Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Problem with PODs

Yesterday I talked about using student's Personally Owned Devices (PODs) in schools and how great it is to have students use their own technology instead of schools having to buy it for them. Today I want to talk about the down side of this idea.

When I spoke about this idea in Florida this past January there were a few hecklers in the crowd (most of them from IT). Most of their questions revolved around getting sued.

Here were their concerns and my answers.

Damage: "What happens if a student breaks one of these PODs at school, or it gets stolen?"
My 14 year-old son takes a $200 graphing calculator to school everyday and no one expects the school to buy him a new one if it gets broken or stolen. I don't think we should expect anything different from a $300 iPod Touch or an iPad.

Bad Things: "What if the student has something bad on their POD, like naughty pictures that they downloaded at home and now are showing them at school?"
What would we do if a student had a pencil and drew a naughty picture? Or, what would we do if a student brought a printed picture of something inappropriate to school? We would send them to the office and they would get into trouble. Same thing with PODs. What I think the root of this concern is that by law students need to use "filtered" Internet at school, but their Internet might not be filtered at home so schools worry they could get into trouble. We are only responsible for the Internet AT SCHOOL. Let's compare this to books; at school we make sure students have appropriate books to read but we have no control over what they might have access to once they leave our building.

Viruses: "A student could very easily and accidentally bring in a virus that could take out the entire school's network."
The answer to this one is easy. Don't let them onto the school's network. The only thing that PODs should be able to get on to is the Internet. Have them store everything in the cloud and not on your school servers.

Games: "If we allow PODs they will just play games on them every chance they get." 
Again, back to the pencil and paper -- we don't allow student to play tic-tac-to every chance they get, the same would go for PODs. NO GAMES DURING WORK TIME. Instead use games as a motivator, once the student's work is done and approved, then they can have a little free time. You would be surprised at how much more work will get done in our schools.

The bottom line is that PODs are coming wether we like it or not they are the new school technology that could save our budgets. So at least we should prepare ourselves by being ready with policies and practices for when they do come.


Mark Ayton said...

One of the big concerns for teachers, I would suspect, is the issue of supporting a range operating systems and platforms. While a core set of systems are surfacing for "smart" phones, PSPs and media players, it would take a technically enthusiastic teacher to stay abreast of them all!
There is also the ethical issue of peer competitiveness to have the best or latest. Activities would have to be constructed carefully to avoid ridicule for those with less functional PODs.
That said, I'm a big fan of using whatever technology is available to support learning and make it a more enjoyable experience. PODs are undoubtedly a fantastic resource and I echo your sentiments regarding the development of policies and practices to embrace them.

Neil Prior said...

Great post that echoes my thoughts. Students have these technologies, lets make use of them.

I've heard the arguments about the use of PODs before, but I personally think people are being unfair, mainly because they haven't weighed up the full argument.

Students NEED to be educated in the appropriate and effective use of these technologies, and by using them in schools and colleges, we then have the opportunity to teach these skills.

A student could just as easily bring a graphic magazine into school, as have images on their POD. Why single out PODS?

Texting in class in actually LESS disruptive than writing on bits of paper and passing them around. Why single out PODs?

Students have these devices and they will bring them into school/class so lets make use of them. If they lose them it is their responsibility.

I have seen one potential problem though, the havenots. If you are going to be using PODs for teaching and learning, you have to have a support scheme for those that can't afford/don't have the technology, which extends to home internet access as well.

I'm currently looking at ways to make use of PODs as part of a voting system. Some twitter applications and portals are looking promising.

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