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BLOG: BYOD in schools: Knocking loudly on the door

John Spencer | May 6, 2013
Time for a free-for-all in education?

As we brace ourselves for this season's round of smartphones it is becoming obvious that the little devils are getting just a bit useful and connectivity pretty acceptable. The 'life companion' motif is ringing true.

Better still the users can divide themselves into rival camps from which brickbats can be chucked and within which the glow of belonging can be shared. This is essential of course; devotees, apologists, naysayers and evangelists are a marketer's dream, 'Coke or Pespi' for you sir?'

All this brings me back to the use of these devices in schools. Schools argue about which technology to adopt reprising long dead rivalries of the Microsoft past to which they cling. BYOD is knocking so hard on this door now that schools have to take increasingly hard lines on their unauthorised and uncontrolled use in class. Will the door burst open? Of course, it's just a matter of time.

That day grew a little closer for me this week as I took my 18 year olds on a geology field trip. I had downloaded, photocopied and laminated the required geological map of our area when I thought, 'hang on a mo' what apps are there (free of course) for my Android?'

We are all used to Google Sky Maps, Google Terrain and OS maps on our PC's. We are getting used to the fact that our phones think nought of integrating them with our phone's GPS. But I was blown away with iGeology and iGeology3D.

The whole official geological map of the British Isles in incredible detail linked to my position... for free! It gets better the 3D version (Android only) allows you to point your camera to view the surroundings and the underlying strata appear as by magic to 10m accuracy. Touch the screen and it downloads the summary from the national database. Truly awesome.

So armed with our 'phones' off we went into the wilds of Surrey. We took photos and movies; used the compass app; jotted down the Lat/Long to the nearest second; pointed our 3D iGeology app; looked at the OS maps, identified samples from the Internet; looked up hill heights, pointed our phone torches down holes and texted each other to rendezvous back at the van!

We were unable to use the phones to collect and analyse water samples, to make measurements or to hammer rocks but surely they will soon be features.

BYOD was this week amazing, we hardly looked into our box of goodies containing a digital camera and video (so last century) or maps and compasses.

Others must have similar tales to tell and the knocking gets louder


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