There’s been a lot of talk about BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). This approach to technology in the classroom is seen as a great alternative to school-bought devices being issued the same way textbooks are issued.
The benefits of BYOD go far beyond cost reduction. It provides students and teachers with a great degree of choice in what devices they use.
Dr. Emil Ahangarzadeh, Director of California’s Technical Statewide Education Technology Services at the San Diego County Office of Education, has written a great article — titled To Have or to Hold — on important issues that need to be considered before a school implements a BYOD initiative. Dr. Ahangarzadeh begins by suggesting that BYOD should actually be called BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology). As Dr. Ahangarzadeh puts it, “The purpose for calling it BYOT instead of BYOD is to proliferate the thought that IT departments are not only being asked to support devices in such initiatives but other technologies as well.” This is a new way to look at BYOT. It is not simply about encouraging everyone to bring some electronic device to school. It’s about setting up a framework, rules, and a common purpose.
One of the major obstacles of implementing BYOT is the need to abide by the law.
“Consequently, one of the challenges for education technology leaders as they move toward this impending BYOT scenario is to find the best balance between providing freedom of choice for staff and students in relation to the devices and software applications they may bring into the educational environment and the need to maintain control over the use of the school’s/district’s network and resources. They are also faced with the legal requirement to provide adequate filtering services to stay compliant with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) as well as other regulations (e.g. FERPA)—requirements that generally cannot be met without control of the network that students’/employees’ devices access.”
Dr. Ahangarzadeh points out that ultimately a BYOT program is about finding the appropriate balance between allowing teachers and students enough choice over what technology they may use and the necessary level of control the administrators need apply. This is no easy task. Control too strictly and you run the risk of many unauthorized devices and lack of participation. On the other hand, too open a network will open the school up to lawsuits and security threats. Dr. Ahangarzadeh sums it up by saying, “According to analysts Bill Rust and Jan-Martin Lowendahl of Gartner, the best way for education technology leaders to allay the risk of pandemonium within a BYOT program is to offer their stakeholders a sustainable and viable level of choice.”
BYOT is about more than just having everyone connected to the internet at school. It’s about incorporating technology into the curriculum and equipping our students with the technological skills needed to succeed in the future. Some schools may not be able
to implement as robust a BYOT program as they might like. If not all students can bring their own technology then you risk alienating those students without the requisite technology. In other cases hardware limitations might limit the choice of technology that can be used. The iPad2 lacks flash support and an ability to accept SD cards. Either of these factors may eliminate the iPad2 as a viable option for BYOT.
A major issue for most schools is bandwidth. Many schools have limited internet and wi-fi capabilities. Adding scores of devices to an already burdened system may take some networks over the edge. Upgrading and improving a school’s network may not be feasible for all schools. This is an important variable for schools to consider before they start a BYOT program. According to Dr. Ahangarzadeh, “the infrastructural improvements may prohibitively increase expenditures that may require a phasing in of BYOT projects to lessen the immediate network impact.”
“…BYOT and one-student-one-device initiatives are slowly creeping across schools in California and the nation. Establishing a BYOT policy that considers the empowering effect of allowing stakeholders to make choices while simultaneously protecting the fiscal and network health of a school system is the best way for leaders to anticipate the demands of such trends. It is better to have a policy that considers users’ preferences than to establish an authoritarian control over every bit that flows in and out of a school.”
Another issue for schools to consider is what the goal of their BYOT will be. Will the BYOT program focus on supporting teacher and administrator need? Will it focus on the needs of students? Or will be all inclusive. Each of these options has its own costs and benefits. There is no “one size fits all” solution for any school. Each school will have to take several factors into consideration before it implements a BYOT program. Even if a BYOT program isn’t immediately an option it should still be discussed and plans should be made so that a school may begin to create the foundation of a prorgram.