BYOD: Yes or No

I was recently asked for my thoughts on BYOD programs. If you do a quick google, you will find heaps of discussion, debates and arguments about BYOD. There are people on both sides of the issues. After reading a number of these articles and discussions, it became clear to me that there is no answer that will not be contentious. What it really comes down to is personal opinion. So here I go……….

For me, BYOD is reality (if not a necessity) within the current education funding model. Here in Australia, like many other countries, we do not receive the funding we need to do things like 1 to 1 computers. The reality of information and computer technology is that it is;

  1. Expensive to buy in the first place
  2. Expensive to maintain
  3. Becomes outdate quickly

In the corporate world, funding for computer technology is linked directly to financial outcomes and benefits. For example; we will be more productive with the current version of software; our computers are too slow, so it is time to upgrade. By spending money, they often generate money. I know this is a simplistic view, but I cannot be bother going into more detail in regards to corporate economics and mentalities.

In schools, we make do with what we are given. Funding is limited and constantly being cut. It is a reality of our education system. In Victoria we blew something around $200 million dollars on the failed ultranet project (I’m not going to go into why, I prefer not to remind myself of that debacle.). Coming back to BYOD programs, school like them because it puts technology in the hands of our students, that we don’t have the funding for. It is as simple as that. As educators, we know students need school computer skills, more now than ever before in history. BYOD allows devices to get into student’s hands, making them more likely to become digital residents.

I guess it the geek in me, but our current students are growing up in a world where the use of technology is embedded in everything around us. Technology is not going away, and skills with it will be essential in the workplace of the future. When I say the future, I mean tomorrow, not some distant place years and years down the track. BYOD programs help us educate kids, and not just in the use of technology itself. By having a device worth hundreds of dollars which is the student’s personal property, we instill thing like “taking responsibility for your belongings” and “the value of money”.

I know BYOD sounds expensive, but in reality there not that bad. A reasonable laptop computer sits around $500 to 600 Australian. It seems like a lot. But ask yourself, how much did you spend on that shiny smart phone? Or your kids PlayStation or Xbox? Or iPad /tablet? We routinely spend money on electronics that’s entire purpose is entertainment. I do. You probably do.

The second we (royal we, in this case a given school) tell our student body the “you need to buy a computer device for school”, we get push back and a thousand questions (yes that is a cliché and hyperbole, but you know what I mean). This is fair. We pay taxes and expect schools to provide everything. A long time ago schools did. Once there was a time, now lost in history, when schools had money to invest in their facilities and tools. We could access money to build and buy resources, by justifying the why. Now we cannot; this is the reality of education at the moment. Funding limitations dominate, over shadowing the resource needs to achieve our mandated outcomes.  BYOD has come out of this environment; it is a child of a social change (the rise of computer technology in everything) and a decline in funding. Ask yourself “what I could do with half a million dollars in my school, if they said here, use this to improve your technology”.

Personally I like BYOD programs, because I don’t see the funding model changing. I would love to hand students a new laptop every 2 to 3 years. I lie to myself about this occasionally, but know that in truth, it is not going to happen; I am a realist.  BYOD is our solution at present. I think of BYOD as chance to help prepare students for the future. Make them responsible for something that they need to have and will find it really frustrating not to have. Give them a tool that will let them research and develop the skills they will need in the world.

I’m a yes for BYOD, until there is a better solution.

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