Technology Integration

My Inner Conflict with B.Y.O.D

August 30, 2014

It seems you can’t get through a single Twitter chat without seeing the letters B.Y.O.D. mentioned. It is one of those buzzwords of the moment, and for proof one need look no further than the source of all catalogued knowledge -- Google -- which generates over 8 million results for the acronym. That kicks sand in the face of the Socratic Method, which checks in at a diminutive 594,000. 

But is all this talk worth it? 

Certainly, to an extent, it is. Teachers can get instant feedback on assessments in the form of dazzling pie charts, bar graphs and statistics with every imaginable variable. Students no longer have to create dioramas out of shoeboxes, they can direct their own iMovies, animate their ideas on Prezi, and speak to the world via Skype. Even parents are getting in on the action by checking grades daily through online grade books, keeping abreast via email newsletters, and existing virtually in the classroom thanks to teacher-posted pictures on social media. These are just a sample of the many blessings of BYOD.

Yet, is there an underbelly?

Here are three articles that may make you question if we need as much technology as we are talking about. Do the rewards outweigh the impact? Please share your thoughts.

1. Anissa Ramirez’s The Lowdown on Longhand: How Writing by Hand Benefits the Brain

When students take notes with their laptops, they tend to mindlessly transcribe the data word for word, like speech-to-text software. But taking notes verbatim is not the point. What is lacking in their note-taking-by-laptop is the synthesis, the re-framing, and the understanding of the information.

2. Nicholas Carr’s Is Google Making us Stupid?

When we read online, she says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information.” Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.

3. William Deresiewicz’s The End of Solitude

Now we are sending text messages on our cellphones, posting pictures on our Facebook pages, and following complete strangers on Twitter. A constant stream of mediated contact, virtual, notional, or simulated, keeps us wired in to the electronic hive — though contact, or at least two-way contact, seems increasingly beside the point. The goal now, it seems, is simply to become known, to turn oneself into a sort of miniature celebrity. How many friends do I have on Facebook? How many people are reading my blog? How many Google hits does my name generate? Visibility secures our self-esteem, becoming a substitute, twice removed, for genuine connection. Not long ago, it was easy to feel lonely. Now, it is impossible to be alone.

My school is slowly coming around. This summer it revised its electronic device policy, allowing students to use phones in common areas like the hallways and cafeteria, yet we are not a 1:1 school, nor do we have an iPad, Kindle, or Galaxy tablet in a single classroom. I bend the rules here and there, submitting to the convenience of  phone to look up a definition and allowing Kindles during independent reading. And that's ok for right now because I worry about their time on screens and their ability to stay focused when a new tab is just one click away.

Yet, part of me has this fear that my students and I are missing out, that there is this magical world of creative power and organizational perfection that we've yet to explore. Perhaps one day my disitrict and I will catch up, and when we do we will probably realize that we are behind again. But for right now, I'm content to linger where we we are, with notebooks, pens, and the yellowed pages of the novels that we are reading.

I'm a decade into my teaching career and I still feel the same pleasure that Whitman speaks of in "Beginning My Studies" that I'm willing to wait a bit before I take that next step.

The first step, I say, aw’d me and pleas’d me so much,  
I have hardly gone, and hardly wish’d to go, any farther,          
But stop and loiter all the time, to sing it in extatic songs.

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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