Yes, it can equip students with technology without breaking the school's budget … but inherent inconsistencies makes this approach prone to many issues.
Ed Note – I think some readers are interpreting this article as somehow being against putting devices in students hands, but I am quite in favor of doing that, with standardized technology. I know from experience that providing standardized devices eliminates or reduces many of the issues I cite below. When the devices and configurations vary widely and are not under the control of the school, these types of problems can make use of these devices fraught with disruptive issues. User feedback is leading me to rethink this a little, but I am not hearing a lot that is effectively addressing these specific issues just yet. – KW
When I first read about the idea of BYOD programs in schools, my initial reaction was that it is certainly one way to get technology in the hands of all students in a school or class without having to find lots of budgetary funds to do it. There have been an increasing number of stories about these programs in the media this year, and this prompted me to think it through a little further. While the financial incentive is an attractive upside to this idea, it doesn't take long for a technologist to start to realize that the drawbacks inherent in this approach make it highly questionable.
Here are a number of problems with the BYOD initiative for schools:
- Equipment Inequity: If everyone is bringing their own equipment, even if there is a standard approach to the type of equipment (all laptops or tablets, for example), it is still pretty much inevitable that the brand and/or configuration of each device will vary and with this comes varying functionality and different speeds of throughput and performance. This equates to inconsistent experiences, and different challenges, for one student versus another.
- Tech Support: With varying types of equipment, and dissimilar configurations and software levels, come a wide variety of technological hurdles. We all know that trying to use apps on the Internet or doing just about anything else with a computer, tablet, or smartphone, can yield plenty of little issues (this is why techies have jobs!), and every variation in configuration brings another potential point of failure of complication. Now the teacher starts losing class time to tech support and troubleshooting, and the school's techs have just picked up a slew of new and unpredictable issues to deal with.
- “Bring Your Own Distraction“ (I'm sure someone else probably already coined this little twist of phrase, but I'm still amused by my own cleverness!): When the device is the student's, it can be loaded with plenty of games, social networking apps, inappropriate content, and who knows what else. The possibilities for this sort of distracting content and software are undoubtedly increased in a BYOD scenario, despite whatever policies may exist to help limit or prevent this issue.
- Internet content filtering: This is a necessary fact of tech life in most schools – Internet content must be filtered, and there are technological considerations to make this happen. When kids are bringing their own tech to school, it makes in increasingly harder to manage, and this is only becoming more problematic thanks to the increasing proliferation of 3G and 4G wireless personal devices. A BYOD program would only add to these complications, and make it that much harder for your technology department to ensure compliance with content filtering objectives and the protection of students from inappropriate content while in school.
- “MBTY” (Mine is Better Than Yours) Syndrome: Isn't school life challenging enough for some kids (and their parents) without the additional pressure of having to keep up with the Jones kid? Some kids are going to have the most expensive, best equipped tech, and some of them are going to brag about it. The less fortunate kids (and the teachers) shouldn't have to deal with that, and nobody wants to hear it.
I am sure that some schools have come up with ways to address some of these challenges, but I am also confident that there are more downsides to this approach than I have listed here. Businesses have also been flirting with and experimenting with this concept for years now, also with mixed results.
What do you think? Has your school already done this? Have you dealt with, or avoided, some of these issues? I would welcome a counterpoint post from someone who has use BYOD successfully and overcome these challenges.
Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Why Every Student Should Be In a 1:1 Classroom
4 Unique Ways That 1:1 Technology Can Transform Student Writing
Announcing Our Summer Online Workshop, “Flipped Classroom Tools and Techniques”