Primer on 'Bring Your Own Device' | Ufi VocTech Trust

Primer on 'Bring Your Own Device'

7 reasons to leave them to their own devices

BYOD isn’t a recommendation, it’s a reality. Everyone’s bought one and everyone uses one and everyone carries it around with them. When we organise a meeting or conference, we don’t send people an email telling them what device to bring, nor do we buy or lease a whole load of computers and hand them out. In our Universities few want to revive those expensive projects where every student was given a laptop or iPad. They bring their own.

In business, BYOD is big business. By 2014 Gartner estimate that 90% of employees will have access to enterprise software from at least two devices. Most employees would be frustrated if their employer did not allow access from their owned devices. Note that there's a big difference between allowing devices to access your network and enterprise software and using BYOD in schools to simply access the internet.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) v BEND (Buy Everyone a New Device)

Paul Hynes of the George Spencer Academy in Nottingham operates a BYOD policy that gives access to free, filtered web access (no passwords). He points out that there’s some underlying problems with a tablet-only approach: lockdown, updates, damage, iTunes, the illusion of personalisation, tech problems with displays, printers, wireless, as well as difficulties in storage and sharing. There are some very real issues about the rush to spend large sums on tablet projects in schools. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) may well be preferable to BEND (Buy Everyone a New Device) for a number of reasons.

1. Reduces costs

The big BYOD advantage over BEND is cost in terms of purchase, leasing, insurance, maintenance and sustainability. Then there’s the often hidden costs of procurement and on-going management of owned kit. It may well be defunct long before it’s depreciated in your accounts. Parents and students have already spent considerable amounts of money on kit they researched, selected and use regularly. Surely we could use our education budgets better to focus on other things, like teacher issues and learning.

2. Reduces risks

Why would you want to take a chance on untried technology that will bring fiscal, technical, insurance and pedagogic restraints when much of the kit has already been bought and is in the hands of learners? Create a risk register, with scores for appetite, likelihood and impact, along with ways of making each risk manageable and you’ll see that BYOD, far from increasing, decreases overall risk. You also head off parental criticism about wasting valuable school resources.

3. Existing skills

The fact that learners know how to use their own kit is a plus and if they don’t know how to do something on their own kit, what makes you think they will on a new and stranger one? In any case isn’t it important to learn how to use your own tools and not other, unfamiliar ones?

4. Motivation

The fact that it is your own kit means it’s less likely to get damaged or lost. There are some horror stories of damaged, knocked and lost kit, with

 substantial claims on insurance. You automatically tap into the care that personal ownership brings. I’d also wager that you’re far more likely to get students to use their own kit at home, rather than bought kit. One could argue that a wide range of devices may create a range of problems. This is offset by the fact that students are likely to know how to use their own kit and problem solve themselves to get connected, print and save data. They are more likely to own the problems and therefore solve them.

5. Learning not leasing

Paul Hynes recommends “10 no-brainer uses with an impact on learning” for teachers and an approach that allows teachers to be confident, manage classes and defend the use of technology. Exactly! Let’s look at learning not leasing. Surely much of the budget would be better spent on teacher impact than capital expenditure.

6. More relevant

BYOD is more relevant in that it is more likely to mimic the real world and the workplace. Few workplaces have iPads or tablets but most have desktops, laptops and mobiles. If we’re creating autonomous adults and learners, surely we must recognise what’s actually used out there.

7. Already happens

At home, school students already use their own devices to do their homework, communicate with their mates about assignments and exams, communicate with the school, even in the school, especially when the school kit is a bit, let’s be honest, ‘crap’, or too slow.

Problems: safety, inclusion & technical

Like BYOD, students can get up to no good. The whole e-safety debate can freeze progress, yet students know the rules and teachers know how to get the rules obeyed. Let’s be clear here, the student should NOT be allowed to access unsuitable content. You need a policy or be brave enough to leave this to the teachers’ discretion. But it’s the same issue BYOD or BEND.

Inclusion can also be an issue, as wealthier students showboat their expensive laptops or tablets. However, we can use the money saved to help solve this problem. Data suggests that this is a bottle-three-quarters-full issue, simply needing a top-up. We can’t let the absence of a few pieces of kit cancel out progress. Some kids don’t have books at home but we don’t then say, let’s not use books in learning.

Parachuting computers in any form into classrooms is seldom a panacea and can, in many cases, be disruptive. Classrooms are spaces where teachers interact with learners, places of dialogue and feedback. The introduction of tablets, notebooks, laptops and mobiles are, without very careful planning, most likely to interrupt and slow down learning. Flip the classroom and let students use these for assignments, homework and exposition. Let teachers teach and students learn.


Prescribed tablet and laptop projects are part of an old-world view that there is an ideal or optimum technology in learning. To be frank, many of these projects are driven less by reason than desire. You can free yourself from idiosyncratic projects, Apple fanboys, large vendors and horrendous insurance and maintenance problems through BYOD. Most of all, the BEND approach is damn EXPENSIVE. What if almost ALL of that money could be saved or spent on learning, teachers and problem solving? Want to help student learn – leave them to their own devices.

Impact of BYOD on education

Cisco: BYOD in education