There is much debate regarding BYOD programs in education, some people hold that BYOD is the only way forward, other are firm in their belief that BYOD is the wrong path for schools.

Something important to consider is that there are many different avenues a school can take to give students access to technology. The main difference is who directly funds the program, either the institution funds (and then passes the cost to the parents) or parents directly fund the program. *As most government funding has dried up these are really the only two options*

To further complicate things each institution likes to put their own spin on a device program. An institution program is fairly simple, most often they will choose what device they provide and that the end of it. With a BYOD style program there are a few options. BYODVanilla Bring Your Own Device, you bring whatever you want and we give you access to the network. BYODDBring Your Own Designated Device – you bring what we tell you to and get access, bring something else and we aren’t interested.

In my experience both institution owned and BYOD programs have their merits.
Institution Owned (sometimes referred to as a master lease)
+ Simple for IT staff to manage* (point of contention here, it depends on the IT staff and their resources)
+ Warranty/Repairs usually organised through institution
+ Usually cheaper for parents
+ Device will always be under warranty and insured
– Lacks flexibility
– Devices usually leased for 3 years
– Students lack ownership, can be less likely to care for device

+ Device is students to keep after they finish school
+ Students tend to care for the device more as they own them
+ Can be less work for IT staff*
– Not always insured/warranty
– Students may bring old devices (policy can help with this)
– Lack of control over the device from a management standpoint

*BYOD and IT Departments

BYOD can either be great for an IT department or an absolute nightmare. If the infrastructure is in place to support BYOD devices then enrolment in an MDM and WiFi can be painless. However supporting multiple devices types (Windows, Apple, Linux) can become very complicated when you need to start factoring in things like print drivers, access to an LMS.

An important point for administrators and executive staff to consider is to make sure that they communicate with their IT department to make sure that they are ready for a BYOD program. A good IT department can either make or break a BYOD rollout.

Does it really matter?

All of the technical issues aside and assuming that whatever program is in place it is supported by good policy and a well equipped IT department does it really matter what program institutions choose? I don’t this it does. The success of a technology program is going to be determined by how the educator (teacher) integrates the technology in the learning environment. A school could have the best devices with the best IT department but if the teacher isn’t interested in using the technology then it’s all for nothing. The most important thing is how the teachers use the technology in the classroom.