BYOD and Digital Divide Issues in Education

I have often witnessed students from lower social-economic backgrounds are the only students in class without a smartphone.  Some students have told me that at home they do not have a computer, or it they do, they cannot afford to purchase MS Office – even with a student discount.

Knowing and understanding these challenges, I have been against the latest drive of BYOD (bring your own device) to the classroom; however, I have also noticed that there are some positive effects of the BYOD movement that doesn’t exacerbate the digital divide in the classroom.

  1. With the increased number of students using their own laptops to take notes in class and write their assignments, there has been less clamour for computers in the library.  Simply state, there is less competition for school owned technology.  We should be cautioned that there might be other considerations to take into account before drawing a direct correlation.
  • Think-pair-share activities usually have one student who uses a laptop or tablet.  This student often is the “note taker” while the other student is the “idea” person.  This helps and encourages economically challenged students have a voice and become part of the exercise.
  1. Not all students without a device are economically challenged.  Some make a conscious decision to not bring their tablet or laptop to the classroom.  I’ve asked a few of them why they don’t bring their device and some have replied that they don’t like to carry the weight, they can’t afford to lose it, or they like to doodle on paper while taking handwritten notes and may later transfer notes to their computers.
  • Learners with devices sometimes voluntarily let those without a device to use theirs.  While I have not seen this very often, it does demonstrate that there is an air of collaboration between students.  I have also witnessed students without a device asking those with a device, usually a tablet, how the technology works and what the advantages are to using one in school.  This knowledge exchange gives the owner an opportunity to reflect on the learning experiences he or she has had with the device, which may not have happened otherwise.

Mandating BYOD is not an option in many high schools, colleges, or universities because it will exclude some students, but teachers and schools should encourage learners to BYOD.  Many students will mostly likely own a device once they begin their careers, and school is the perfect environment for them to learn how to use and evaluate the devices for themselves.

Fortunately, the most recent available statistics on Canadian Intent usage indicates that more and more low-income earners are findings access to computers.  This bodes well for the economy, for businesses, for education, and, more importantly, for everyone in the lower income bracket.

Unfortunately, a breakdown of technology in education is tracked in Canada; but it seems a reasonably assumption that the increase access to the Internet help low-income learners achieve their goals.

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