Tag Archives: BYOD


Augmented reality (AR) is one of the hottest technology trends these days. It is also making its way to education. At the risk of hype meters overheating, allow me to combine it with another trendy acronym, namely BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).

Book & phone

In the educational context BYOD means that the students are bringing their own devices to schools and utilizing them there in lessons and other learning situations.

Typically the devices brought to schools are smartphones. In Finland even the youngest schoolchildren often have smartphones. With these devices they can both consume and produce learning materials. Phones have integrated cameras and microphones, which can be used to create rich content. Phones are also personal and attached to mobile networks, which in Finland are quite reliable.

Augmented reality brings an interesting twist to BYOD. With AR, printed learning materials can be brought to live in a new way. My employer Sanoma Pro recently launched an app called Arttu, which does just this. Arttu works so that you open it on your phone and place it over the book pages. Arttu recognizes some images on the pages and opens related video content, bringing the learning experience to the next level. For more about Arttu (in Finnish), check here.

Whenever discussing BYOD, equality between the learners comes up. Is it right that some students have better equipment than others? The two extreme opinions are:

  1. Everyone should have the exact same learning materials, tools, and devices.
  2. Smartphones are like skates or skis. In physical education, the pupils are mandated to bring their own skates when they have ice hockey. And their own skis when they have crosscountry skiing. Why should smartphones be treated differently?

AR apps manage to avoid this debate, at least partly. For example Arttu provides a shortcut to video materials. However, the same videos can be found otherwise, too. It might be that somewhere in the distant future using AR apps is mandatory in order to pass a course. In such case, all students should be provided with sufficient devices and software, for example as a combination of own and school’s devices.

An earlier version of this post first appeared in Finnish on Sanoma Pro’s blog.

Flickr image CC credits: Image Catalog


Will Pokémon Go Boost Location-based Games in Learning?

As I write this on July 15th 2016, the new game Pokémon Go has not even been officially released yet in Finland, yet pictures of Pokémon creatures have started to emerge in my social media streams.

pokemon go

Apparently the game is quite addictive. Augmented reality technologies and location-based games have been around for years (remember e.g. the cool Finnish game Shadow Cities?), but this is the first time they really break into mainstream. After a successful entry into consumers’ lives, they can also sneak into learning.

There are already several location-based games and platforms designed for learning, in Finland for example Citynomadi and Seppo. I hope that Pokémon Go’s success will accelerate their adoption in education, as well as generate many others!

I believe that majority of learning will be “stationary” also in the future, happening in places like the classroom, student’s own room, or library. That being said, the combined effect of BYOD, smart phones, and location-tracking will no doubt increase the relative importance of location-based educational games.

Nice thing about location-based games is that you can teach virtually anything with them. Of course it adds another interesting layer to the game if the augmented content is somehow related to the physical surroundings, for example questions about buildings which can be seen from the spot. This is not necessary, however, just like Pokémon creatures are not related to the surroundings where they can be found in the Go game.

I am an advocate of gamification and believe also in extrinsic motivators it utilizes in engaging the students. If embedding exercises on mathematics, foreign languages, and other school subjects increase the student engagement, I am all for it!

Flickr image CC credits: Eduardo Woo


BYOD: Closing or Causing Digital Divide?

The discussion on BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) has once again taken off in Finnish media. Should the schools provide all needed devices for primary and secondary education, or should the kids use their own gadgets? Or something in between?

Heterogeneous devices.

Typical argument against BYOD is that it increases inequality: the richer the family, the better their children’s devices, ergo the better chances for them to succeed in their studies and life. There are a couple of counterarguments to this, of which maybe the most common is: Economy is bad, we cannot afford devices for all, but we must transform education to digital, ergo BYOD.

Enter the conciliator. We don’t have to provide every child with a device, only those who cannot bring their own. In Finland this is often compared with cross-country skis or ice skates: everyone should bring their own skis to the physical education class, but the school has a couple of (old) pairs for those who cannot afford.

I personally think smartphones, tablets, and laptops cannot be straightforwardly compared with skis or skates. They are a lot more complex gadgets, which break easily, outdate fast, should be personalized, etc. However, there is some sense in this approach and I think it should be pursued further. Maybe the personalization can be done in the cloud instead of the client device, for example.

One factor having significant impact on how BYOD turns out is the heterogeneity of “allowed” devices. What if all pupils would have exactly the same hardware, running exactly the same software and apps? At least the lives of teachers and administrators would be a lot easier.

This is of course a utopia. Maybe we could get a uniform setup for one class, for one school even. But for everyone on a country-level? I think not. And at the latest when new HW & SW versions get rolled out, this would fall out of sync. At the other end of the spectrum is that everyone could bring any kind of device they like. This wouldn’t work either.

No, the truth is somewhere in between. At the very minimum the needed input and output methods should be specified: keyboard, camera, microphone, speaker, etc. The necessary connectivity modes should be outlined, maybe some sensors, as well as the most basic capabilities (for the likes of information search, word processing, calculation, and publishing).

Finally, if the alternative to BYOD is to not allow devices at all but continue with “pen and paper”, one could argue that this is actually increasing inequality. The reasoning goes that if no devices at school, some children can use them at home, whereas others cannot access them at all.

So it would be a job for the school to ensure that all children get at least a glimpse of what new technologies have to offer. Otherwise some folks would automatically be better prepared for the future than others. And we don’t want that, do we?

Flickr image CC credits: adactio


Don’t Ban Devices Unless You Absolutely Have To

Tragicomic discussions in Finnish media these days: Should the members of parliament be forced to leave their iPads and smartphones behind when entering the parliament sessions?

MP Thomas Blomqvist watching Sochi olympics during a session. Source: Helsingin Sanomat

Banning devices addresses the effect, not the cause. You see, there is always a reason for sending emails, tweeting, or even watching olympics from the session. Probably several reasons. Why are the MPs doing so? This is the question we should tackle.

Could it be that sometimes the sessions are too slow, repetitive, or even straight up boring? The MPs are busy folks with a million things to do, also outside the chamber. Connected devices enable them to break free from the chamber and its ancient traditions. Maybe they can even do some fact-checking before speaking up. And indeed, nothing wrong with a bit of spectator sports IMHO.

This issue goes well beyond parliament, even to K-12 schools & BYOD policies. Let’s consider adults before children, however, because it’s somewhat easier. Consider a meeting: as long as a person doesn’t distract others for example with sounds emitting from the device, do not restrict him/her in any way. If they choose to fiddle their gadgets instead of participating, they might be in a wrong meeting or the meeting is poorly organized. Nothing more to this.

With children, it’s a bit more tricky. In a school setting, clear common rules should be laid down. When to use the device, what to do with it, and so on. It is naturally difficult for the teacher to monitor what the class is doing, especially in a BYOD scenario where the device base is heterogeneous. However, in the future when BYOD and online tools have become the norm, things are going to settle down.

The teacher just assigns students with certain tasks and then they perform them with their devices. If they finish early, why not let them play games or surf the web? As with adults, their activities should not distract others in the same classroom. And of course there are issues of cyber bullying and the like, but such are broader questions and for sure are not going to be solved by banning gadgets in the classroom.

Back to the parliament. These are the people who are supposed to come up with good laws for us, also regarding education. If they are denied their smartphones, what’s going to happen with students?