BYOD ready, steady???
Understanding why BYOD is the current hot topic is not rocket science. For cash strapped schools, the opportunity to have costly hardware provided by the students, or more accurately the parents, is obviously appealing. Like any new educational technology, BYOD raises as many issues as it solves.
BYOD means that students will be using ICT tools they are familiar with and confident using. Let's face it, students often have access to better technology than can be provided by the school. “Schools need to respond to the changing needs and ways that their learners are gathering and processing information in our media-rich society,” says Lee Burley from Civica. “Why waste valuable learning time at a school training students to use devices that they may only use in school? It is better to allow them to use technology that they train themselves and their peers to use.”
While some families are able to provide the latest and best technology devices for their children, many families will struggle with this added burden. BYOD will mean the advantages some students have from good IT resources at home will now also be advantages at school.
A 2004 study by statistics nz indicated a significant digital divide which is likely to have widened given the current economic climate.
- households with lower rates of internet access than the NZ average included the poor (1 in 9 of those with an income of NZ$10,001 to NZ$15,000 had access to the Internet), single parent families (30% have access), single person households (16% have access) and households who rented from a government agency (10% had access).
- people of Maori or Pacific ethnicity had lower household access (25% and 20% respectively had access).
For any BYOD scheme to be successful the issue of equitable access needs to be addressed. This could be through laptop loan schemes, or subsidised purchase programs allowing families to pay for devices by instalments. This brings with it questions of IT support within the school for these devices.
Laptops and iPads will be a tempting target for thieves. How will students keep their devices secure while they are in a PE class or playing at interval. Will the school provide secure lockers for students to store their devices when they are not needed?
Having student devices accessing the internet through a school network also raises security issues. School machines can be managed and locked down to ensure secure access, but this degree of control will not exist with BYOD devices.
Students having internet access through the school will place considerable demand on schools broadband and lead to a large increase in data usage, with not all of it being put to good educational use. Some school restrict access at lunchtimes and interval to reduce this pressure. Any BYOD program will require a robust and managed wireless network that is secure and scalable to support the growing number of connection.
When students arrive at school with their devices, will they able to use them meaningfully in their classes. There needs to careful consideration given to the pedagogy that would effectively utelise students increased and ubiquitous access, while also providing for those without devices.
While it is clear that BYOD is a huge opportunity for schools to increase student access, any BYOD program needs to be carefully thought through. Fortunately an increasing number of schools have already taken the plunge and we can all learn from their experience. Look out for the BYOD - School Experiences Thus Far event coming up 24th May.