Bringing Your Own Device – In Education

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) philosophy and regime is becoming a serious consideration for many schools. As Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is costly and obsolescence determines the practical life cycle and usefulness of computer and digital equipment, schools are coming to terms with cost effective and equitable provision.

Budgeting and maintaining vast numbers of computers, tablets and other hand held computing devices have witnessed a change in how schools provide access to students and staff. Wireless networks have expanded exponentially to accommodate increasing numbers of smaller hand held and portable computing devices. Capacity, bandwidth and signal strength are the major considerations as well as provision for future upgrades.

Building the infrastructure involves careful planning using a combination of fibre optic and CAT5 or CAT6 cabling to each area of the school. Managed switches are required together with multiple servers to handle the data storage and service to key areas of the school. Administration and curriculum needs also need to be taken into account with security systems employing high integrity practices, systems and protocols.

The potential implications of the development of BYOD are diverse in application and complex in administration, involving a complete cultural change. It is far more than a technical change or series of minor tweaks. Maximum potential will only be realised by schools, eLearning and leadership teams and the whole school communities, if policies are articulated clearly. Successful implementation requires coordinated planning and evaluation over time in order to realise and normalise student use of the technologies available.

Some major issues require attention, well before a BYOD regime is initiated, potentially including:

eBook reader

  • Why the development needs to be embraced and how it will impact on prevailing use of eLearning systems
  • What the school needs to do to prepare for a change of technology provision – technical and human resources
  • How to deal with the range of device options and breadth of technologies
  • How to cope with whole school community implementation
  • The imperative and impact of collaboration between home and school
  • Strategies required to prepare families and then to support students at home and at school
  • Maintaining and sustaining educator and student usage

Student Access

BYOD can mean and represent different issues. The practice can refer to:

  • Bringing a device that runs a particular operating system (e.g. iOS – an iPod, iPhone or iPad)
  • Bringing a device dictated by the school (e.g. an Android or MS Windows tablet of a particular model and specification)
  • Bringing a device of the same type (e.g. any Android or iOS based tablet)
  • Bringing a device that has specific Apps (e.g. PDF reader, eBook, Evernote, Dropbox, Office Suite, Google Earth)
  • Choosing to bring any device with any operating system, software and/or Apps

The notion of students acquiring, purchasing and maintaining individual pieces of IT equipment and bringing them to school is not new. Students with explicit needs have used computers and related devices and peripherals. These have been recommended to cater to their specific access, communication and/or learning requirements for over 25 years.

Access to school networks in the past has been restricted due to many different issues, predominantly integrity and safety. As most schools now have mature and robust wireless access, this is less of a concern. Other schools boast having Intranet systems that are accessed from home.

Key Factors

MacBook

  • TCO (Total Cost of Ownership)
  • Specifications
  • Up-to-date technology
  • Teaching and Learning Outcomes
  • Personal Choice
  • Wireless Provision and Reliability
  • Data storage, Retrieval and Sharing
  • Maintenance
  • Technical Support
  • Printers, Scanners, Speakers and other Peripherals
  • Interactive Whiteboards, Projectors, Interactive TVs and Display Technologies
  • Professional Learning and Training
  • Peripheral Devices and Accessories
  • Theft, Damage and Misuse
  • Equity

 

TCO – Total Cost of Ownership

Schools, Institutes of Learning, TAFE and Universities reduce cost by introducing a BYOD policy. Purchase, warranty and insurance are the responsibility of the owner, that is, the family and student(s).

Providing access to the Internet, Intranet and on and off-site computing services is the responsibility of the school/institution. This reduces the overall impost of constantly updating and replacing old or out-dated equipment.

An increased financial commitment to the design, provision and access to the school’s or institute’s IT services is required, particularly if the majority of devices are portable or hand held and require wireless access. The bandwidth, signal strength and proximity and placement of wireless devices are critical. Reliability is necessary for satisfactory short and long-term performance.

Specifications

If the policy is strictly BYOD with any specification, then standards are difficult if not impossible to implement and enforce.
The combinations of operating systems, brands, models, RAM and memory capacities as well as battery life impact on the efficacy and viability of the BYOD model. Also, the Apps, version and updates need to be carefully considered and coordinated so that students and educators have similar provision, especially with reference to productivity tools, PDF readers, note taking, eBook readers, reference and research and specific curriculum content based Apps.

Battery life, availability and opportunity to charge of devices, provision and positioning of power outlets and the opportunity to timetable charging of devices (e.g. morning, lunch or afternoon breaks) require careful and deliberate consideration and provision. This has been evident with the use of Laptops and Notebooks.

Up-to-date technology

Another important factor is in maintaining technology with the most recent operating system, software and Apps. In previous years, schools sourced their computing devices, purchasing quantities of desktop or portable computers that could be ‘ghosted’ or ‘imaged’ with an operating system, software, utilities, device drivers and applications specific to a year level or curriculum. This ensured that all appropriate resources were delivered to users’ desktops and made available to educators and students. Additional resources and software could be added when required.

The advent of a BYOD regime implies that students purchase or possess the tools required to negotiate and complete tasks. Issues may arise including:

  • Directing parents to purchase current technologies and models with prevailing specifications.
  • Promotion of having the latest operating system installed on devices and timely updates
  • Recognition of due diligence in obtaining and running malware and virus protection applications
  • Required Apps or software dictated by the school or faculty
  • Required genres of Apps or software promoted by the school or faculty

 

Teaching and Learning Outcomes

Choice of software or Apps may be imposed by schools, with combinations of suitable teaching and learning outcomes or access to Intranet, server, web-based media and tools. Working with a myriad of different systems can present dilemmas for educators. Student capabilities and skills impact on how efficiently and confidently they effectively use their device.

Three notebook computersThe need for different and diverse skill sets may be negotiated. Educators need to be able to help problem solve and support students in classrooms, libraries and resource areas. A general knowledge of the fundamentals of IT would need to be considered.

Capable students are usually self-sufficient. Students with different learning, access and communication needs will require additional support and direction. If a device is peculiar to a task or has different attributes or functions, foreign to an educator or staff/faculty member, then this might cause further disadvantage and disruption to teaching and learning.

Catering to individual needs implies that some working knowledge of the device, its features and functions as well as specific programs and Apps is offered to educators and support staff. How this will impact on time, opportunity and classroom practice will need to be investigated and technical and human resources considered.

Personal Choice

As users predominantly choose their own preferred device, then a wide range of potential technologies will present difference in performance, output and the need for additional resources. This has many inherent advantages as student needs can be met appropriately and more accurately than a generic IT solution or provision. Students with explicit needs can customise a device and be assured that their skills and abilities are accommodated.

It also implies that families will have the resources to adequately cover costs for the device and software or Apps. Equity issues will arise at some students will continually upgrade and swap technologies to keep pace with innovation and the latest devices or models. This will impact on how other students cope with less powerful technology options. Social implications, bullying and loss of prestige may compromised student engagement due to embarrassment, frustration or reduced participation by students who use underperforming technologies, or those working with devices that are continually damaged, working ineffectively or offer poor performance.

Wireless Provision and Reliability

Wireless access pointAs schools are constantly budgeting for additional wireless access points, adapters, amplifiers and ports, the cost per year in providing ongoing resources to adequately accommodate an increase of wireless portable and fixed devices is must be carefully considered.

The cost in building infrastructure and ensuring access across a campus and within buildings and structures is necessary to ensure that everyone can gain access to a school’s IT systems and resources as well as to Internet based sites.

Some key issues may include:

  • Where will different groups of users reside in your school or campus?
  • Will the system cope with users logging on at pre-determined intervals throughout the day?
  • Will users move around from place to place, or are they located in fixed or common spaces?

Determining these events or needs will assist in determining how many wireless access points a school requires and where to strategically install them.

Other issues re access and common usage may include:

  • What will educators and students expect or do with their wireless network?
  • Will they make voice and video calls?
  • Will users casually surf the Web for data collection, research, or locating resources?
  • Will students be learning online and viewing media rich sites?
  • Will educators and students downloading large documents or teaching and learning content (e.g. Flash content)

Voice and video calls require seamless coverage with no dead spots, whereas Web surfing isn’t as memory intensive or critical.

Planning for and accommodating total number of potential users and devices expected on a wireless network at any time of the day is required. This will vary and likely to increase each year or each school term, in some instances.

Each user may bring multiple devices such as a laptop, tablet and smart phone. If this is extrapolated, thirty users will impact the network with up to ninety devices! Planning and budgeting for unexpected growth is wise. If schools do not plan increased services for additional devices, then a wireless network may not support the additional load.

Another consideration is how difficult will it be to cope with additional capacity to the network. This will impact on school funds. Does a school have in-house expertise, reliant on school-based technicians or use outsourced suppliers. These are -critical questions to consider in the planning and design stage.

Data storage, Retrieval and Sharing

Memory card reader, USB memory stick, iPod, Zip drive, DVD-ROM driveAs data needs to be saved, stored, accessed, shared and occasionally archived, a school wide approach is potentially the best and most cost effective option. Having a robust, reliable solution will ensure that educators and students can be assured that of the required documents, eTexts, eBooks, teaching and learning content vas well as applications can be easily and efficiently access from school and at home.

Teachers will need to be able to provide content as well as distribute, share and publish new content to students. Appraisal of student content for testing, examination and assessment requires an elegant solution so that data is not lost or compromised.

Streamed video, Podcasts, music and rich media requires bandwidth. Servers need to cope with required media storage and transmission. Having appropriate software and Apps to view or run content and policies in place to stipulate appropriate access and usage are also necessary.

Maintenance

This will be a major issue. Devices owned by user will need to be maintained. Keeping them in good working condition will be very important. Issues include having students bringing their devices to school every day for class participation. Devices having batteries and functions working satisfactorily will impact on how successful a BYOD regime operates. Costs borne by a family to repair fix or maintain devices will play a part in how teaching and learning is realised.

Without appropriate insurance or store/manufacturer warranty and repairs, students may be without units for days or even weeks. This may compromise learning opportunities and participation.

Technical Support

The consideration of having increased onsite technical support is a critical issue. A proliferation of different technologies will impact upon the expertise of technical staff, or timely and cost effective intervention and support by third party companies or outsourced IT service providers. Issues will arise as to:

  • Does the school provide technical assistance to students and their device(s)
  • Whose responsibility will be the ongoing or one-off maintenance issue of device(s)
  • How quickly will technical support be provided, and at a cost (if any)

Printers, Scanners, Speakers and other Peripherals

Multi-function Centre device: Print, scan and faxIf a BYOD policy and regime is implemented, then other technical resources may be required to support teaching and learning with respect to:

  • Printing files, documents and other media (e.g. photographs, maps, charts, timetables, drawings)
  • Scanning and photocopying
  • Binding and laminating documents
  • Providing connectors, cables and devices to connect devices to systems
  • Providing applications and devices to reformat content (e.g. MS Word to PDF, Flash to video, graphics to other formats, text to MP3 or .wav audio or to Daisy format)
  • Providing storage systems (e.g. WebDav, eLocker) Apps and server based solutions
  • Providing amplification or sound augmentation

As users will decide upon the technologies they prefer to bring and use, some standards may be imposed or promoted so that data can be accessed and shared seamlessly from enterprise systems to end-user devices or from device to device (e.g. from iPad to a teacher’s notebook or MacBook).

Accessories

Some users will need to use a range of different accessories in order to maximise the potential of their device(s) or to cater to individual access, communication or learning needs. These may include:

  • Bluetooth speakers or headsets
  • Bluetooth keyboards
  • Headsets and earpieces
  • A Stylus or pen
  • Covers, stands, mounts
  • Adaptors, camera kits, chargers, cables and leads

 

Interactive Whiteboards, Projectors, Interactive TVs and Display Technologies

A range of interactive equipment for teaching and learning are in schools. Some devices are portable (on stands, trolleys) or used as fixed-mounted systems or used on desktops and tables. Most are permanently installed in classroom, library and resource areas, offices and other learning spaces. These may include one or more of the following:

  • SMART Board interactive whiteboard with ultra-short throw projectors,
  • Apple TVs (i.e. for the more recent iPads and iPhone models)
  • Interactive LCD TVs
  • Interactive projectors
  • Videoconferencing unified communications solutions

Provision, at cost, for the service and maintenance of projectors, interactive whiteboards and TVs must be planned for and budgeted in advance. This includes upgrades and/or replacement of parts (e.g. batteries, globes) and repairs and theft/fire or other damage. Students and educators can connect their devices for teaching and learning purposes.

Professional Learning and Training

Training plans for Professional Learning ensures more effective use of digital devices (e.g. iPads and Netbooks) and Interactive Whiteboards and other collaborative technologies. These training sessions or days need to be accounted for over time with respect to the time required away from the school attending training seminars, Expos and Conferences. Appropriate funds to cover CRT hours or onsite training opportunities need to be allocated each year or term.

If effective, appropriate, time-framed training for staff and technicians is not implemented then benefits may not accrue as quickly, or as efficiently. Educators will need to be confident that they can cope with multiple devices in the classroom and they can problem solve, to a degree and support students.

Working within a BYOD regime, involving a multiplicity of devices will be unfeasible and impractical without appropriate entry-level knowledge and skills. Elementary technical courses, support materials, video tutorials FAQs and Fact Sheets will be required. Some essential and fundamental IT skills and understandings with educators need to be identified.

Technicians will require up-to-date skills and knowledge of operating systems, connectivity, data storage systems, protocols and enterprise solutions as well as emerging standards.

Theft, Damage and Misuse

An acceptable User Policy will be required to guide both educators and students to the responsibilities associated with having devices that can potentially be lost, broken, stolen or used maliciously and/or inappropriately. Devices are very portable and small in size. They can be easily concealed and hidden from view. Surreptitious use in class may warrant some sanction or penalty. Issues of privacy and appropriate data storage and retrieval of content must be documented and articulated clearly. All members of the school community need to be treated fairly and accommodated.

Equity

A stack of books and a digital eBook readerThe issue of building and maintaining equity is an important consideration. The cultural, religious and socio-economic requirements and status of families in a school community are dynamics that are peculiar and specific to each school. Having a regime that is fair and that does not compromise groups or elements within a community requires an approach that can cater equitably to families who struggle financially or who are challenged by having to fund equipment in order for their children to participate.

If every student has a different device or technology it may prove difficult to ensure that a class or year level or student is achieving to his or her potential. Ensuring equal opportunities will be a challenge. Students with lesser devices should not be unduly disadvantaged, bullied or made to feel inferior by peers.

Summary

The decision to implement a policy whereby members of a school community can bring and use their own technologies is complex and multi faceted. There are numerous overlapping issues. Provision of learning systems has become a costly and resource dependent area of education. Progressing from a centralized, school administered IT system to a more open-ended regime takes a mature approach.

Research and time is required to fully explore all of the options. The advantages may outweigh the disadvantages, but a clear and unambiguous plan is required so that potential pitfalls are identified and avoided. As technology advances so rapidly, planning for future implementation is fraught with dangers.

This brief overview was written to assist schools and educators in identifying some of the prevailing areas of discussion and help guide them. Governments and Departments, School Boards, businesses and the wider community are all exploring this issue. BYOD is new paradigm in technology provision. It may force a change in how society perceives and funds ICT services in education. It will progress teaching and learning if it is not prejudicious and does not disadvantage students. It may prove to be a more effective strategy that will ensure ongoing ICT viability and provision.


Note

Bring your own device (BYOD) may also be referred to as bring your own technology (BYOT), bring your own phone (BYOP) or bring your own PC (BYOPC) This means the policy of permitting educators and especially students to bring personally owned mobile devices (laptops, notebook PCs, MacBooks, Netbooks, Ultra Lights, tablets, and smart phones) to their school, institute or place of learning, and use those devices to access school-based information and applications.

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About Gerry Kennedy

Gerry Kennedy is an Independent Information and Inclusive Technology Consultant, working in private practice in Melbourne, Australia. He has specialised in the areas of special needs, rehabilitation and assistive technology support in education and employment for over 27 years. A teacher of 31 years, he currently works at East Burwood SDS school part time, as an ICT Teacher.

Gerry has had experience working in all states in Australia and Territories. He advises from Early Education and Pre-school through to secondary schools, having lectured to TAFE and University to under and post graduates. He frequently publishes articles and software reviews on numerous web sites and in journals and magazines.

Gerry promotes leading practice in the implementation and deployment of innovative ICT and Inclusive Technology in education and training. He consults, trains and advises parents, therapists, and other education and therapy related professionals as well as school personnel in how best to utilise and harness the features and functions of mainstream and specialised software as well as assistive device implementation.

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