BYOD: A One:One Perspective

There are two main elements at play in a Bring Your Own Device context. The Pedagogy: that sees teachers embracing the fact that students are either already carrying devices and keeping them hidden, or have access to devices that they could bring in if the invitation were extended; and the Essential Conditions: in which school boards provision network connectivity, storage, and devices for those students who cannot afford them.

We are already seeing the elements of pedagogy emerging; where teachers are leveraging the devices students have in their pockets. These are not fully functional devices in some cases, and there are limitations that we must be mindful of in the classroom. When lessons depend on student provisioned devices, the requisite activities must be planned for the least functional of those devices. This may mean you can perform a poll using a tool like Poll Everywhere, collect data through a Google Form, take a picture, or potentially create video or audio recordings: rich tasks in the right context.

This is different than opening the door to students bringing in more powerful devices like tablets or laptops. We see this emerging as well, more frequently within the secondary realm, but this too has limitations in comparison to system provisioned devices. Open source possibilities are emerging, but we are still reliant on commercial software within a number of contexts. TheĀ Ontario Software Acquisition Program Advisory Committee (as a rule) still provisions licenses that do not allow teachers to install software on student-owned devices. A thriving community of Free and Open Source software development exists that can replace commercial tools if harnessed correctly, paired with online tools, web 2.o software, we can reduce our needs to web-capable devices for most uses. There will still be a need within specialized contexts to provision standard devices to each student where proprietary software is costly, or requires specifications beyond the scope of most student-owned devices (Computer-Assisted-Design, Video-Editing, Computer Science et al)

Adopting these online tools is a necessary component. Teachers need to become comfortable utilizing the web, and open source software, in the place of commercial software: Google Apps as a replacement for MS Office, blogging and discussion forums as a means to collaborate with students, open textbooks from services like CK12 in replacement of traditional textbooks, and a shift from the reliance on memorization of content in lieu of creation. The HWDSB 21st Century Learning team has worked to create spaces where this type of teaching and learning can flourish (HWDSB Commons, D2L) and is currently entrenched in a project, funded by the Council of Ontario Directors of Education, to integrate these tools together to make it even easier for students to access and teachers to leverage.

We must also be mindful that there is safety in system provisioned devices. Variables around functionality can be tempered when every device looks, acts, and is configured the same. In a BYOD classroom, the teacher can be required to take on the technical hiccups assuaged by the consistency of system tools. Accessing the network, upgrading internet browser plugins, or navigating foreign operating systems can all create roadblocks that may temper a teacher’s willingness to fully integrate technology. Proponents of 1:1 deployments present this as a major hurdle in a BYOD framework.

Creating the conditions within schools to make this easier is the other key facet of a BYOD program. We need to provision ubiquitous access to internet, open and accessible to any device (something HWDSB is in the process of installing across all of our schools), and along with that we need to be mindful of charging requirements, security concerns (where do I put my laptop when I go to Phys. Ed. to ensure it isn’t stolen?) and a shift in service requirements (technicians should be available to help students with their own devices, rather than dealing exclusively with board devices).

The belief that BYOD can be seen as a financial decision within a K-12 space is folly. The cost savings reported by businesses that adopt BYOD are dependent on the ability of organizations to dictate the functionality of the requisite device. A business model that promotes BYOD can also be clear about the functionality required in the employee-purchased device. This is a luxury we cannot extend to students: they will bring what they can afford, what their parents will entrust them with, or they will bring nothing, and we need to be able to provide the same rich, meaningful programming for every student regardless of the limited nature of the device they arrive to school with. Currently within HWDSB we provide computing devices at a 10:1 student to computer ratio. It would not surprise me that if 1:1 with BYOD was the goal, equity would dictate we have available at least that many devices (if not more) for those who cannot provide their own.

Herein lies the problem: when we talk about BYOD and 1:1, they are seen as mutually exclusive, when one should be seen as a pathway to the other. We need to open the door to students being able to bring in their own devices (there are still corners of the board that mis-read board policy, and mistakenly believe that personal electronics should be confiscated at the door, and rogue laptops have the capacity to bring down the school network). As devices become more personalized, students who can, will opt to utilize their own tools, even when offered a board alternative, eliminating a “pick up your laptop at the door” model in some communities. Along with ensuring that we welcome the use of personal devices in schools, we must ensure we are providing opportunities for students to access the breadth and depth of learning available in a connected world: we do this by ensuring our classrooms have access to board provisioned tools: so that a student who arrives with a 7 year old laptop can still experience the rich media creation possible on a current model tablet. As prices drop (and as pedagogy shifts away from paper and textbooks) the ability to ensure every student has access to a device, regardless of origin, becomes easier. Portability of devices (chromebooks, tablets, netbooks) negate the need for computer labs and push the devices where they belong: in the classroom, at the point of learning.

BYOD or 1:1: I think we do both.

Published by jarbenne

Jared Bennett is the Student Information System Consultant at Hamilton Wentworth District School Board.

Join the conversation


  1. I really like this post of yours, as I’ve been grappling with BYOD for a couple of years now. We don’t seem to have a formal Board protocol at this point (and maybe we won’t), so basically what I’ve been doing is what you mentioned in this post: I utilize what students already bring in. Last year, when I taught younger students, fewer brought their own devices to school, but now that I’m teaching Grade 6, many students have and bring in their own tablets, iPods, iPads, and even computers. They keep these devices on them or lock them up when they’re not in the classroom. I often see them arranging what devices to bring in, when. At first, I had very few students that brought laptops to school, but then they wanted to use certain programs for projects, and now the computers are coming in.

    I’m very fortunate in multiple regards:

    1) I have purchased numerous devices of my own that I bring in and use with the students in the classroom. Having access to these devices helps ensure that all students have the tool that they need, even if they don’t bring one from home.

    2) I’m at a school with the updated wireless connection, and this makes it a lot easier for all students to get on the Network. Thanks to the Board purchasing Google Apps for Ed, all of my students have and use a Google Docs account, and quickly and easily share files with each other and access them from different tools.

    3) My school has put a lot of money into purchasing laptops and iPads, so I have access to additional tools in the classroom from the school as well. Having networked computers also helps me when students want to use a program that may only be available on them. With the mish-mash of tools, I’ve become a lot better at finding different equivalent programs or apps that work on different devices. Then all students can have what they need.

    4) I have a great PLN through Twitter that I can rely on to help me out when I have questions about these different devices and their capabilities. Thank you, Jared, for being one of these people!

    5) The “Geek Squad” for our school (i.e., a group of students that know a lot about technology and are passionate about helping solve problems with it) reside in my classroom, and they help me troubleshoot regularly as new devices come into the room. We can then work together to solve problems as they arise.

    Some days I have a 1:1 environment and some days I don’t, but between the tools in the classroom, my own tools, and the ones that the students bring from home, all students seem to have what they need to be successful. This is key … right?


  2. Thank you Jared for your post…..I have been doing lots of research lately and I look forward to moving forward in HWDSB in a systemic and strategic way while still honouring the voice and experience of each student who may wish to use their own device….

    If we define our vision of our students informed by our students and then we define our vision for learning in every HWDSB classroom, and then we assess the gap between what presently exists and where we want to go….I think we can be intelligent and responsive in a systemic way in short order……

    I am not suggesting that it won’t be complex, but I am saying it is time that we remove the systemic barriers that are obstacles to where we hope to move.

    Thank you for your thoughts….


  3. We are at the end of our Epistemology unit and have been discussing educational theories. We have been talking about relating technology to Paulo Freire’s PEDAGOGY OF THE OPPRESSED. As a class, we agree that both teachers and students need to learn more about the technology and how it can best be used. Teachers should be provided with opportunities to become more aware that there is more to technology than researching information. With this information, teachers can help students prepare their devices (make sure the necessary apps are downloaded) in advance for a lesson.
    Technology should enhance a lesson not *be* the lesson. Students become frustrated by lessons where technology is forced; simplicity is better. Just because the technology exists doesn’t mean it has to be used all the time.
    For example, Miss Dick printed this blog for us to read so that we could discuss it together. We consider this a good example of keeping it simple but still using technology. And it’s technology we like! We do not want to try to annotate an article on an iPad; it’s better to have an article as part of a personal, physical collection of articles.
    The resources that are provided (computers, laptops, wifi, software) have to be kept up to date. Better hardware will encourage students to respect the hardware. This shows respect for students in all socio-economic groups.
    We think technology is a good thing that can be used to improve the classroom experience. However, the fundamentals of meaningful teaching are still valuable and cannot simply be replaced by technology.
    Thank you. We really enjoyed your article and the conversation it promoted.

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