BYOD: Bring Your Own Device—this phenomenon, now common to global business culture, is now seeping into educational institutions, and not just colleges and universities.
BYOD: A Cost Saving Measure
In 2013, more and more children in grades K-12 have access to technology like smartphones, laptops and tablets. Thus, these students are able to bring and use their own devices for educational purposes throughout the school day. Having recognized this many public schools have seen fit to begin asking parents to fund technology needs once provided by the schools themselves through governmental sources and technology grants.
For cash strapped schools in cash-strapped districts, like many other businesses worldwide faced with the trying economic climate, this means a substantial savings not only in the actual procurement of hardware but in the support of the products as well. In turn, this saved expenditure can be directed toward other resources.
It also follows similar trends in the last decade where schools, faced with shortened budgets while still attempting to maintain programs, have asked parents to foot the bill for athletic, music, and other extracurricular activities once funded by the institution at no extra cost to the student.
However, in light of these developments schools will still be responsible for a great deal of materiel used in the education process, such the purchase of e-textbooks, applications and other online learning tools.
Education for the Future
For educators, BYOD seems a welcome addition to the learning environment, especially for general classroom situations outside of once limited, specialized computer lab times.
When combined with day to day classroom lessons mobile devices allow students access to myriad educational applications, instructional or informative videos and media, online research, digital education involving video creation and editing, word processing and desktop publishing, photography, etc. which can lend to the expansion and reinforcement of concepts and ideas being taught.
This approach, commonly referred to as “blended learning,” is said to be more engaging to the students of today, teaching them skills relevant to the 21st century and increasing learning and educational outcomes.
For students, being able to use their own familiar device both at home and at school is beneficial, allowing them access to each digital learning resource regardless of where they are.
Students + BYOD = Issues Both Great and Small
However, much like the plethora of issues faced by private enterprise as well as governmental agencies that have embraced BYOD schools also have their work cut out for them with regards to the consumerization of the learning environment.
At the top of the list is whether schools, already facing tight budgets, will have the ability to filter out the unending volumes of material sure to be deemed inappropriate for the school environment by administrators. Another issue related to this includes finding consensus on just exactly what digital material fits this “inappropriate” designation and why.
Therefore, filtering software conforming to the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) operating on wireless networks, as well as IT staff to oversee it, would have to be implemented, as likely would a district-wide ‘Best Practice’ protocol need to be developed to address issues sure to transpire in pursuance of BYOD as the practice grew.
For students, a broadened BYOD practice would likely result in the creation of policies pertaining to what is acceptable with regards to searching for information and/or bringing material deemed inappropriate into the school environment. In turn the creation of a written document meant to be signed by the student would need to be drafted and developed, outlining the consequences associated with inappropriate searches, use of unsavory applications or engaging in playing games while in school.
But this is where things could delve into a litigious waters, as this would likely include not only the physical location of the institution itself but anywhere school-sanctioned activities take place, setting the stage for a great deal of legal wrangling as to what is acceptable where.
For example, would a student on a school-sanctioned DECA or athletic trip 100 miles from the school who downloads inappropriate material found offensive by other students be subject to the repercussions of what is outlined in the school’s ‘acceptable use’ policy? Such questions are likely to come to fore as BYOD becomes more prevalent.
BYOD and Younger Students—A Sticky Wicket
A very common occurrence within the adult-dominated, business-based BYOD culture is the issue of lost/misplaced devices. This also sheds light on the need for schools to initiate proper encryption and other safety measures in the event that this happens with students.
For students of all ages, let alone those in lower grades, keeping track of expensive, easy to lose (and be stolen) devices is likely to become an issue. Thus, additional protocols pertaining to this potential eventuality would also need to be developed and implemented.
Stressful Economic Times for Schools and Families Alike
Perhaps one of the most pressing questions surrounding the consumerization of public schools is the issue surrounding those students who are simply unable to afford not only the expensive mobile device itself but the monthly fees associated with them. In similar instances in the past civic groups, school-based organizations like the PTA, and local businesses have picked up the slack for children in need to allow them the same opportunities as other students.
But what if these resources remain unattainable and the charitable giving is simply absent, a very real concern? It would take a lot of bake sales, car-washes and popcorn drives in order to provide the same technological resources for all students continuously throughout a school year.
Thus, what is seemingly a viable option on paper may do little else but widen the gap between those who have and those who don’t, lending to increased inequality within the realm of education and again laying the groundwork for legal recourse to level the playing field, something most schools can ill afford.
Therefore, additional courses of action must be addressed before BYOD becomes a reality to any extent in public schools.
However, once the planning and policy writing is completed and the IT infrastructure in place students may certainly bring their own technology into the school environment to allow for all that technology-driven learning may provide. Perhaps one day this dream will be realized to its full extent. Until then regular chalkboards and paper books may have to suffice.
About The Author: Roger Firman is a blogger and business tech enthusiast who spends his time writing about the advancement of technology in the workplace. He writes for Tech Toolbox, a company who specializes in active directory management tools.