BYOD: 7 reasons to leave them to their own devices
BYOD isn’t a recommendation, it’s a realty. Everyone’s bought one, everyone uses one and everyone carries it around with them. When we organise a meeting or conference, we don’t send people an email telling them what device to bring, neither do we buy or lease a whole load of computers and hand them out. In our Universities few want to revive those expensive projects where every student was given a laptop or iPad. They bring their own.
In business, BYOD is big business. Employees have access to enterprise software from at least two devices. Most employees would be frustrated if their employer did not allow access from their owned devices. Note that there's a big difference between allowing devices to access your network and enterprise software and using BYOD in schools to simply access the internet.
BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) v BEND (Buy Everyone a New Device)
Paul Hynes of the George Spencer Academy in Nottingham operates a BYOD policy that gives access to free, filtered web access (no passwords). He points out that there’s some underlying problems with a tablet-only approach; lockdown, updates, damage, iTunes, the illusion of personalisation, tech problems with displays, printers, wireless, also difficulties in storage and sharing. I’m with him on this and have real doubts about the rush to spend large sums on tablet projects in schools. There are several reasons for preferring BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) to BEND (Buy Everyone a New Device):
1. Reduces costs
The big BYOD advantage is cost, the total cost of BEND in terms of purchase, leasing, insurance, maintenance and sustainability is huge. Then there’s the often hidden costs of procurement and on-going management of owned kit. It may well be defunct long before its depreciated in your accounts. Parents and students have already spent considerable amounts of money on kit they researched, selected and use regularly. Surely we could use our education budgets better to focus on other things, like better bandwidth, teacher issues and learning.
2. Reduces risks
Why would you want to take a punt on untried technology that will bring fiscal, technical, insurance and pedagogic restraints, when much of the kit has already been bought and is in the hands of learners? Create a risk register, with scores for appetite, likelihood and impact, along with ways of making each risk manageable and you’ll see that BYOD, far from increasing, decreases overall risk. You also head off parental criticism about wasting valuable school resources….
3. Existing skills
The fact that learners know how to use their own kit is a plus. If they don’t know how to do something on their own kit, what makes you think they will on a new and stranger one? In any case isn’t it important to learn how to use your own tools and not other, unfamiliar ones?
The fact that it is your own kit means it’s less likely to get damaged or lost. There are some horror stories of damaged, knocked and lost kit, with substantial claims on insurance. You automatically tap into the care that personal ownership brings. I’d also wager that you’re far more likely to get students to use their own kit at home, rather than bought kit. One could argue that a wide range of devices may create a range of problems. This is offset by the fact that students are likely to know how to use their own kit and problem solve themselves to get connected, print and save data. They are more likely to own the problems and therefore solve them. Lastly, I suspect that the motivation to learn is more prevalent on owned devices.
5. Learning not leasing
Paul Hynes recommends “10 no-brainer uses with an impact on learning” for teachers and an approach that allows teachers to be confident, manage classes and defend the use of technology. Exactly! Let’s look at learning not leasing. Surely much of the budget would be better spent on teacher impact than capital expenditure.
6. More relevant
BYOD is more relevant in that it is more likely to mimic the real world and the workplace. Few workplaces have iPads or tablets, most have desktops, laptops and mobiles. If we’re creating autonomous adults and learners, surely we must recognise what’s actually used out there rather than locking learners into a consumer, tablet, look-up device.
7. Already happens
At home, school students already use their own devices to do their homework, communicate with their mates about assignments and exams, communicate with the school, even in the school, especially when the school kit is a bit crappy or too slow.
Problems: safety, inclusion & technical
Like BYOD, students can get up to no good. The whole e-safety debate can freeze progress, yet students know the rules and teachers know how to get the rules obeyed. Let’s be clear here, the student should NOT be allowed to access unsuitable content. You need a policy or be brave enough to leave this to the teachers’ discretion. But it’s the same issue BYOD or BEND.
Inclusion can also be an issue, as wealthier students showboat their expensive laptops or tablets. However, we can use the money saved to help solve this problem. Data suggests that this is a bottle -four-fifths-full issue, simply needing a top-up. We can’t let the absence of a few pieces of kit cancel out progress. Some kids don’t have books at home, we don’t then say, let’s not use books in learning.
I should add that I’m not a big fan of parachuting computers in any form into classrooms. Classrooms are spaces where teachers interact with learners, places of dialogue and feedback. The introduction of tablets, notebooks, laptops and mobiles are, without very careful planning, most likely to interrupt and slow down learning. Flip the classroom and let students use these for assignments, homework (oh how I hate that word) and exposition. Let teachers teach and students learn.
Prescribed tablet and laptop projects are part of an old-world view that there is an ideal or optimum technology in learning. To be frank, many of these projects are driven less by reason than desire. You can free yourself from idiosyncratic projects, Apple fanboys, large vendors and horrendous insurance and maintenance problems through BYOD. Most of all, the BEND approach is damn EXPENSIVE. What if almost ALL of that money could be saved or spent on learning, teachers and problem solving? Want to help student learn? Leave them to their own devices.