Just a few years ago, the “smart money” for school districts was on 1:1 computing where schools issued each student a laptop. While there is a role for 1:1 initiatives, increasingly the dialogue has evolved to bring-your-own-device (BYOD), which focuses on the use of student-owned mobile devices, and for good reason. Research shows that “active learners” (students who have grown up with technology and expect it to be readily available) want to bring their own devices to school – and are driving changes in mobile phone use policies.
Blackboard Inc. and Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up National Research Project found that in the fall of 2010, nearly 50 percent of middle and high school students said they carried some type of smartphone – a 47 percent increase from fall 2009. The National School Board Association found that 63 percent of students use mobile devices in schools, even when prohibited.
But what does an effective BYOD policy look like? And how are districts overcoming the biggest challenges of mobile adoption: equity and access?
I’m learning a lot from the innovative schools and administrators Blackboard works with – educators who are successfully leveraging technology to enhance learning experiences for their students. They first tackle the real issue of how they want to use technology to improve teaching and learning. As a result, they create a clear strategy before making a purchase or developing a policy. Here are some effective practices from clients who went down the BYOD route.
If a school decides to adopt BYOD, a further challenge lies in finding the budget to not only to get a program off the ground, including bandwidth for school buildings and devices for students who don’t have them, but to maintain it. Several schools are overcoming this hurdle by seeking donor and government support according to Education Week’s Mobile Learning Costs Add Up report:
- Through donated funds, St. Marys City School System in St. Marys, Ohio received free smartphones for six classes of 3rd, 4th and 5th graders and pays for broadband service and software licensing from the local provider. New phones are provided each year and the district expects the cost to drop as more students participate. This arrangement saved approximately $60,000 in startup costs by relying on the service provider’s infrastructure.
- Many schools turn to E-Rate funding, a program for discounted telecommunications services from the Schools and Libraries Division of the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), a division of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The program provides 20 to 90 percent discounts for services based on location and need.
After forming a stable and effective BYOD policy, working with students’ technology preferences can be another challenge; today’s active learner wants more control over the education experience. Once you open the door to BYOD, you’re also inviting various experience levels using different devices, applications and technology systems.
Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, Ca. relaxed its requirements for what applications students can use to complete assignments. For example, both PowerPoint (for PC/Android-based devices) and Keynote (for Mac/iPads) can be used for presentations. The school has found that students are more productive when they can make their own choices, as long as instructors can view and grade the end product.