Thinking about BYOD

The topic of BYOD continues to be a hot topic in schools, with many schools I visit looking at investing in wireless technologies to support students (and staff) bringing their own device to school. While there appears to be agreement that the notion of BYOD is something to be pursued, there isn't a shared understanding of what that might mean in a school context. 

For instance, in one school I visited there was a tension between the view of students who wanted to be able to use whatever device they had in their pocket, and the view of teachers who wanted them all to have the same device in order to be able to use them for 'formal' learning activities in class (based on the perception that this will minimise the amount of technical assistance required, or a requirement for a certain level of performance to run installed software etc.)

In trying to resolve this in my own mind, and to make it possible to allow others to see how different philosophical positions may influence the implementation, I've drawn up the simple matrix above (click on it for a larger version).

On the 'y' axis is a continuum based on whether the device is specified or not specified. The 'x' axis is about purpose, ranging from using the device simply as a personal note-taking/research tool linking to cloud applications, to specialised devices capable of handling higher-end, specialised and installed applications. 

In each of the four quadrants are descriptions that illustrates the possible scenarios that emerge based on where on each continuum staff and school leadership decide their priorities lie.

For me, it is important that sufficient time and thought is devoted to getting agreement among staff, students and parents about the purpose and intent of any BYOD programme. I'd hope that this matrix may be handy to use in this process. 


In addition to the thinking represented in the matrix, the process of decision-making should involve the following:

  1. Prioritising the provision of a robust, enterprise level wireless network across the school.
  2. Include in the school network plan appropriate traffic management approaches to cater for the numbers of devices anticipated, policy decisions around filtering, and provision of storage and backup of student data.
  3. In-depth community engagement to ensure informed decisions are made about the extent of ownership, readiness to participate etc. and to ensure general buy-in.
  4. A thorough consultation with staff to ensure the devices will be used in conjunction with learning activity, and that this is supported by goals in the school’s Strategic plan, the school’s Curriculum plan and the ICT action plan.
  5. Professional development opportunities provided for staff.
  6. Development of a communications plan that outlines the purpose, intent and strategy for all stakeholders.
  7. Supporting policy and procedures, including updating of the acceptable use policy to reflect individual ownership of devices.
  8. Consideration of what software will be required for use, or whether the devices will be used primarily for web-based applications (i.e. Google docs) rather than installed applications.
  9. Consideration be given to the provision of power outlets and places for re-charging if required. (NOTE: as the battery life of most of the portable devices nowadays will last for the duration of a school day, many schools are going with a policy of not making provision for large scale charging of devices, instead making it the student’s responsibility to have their device fully charged before they come to school.)

I'd be interested in feedback from others on how they've addressed this challenge?

7 thoughts on “Thinking about BYOD

    1. Thanks for the link to your wiki and the chart you’ve shared – certainly share similar thinking. This sort of approach is really useful to clarify purpose and intent. 

  1. Although I'm working in higher education, this article set me thinking (again) about the tensions between students (mostly BYOD), staff (mix of BYOD and university hardware) and university IT services.  Gosh, I feel a triangular analysis lurking or possibly  tetrahedral or more!
    … ok, back to the topic – though you might want to add the staff own device angle.
    Teaching a class who all have the same device (and software) is an apparently simpler option, though it has problems which might be reduced to the simplest factor of boredom except in the most magnificent provision. There are interesting possibilities for rethinking learning with BYOD.  In the world beyond the classroom, people (of all ages) learn/do stuff with (and without) technology.  As devices vary – and even today there musy be people/students without any D to B – group problem solving supported by whatever devices are available might offer an approach that could work.  It has been a while since I was in the classroom, so I don't know.
    What seems least satisfactory is to let the marvelous opportunites of enhancing learning with BYOD slip away because of a fear of lack of control, when bravery could be very rewarding to teachers and learners. 

    1. Thanks Shirley – your concerns match the motivation I had for creating this matrix – your conclusion about control is one I share. Bring on the tetrahedron 😉

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