The benefits of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) in a teaching environment

In recent years there has been a widespread increase in employees using personal devices including their tablets and smartphones for business purposes, whether this is in the office environment, to work from home, or to access certain company information and data on the go. 

The concept, around since about 2011, has been gaining traction for a number of reasons.  These are mainly down to convenience and practicality – the convenience of your personal devices syncing and allowing you to access and use information in a quicker and more productive manner.  The practicality of being able to use the same laptop at work, if working from home, and again if in a meeting.   And with improved storage options, large files do not have to necessarily be supported on individual devices, but can be saved in the cloud or sent using file sharing websites to access wherever you may be. 

A survey covering 17 countries by business technology company Avanade found that 88% of executives said employees were already using their own personal computing technologies by 2012 for business purposes.

So how has this trend influenced the education sector?

Budget issues in schools has often prevented use of tablets for every student.  But the introduction and implementation of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) schemes in schools particularly has provided the potential to access digital information and resources in lessons and in the classroom environment which perhaps would have been a financially unviable option previously. 

There are various benefits for schools choosing a BYOD scheme. Teachers and teaching staff may already be adopting the mentality within their jobs (Cisco found that the education industry has the highest percentage of people using BYOD for work at 95.25%) and many students in 2016 already own (or have access to) their own personal devices, whether that be in the form of a tablet, iPad, smartphone, or similar. 

Apart from the obvious cost savings to schools from not having to purchase a tablet for every student, there are benefits to a student working on a device they know – with time being critical in a learning environment, the time saved by being able to access information quickly and easily on their own device is crucial.  It also enables students to access the same information quickly and easily from home when working on assignments or tasks.

Schools are equipped to provide students with information and education with which to prepare themselves for later life and their careers so you could argue that in a tech savvy world, why not educate them using the tools that are relevant to their generation.  BYOD also gives pupils the opportunity to collaborate with the outside world, using their photos, their games, the tools they use outside of school to enhance their learning in school. It offers opportunity for more interaction with other students and in ways that would not be possible with a shared device – pupils can challenge each other with games, or take individual tests or challenges online for example.  And by using this system, teachers can greater personalize their education to the individual child. 

There are however challenges to running a BYOD scheme.  Security is a threat. Absolute Software in fact found that 64% of IT managers surveyed thought it was too risky to let personal devices be integrated into the business network.  

Management of devices is also an issue.  How and when are students able to use devices?  How and what are children allowed to connect to?  Will it be free Wi-Fi or 3G/4G? 

It is important the school has a suitable infrastructure in place not only to allow students access whilst at school but also procedures should they not be able to get onto the required network.  It is advisable to always have a backup plan!

Parents may also not be so keen to invest in devices which their children will be transporting into schools, and there needs to therefore be thought by schools as to how best they can offer safe storage solutions onsite to pupils when the devices are not in use.  The same applies with regards to charging devices – dependent on the age of the device in question it is more than likely to lose its charge after a period, so thought has to also go into how schools can charge multiple devices simultaneously.

There may also need to be a dedicated school management representative who can deal with any problems that arise or help when needed.  Who will take responsibility if something goes wrong with the device in school time? How will the school manage this and how will students be reimbursed?

BYOD does not necessarily offer a perfect quick fix solution to the need to supply all children with their own devices in schools.  The school will probably still want to keep an additional stock of devices for students who are unable for financial or other reasons to have their own device, or for those students who forget their devices (in the hope of getting out of their lessons!).  But based on a few facts and figures compiled by Baseline Magazine it is worth exploring further in schools with a view to how we may teach students of the future. 

The online magazine, which provides valuable information on key technology and business trends, calculates that 38% of organizations won't provide devices to workers by 2016 and that by 2018, 70% of mobile professionals will use their own devices. This comes from research based on findings from organizations such as Cisco, CompTIA, Gartner, IDC, the SANS Institute and Visage Mobile.

So that being the case, you could argue that in as little as two years’ time, students will be using their own devices in the world of work.  But therefore perhaps they would be better placed if they are practiced at using their own devices in a learning environment before they enter this world. 

There are fundamental advantages and disadvantages to almost any scheme that is put into place, and the BYOD is no different.  However, with the right device management, the right people management, and the right implementation, the rewards of this in a learning environment could be rather colossal.

James Symons is CEO of LocknCharge, manufacturers of the FUYL Tower storage device for BYOD.

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