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Minimizing Device Envy in a BYOD Classroom

25 Nov 2014 by Scott Sterling

It’s inevitable that students in school compare themselves and their possessions. Some items will be judged “cooler” than others. It’s why so many schools have decided to move toward mandatory uniforms.

But, as clothing fads are phased out of districts, schools are inviting even more competitive products into the classroom: wireless devices. Let’s be honest, even adults are guilty of judging each other based on who has the newest, flashiest device at the coffee shop. Why would you think schoolchildren would be any different? How do you keep bring your own device (BYOD) envy from becoming a distraction in the classroom?

Level the playing field

This first step takes legwork on your part. Any app or website you use in the classroom needs to be vetted for literally any device that might walk through that door, from the latest MacBook Pro to a shady Android tablet bought in the clearance bin of a TJ Maxx. Nothing will draw attention to the shady tablet more than complaints from its user that they can’t connect or can’t find that particular app on their home screen.

Although there might be this great new astronomy app made only for iOS, resist the temptation to throw it into the next lesson. Stick with tried-and-true universal apps and websites that have been tested to run on absolutely everything.


This might need some approval from other parties and might only work with younger students, but it’s also a great way to put everyone on equal footing. At the beginning of every class, have everyone pile their devices in the middle of the room. Then, in a random order, distribute the devices to the students. Obviously, everyone needs to make sure sensitive material isn’t accessible.

Everyone gets an opportunity to use the great devices along with the also-rans. It also moves the also-ran devices from being owned by one person to being owned by the class, which should alleviate the pressure. Educationally, if you’ve done your homework on step one, it shouldn’t matter who has which device.

Take the heat

Sometimes the teacher needs to take one for the team. If everyone is BYOD, that should include the teacher. Bring a device into class that is suitably embarrassing (an old phone, perhaps) and make a point of explaining that this is the device you plan to use in class.

If the device is truly bad, then even the students with also-ran devices should be able to poke a little fun. Everyone will be focused on you and your poor taste in electronics, and not so focused on what the other students have. Everyone has a good laugh, and then the business of learning can take place.

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