Schools have traditionally spent significant parts of their budgets on IT equipment, software and infrastructure, however does the use of Bring Your Own Device/Technology represent a solution to this, and an opportunity for schools to redeploy funding?
Traditionally IT within schools has taken the form of IT labs filled with computers. In some schools these may be in use all of the time, however in other schools these are often empty and underutilised. Recent years and the reduction in the costs of mobile technology and wireless infrastructure have allowed some schools to exploit technologies which can be redeployed easily within schools, in ways the traditional IT lab hardware could not be. Moving a little further forward to today we find large numbers of students with access to personal devices they can use in learning. These may be mobile phones, tablet PCs or various types of laptop, however they belong to students and therefore could support students in their learning across all subjects as they carry it with them. Isn’t this want integrating IT into learning is all about? My son already uses my phone to use apps when we are out and about, he uses an Android and a Blackberry tablet at home, and he is only 7.
At this point I normally hear people comment about what a simplistic view I am taking. Some of the arguments against this approach are:
- What if the equipment is lost or damaged at school?
- How do we keep control of student school data?
- How do we keep students safe when using their own equipment in school?
- How do I create lessons for use across different platforms in school?
- What about students who don’t have devices to bring to school?
For those without IT equipment, surely schools can provide for these students at cheaper cost and greater impact than they can when installing traditional IT labs which result in very variable student:computer ratios, which do not even taken into consideration actual machine utilisation. Looking at the other arguments I could present an answer to each of the above issues however I am choosing not to right now. Instead let us consider a common factor of the above: school. In schools we assume students have to be perfectly safe, data mustn’t be lost and all equipment must work. We also provide a set of software which we decide is appropriate. In other words we create a separate IT world in which to teach. Schools, their teachers and leaders assume responsibility for all aspects of IT usage however due to the predominance of technology and in particular Wifi and cloud based apps is this reflective of the real world? Should students not be taught and required to take responsibility for equipment and data as they will need to in life beyond school? Should they not be taught to deal with issues with technology as they arise?
We aim to use IT in a little safe bubble, where we can use IT without concern and as such we limit ourselves. Now this is not to say that some things, such as certain websites, don’t need to be blocked, controlled or limited, however surely educating students to the dangers and also harvesting student ideas as to technology, especially given they have grown up with it, would yield greater long term benefits.
Now some schools are using BYOD/BYOT and embracing the opportunities it presents, and also the restrictions and difficulties it brings, as surely any new approach will, however why is it that so many, if not the majority, of schools persist with traditional IT Labs? This is more surprising still when you consider the potential budgetary advantages as well as learning opportunities which the use of BYOD/BYOT may bring to schools.
Image from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net, Contributed by adamr