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Should your Pupils Bring their own Devices?

March 28, 2019, 11:10 GMT+1
Read in 4 minutes
  • Having parents help spread the costs your edtech provision might seem like an attractive idea, but it’s a policy that should be pursued with care, says Terry Freedman...
Should your Pupils Bring their own Devices?

According to a 2017 Ofcom report, 5% of 5- to 7-year-olds now own a phone, rising to 39% of 8 to 11-year-olds. In terms of tablet devices, the same report states that 21% of 3- to 4-year-olds possessed one of their own (up from 16% in 2016), and that this ownership figure rises rapidly to 35% of 5- to 7-year-olds and 52% of of all 8- to 11-year-olds.

With numbers like these, would it therefore not make sense for schools to adopt ‘bring your own device’ policies? The advantage of such a move is that pupils gain access to powerful devices in lessons they’re already familiar with as part of a cost-saving exercise for the school – but there are a number of important considerations schools should bear in mind before rushing into it.

Pedagogy first

The most important thing is that schools should start with the teaching and learning, rather than the device. Think more in terms of a ‘1:1 policy’, rather than an ‘iPad policy’.

The next issue concerns ownership. Should parents buy the device, and if so, should the choice be solely left to them? After all, the only way of ensuring every child has a device of equal capability is for the school to actually buy and own the devices itself.

Schools must also ensure that parents who can’t afford to buy a tablet device are somehow supported – perhaps by allowing parents to pay off the cost of the device in monthly instalments. More broadly, the introduction of a BYOD policy should be done with parents, not to them. This will involve outlining the policy and why you think it’s needed, and providing parents with opportunities to voice any concerns and have their questions answered.

Network capacity

Some schools have previously made the mistake of adopting a 1:1 policy without considering the capacity of their WiFi network. Enabling 100 pupils to access the internet simultaneously is very different to enabling 20 or 30 to connect at once. Think also about how pupils will be able to save and retrieve their work – the obvious solution here being to use a cloud storage solution such as Microsoft’s ‘Office 365 Education’ or Google’s ‘G Suite for Education’.

There are also two key security aspects to consider. One is the need to make sure pupils can’t use their devices to bypass the school’s online content filtering policy, and the other is the risk of theft, particularly as pupils travel to and from school. If the devices in question have been purchased by parents in accordance with specifications set by the school, the case could be made for the devices to be locked away at the end of each day and kept in school overnight.

As should be clear by now, a BYOD policy isn’t something to be hurried. Some schools have opted to introduce such policies gradually by having them apply to smaller groups first, before rolling them out to the whole school. This can be done by appointing a small set of ‘digital pioneers’ made up of staff and pupils and equipping them with basic knowledge and training, so that they’ll be in a position to flag up teething problems and help the next tranche of colleagues and peers when the time comes.

Terry Freedman is an independent education technology consultant and writer.

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