BYOD – Bring Your Own Device – for the school of today and the future?
With improved technology such as wireless access, the management of devices, volume purchasing programme (VPP) schools are becoming more serious about finding new ways to access the resources the web has to offer, to personalize and enhance the learning experience of their students, to embed IT in a creative way into lessons and to widen accessibility for all their students.
Schools as diverse as Essa Academy in Bolton (http://tabtimes.com/news/education/2013/05/03/here-how-ipad-making-teachers-more-tech-savvy-one-british-school) and St Birinus in Oxfordshire (http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/yourtown/didcot/10811333.Schools_enter_the_digital_age_and_offer_iPads_to_pupils/) have introduced mobile devices for their students and staff (1:1), albeit with mixed reception in the community and the media. Initially, Essa Academy purchased iPads for the whole school whereas St Birinus started the implementation of their scheme with Year 7, and all members of staff being given an iPad mini.
More and more educational establishments are choosing or considering a BYOD programme (Bring Your Own Device) to cut costs due to budget constraints. BYOD allows students to bring their own smart phone, iPod touch, iPad or other tablet/device into school. Research increasingly shows that students already own and use mobile devices. One of the Key Findings of CDWG’s 21st Century Classroom Report, 2011 states: “Students study with technology…at home:
• 86% of students say they use technology more outside of school than in class
• Nearly all students – 94% – say they use technology to study or work on class assignments at home…”
The variety of devices could be seen as an advantage as it gives students the ability to choose and use the device they are comfortable with and when working collaboratively, students can choose the best device for a given task, switching between devices if necessary.
There are, however, challenges regarding BYOD, for example, equity, the compatibility of such an array of devices, security and filtering, and the management of the devices. The main concerns are how to ensure that a school implements a successful BYOD programme. These are the questions:
· What are the benefits and educational goals of the programme? How will BYOD meet these goals? A question to ask is: how have previous technologies been embedded in the school? Have they been successful? What lessons can be learnt from previous experiences?
· What will be the support from the major stakeholders i.e. the teachers, and the parents who have purchased or may need to purchase the devices? Support is critical as well as clear communication and dialogue for the sharing information and addressing concerns, for example.
· What devices will be allowed in school? What devices are not appropriate for learning? What about devices with Wi-Fi connectivity only or will the school also allow those with 3G/4G connectivity? What about the age appropriateness of the students in relation to the device?
· What will be the usage policies in school? The debate is not only about what devices will be used but also how and when they will be used. Some schools have moved from an Acceptable Use Policy to a Responsible Use Policy which reflects students being given responsibility regarding how they use their device. Schools also need to have a good discussion about whether the students’ devices must connect through the school filtered Internet. Will the devices have a mobile filter or a mobile device management (MDM) solution allowed on them, prior to being allowed in school? How vital is it to control and manage students’ own device regarding access in school?
· IT support needs to be considered. Who will be responsible if a device needs maintenance when it is crucially needed for a class activity? What apps could one expect to have on a device? In addition, how will the device be charged and kept securely?
· Teacher support will also be vital. Teachers will need to know how to support lessons across a variety of devices/platforms. Professional development is therefore essential to discuss ideas about how BYOD can be integrated in their lessons and how to troubleshoot problems.
· One of the advantages of BYOD is potential financial savings. Schools, however, need to address fair access for all their students. How much stock will the school purchase to ensure that no student is left out.
· One cannot emphasise enough how important excellent wireless connectivity is. Many early adopters have had their enthusiasm curbed and lessons ruined because of poor bandwidth. Possibly, a separate guest (and filtered) access would need to be seriously looked at.
· How will schools retrieve and use the work completed for assessment and showcasing, for example? BYOD needs to have a meaningful context. In order to access schoolwork and discussions, as well as collaborate and share ideas and resources, some form of platform will need to be considered.
Many schools contemplating BYOD do so in collaboration with a provider who will not only deploy and manage their programme, but also track how the mobile devices are deployed across the school, configure policies, settings and restrictions; enable secure access to resources; distribute and manage in-house or purchased apps. Finally, in the worse case scenario, they would remotely wipe school assets from stolen or lost devices.
M. Antoine and J Hancock