What do we mean by BYOD?
BYOD/Bring Your Own Device (or BYOT/Bring Your Own Technology) is commonly used to mean permitting employees or students to bring personally owned mobile devices (laptops, netbooks, tablets, smartphones, etc.) to their workplace or educational institution and to use those devices to access corporate, institutional and other information, applications and services.
Companies or educational institutions often provide for visitors or contractors' "guest" access to a Wi-Fi network, which may be a separate network, providing access to no more than the public Internet. This type of access may be included in definitions of BYOD but this is a very limited type of BYOD and may exist in addition to more comprehensive models. School BYOD strategies may, and it can be argued should, go further than merely allowing students to use their own mobile devices in school and providing internet access for them. A more beneficial approach involves embedding the use of students' own devices into teaching and learning both within and outside the school.
School BYOD strategies may require parents or guardians to purchase mobile devices for students to bring into school. This approach can help to make technology enhanced learning more affordable for schools and more sustainable in the long term. Supporters argue that parents often provide stationery and other equipment for use in school, so why not mobile devices. However, this can be controversial, especially if parents are inadequately consulted or have concerns about the cost and in countries where parents contributing to the cost of education is thought to undermine the principle of free education. A common approach is for schools to implement schemes which assist parents, or the students themselves, to purchase mobile devices at discounted prices and, in some cases, to pay for these in instalments.
To make technical and pedagogical support more manageable, schools often apply restrictions; for example, only allowing students to bring in the types and models of mobile device that have been specifically authorised for use in school or purchased via the school. When schools dictate acceptable technical specifications for devices, or parents purchase BYOD devices via the school or an authorised supplier, schools are able to maintain a greater level of control and can ensure all students have the same, or similar, devices. This helps principals, teachers and technical support staff to feel more comfortable with, and therefore more accepting of, the culture change involved.
All students having the same device has advantages including:
- Simplifying technical support.
- Reducing the amount of teaching staff training required.
- Enabling teachers to plan teaching with a wider range of resources (including apps, Internet resources, etc.) but have less complexity to manage during lessons.
- Avoiding creating a digital divide between those students whose families can afford the most expensive devices and their less privileged peers, particularly students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Of course, when introducing any BYOD approach it is necessary for schools or education authorities to make arrangements to ensure that students whose families are unable to pay are able to access the same technology.
Alternative approaches to managing technical support workload associated with BYOD devices include:
- simply making this the responsibility of the student;
- and/or the school, or local education authority, negotiating on behalf of students/parents for a support service to be included in the cost of the devices purchased or covered by an insurance policy.
Bring Your Own Browser/BYOB and Bring Your Own App/BYOA?
Some teachers, e.g. Paul Hynes, Vice Principal of George Spencer Academy in the UK (see case study 9.8) and Thierry Maire, Head Teacher at Gymnase Intercantonal de la Broye in Switzerland (see case study 9.7), believe the type of mobile device a student brings into school is relatively unimportant nowadays provided it meets a minimum functionality specification which could be that it provides a camera, an internet browser and some means of taking notes.
Paul Hynes suggests that students ‘bringing their own browser' (BYOB) may be what really matters for schools and advises teachers to avoid using apps because some may not be available on all the devices their students use. On the other hand some argue, e.g. Chris LaPoint (2014), writing for District Administration magazine, that "BYOD has led to BYOA, ‘bring your own app', and focus must now shift from devices to software" as "for better or worse, our computing experience is now primarily based on apps".
Also the growing use of browser extensions, optionally installed software that extends the functionality of a web browser in some way, means that browsers are becoming less homogeneous.