My school and district have recently upgraded their wireless service and as of this November our school was outfitted with the capability to offer wireless service to non district networked devices. With our tech department head leaving for new opportunities at the end of last year. I inherited the position and among other responsibilities, I was tasked with considering a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program for our school. I am finding this a difficult task. I think of myself as generally open minded person, especially when it comes to embracing technology. I have been promoting the use of smartphones and learning apps in my class for several years. I have also had some great experiences with students doing some breakthrough work with their own devices and philosophically I am onboard with the concept of BYOD. In a recent blog post by George Couros titled” Inequity and BYOD”, he writes ,
...many schools have “computer labs” where we take kids once or
I completely agree with this statement. I also believe that technology is playing an increasing role in education and that we need to support this profound change. So what’s the problem? Why am I not able to support and endorse a BYOD program at our school?
It is probably no coincidence that my hesitation to endorse BYOD access to our students followed my completion of Julia Hengstler’s Social Media course. The learnings of that course were deeply entrenched. When it comes to making responsible decisions involving educational technology implementation, Julia is like the angel sitting on my shoulder asking me if I have thought of all of the sequences and if I’m truly ready to proceed responsibly. To sum it up I have far to many reservations and questions to recommend and implement BYOD access at this point in time and this is why.
When we returned to school this September we were greeted with a gift of 60 laptop computers care of the district. Over the last 5 months I have worked with the district tech staff to implement 3 carts of 20 mobile computer labs. This has allowed students to sign out laptops and access technology tools at any time in our school. Teachers have embraced this program and have supported technology in their class rooms. In short students have almost unlimited and equal access to technology and the internet in our school and this in my opinion lessens the need for a BYOD program at this time.
One of my major hesitations to block BYOD access to our schools wireless network is because I am concerned with the effect it would have on our bandwidth and how it might hinder performance of our district networked computers. In fairness there is no real way of knowing this until we experiment with allowing BYOD access, however in an article written by the company Cymphonix it states, “In educational environments, the promise of improved learning that comes from BYOD initiatives hinges on how the devices impact Internet performance, reliability and stability.” (Cyphonix, 2013) Based on conversations with students, my second largest concern is that students will use their BYOD access for non-educational related internet use. If we can already provide equal internet access to the students in our school and we allow students to use their own devices accessing their own data plans, the pros of allowing students access to school wireless become greatly diminished.
In summary as much as I embrace many of the principles of BYOD and giving students access to familiar technology to support their learning, when I assess the unique technology situation of our school, I would not at this time endorse giving students access to our school wireless network. From my calculations the risks do not justify the rewards. What I find interesting and challenging is the thought of planning for a BYOD reality. If our school was forced to implement a BYOD program, how would one do so responsibly in a way to minimize the risks and increase the rewards.
George Couros, “Inequity and BYOD”, (2013), http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/9885?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
Cyphonix, “For Schools, BYOD Strategies andBandwidth Management Must Be Aligned”, 2013,