Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs are a natural corollary to technology-based educational initiatives. Proponents of the concept cite many benefits: the immediacy of technology integration, student preferences for using their own devices, the fact that devices are better looked after by students, and the opportunity to concentrate funding for devices on students in need. Challenges for BYOD are, however, also obvious: strain on school internet networks, content management, cheating and distraction.
There is also a concern that BYOD creates digital divides in the classroom between well-resourced students and those from families that simply cannot afford to give their children devices. Hard core proponents of BYOD respond to many of these concerns by pointing out that they must simply be overcome; the world we are preparing students for is online and digital.
The main argument is that students will simply not prosper without the ability to incorporate and leverage the tremendous online power of a device into their everyday lives.
If your school has decided to adopt a BYOD program you will find yourself navigating tricky terrain, where socio-economic differences are highlighted, and where there is a risk of dividing the classroom between “haves” and “have nots”. It is, I think, important to be aware of these issues, creating dialogue with parents, engaging your students on the issues, and inviting support for school- or classroom-wide funding initiatives remain vital.
Remember, the goal is not technology — the goal is to create a learning environment that is rich with opportunities for learning, growth, self-direction and critical skills, and social development. Being unaware, or ignorant, of the subtle socio-economic differences in your students’ backgrounds can have horrible consequences for both teachers and students.
School leaders already know that their students' parents are an important stakeholder in the overall results of the school, so including parents in the BYOD planning is always a good idea. Let’s explore a few aspects where the contribution of parents is essential for a successful BYOD program.
Naturally, not all students will have devices to bring, so a school with BYOD ambitions must find a way to bridge that gap. Fundraising initiatives are an obvious place to start. Approaching local companies for sponsorship, asking the community to donate unused devices and hosting fundraising events like auctions and other such events are all effective.
Make sure that parents — both those donating and receiving devices — understand the goals and objectives from the outset. Clearly communicate to parents, staff and students how the new devices will be bought, managed, secured and distributed. This is essential to creating a cohesive and successful device funding campaign.
Parents have many questions when it comes to BYOD, and among their most pressing concerns are those about internet security. In the US, concerns also include how the system will comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). CIPA requires parental consent before gathering children’s information online.
Be sure that parents have full access to your privacy and security policies. You should also be certain that parents understand their rights, so that they can make informed decisions about their children’s privacy online; written consent is essential. For more guidance on CIPA within the online learning environment read this useful guide.
Parents that are expected to fund the devices need to know the rationale behind that choice. Schools and districts should have done much due diligence in ascertaining which type and make of device is optimal.
The price tag may not appeal to all parents, so make sure that you have carefully considered all factors — including price — before making a decision. Ensure that parents have sufficient literature and background on that choice. Reaching out to your local distributor for bulk pricing options and discounts on behalf of parents could also assist many families to provide the device required.
Communication and training
BYOD has an obvious impact on parents and other support structures students rely on. Cost and pricing is an issue to be raised and addressed, but parents may have many more queries about what the content will be: how their child will be graded and assessed via the device and what the parent’s role is with regard to securing, insuring and maintaining the device.
In the lead up to a BYOD program, it is often a good idea to invite parents to regular presentations where the new content can be demonstrated, and parents have the chance to navigate and interact with the educational content themselves. These regular meetings and presentations are an excellent opportunity to iron out any other issues parents may have about their role in the BYOD program, and how they can best support their children's enjoyment and engagement with it.
The cliché It takes a village to raise a child can easily be applied to BYOD, as it requires a massive amount of coordination, communication and trust from both educators and parents to achieve a healthy progression into the online learning world.
BYOD specifically blurs the lines between the roles and responsibilities of a school and a student's parents or support structure. It therefore requires an additional degree of sensitivity and thought in order to truly make it a successful transition.