It’s about innovation…

Can I ask an obvious question on the eve of #byod4l?
Why are we, as educators and students, interested in BYOD?
There is only one answer to this: because we are interested in how using our own devices will improve the way we learn or teach.
Before continuing I’ll dismiss some other possible answers (mostly to be contentious, but also to clarify my own thinking).
Because they are there! – this is the ‘build it and they will come’ argument or the idea that they are new and everywhere so we must be able to find a good use for them.
Because students have them
All of these points have some validity and do not necessarily conflict with my preferred answer, but they neglect the important emphasis on improvement. If we are to invest our time in considering a new technology, or rather, a new context for learning I really want to see a marked change in that context for learning. I continue to be amazed that many of us in education, academics and students, have very low expectations for the way we learn and teach, and indeed, how difficult and painful we make the experience and how we neglect or disassociate evidence for how we develop in other aspects of our lives.
I don’t know about you, but if I imagine myself learning I imagine a personal clarification or resolution. A feeling of something making sense. Even when I am being taught, or with other people, essentially that feeling is highly personal. My ‘click’ moment is almost certainly a moment that only I will experience in the way that I experience it. It is this image of learning that convinces me that all ‘the teacher’ can ever do is set out the conditions for learning. It is up to each of us, ultimately, to make use of those conditions to help us construct meaning. Learning is highly personal.
By looking across our lives and our various experiences and aspirations, the answer to the question about ‘why BYOD’ becomes obvious.
It is in our nature to learn, and formal education is therefore a perverse, albeit somewhat necessary, idea. Its necessity is probably to do with society’s need to standardise and accredit knowledge. And, as members of society, we share that need. However, this has resulted in an organised system of teaching and learning constructed around regularised learning environments and pedagogies.
As discussed in an earlier post, the key ideas embodied in the concept of Bring Your Own Device disrupt many of the ‘givens’ traditionally associated with learning environments: they are our devices, carried by us to support us in our leisure, our learning and our work, wherever, whenever, with whoever we happen to be. They are with us when we think and when we are ready to learn. Further, the traditional divisions or demarcations between these different aspects of our lives are now not only a fallacy but demonstrably are a fallacy i.e. the mother in the lecture theatre didn’t stop being a mother. Each of us is complex and multidimensional. All of the time. This is not to say that we have to muddle our lives, rather the constraints which existed before, that resulted in compartmentalisation, are different now.
Difference is an important idea in all of this. If the world is different then education is different.
Education – a perfectly designed solution
Sorry if I’m stating the obvious, but education has been perfectly designed for and over many centuries to accommodate teaching and learning. By and large it has proven to be a system that works well, if somewhat in an exclusive way. Until quite recently the system has been based upon experts conveying their wisdom. The one to many model is typically represented through the raked lecture theatre, where the teacher is at the centre of everything. It was convenient and worked pretty well.
But it’s different now. More of us can read and have had access to books, and quite recently other media have become accessible! To all of us! And now the technology is more accessible too!
So this is the point. Stop working within non-existent constraints out of habit and a sense of formality! Think about our new boundaries and horizons and think about the ways we, as humans, like to learn and the ways we do learn. This is through connecting socially, communicating, collaborating, creating and curating (and many other Cs!).
So it’s about innovation because to do the same thing would be odd – even the same thing with new devices.
No, we need to look at how we prefer to learn and teach without some of the constraints we have had. We need to think about learning differently recognising we have our own technologies close-by that are with us wherever we may be thinking. And by thinking differently we are thinking about improving the way we learn and teach.

About Andrew Middleton

NTF, PFHEA, committed to active learning, co-operative pedagogies, media-enhanced teaching and learning, authentic learning, postdigital learning spaces. Key publication: Middleton, A. (2018). Reimagining Spaces for Learning in Higher Education. Palgrave.
This entry was posted in Academic Innovation and Possibilities, BYOD, BYOD4L and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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