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Is consumption versus creation a red herring in the BYOD debate? June 23, 2013

Posted by IaninSheffield in Musings.
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byod:  faustian pact?

cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo by Makayla Lewis: http://flickr.com/photos/makaylalewis/8653801368/

I enjoy reading blog posts and articles with which I don’t necessarily agree. I find it’s a crucial part of testing my thinking, demands that I reflect on my beliefs and potentially helps me refine my worldview and assumptions. One particular field of enquiry and debate which I consume voraciously is that of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), not least because we have embarked on a BYO programme at school. A recent, considered post by Randy Ziegenfuss, in discussing several concerns of a BYOD programme, focused particularly on the issues of access and content creation versus consumption.

Randy feels that using BYOD as a means through which greater levels of access to ICTs and in particular the information they lead to is somewhat short-sighted. He’s right of course, but without improved levels of access (at times and in places the learner chooses), it’s much harder to move forward on the areas which may provide much greater gains in deeper learning through content creation and curation. Arguing that the content consumption model of the classroom is both dated and limiting, he makes the case for moving towards a different classroom environment in which students become “contributors of content and knowledge,” rather than passive consumers. Once again I agree, but perhaps even go a stage further and test the notion of the classroom itself; rather than thinking how technology can be brought in to change the classroom, perhaps BYOD affords the potential to lower the walls of the classroom (if you’ll forgive this trite expression!) and indeed extend the timetable beyond a series of fixed slots. If we maintain our ‘classroom’ mindset, are we being sufficiently ambitious?

Another problem Randy identifies with BYOD is that ‘devices are not equal’ where content creation is concerned and once again I find myself in agreement. However perhaps we can work that to our advantage? The fact that it’s harder to produce an extended piece of writing on a tablet or an amazing piece of art work on a mobile/cell phone is not the fault of the device, it’s caused by the task that was embarked upon and the outcome which was expected. That we find it harder to create content and knowledge bounded within traditional formats is not the fault of the device. Let’s take a traditional format with which I have great familiarity – the lab report. It invariably has a standard structure of diagram, method, results and conclusion which would task even the most ardent BYOD supporter to produce using a smartphone, at least it would if we want the output to be constrained to the traditional form i.e. a report in book or paper-based format. Instead we should play to the strengths of the device itself – using an app like Narrable, we can take photos of the processes and results of our experiment, narrating them either as we go. This can be an individual exercise or produced by a group, with the output being a narrated photo sequence which ought to address the same learning outcomes, but be achieved (arguably) more quickly and with fewer overheads for those for whom writing may not be a strength.

narrable

Although Randy doesn’t mention content curation, I’d suggest it too (when done properly) requires and results in a higher level of learning, and curation is another area with which the playing field of different devices can be levelled somewhat. With apps like FlipBoard or Scoop.It, content found through web searches (or brought in from elsewhere) can be filtered, sorted, annotated, presented and imbued with greater meaning.

In conclusion I’d like to offer a couple of possible answers to the two explicit questions Randy posed:

“Doesn’t BYOD make the design of technology-rich lessons more difficult?” Yes, but then surely so does anything new we bring into a technology-rich classroom, whether it’s a device or application? Like all innovations there’s an up-front cost, ameliorated when the benefits begin to filter through. The flip-side is that without BYOD, in some circumstances, maybe there wouldn’t even be be a technology-rich environment?

“How does BYOD create a teaching/learning environment that actually is conducive to the changing roles of learner and teacher in a technology-rich environment?” To be specific, I guess we’d first have to agree on what those ‘changing roles’ actually are, but I’ll make a tentative offer. What BYOD does is to help the learner own their learning in a way that 1:1 doesn’t. They’re learning with a device they already have, that they’ve chosen (equity issues on one side) and which is already integrated into their lives. It’s not a device (like so many other aspects of school – curriculum, assessment, location, timings) that some else chose, controls and provides for them. BYOD shouldn’t be a route chosen solely to improve access or reduce costs, nor should there be issues of creation versus consumption, the foundations of BYOD should be built on learner empowerment through freedom and choice.

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