The future of Ed Tech is “Bring Your Own Device” … BYOD

The future of Ed Tech is “Bring Your Own Device”, (BYOD), and schools will more than likely move away from providing devices for students sooner than later.  While BYOD is far too radical for many school districts at this time, it is inevitable that this is the future.  The sooner districts embrace this future and begin to plan for it, the more effective this transition will be.

Today, while attending EdCampChicago, BYOD was a hot topic.  I repeatedly heard, “my school bans student owned technology and it won’t change anytime soon.”  While the technology may be banned, it has not prevented BYOD!  The sooner we can stop pretending that we have truly banned student owned technology the better.

The effort to ban personal mobile technology is simply not cost-effective when you consider hidden costs such as human labor, the ongoing negative impact upon school culture and the prevention of effective learning in the 21st century.  Instead of dealing with these issues proactively, banning continues to prolong the inevitable.

We all know technology changes rapidly but I am not sure that we really have a good perspective on those changes that have taken place in our lifetime and in our schools.  We are judging the change within the change itself and that is really tough to do.

How are we going to continue to truly ban all of this “student owned” technology in schools?  Take a look at the latest iPod Watch. Take a look at sites like Advanced Intelligence and think about the ability to hide technology.  Will clothing be the future one-to-one device?  Isn’t it time to stop pretending that we can really ban it?

True BYOD will never be a solution for schools that continue to focus on standardization of hardware and applications.  Reasons for one-to-one devices have morphed over the years as we do not need devices to do it all.  Please keep in mind that BYOD does not proclude “targeted purchasing” of technology within a school system.  Schools will continue to need specialized equipment for specific learning needs.

Let’s face it, human beings tend to take better care of something they own versus something they rent. It is time to give our students ownership over their learning through the use of their own devices.

I plan on taking a closer look at BYOD through my Sunday posts over the next several weeks.  Please let me know what your thoughts are on the BYOD movement, if you have a successful model, issues to consider, and anything else that is important to consider.

While there are many issues surrounding effective use of technology in the classroom,  I am convinced that the issues surrounding BYOD are really at the core of ineffective integration of technology in the classroom.  The lessons we can explore surrounding this issue can really paint a picture of the entire ed tech movement. As Jim says, “It is time to give up control of Ed Tech.”

What do you think?

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  1. Interesting and timely post, Scott. I’ve been thinking about BYOD quite a bit lately as I work with a number of schools and districts on planning 1:1 environments. While the lower cost (for the school) of equipment is attractive, I’m not sure that the cost savings alone are a good enough reason to move to BYOD. What about support? While the school or district may not “have to” provide support for BYOD (because the parents/student will each support their own device), the teacher is going to ultimately end up “supporting” students who are trying to use a variety of devices. I just don’t think classroom teachers are ready for this. I don’t think that pre-service educator degree programs are preparing future teachers for BYOD. While it seems like a great alternative to school/district provided equipment, and a big cost saving opportunity, the bottom line…our current crop of practicing teachers just aren’t ready for this type of move and pre-service teachers aren’t being prepared in this manner either.

    • The statement, “I just don’t think classroom teachers are ready for this.” is critical to this discussion.  I will be tackling this very issue my post next Sunday!  

      • While blended/online is the new norm for colleges, can anyone tell me where it is being taught in the teacher prep programs? Using blackboard is one thing, but creating/implementing the lesson plan via such a platform is something else. Teachers are not aware of the potential. The focus right now is on testing(CST, API, AYP). In a couple of years Common Core will be coming into its own but very few know what that entails. Also, as a public school teacher, I deal with all socio-economic groups, many who cannot afford pc’s/macs, etc. The economy is still in the dumps where I live and not everyone has the internet at home. My course is available online via my website yet I know that not all are computer savvy. Savvy to a teenager is being able to type in a LOL via twitter/facebook, etc. Email, Word, Excel, downloading documents, etc., are still foreign to many.

    • John Glenn

      Jeremy, I have found that most classroom teachers are behind in technology even when it comes to the district supported 1:1 devices. Definitely when it comes to smart phones and their capabilities the students are way ahead. The push to BYOD is being driven by an unsuspecting crowd of students that are using what comes natural to them, their devices have become an integral part of their daily lives that I think education can exploit to deliver more robust content or at least content they can manipulate without the old pen and paper.

    • I concur with your assessment. I am a high school teacher in Southern California. I just had a meeting with the 21st Century Ed Tech stakeholder group and we are just at the beginning of this discussion. Four of the six high schools in our district have wi-fi (not “tuned in” yet), while the other two are waiting funding as they don’t receive enough Title 1 funds. We have the wi-fi via E-rate but know one is sure what to do with it. At this point it is merely a an empty road. The question is BYOD or purchase Ipads. I reminded those at the meeting of the recent thefts in San Diego and it gave them pause. If nothing else, wi-fi looks good on a WASC report but I don’t think that they are even tuned into the potential. High schools are not quite ready. By the way, I spoke with the Sup in my 5 year-old’s district (k-8) and the most they have are computer labs. For the timebeing, this technology will be the perview of colleges. IMHO.

  2. Paul Wood

    Why do “we” find it so important to  standardize the equipment our students use? If we truly want to support differentiated learning, then why don’t we understand BYOD is also about student learning with the equipment they feel helps them learn the best or the easiest? I think many people want a standard issue so that it makes it simple to try to maintain. Learning is messy, kids are too, so we need to work with and for them to make it the best possible experience for them. We are finishing our first complete year with BYOD and being about 85% e-textbooks. Overall I think it has been a good experience and I look forward to helping to make it better each year.

    •  I work in a BYOD environment with some of the messiest kids around, support devices that come from a whole bunch of different school districts, and it isn’t that bad. Colleges and Universities do it already with larger student populations. Is it our staff/student ratio that stop us from doing it in K-12? Is it teacher comfort?

    • Mjmontagne

      Paul, I agree with your point to a certain degree, but isn’t it true that it is possible to ‘differentiate’ and ‘personalize’ when all students use the same form factor?? That is, say you like taking notes in MS Word using your Macbook, but I really like using the drawing program to type and draw as I take notes using the very same Macbook.  I could see a BYOL model being every bit as constraining to kids and different learning preferences if we require them to have and use a specific software set. Software options and choices can create opportunities for choice and differentiation — perhaps even more so than hardware. For BYOL to be successful, I believe it also must provide freedom for users to choose the kinds of software programs that they prefer. 

  3. David Barber

    BYOD is probably the future, but the distant (5yr or more) for most school districts.  In many low wealth districts, there will be the need to help students obtain a device.  It also seems probable that BYOD will function in the same manner as bring your own school supplies.  That is, you bring your own but there are fairly tight restrictions on those supplies.  In this case, it might be that the device provides Internet access, has  a screen of at least … inches, can run an android of IOS app, has a browser … and more.  

    •  Your statement, “there will be the need to help students obtain a device” is an essential discussion point for many reasons and I hope you check back with series of posts as I focus on that very issue.  

  4.  Chromebook. This is where I see the Chromebook as a great part of a BYOD platform. Reason being is that tailoring a Chrome OS environment for your students would allow you to put Chrome OS on any one of their devices, and have the same experience. If they need hardware, then the Chromebook can be their device. If they want to bring their own hardware, simply have them dual boot ChromeOS on their netbook, Macbook, or Windows machine.   This is the advantage ChromeOS has over, say, an Ubuntu or Linux environment. ChromeOS seems like a great answer for digital equity. 

    • Jimohagan

      Absolutely disagree with you, Dan. Your vision of digital equity, as you call it, would leave all kids requiring assistive tech tools completely behind. That’s why Linux hasn’t even seen the light in special education, and a Chromebook offers even less of a least restrictive environment.

      • I never said go 1 to 1 with the actual Chromebook. It would be great to have
        a couple of those around for those kids that need them. What I am suggesting
        is to go 1 to 1 with simply ChromeOS. You can have a Macbook or even a
        netbook dual booted to offer differentiation. But I think that the user
        environment is really the key to 1 to 1, not particularly the hardware.

        • Jimohagan

          So you’re saying a complete web based environment, i.e. Chrome OS? A web based environment allows little variation of content creation (it’s more than Glogster posters). It goes against the ideals of UDL. The web just isn’t there yet to completely put the eggs into that basket. It’s still about the apps with the iPad, for example. If total existence on the web was viable, then the iPad app market would not be exploding as it is. There is too much I can not do on the web, compared to the variety of ways I can express myself and create content with a more full featured device/OS. That may change, but I would have thought that would have changed more in the past year with the proliferation of HTML5 and the tablet market. Instead, it’s the app market that has exploded. The idea of the ChromeOS I like, but it just is not ready for primetime. If you right now offered me a ChromeOS device or an XO, I would take the XO because of the ability to customize and create content because of it’s apps.

          • The Cloud is where we are headed, Jim. Inevitable. You don’t think that Apple will eventually offer their apps in the cloud?  iTunes is going there. Bellweather of things to come. 

            But you can still put Chrome OS on any device, so we can still have our cake and eat it, too. I agree that if I could give every child an iPad that would be super, but I still wouldn’t use it as the only device, anyhow. Still love the idea of that blended environment, with ChromeOS tying together all the ends. 

        • Additionally, it was your post, Dan, titled “Is The New Tech Boom Leaving Education Behind?” that your argument against a web based OS is better made.

          To quote you, “One of the innovative educator’s greatest secrets for finding new Web tools, is to look at, and I have to say, the pickings are getting very slim these days.”

          So, you are comfortable with going to an OS that is web based, on a platform where you think the pickings are slim and development has stagnated?

          • I definitely think that Chrome OS has the best promise to solve a lot of the
            equity issues we are talking about here. I’ve got word processing, audio
            editing, Youtube channels, movie editing, picture editing, and for students
            who don’t have their own hardware, they’ve got a Chromebook ready for them.

            As for Apps, you must be talking about iOS which is definitely not an
            equitable situation as Mr.Ben Grey can attest to.

            The future is in the cloud. That is not even an argument at this point.

            As for there not being enough new tools, I’m talking about tools geared
            toward educators. More drill and kill apps on Apple’s App store doesn’t mean
            that environment is getting much better.

            A blended hardware environment with a universal OS is absolutely the
            flexible situation that I think would work extremely well. The “apps” will
            get there. But there are enough to get started.


          • Make your next podcast a web produced podcast. 

            And I talked with Ben about this. If money isn’t an object, he told me it would be a Macbook Pro as his choice.

  5. Adisack Nhouyvanisvong

    BYOD is the future. Students love it. I’m working with some schools that are piloting a BYOD policy. Students who bring their iPods or iPads or laptops have an advantage over those who have to check out the school’s netbooks. They can boot it up much faster and are more comfortable with it. Those are non-negligible benefits. This is especially important when they are using these devices for test-taking.

    -Adisack (

    •  Thanks for the reply Adisack. We can always debate the merit of different forms of assessment but I do think that systems such as Naiku provide a glimpse into the future of “programming” for educational resources. They need to work on multiple platforms or they should not be adopted. 

  6. In our discussion yesterday in the session “All Great EdTech Has…” which I think was recorded, before you can even get to BYOD, you need to clearly have your Why and How down on EdTech. Why are you providing a Tech-enabled environment, then how do you do it? The what you provide is going to vary greatly. Already some great ideas have been posted to that were taken directly from that discuss. I will try to find the link to the stream as well and post to the wiki.

  7.  Scott,
    I’ll be sharing some of our district’s experience w/ BYOD during my ISTE poster session. We went from a 1:1 pilot to carts and students bringing their own this year. We ended up with over 200 kids participating, which was the equivalent of 7 labs coming to school each day. Next year the focus will be on getting staff to incorporate more.

  8. Scott, I too believe that this future is inevitable. Students and parents are ready for it right now. It’s imperative that we start preparing our teachers to work in this environment as well. We need to start working with them now in order to diffuse all the excuses and arguments that would be used against such an initiative. Arguments like…

     – How can I assign a Power Point project if not all my students have Power Point?
     – It takes too long to grade student work if everyone uses a different program.
     – How will students who bring their own devices be able to print at school?
     – How will students be able to get online at school if our network only allows school owned computers to connect to the wireless?
     – I’m a Windows user. I can’t help a student with their work if they’re on a Mac.

    We need to put together a Professional Development plan to get teachers rethinking the way they teach in a BYOD environment, and work with school and district IT to support a more open school network environment.

    For most teachers and IT, there is great comfort in consistency and standardization. We moved to 1:1 three years ago to implement standard hardware and software because we knew if we waited too much longer than students would begin bringing their own devices. As I shared in this blog post, if we were to begin that program today, there is no way we could get away with it, and it would be arrogant on our part to force parents to comply with our, “If you’re coming to our school you must use this device” policy.

  9. Scott Weidig

    Wanted to take a moment to chime in here. I agree that BYOD is coming it has to. With educational funding failing to continue to support schools because of the flawed way it was structured to begin with, and the great push against taxes, the dollars and cents of it will finally outweigh the need for standardization and in my opinion (unfortunately) equity. That said, while people will fight a $25/yr tax assessment increase, they will more than willingly provide innumerable devices, toys, little plastic pieces of things… And until you actually make it a “request” that they provide a device for their child, they will… willingly and expect for the school to let the student make use of it. I know I will as Joshua and Noah get to an age where it is “accepted” to do that (or they would have one now)… So, there is a tremendous amount of hope.

    Now, @Dennis until we as educators stop asking for product based outcomes like “a PowerPoint”, a specific software outcome, etc. You are right this will not work. We will continue to fight for providing and for standardization to “guarantee” X will work, and so and so teacher can help because they are a “PC”. We will fight through issues like printing in a digital age, we will grade on products as opposed to grading on learning achieved by doing, we will teach summative outcomes as opposed to formative skills and learning. We will tell kids what whey should do and should learn as opposed to allowing them to show us what they have learned and how they can apply that knowledge to new situations they have never experienced before.

    @Dan, Chrome is the latest in OS buzz like Windows was when it was launched 30ish years ago… I agree the cloud in inevitable, and honestly a much needed evolution in technology, but who cares how you access it… I know for our group, this is probably a way re-treat video, but look at Michael Wesch’s the Machine is Us/ing us… being able to pull format out of content is the key to the web. Chrome, iOS, OS X, Android, Windows 7,8,9,10… (and however long MS wants to milk that and Office) IE, Safari, Opera, Chrome, Firefox, etc… Irrelevant… They are all just different paths to get to the same information. think of your post on Bo.LT (to me scary by the way- but that is a different comment) shaping and re-shaping information regardless of path to that information will be the transformation goal…

    Will BYOD get us closer? Maybe, the question to me, however, is how does the INSTITUTION of education accept the change necessary to foster this environment and goal…

  10. jnke

     As a High School Art Teacher, I am excited for the BYOD movement! I struggle with giving assignments/projects in which technology is required.  In the past, it is inevitable that several students will not complete the assignment due to the lack of technology outside of the classroom/school.  I would LOVE if every student had their own device.  I agree, it is a never-ending battle to ban students’ personal technology from school.  If they were allowed to utilize it in an educational manner, they are more likely to take ownership of the equipment and their learning.

    However, I do have a few questions.  In a lower-income community, how could all students receive a device if it is BYOD? 

    • jnke … depends on what the focus of BYOD is about.  Initially, executive functioning is good enough to focus on but that does not mean devices will be available to do amazing art with.  While there are creative ways to use phones with cameras probably, the key will be to have those devices for students keeping track of their personal lives, meetings, assignments, notes, tasks, etc.  

      Also, BYOD does not mean that schools will not have highly specialized technology for specific tasks.  BYOD allows schools to target their purchases more effectively though which will put the best technology into kids hands at the right times!  

  11. Rob Jacklin

    Next year we are implementing a virtual applications platform that will enable use to run all of our main applications in the cloud. The client will run on all standard computer platforms (PC, Mac, Linux) as well as iPads, iPod touches, and any Android device. Mind you we haven’t run it fully yet, so I may be eating my words in a year. But if it works, we will be looking to fully implementing a  BYOD by the end of 2011 school year. I understand @drgrice concern about professional development, but I think my staff is more hungry for the possibilities of a 1:1, than they are concerned about troubleshooting connectivity issues on a handful of devices. I fully admit that has the potential to naive, but from the feedback I’m getting from staff and students, it’s a risk  we are willing to take.

    • I think a virtual platform for all OS is a great solution to the BYOD issue.
      Different devices, but still a controllable learning environment.


  12. Valerie Sterne

    Do you think there is a risk that economically advantaged students will have better devices and therefore a better education – not only out of school (which happens now) but in school as well?  Do you think school districts will continue to provide devices for low income students?

    • mjmontagne

      On the golf course we use the saying, “It’s not the tool, it’s the fool.” I’ve seen people do really excellent work on a netbook and I’ve seen people do really horrible work on a tricked out 15″ Macbook Pro. 

      I think students are at a greater disadvantage when they attend a school where a true culture of learning and growth hasn’t been established. It doesn’t matter if all kids are given a 15″ macbook pro in this environment-the community will not maximize the potential of computing devices in the hands of kids if this culture of growth and learning isn’t nurtured and deeply rooted. 

  13. Susan M Bearden

    Great post! My school implemented BYOD for 10-12 graders last year and had no problems. We are expanding it to include grades 6-12 next year. I am so proud of my school for being so forward-thinking!

  14. If you are looking for examples of schools and districts where BYOD is already being implemented, you might want to check out Keller ISD in Texas. Their ED of Technology presented to a group of technology leaders in early May on what Keller has been doing. Here are my notes from the presentation if you are interested:

  15. Cary Harrod

    I love this conversation and couldn’t wait to hop into it!  We just launched our BYOD pilot project in January 2011 with all of our 7th graders.  I am pleased to announce that it was a huge success.  It was a success, however, because of intensive planning that spanned 8 months prior to launch and continued work after launch.  You can find out more here:  I wanted to attend to a few of the comments throughout this post:

    “I think students are at a greater disadvantage when they attend
    a school where a true culture of learning and growth hasn’t been established.
    It doesn’t matter if all kids are given a 15″ macbook pro in this
    environment-the community will not maximize the potential of computing devices
    in the hands of kids if this culture of growth and learning isn’t nurtured and
    deeply rooted.”The number one requirement for a BYOD program to work is the establishment of a learning and growth quite unlike anything we see in most classes throughout the country.  Student-directed, deeply personalized, global and networked are just a few of the words I would use to describe the new environment needed for a BYOD program to be successful.  While we have not yet “arrived” and have tons of work to do in re-imagining what it means to learn, we made tremendous progress this past year.  “Why do “we” find it so important
    to  standardize the equipment our students use? If we truly want to
    support differentiated learning, then why don’t we understand BYOD is also
    about student learning with the equipment they feel helps them learn the best
    or the easiest? I think many people want a standard issue so that it makes it
    simple to try to maintain. Learning is messy, kids are too, so we need to work
    with and for them to make it the best possible experience for them.”This is my absolute biggest mountain right now.  Learning is not standardized; consequently the devices should not be standardized.  Having a variety of devices coming into the classroom has forced our teachers to rethink the way in which they design learning experiences.  If all of the students walked in with the same device, we would still be “delivering” learning that looks eerily similar to every single child, regardless of his/her learning preferences.  “Next year we are implementing a virtual
    applications platform that will enable use to run all of our main applications
    in the cloud. The client will run on all standard computer platforms (PC, Mac,
    Linux) as well as iPads, iPod touches, and any Android device.”Why?  21st Century learning is about exposing our students to all of the possibilities and helping them choose the tools that work best for them.  Here is what Ira Socol has to say:”Toolbelt Theory is based in the concept that students must learn to assemble their own readily available collection of life solutions. They must learn to choose and use these solutions appropriately, based in the task to be performed, the environment in which they find themselves, their skills and capabilities at that time, and the ever-changing universe of high and low-tech solutions and supports. After all, few of us have a toolbox with just one screwdriver, or just the tools we were given when we were ten-years-old.”Brilliant.Yes, I could go on and on but I’ll spare you…for now.  (Smile)  In 23 years as an educator, I have never seen such incredible excitement for learning.  You can read about us here: to everyone for sharing their thoughts, ideas and suggestions.  

    • Thank you so much for sharing the website for your BYOD initiative! Your team did an excellent job. I’ve seen and read about so many 1:1 and BYOD difficulties/failures which can often be traced directly to lack of PD for teachers and/or education for parents. Your program model is amazing and I hope others will look to it as they move forward in this arena.

      • Cary Harrod

        Thanks so much.  (Sorry for the bad formatting; I truly typed it the right way.)  It helped that I have spent the past five years digging into the whole idea of using technology to support and enhance learning. 


  1. […] your own device] The future of Ed Tech rests in BYOD.  At least according to a recent article in EdReach. Citing the cost-effectiveness of BYOD the article also takes direct aim at policies that currently […]

  2. […] over the pros and cons of BYOD — Bring Your Own Device. Some folks have been quite adamantly in favor or against.For all the hub-bub, I think it’s worth thinking about devices not just in […]

  3. […] The future of technology in schools is BYOD – Bring Your Own Device, which is another form of the 1:1 initiative in schools. One good point that this article makes is that students will most likely take more care of their own device than a school-provided one. However, a con to this way of achieving 1:1 technology is that it has the potential to accentuate ESS differences between students. […]

  4. […] Hey EdReachers! You may have noticed one of our Founders, Scott Meech on HuffPost Live today! Scott was part of the segment Technology in Schools, and did a great job of making the case for BYOD and the legacy of devices in schools. What I also liked was the legs and impact the written word can have. Score one for blogging! Scott’s original post is here. […]

  5. […] 1. Use Your Own Device and Let Students Bring Their Own!  The first iPod in my classroom was my personal iPod (that I bought off eBay). The second iPod in my classroom was a student’s personal iPod. By using my personal device, and allowing students’ to use theirs, I was able to gather enough data to demonstrate to my district that we needed to re-evaluate the ban on mobile devices and begin to look at these as learning tools. Today, the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) model is becoming more and more popular with districts because it allows for student individualization and can alleviate some of districts’ financial obligations for having to purchase large quantities of mobile devices. While I understand that many districts still ban student-owned technology, it is a topic that educators need to start thinking about, as discussed inthis EdReach article. […]