1:1 computing, the use of one portable ICT device per learner, is rapidly becoming the norm in many education and training contexts around the world. Schools are increasingly deploying or supporting laptops, netbooks, tablet computers or smartphones to support teaching and learning both inside and outside classrooms.
In some cases 1:1 computing has already expanded to ‘many:1' where there may be several devices per learner (typically a laptop and/or tablet plus a mobile phone) with each being used in different ways in different learning contexts. Alternatively, some schools, especially at primary level, have found it beneficial to have students sharing devices in pairs or small groups. This is not necessarily due to a lack of resources, it can be because the teacher recognises the benefits of collaborative learning and team work. The use of technology in this way is aligned to active learning and a station teaching approach. However, implementation of 1:1 computing by providing a dedicated (usually mobile) device for each student involves substantial capital investment by schools, or their funders. Also the speed at which some of these technologies are superseded by new models and new types of devices, as well as the cost of providing support and maintenance, raises concerns about long term sustainability, especially in state funded schools. One result is growing interest in, and debate around, so-called Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approaches under which the cost of providing a device for personal educational use is transferred to families or students who may bring in a device already owned, select and purchase a new device, or pay for a device chosen by the school or local authority.
Gartner researchers have observed "as technology consumerization and mobility has captured the user community – and an economic slowdown has crimped IT budgets – IT leaders in education have become increasingly open to leveraging personally owned devices and to delivering information and services beyond the firewall of their data centres and far afield from their physical campuses" and they are now increasingly willing to consider leveraging student owned devices for use on campuses and in classrooms (Rust B et al, 2010). Also, Ambient Insight research into the Western European mobile learning market has identified the growing use of tablets and BYOD in schools as one of five major catalysts driving the adoption of mobile learning in Western Europe (Adkins S, 2013).
It should be noted that although schools may make savings when students and parents pay for mobile devices under BYOD policies, they still probably need to make at least the same investment in upgrading and maintaining infrastructure (including ensuring: adequate bandwidth, robust Wi-Fi for large numbers of concurrent users, network security and appropriate mobile device management systems) as schools which implement 1:1 computing.
A major objection to BYOD which is frequently expressed, especially when the use of student owned devices is required rather than voluntary, concerns issues of equality and inclusion.
The emerging consensus among researchers, educators and policy makers seems to be that, if BYOD is to be implemented, measures must be put in place to ensure that all students can access similar technology regardless of their socio-economic background. This can be achieved by arranging free devices, equipment loans or grants, payment by instalments or negotiation of affordable device prices including ensuring availability of lower cost options below the level of available grants. In some countries equality is a particularly sensitive concern as some citizens and parents see BYOD as potentially undermining the principle of education being provided free of charge.
An infographic developed by Securedge Networks compares 1:1 with BYOD under the headings of cost, equality, apps and maintenance and suggests that BYOD has advantages in the areas of cost and device maintenance whereas the 1:1 approach makes equality and apps issues easier to deal with.
European Schoolnet and its network of Ministries of Education, in partnership with Cisco Systems, launched a survey in Europe in autumn 2014 to "find out more about a crucial but overlooked link in the digital learning chain: the school IT administrator". One of the challenges for the IT administrator explored in the study was BYOD. An important finding, from the 20 countries where the response rate was considered sufficient to draw meaningful conclusions, was that "Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) … is becoming more widespread and schools are developing policies that allow students and teachers to connect and use their own portable equipment (smartphone, tablet…) in school, as is now the case in 75% of schools on average". (Blamire & Colin, 2015)
However, the IT survey report notes that whilst, "These figures are noticeably higher than the 2013 Survey of Schools: ICT in Education. The percentage of schools that provide services beyond basic connectivity is lower… at just 38%, with the highest percentages of schools in Denmark, Portugal and Sweden also providing services to support their BYOD policy."
The following key messages are emerging from the research and practice sources reviewed and the interviews carried out for this initial version of the BYOD guide.
- Some European educators and policy makers now see the introduction of policies that require parents to provide and/or pay for devices for use in publically funded schools as inevitable.
- However, others have expressed concerns about shifting the responsibility and cost of purchasing, and in some cases maintaining, learning technologies from governments and institutions onto parents. This concern is strongest in countries where the provision of education free of charge is a key element of education policy. In other countries concerns are often expressed about possible inequality, widening of the digital divide or even bullying, if some students and their families cannot afford a BYOD device or if other students can afford superior devices.
- School leaders and policy makers who have implemented, or plan to introduce, BYOD demonstrate an awareness of this potential equality issue and deploy various strategies to avoid it. These include negotiating prices for recommended devices that are below the total of an educational grant provided to all students, enabling payment by instalments via the school or a preferred supplier and loaning or giving devices to students
- BYOD seems to be more common in secondary schools than in primary schools. At upper secondary level interviewees for this guide reported some use of university-like models in which students bring any device and take responsibility for its maintenance and support.
- Approaches to implementing BYOD vary and include: very carefully planned and phased top down regional and/or whole school approaches; informal BYOD by individual, innovative teachers with a few classes; and rather casual approaches under which students are allowed to bring in and use certain types of devices without accompanying changes in pedagogy to take advantage of this technology.
- In common with other school improvement strategies, engaged and informed school leaders are needed to drive culture change and realise strategy aims.
- Excellent broadband and Wi-Fi, which can maintain a good service when used by large numbers of concurrent users, is extremely important in order to ensure successful implementation of BYOD as without it students and teachers can quickly become frustrated and demotivated. The support of IT staff and/or contracting an appropriate IT support service is also very important.
- Teacher training, continuing professional development and both technical and pedagogical support are also essential. Teachers who are not comfortable with students using their own devices, and do not know how to make best use of these to enhance teaching and learning, are likely to oppose the introduction of BYOD or not allow or discourage use of the devices when they become available. Effective ways of encouraging and facilitating teachers' learning include practitioner led action research projects and social learning, i.e. teachers learning from observing the behaviour and results achieved of their peers who may include enthusiastic early adopters and/or teacher "champions" who are rewarded for supporting their colleagues. In the case of BYOD social learning may also include teachers learning from observing how technologically able students use their mobile devices.
This initial guide, an online version of which will be regularly updated, has been developed by European Schoolnet as part of the work of Ministries of Education in its Interactive Classroom Working Group (ICWG). It is designed to provide school leaders, local education authorities and other decision makers with information about current BYOD trends, options and examples from schools in Europe as well as relevant lessons from BYOD implementations in schools in other parts of the world.
While the primary aim is to inform school ICT strategy development and support decision making, the findings on good practice and case studies will also be of interest to many teachers who are interested in exploring the potential of BYOD on a smaller scale. It is also intended that this will be a continuing source of information and advice with further case studies being added and further refinement of guidelines taking place in the light of new data collected as well as feedback from readers.
The methodology used to collect data for this resource included:
- A literature review drawing on the findings of research funded by governments and groups of governments, published academic papers, commercial white papers and more informal online sources.
- Interviews with ICWG members, policy makers in national Ministries of Education and regional education authorities, school principals and school teachers.