Tuesday, 1 November 2011

BYOD - Bring Your Own Device

I have always been a fan of technology! Technology like public education can be a great equalizer. Technology can open doors to students that may not have access at home or parents that can open their lives to new tech trends. And of course, how much easier is it to carry 1 device than 4 textbooks? The difference now about 1 kg versus 3 kgs - saves a lot of backs.

In New Zealand they are trying different models of BYOD. The 3 basic choices are:
1) bring any device
2) bring a specified device(s) - usually 2 choices
3) you are given a specific device and the purchase details are handled by the school or board.

What choice is best? Let's look at the pros and cons

1) Any Device -
The challenge of this choice is who manages all the devices? Who is responsible for breakage, loss or theft?  What happens when the device isn't working or isn't compatible with the technology being used in the class?
The challenge for the classroom teacher is do they know how to use the different devices and what if different devices do not display the classwork the same - as we often see using different browsers. As well since the teacher may not have access to the different devices (s)he won't be able to test lessons and assignments ahead of time.
The advantage is most kids today - especially from Intermediate (Grade 7/8) on have at least 1 device - a smart phone and possibly an iPod if not an iPad - and although Canada is still expensive for data plans - we have started to see data costs decrease so more and more students have unlimited data plans. As well tools such as an iPod give students the ability to access the wifi of the local school.
As a Trustee who supported the smart use of cell/smart phones, I am obviously biased for teaching students to use the tools they have at their disposal - responsibly.
Conclusion: This is the cheapest solution for a school board, and less capital expenditure but the headaches are potentially larger than the payback. On the positive side it does allow instant access for students and not a long range plan as you ask students to bring in what they have. This choice would only be recommended more on a class by class or school by school basis which have some tech resources (or a talented teacher) available to help with the daily problems that are sure to occur.

2) Device(s) chosen but not purchased by the school or board
The challenge - as we all know, technology changes quickly, so every year there seems to be new updates and software updates so there is the challenge of again having 1 or 2 device choices but endless possibilities as the different software choices adds complexity and a matrix headache of all the software with all the hardware choices.
The opportunity: The classroom teacher should be able to handle the 2 choices - usually it would be an Apple and a PC choice and in most cases would be a Netbook and an iPad.
The advantages are many. First the choices are low cost solutions so that most students can afford to purchase. It is unusual if we look at Canadian data for a household not to have access to a device and the internet at home. The choice of 2 devices allows families to decide which type of hardware they prefer. The student has piece of mind that others in their classroom have their machine.

3) Device required - easiest if bulk purchased so every student has the same.
This is currently being done in New Zealand as The Manaiakalani Project - for more details go to

What they did was purchase netbooks for all students - a big bang! This meant that all students had the same device as well as teachers.
There are so many advantages to this plan
1) its a low cost solution - would be about $10 per student per month - Canadian - it's very do-able for most families.
2) tech support is easier as everyone has the same device
3) refreshes are done at the same time - so everyone has the same hardware and software
4) there is less lost, stolen or broken as everyone has the same device - so there are no reasons to steal someone else's
5) students are very responsible and own the device so take good care of it!
6) technology becomes ubiquitous - as it should be - the device is picked up as a pen or paper.
The downside - cost - can parents afford it?
First many parents are paying for cell phones and other items that their children want - so it's about prioritizing where to spend.
Secondly, the Manaiakalani Project knew this would be a possible issue - so they set up a foundation to deal with the students that couldn't afford to make the payments - this would be an option to look for some benefactors.
For the TDSB, we could look at this as we do spend millions every year on hardware and software - so purchasing for the students that couldn't afford it would be cheaper than what we currently spend.

It's time to re-think what we do and how we do it.
Wouldn't it be better if every child had their own device? Think what we would be saving in paper - less photocopying! Better communication to home as parents would have a device that they could check homework and email a teacher. Every home with a student would now have technology - how can we measure how that opens doors?

I am going to be starting the conversation about moving toward BYOD - hopefully the final choice seems to be the best way to move forward.


  1. You may like to read the discussions on our VLN here. I think the VLN is open for anyone to join.

  2. I did the workshop with Point England School at Ulearn where they have netbooks for every child from Year 5 up to year 8 (9to 12 year olds).
    They had a fantastic set up which opened the door to children and families. The cost was $15 per month for each child and at the end of 2 years the family owned the computer.
    All their students lived within in a 2km radius of the school (a definite advantage) and a local trust has organised a cloud for internet access without cost to families.
    It sounded amazing and all the problems we could envisige actually didn't happen.