The Pros and Cons of Personal Technology in Schools

Technology has become an integral aspect of life in the workplace, at home, and even in our schools. In this day and age, the thought of going a day or two without regular access to a computer or smartphone is almost laughable for most people.

Today's students are still studying the same subjects that their parents and grandparents covered years ago, but computers and the Internet have undeniably changed the way schools and classrooms operate. Most children now take typing classes in elementary school, but never learn cursive handwriting. Current college students have no idea what it's like to search for library books with a card catalog.

Technology Invades the Classroom

Computers slowly began making their way into schools in the 1980s, but the days of one humongous (by today's standards, anyway) PC in the back of the room—intended for occasional use by 25 or 30 students a few times per week—are long gone. In many cases, the use of computers for schoolwork is now mandatory.

Students generally have access to numerous computer labs for use at school, but many prefer to use their own laptops for classwork or homework assignments. Some students even use their smartphones or iPads in the classroom if their teachers allow them to do so.

Bring Your Own Device Work or School

Bring your own device (BYOD) is an increasing trend in the corporate world. Employees use their own technological devices at work, rather than devices supplied by the company. Smartphones are the most common example of employee-owned technology, but many employees also use their own laptops, tablets, and USB drives rather than company-issued devices.

BYOD policies in the workplace give people the ability to use devices that they personally selected rather than those that were forced upon them by supervisors or employers. Syncing your own smartphone or laptop with email or other work-related systems also provides flexibility when working from home or while traveling.

Personal Technology at School: Pros and Cons

More and more schools are also adopting BYOD practices, allowing students to use their own devices in the classroom or to complete projects and assignments. Some parents and educators see personal technology in schools as a distraction. Some believe it possibly increases the potential for cheating.

On the other side of the coin, technology is a necessary part of the social and educational development of our contemporary society, which is heavily integrated with technology. Before making any snap judgments, consider the following:

The Pros

  • Students who are already familiar and comfortable using their own devices will spend more time using the devices to learn and study— rather than learning how to use the device itself.
  • Allowing students to use their own laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other devices can help schools save money on technology.
  • Devices purchased by a student or his/her family are more likely to be newer and faster than those purchased by a school district with a limited budget.
  • When students can store all of their notes and assignments in one place—on their own device—they are more likely to be organized.
  • Students will be more responsible and careful when using a device that is their own than they would be when using one they borrowed or leased from school.

The Cons

  • Not all families can afford to purchase new laptops, tablets, or smartphones. "Hand-me-down" devices can be outdated or slow.
  • Just like expensive clothing and accessories, technological gadgets can be a status symbol among students, causing a divide between the haves and the have-nots.
  • More devices in schools can increase the possibility of theft.
  • Network security can also become an issue. Students could possibly bring viruses from his or her personal devices onto the school's wireless network.
  • Certain software or apps may not be compatible on all devices. It can also be tough for teachers to ensure numerous devices can do the "right job."

Despite the cons, personal technology programs have been successful in many schools throughout the United States. Planning and implementation can take as long as one or two years because school systems must invest in network infrastructure that allows plenty of room for growth, but a successful personal device policy can be just that—a success; a true educational triumph for students, educators, and administrators.

BYOD options in schools are typically introduced somewhere between middle school and high school. If implemented properly—for example, ensuring that students are paying attention to their teachers rather than Candy Crush or Facebook—allowing students to use their own devices can have a positive impact on learning.