creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills in order to become productive citizens and contributors in this ever-changing 21st century world.