Will ‘Bring Your Own Device’ discriminate against potential learners?

“This house proposes that the move towards Bring Your Own Device will discriminate against many potential learners” – was a motion debated by four panellists.

Joe Nicholls, Cardiff University: For the motion

Joe argued that technolofgy is an opportunity and that BYOD presents access issues. It’s a slippery slope to assume that learners with their own devices have the skills to go with the device. Learners using social media and gaming don’t necessarily have the same skills needed for classroom learning. The range of devices in existance are challenging for educators too, who may not have the right training and support from their institutions.

Bob Harrison, Toshiba Information Systems: Against the motion

Bob asked what the alternative to bringing your own device is when technology is constantly changing and presenting valuable opportunities. The reasons BYOD should be encouraged is because it saves on costs, reduces risks, allows teachers to focus on learning and is relevant to learners’ lives. Bob made the point that BYOD is happening and unavoidable, so learning professionals need to work harder to ensure technology doesn’t discriminate against people.

Paul Richardson, JISC RSC (Wales): For the motion

Paul argued that the motion is about inclusion. He vividly descibed four very different learners that were encouraged to bring their own devices, but that lost their confidence when they were unable to use the devices due to lack of support. 

Peter Kilcoyne, Worcester College of Technology: Against the motion

Peter wanted to distinguish between institutions that do provide devices and encourage BYOD and those that don’t actually provide any kit. Worcester College of Technology has set up a network to enable all students to bring their own device – interestingly, even though the majority of students have their own device just 10% opted to bring them in. He argued that providers must enourage more students to bring their devices in, as the benefits are widespread.

This was opened up to the audience and a lively debate followed, resulting in some key conclusions: 

Institutions and organisations need to support/train teachers and tutors so they can deal with the variety devices being brought in and so they can help learners where necessary.

Institutions still need to provide devices to cater to the learners who don’t own their own devices and to support those lacking the necessary digital skills.

There is no one learning technology that fits all, a mix is needed to cater to the complex needs of learners.

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