Report from ATIA: The impact of BYOT (Bring Your Own Tech) on assistive technology in US schools

Posted by on 4th February 2013

Neil Cottrell is LexAble’s Director and a member of the British Dyslexia Association’s New Technology Committee. This is a report from ATIA’s assistive technology conference, held annually in Orlando, Florida.


Session: “The Times They are A-Changing!” – How B.Y.O.T. impacts AT

Presenter: Chris Swaim, Assistive Technology Facilitator, Forsyth County School System, Georgia USA

Chris SwaimIn this session, Chris talked about the growing practice of Bring Your Own Tech (BYOT) in US schools. BYOT has been implemented across all 36 schools in Forsyth County in Georgia, USA.  This means that students are encouraged to bring in their own laptops, phones, tablets, ebooks and even portable games consoles!  Tech is provided for those students who don’t have their own. The rules are simple – only use your tech for educational purposes, and put it down when you’re asked to.  This method is shifting the role of the teacher even further from the “source of all knowledge” to a “facilitator of the learning process”, and is having great success in their county. Chris also discussed the impact of BYOT on the use of assistive technology:

  • Students needing assistive technology no longer stand out as much, and feel more confident to use their tech around others.
  • All students are encouraged to invent and share learning strategies using their tech. This means that students are showing off their assistive technology to their peers, who sometimes end up using it too, if it fits with their learning style.
  • There is, however, an occasional mismatch between the assistive technology that has been agreed upon and supplied to the student, and the technology that they want to use. Often the assistive technology has been chosen because it helps the student tackle specific issues, whereas the BYOT devices are preferred because they’re the latest trend. This can cause friction, and there were different views in the room about who should have the final say – the disability professional? The parents? The student?

All students, including those with disabilities, were empowered to demonstrate their technology and strategies to the teacher.  Some teachers found this daunting and some were fascinated to see their students so engaged.

What do you think of BYOT? Could it work in the UK, and do you think it will be introduced in the near future? Have you piloted a similar scheme in your own schools? Let us know in the comments.