The days of overhead projectors and chalkboards are behind us. Today’s educators are looking to Chromebooks, smartphones and maker spaces to enhance their teaching. Other tools going the way of the overhead projector? The traditional textbook and workbook combination, complete with a #2 pencil. As digital natives, today’s students have grown up with technology integrated into every aspect of their lives, and education is no exception.

When it comes to middle schools and high schools, the average classroom looks more like a typical startup office than the traditional classroom of the past. As part of the macro trend of unbundling education, teachers are delivering a modern, customized curriculum by curating content in the form of videos, online text, and apps–moving beyond the physical textbooks.

In response, students are also choosing the devices they want to use for learning, and why shouldn’t they? Similar to the age-old Apple vs. Android debate, students tend to have personal preferences about the devices they use for learning.

Enter the age of BYOD. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is a huge part of the way schools are integrating technology. But before the actual tech comes into play, there needs to be investment and buy-in from the teachers (because that’s where it all starts—with the teacher). Today, schools across the country look to educators to customize lesson plans to the learning requirements of their unique classrooms and students. What works in an 11th grade social studies class in rural Maine, may not be what’s right for a class covering the same topics in New York City.

Not surprisingly, as part of this customization, educators are looking to technology to play a bigger role in education, with recent reports revealing that more than 25 percent of U.S. schools have 1:1 device ratios. Teachers understand that integrating devices into their classrooms can lead to more engaging lesson plans.

In addition, technology is helping teachers track student progress more effectively—freeing up more time to focus on the actual teaching and not the grading.

"When it comes to middle and high schools, the average #classroom looks more like a #startup."

While 25 percent of U.S. schools are focusing on building out their 1:1 programs, 56 percent of school districts have implemented BYOD programs, and that number is rising. Although teachers’ initial concern was that students would be tempted to browse social networks and get distracted by games and other online content, BYOD programs have begun shifting students’ outlook on their devices from entertainment to educational.

The benefits of a BYOD program are far-reaching. Having access to devices during class allows students to collaborate more easily, receive more personalized instruction, and interact and engage more with their work. In addition to driving down costs, BYOD also gives students an opportunity to engage with digital learning both in and out of the classroom.

While BYOD has its benefits, the biggest challenges I see with BYOD programs are around equity. How do we ensure that all students have access to the technology needed to participate in an classroom activity? Surprisingly, however, offering a BYOD program to students can actually make it easier to fund in-school technology for those who can’t bring from home. Instead of needing funding for a device for every student, funding can supplement devices for some students.

For those in the business of making learning technology, the benefit of the BYOD movement is that we can develop technology for the end consumer (students) instead of for the enterprise (administrators). Giving students the choice of how to access learning technology makes them more likely to actually want to use it. And getting students to want to learn — isn’t that what it’s all about?

The BYOD movement is only one piece of the larger unbundling trend we’re already seeing. It encourages device-assisted learning, while giving teachers more utility to enhance their lesson plans and push the boundaries of traditional textbooks. How quickly the shift happens depends both on availability of hardware in the classroom and innovation.

About the Author:

Matthew Glotzbach is the CEO of Quizlet. He joined Quizlet from 12 years at Google, where he was most recently VP Product Management at YouTube. Prior to YouTube, he was on the founding team of Google Apps and lead product for Google Apps for Edu. Matthew studied mechanical engineering at Cornell and grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana.


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