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We are hearing of a few classrooms that are going beyond the chalk-and-talk style of teaching. Bring your own device (BYOD) began to emerge in the workplace a few years ago, placing a new strain on IT departments. Company IT staff who had been used to directing what computers people used and what software they were allowed to use, began to give way to emails being read on Blackberries and other smartphones. Smartphones turned into smarter phones with Apple, Samsung and Nokia making much more sophisticated devices and telephoning people became only one of many things users did with their phones.


Cellphones moved to the classroom and some teachers tried banning them for a while, because they interfered with teaching. Tablet computers emerged even more quickly than cellphones did and the prices dropped rapidly after Apple opened up a new class of computer device. With these new devices, it is becoming more unusual for kids to not a cellphone or tablet in the classroom. Teachers became even more hard-pressed to find logical and meaningful ways to integrate the devices into the teaching and learning process.


Toolkits have emerged to help teachers find their way with this wave of kids bringing their own devices (http://www.k12blueprint.com/byod). There are lists of apps, many of them free, that teachers can consider for use in their classrooms (http://www.edudemic.com/byod-apps-symbaloo). New devices are helping to bring down prices, so one needs to check the media for prices and models (http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/test-centre/tablets/3412038/10-best-budget-tablets-2013-2014 and http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/test-centre/tablets/3265725/23-best-tablets-of-2014/). If being robust is important, there are tablets that will last longer (http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/buying-advice/tablets/3476321/12-best-kids-tablets-for-christmas-2013).


School districts interested in promoting quality education are finding ways to buy and provide tablet computers to kids (http://amarillo.com/news/latest-news/2014-03-05/bushland-isd-arms-kids-ipads). This is reported to be helping kids find the information they are looking for, including books that their library did not have in stock.


In addition to the wider range of available resources available to kids who have their own devices with access to the internet, further benefits include improved problem solving and creativity. Teachers can focus on helping the kids who need their attention and leave the others that need the attention less to get on with the job of learning.


Poorer schools do not need to be left behind as can be seen in projects in the USA and India (http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2013/10/28/commentary/india-designs-low-cost-computer-to-prep-poor/#.UyWdwNxvYrg and http://www.deccanherald.com/content/355833/centre-plans-give-mobiles-tablets.html). Projects like the One-Laptop-Per-Child (OLPC) that started long before tablet PCs became popular, are still working to give kids devices that can help to overcome their societal limitations (http://one.laptop.org). Millions of kids have gained computer experience and learned things they would not have, had it not been for the OLPC project.


We hear employers want entrants to the workplace to have usable skills and do not expect to have to teach new employees how to use computers and how to use the internet. Laptops, tablets and smartphones in the classroom may go a long way to helping kids to learn better, be more creative and have more of the necessary skills when they finish school. What is your school doing to increase computer literacy and improve teaching and learning?


Submitted on 16 March 2014. First published on AfricaEducation.org.


BYOD to the classroom