Monday, October 7, 2013

A Student's BYOD Experiment

I am a technophile. I like technology, the latest gadgets, trends, software, and everything else. This is to be expected, as I’ve grown up in the age of digital media, smartphones, and the internet. I use technology everywhere, however, I recently noticed a technology black hole in my life: School. It seems backwards that in a time when more and more teens have a smartphone or a mobile device, the places where teens spend the majority of their time have not embraced this trend. A study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in March of 2013 found that 37% of teens age 12-17 within the US own a smartphone. That amounts to a lot of untapped potential for educators with smartphones alone.

Don’t get me wrong, schools do have technology integration. However, many times technology is under-utilized in the classroom. I’ll use the school that I attend as an example. We have computer labs, Google Apps for Education, and an online grade viewing program. However, the IT infrastructure is aging and inadequate at times. My school is working to remedy the problem by creating a program where every student has an iPad to use for class, allow for easier access to materials, and other digital learning tools. This program has worked well but at the moment it is only available for several grade levels. The program will begin rolling out in our high school within the year, but many teachers are beginning to take the jump to digital learning early.


Since I am excited about this entrance of technology into the classroom I decided to embrace this new program while I don’t yet have an iPad. To do this I implemented my own BYOD strategy in order to efficiently use these digital resources. This strategy worked well for me, although some of my teachers are less than friendly to unauthorized technology in the classroom (Although, I remedied this by using some common sense regarding device usage). I started using my Android smartphone and Samsung Chromebook to complete assignments, take notes, and share materials through Google Apps for Education. Here are my three observations:
  • It’s lighter
  • It’s cheaper
  • It’s faster

Lighter

Many times I have to take a whole binder of material home when I have an assignment for the class. This becomes quite a heavy load when I have six classes where I receive assignments regularly. A University of California (Riverside) study found that an average middle school student's backpack can weigh up to 37 pounds. Google Apps for Education, my smartphone and Chromebook, reduce this load significantly by allowing me to view and complete assignments online without the need to bring home a backpack full of extraneous documents.

Cheaper

This switch to digital learning is also cheaper. According to the few articles I could find, as there hasn't been much documentation, an average school or department of about 1000 students will spend anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 on printer ink, toner, and paper - not to mention printer wear-and-tear costs. (Source 1 | Source 2)

Before the switch I had to print off an assignment or paper several times, once for each draft or revision, for the teacher’s review. With Google Apps for Education I can share a document with a teacher and get their feedback during the revision process without having to print off a new copy of a paper every time I find a portion that needs to be changed. This has significantly cut down on the amount of paper and ink I use for school, especially since I am taking classes that focus heavily on papers and writing assignments. This has the potential to save schools thousands of dollars every year.

(I also switched to using a Chromebook, instead of a laptop, and wrote about that experience a few weeks ago.)

Faster

This strategy has also been dramatically faster. Google Apps for Education allows collaboration within a document and instant saving of changes. This allows me to view the comments and grades of assignments the moment that a teacher adds them so that I can begin working on areas where I need improvement without having to wait for the teacher to give back the assignment in class. I can search all of my documents, and create files within Google Apps for Education. One of the best features of Google Apps for Education is its cloud based nature, which allows me to forego using a flash drive to transfer information and it also solves the problem of having different versions of the same information scattered across multiple computers.

Distraction

Many people claim that technology in the classroom is a distraction for students and that students will abuse devices in the classroom by playing games, going on social media, and texting others. While I agree that all of these things can happen I believe that distractions are always present in the classroom, staring out a window is just as easy as texting in class and it is generally a less conspicuous way to be distracted. Through my experiment, other students weren’t distracted by my smartphone usage, primarily because smartphones are commonplace, and I am hardly setting a precedent for phone use. Now that phone restrictions have been lightened at my school most students with smartphones are doing the same thing that I am, accessing assignments and enhancing their education by using their smartphones.

Going Forward

After completing this experiment for the past month I have decided that I will continue using this BYOD strategy for my education because of the many benefits that it provides. It has been easier to keep track of assignments, and although I haven’t seen any significant increase in my grades (because I'm already a pretty decent student) it has certainly made my life as a student easier. The integration of technology within classrooms increases the ease and efficiency of learning, especially at a time where so many students are constantly connected to the internet through mobile devices. Google Apps for Education and other digital learning services also offer a host of functionality at a minimal cost for educational institutions, in fact Google Apps for Education is free for educational institutions.


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Tyler Triemstra is a new intern at Newmind Group. He works on internal improvements to make the sales process more efficient, but mainly, he is learning a ton from the team at Newmind. He has a passion for technology and enjoys being part of a team that helps businesses use technology effectively.

Tyler is a senior in high school who enjoys reading, traveling, and volunteering. He can’t wait to graduate from high school and is busily searching for a college to attend.