BYOD - What does it all mean ?

I read an article yesterday that was really an extension of an ongoing conversation that I have been hearing for some time now. The article was "Mobility and its Impact on Learning" and was written by Ruth Reynard over at the Campus Technology site. Make sure that you have a look, it discusses some of the issues around the move to mobility and the implications for education. What it did do was get me thinking.

This is an important discussion for school systems to be starting to have. With the demise of government programs for implementing 1:1 devices, the move to more and more ubiquitous mobile technology and the growing expectations of parents, we need to be looking at realistic options for providing students with the digital opportunities they deserve. These options do not necessarily mean a laptop or a tablet device - for some it may actually mean a smartphone. If you talk to parents about family priorities and educational opportunities for their children most are supportive of a BYOD program. In fact most parents suggest that their household already have access to multiple mobile devices.

The BYOD initiative will take on an even greater significance in the minds of parents with the suggestion that some major mobile device corporations are now going to bypass education systems completely and directly market mobile devices to parents with attractive finance options available. This means that even the most cash strapped family could potentially provide a tablet device to their child for as little as $5 or 6 a week.

Many would say that this shift in philosophy in itself could be a boon for some schools struggling to support a 1:1 initiative. I would suggest that one would approach this situation with cautious. School technicians could in fact be freed up to deal with network issues as opposed to end user and application problems. Each student would simply manage their own device. The school would simply provide access to a reliable network. It also means that further resources can be freed up in order to bolster flagging network and wireless systems. But this is also fraught with its own problems. The increased network traffic and need for broadband exponentially increases for each year group you make BYOD available to, as does the increased traffic once teachers really embrace the as yet under utilised opportunities around embedding mobile learning into contemporary pedagogy in schools.

Don't get me wrong, I am all for BYOD but this is not a solution in itself. It is really only part of a larger mind shift in the way we view the student's use of technology and the place in has in our own vision of educational change. As with any large scale change management, BYOD requires careful planning, at both a regional and at a local level to ensure that issues of equity are addressed, that access to all services are ensured and that real change in our own organisations are enshrined within the very mechanisms of change. The BYOD opportunity has to be tied to the notion of bring your own learning model and that will only work if the 'teacher as facilitator' is made the preferred mode of practice.
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