Saturday, June 16, 2012

BYOD - the pros and cons

Having reached critical mass with the number of devices that arrived in my room last week, it has set me to thinking about the biggest challenges and the pros and cons of the BYOD system.

So, we have been collaborating with a number of schools globally and my class sent our mascots, the Gruffalo and the Gruffalo's Child (mini-Gruff) to Singapore and Lebanon. This, in essence, was the easy part. The challenge came when we realised that cute soft toys were all they were without the story! These global buddies had never heard of Julia Donaldson or her characters! What now?!

After a few brainstorms where I indicated that we didn't want old snail mail involved again (it does become expensive quickly!) the class decided to create a book for their buddies using StoryJumper and also to make their own iMovies of Julia Donaldson's books to put on our shared blog. When we worked through the planning process it became evident quickly that we needed more than our 1 iPod, my iPhone, the dusty old digital camera and 5 shared iPads to do the photography!

Enter...BYOD! Now, we do have up to 7 iPods and 3 iPads brought on any given day. Several of the children have assisted technologies so this meant that I needed the others to bring their devices too.

On the day that we began, it looked like a few iPods had mated in my office, and the resulting off-spring were many. There were 17 devices, meaning that we effectively had almost 1:1 devices. The photography was spectacular, the uploading of photos chaotic and the ensuing cries of, "Where are the cables?" "I can't find my charger!" and so on were ringing around the room for quite some time!

So here are the pros and cons after a frantic few days of iPodPad-ding madly to create the iMovies!


  1. 1:1 devices - wow. There is actually nothing like it. Enough said.
  2. Ownership and self-esteem - the children really loved being in charge of their device and being able to share what apps they have and tips and tools with one another. Powerful stuff!
  3. Photography - it was so easy for them to edit and change their own photos as well as quickly build their skills.
  4. Instant learning - they were controlling their own learning and their was so much instant sharing and collaborating with their skills. Kids teaching kids is amazing to see!
  5. Video is easy to create - they were able to create, evaluate and delete quickly as they were not waiting for anyone else. The video is their own and the decision to share it is their own too.
  6. No waiting for turns, no rostering, no wondering if the device will be charged (they are VERY diligent when it's their own!) No worrying about whether the iPods have gone missing - they are quite careful and know exactly where their own devices are!

  1. The network has to be ultra-reliable to withstand a sudden surge of extra usage.
  2. The children all need to be set up on the network - ARGH! Time consuming - but only once!
  3. You MUST have a rock-solid BYOD policy already in place in the school to safe-guard yourself and the children from misuse.
  4. You MUST have a signed contract between the students, parents and school, deliberately defining the standard use and rules/procedures around BYOD at a school, including internet responsibility, passwords, online safety, responsibility and storage for the devices and so on. This is an absolute.
  5. You need safeguards in place for the students and the school around the use of the school's network with uploading etc. A strong plan should be in place in every classroom for ongoing cyber-safety and responsible global citizenship to ensure that there is teaching and learning to safeguard (as much as possible) our students online when they are using their own devices. Some schools actually only enable the students to have access to the schoolwide intranet so that there is no need for this.
(In the end, an educated child is the safest child. We cannot guarantee that their device will not be damaged, broken or stolen but we can assure them that we will take care of their devices WITH them, doing all within our power to teach personal responsibility for their belongings and helping them to manage themselves online.)

Personally, I still love the learning power that comes from the students bringing their own devices but I do realise the pitfalls and do all that I can to reduce these. One of the biggest negatives which is not on my list is the one that so many parents talk about: what about the families who are disadvantaged by not being able to provide a device for their child? Well, I am fortunate enough to be in a school where we are able to provide 1:3 devices in my room before the students BYOD, so for me it poses no issue. 

We have worked around this as a class and I have made it very clear right from the beginning of the year that I understand that many of them will simply not be allowed to BYOD or may not have them. The sharing culture within our school means that they are very used to sharing a device with someone else and they are happy to do so, which means that there are seldom issues. I tend to underplay the BYOD when it happens so that it's become the 'new norm' in our room rather than some amazing 'wahoo' moment whenever we end up inundated with devices. My iPhone and laptop get regularly tossed around and they are used to the hilt by my students who don't BYOD. That type of sharing culture is more important than student ownership of a device. My iPhone is known as the 'class iPhone' and they respect my device and always return it charged and in perfect condition. It does not make it a perfect solution, but it works perfectly for us.

I would love any other ideas for pros and cons that you think I have missed and also ideas for how other schools are tackling this issue.

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