Generally speaking, there are three main reasons why a school would adopt a BYOD scheme:
- Student familiarity
- Bridge between formal and informal learning
- Cost savings
How, then, can a school embark on a BYOD programme while avoiding the risks and issues raised?
In recent years the education sector has begun to transform, inspired by the learning potential of digital technologies. BYOD schemes have experienced more and more support in schools as a way to get around funding gaps but also as a means to allow students to take advantage of digital applications on resources that they are familiar and confident with using.
Budgetary constraints are an unfortunate but realistic limitation for schools struggling to keep up with the pace of technology. A BYOD programme can often support a school’s ICT system and in many cases expand on it with a greater range of applications and software tools being made available.
BYOD can therefore enable a school to continue along a digital path without being constrained by funding gaps. And while many young people are literate across devices and operating systems, the familiarity of using their own devices can save valuable set up time and help students focus on learning rather than up-skilling themselves on the use of a new device.
What are the risks?
- Increased concerns about personal data protection, confidentiality and privacy.
- Network security – this becomes a greater concern when multiple devices are logging into a Local Area Network (LAN).
- BYOD programmes need to be supported by a comprehensive security plan to ensure viruses are not being released onto the school’s system.
- Inequalities – encouraging students to bring in their own device mirrors the debate over uniform vs. students wearing their own clothes, in that students from lower-income families may not be able to afford higher-quality devices.
Managing a BYOD scheme
- Launch a school purchase scheme: whereby the school buys devices in bulk and resells them to students at a heavily discounted rate. This can be successful, provided the devices are sold at a fee that is acceptable to low and higher income families. Where this is not possible a repayment mechanism should be considered to help families manage the cost.
- Launch a free hire purchase scheme: an alternative approach could be to request a security deposit from each student, which is refunded at the end of the academic year, provided the device is returned in good condition. In this way students hold part ownership of the device for the duration of their studies and treat it as they would their own property or risk losing their parents' deposit.
- COPE (Corporate owned, personally enabled): taking inspiration from the world of business, COPE is a variation on a hire scheme whereby an organisation (school) purchases the devices, assigns each student a device and allows them to personalise it for use both in school and at home.
Integrating technology in the classroom, whether using a BYOD scheme or issuing students with a school owned device raises other concerns that should be considered in your school’s ICT policy. Cyber bullying is one of the fastest growing forms of bullying and should be a significant concern at all stages of integrating new technologies.
Finding the middle ground
BYOD schemes are a valuable measure when a school is constrained by budgets, provided they are managed effectively, rather than simply allowing student’s free rein on how they use their devices. But by implementing safe guards, such as restrictions on 3G access, encrypting networks and employing student-parent contracts, a school can enhance teaching and learning while reducing some of the risks and associated problems of a BYOD scheme.
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How to implement a BYOD scheme