BYOD: Bridging the gap


Chris Wiseman explores why schools might embrace BYOD and looks at some issues of implementation.

BYOD (bring your own device), the trend for students and staff to use their own devices to access school systems and content, is clearly growing. 

As the trend gains momentum in the education sector, early adopters are already experiencing the benefits and others are realising its appeal. Widespread adoption is seemingly inevitable. 

BYOD is an attractive prospect for schools for a number of reasons – financial, technological as well as educational. Together these factors can help narrow the gap between home and school learning.

In a time when we are all being urged to deliver more for less, BYOD can help free up IT budgets. Often schools do not have the opportunity to fund mobile devices for every student and as such BYOD offers an interesting option. 

Connecting with students

Students use mobile devices on a daily basis; be it in cafés, libraries, or at home. Importantly, they will continue to adopt the latest technology in their future workplace. 

Therefore it can be argued that to reflect the rapid changes in the commercial world, students should be using the technologies that they are comfortable and familiar with (and respect) in an education setting too.

An advantage of this is that less time is necessary for user training as students are exceptionally competent with mobile devices, in turn this frees up time to be spent on other activities.

By not restricting students to standalone devices, BYOD can have a positive impact on the learning experience, and improve engagement and motivation both in the classroom and at home. 

The flexibility of BYOD facilitates learning at anytime, anywhere, from any device. As a result students can have their work at their fingertips 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, enabling learning to occur in the space between school and home too. By seamlessly switching between personal use and school use, students are also able to pursue personal interests associated with their learning.

A BYOD implementation improves a school’s computer-to-student ratio and helps continue the drive to one-to-one computing, which can improve levels of achievement.

As a student-centred approach, the possibilities for creative and experimental learning are endless. For instance, it opens up the opportunities of collaboration with other students, schools and experts, not only in the UK but further afield.

Extending engagement

The ease of transporting mobile devices between the school and home means increased engagement extends beyond the learners to the parents. Parental support plays a significant role in the success of BYOD so involving them from the start, maintaining communication and encouraging feedback is essential. 

Mobile technology can be used to creatively engage parents in their child’s learning. However it’s important to bear in mind that with any transformation, there is uncertainty. 

Affordability along with safety and security of the device are the main concerns that parents raise, and schools need to invest time to address these concerns. 

There are various mechanisms a school can implement here, one of which is an acceptable use policy (AUP), which should reflect the changes that BYOD brings and what the students and parents agree to.

The majority of parents use mobile devices in their daily lives, and although at times they may be desperately trying to keep pace with their children, there is certainly common ground which again helps towards diminishing the gap between school and home learning. What’s more, as BYOD becomes established in the commercial sector, parents may have first-hand experience of the trend in their workplace; highlighting parallels between sectors. 

Every parent is familiar with a response of “nothing much”, or an equally non-committal equivalent, when asking their offspring about what they have been working on at school. 

Hopefully, mobile devices enable students to easily share their work with their parents, and for the parents to follow their child’s progress. Parents may also notice a difference in their child’s learning, particularly in terms of independence and communication.

Additionally students are often proud of their work, and as mobile technology can feel a lot more fun for the students, they are perhaps more willing to showcase their achievements. 

Home and school learning

The transition of mobile devices from a flooded consumer market, to becoming commonplace in the pockets of students across the country, is one of the reasons that BYOD is an interesting proposal for schools. Students and staff want to use the same technology they are using in their personal lives in the school environment. Although the implementation of BYOD remains in its infancy, by moving with the times, it brings new opportunities for education and can help strengthen home and school learning. 

  • Chris Wiseman is education sales director with Capita Managed IT Solutions.


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