There’s been much talk and excitement of late about Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) as the cure to all IT provision ills in schools. Whilst it certainly has a place and should be encouraged it’s not a replacement for other models at the present time. This post owes a lot to Ryan Bretag’s recent writing, a large chunk of it comes from work that has been ongoing in our school for the past year and hopefully will result in an exciting new provision model in the near future.
Before we look at where BYOD and other models fit into the provision of IT equipment for learning in our schools, we have to consider what it is all needed for.
When we looked at what we wanted our IT provision to support we concluded we need provision that:
- Provides exciting and innovative learning opportunities for our students;
- Encourages independence and creativity;
- Encourages communication, collaboration and teamwork;
- Encourages enquiry;
- Provides access to the Internet whenever and wherever a teacher or learner requires it;
- Provides access to the school communications systems: email; calendars & collaborative documents whenever they are required;
- Provides access to the school learning platform and schemes for learning;
- Provides access to the Internet and hence Learning Platform, communications etc in the home of every learner;
- Promotes home learning;
- Promotes reading and literacy;
- Is completely reliable;
- Is uniform for all, making planning simple and providing a level playing field for all learners;
- Narrows the gap for learners at risk of underachievement;
- Has as low a (technical skill) barrier to entry as possible;
- Safeguards our community;
- Allows our learners to develop their digital literacy skills;
- Provides access to students with Special Educational Needs;
- Allows the creation of traditional, formal documents for controlled assessments and other purposes;
- Allows learners and staff to choose from learning and thinking styles;
- Promotes learning and the support of learning throughout our school community;
- Enables our teachers and learners to take educational risks;
- Enables our teachers to work with new pedagogies such as Self Organising Learning Environments (SOLE), Non-Commissioned Time & Flipped Classrooms;
- Reduces our reliance and consumption of paper;
- Empowers our teachers and learners to share their resources and experiences with the wider world;
- Enables us to become renowned as a centre of outstanding, modern teaching and learning;
- Enable the creation and sharing of multi media student work;
- Can be budgeted for the next 5+ years.
There are three potential models of IT provision that can be considered:
Current Blended Environment
Continuing a traditional mix of dedicated ICT suites, laptop trolleys and various other devices such as video cameras. Wholly funded by the school. It makes financial and practical sense to lease laptops rather than purchase them outright as has been done in the past. They have little or no residual value at the end of their life-cycles, leasing would ensure replacement, flatten budget requirements and reduce maintenance requirements. The number of devices would inevitably be lower in this model, one laptop trolley per department can only be used by one class at a time, often leaving several others without access for that lesson. Current value for money from this model is questionable. This model has little or no impact on learning outside of the classroom.
Every learner and every member of staff have access to their ‘own’ device. Either wholly funded by the school, or part funded by parental contributions this model is most suited to fulfilling the requirements above. It gives staff and students a uniform platform to build upon, greatly reducing the barriers to creative use of technology in the classroom. Allowing these devices to be taken home fulfills a need to promote learning outside of the classroom in conjunction with parents and the extended school community. Learners only spend 15% of their time within the school walls, it is imperative that we tap into some of the other 85% of their lives. This model is hindered by some funding and safety issues.
Supplemented with some traditional dedicated ICT suites and some specialist laptops for subjects such as Media, Music, Art & Computing.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
Learner’s own devices are used in the classroom, and at home for learning. These devices could include smartphones, tablets, laptops and handheld games consoles. By it’s very nature this model means a classroom will have a wide variety of devices with an equally wide variety of software, function and access to the web and other resources. Student devices are already allowed for use within our school. The majority of devices used are mobile phones and the predominant use is communication and internet research. BYOD is not a solution at a whole school level, particularly in areas of deprivation due to the obvious inequalities involved and the limited capability at present of many devices. This would have to be supplemented with the current blended model. Obviously there are cost advantages to encouraging this model. BYOD is a fantastic support mechanism to a wider school IT provision, but at least in the next 5 years, it can’t be seen as a replacement for other solutions.
If it is possible to fund a 1:1 device that is powerful and flexible enough to cover the majority of the desired outcomes then it is clear that it is the best solution. A successful 1:1 program has been shown in many schools to have impressive impact on the quality of teaching and learning and hence the outcomes of the learners in that environment. If wholly embraced, then there are also many cost savings that can result from a program, that help cover the increased capital funding requirements. The progress in tablet computers in particular are making 1:1 an increasingly attractive proposition.
What does your current school IT provision look like? What are your plans for the next 5 years? Have I missed anything obvious from our list of needs?