BYOD in primary school — what to keep in mind

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is yet another buzzword that seems to have spread widely across the learning landscape. What is it all about? First off, it’s part of the inevitable evolution of educational technology that we have been witnessing in the last 20 years. Gone are the times when writing on blackboards could spark engagement. From primary school onwards, students have embraced the power of modern devices, and naturally, they are not willing to give them up easily, even in class.

Student whims aside, the tablet, for one, is poised to get some serious consideration from teachers. It comes as an efficient replacement for dusty paper text books, as a safe electronic reader and a visual aide for solving problems of many kinds. Moreover, there are a whole lot of apps for tablets spanning various sciences, disciplines, and soft skills. Indeed, this gadget has a bunch of obvious advantages. For more complicated tasks, laptops emerge as a logical solution.

As Education Technology Magazine suggests, the ‘access anywhere’ trend is on the rise now — making BYOD the new norm for the edu community. That said, implementation of the BYOD methodology in schools may have various implications. In this article, I’ll touch upon a few points relevant to primary school and beyond.

Set up a coherent network

Your BYOD infrastructure needs to be heterogeneous and easily accessible to all students and parents, so any device brought from home works without a glitch. Alternatively, you can recommend a single platform that suits the existing budgetary and IT requirements. Is this an iOS, Android or Windows-based device? Do you have any specific apps in mind that work on either system? Which one is more intuitive, easier to handle for kids? Make up your mind before making the final decision.

Does your LMS play along?

If your institution has a learning management system in place (and many primary schools do), see how it interacts with popular devices. Does the LMS work well on tablets? Is it possible to process assignments submitted from mobile devices? Interoperability is king, so be forewarned and forearmed. Also, there is a plethora of tools for BYOD learning available — check out some great samples here.

Wireless multimedia sharing

In a scenario where you are running a unified device infrastructure, you could apply a wireless projector technology like Airplay for sharing content from personal gadgets. Other connectivity options may require some piece of software to be installed. Whatever you do, make sure you are on the same page with your students and fellow instructors.

Test before going live

Define a reasonable pilot period — 3 to 6 months a year — to see how your BYOD program performs. Ask the students to bring their devices, then perform regular assessments based on a number of predefined criteria: pace of absorption, students’ grades before and after, convenience, level of distraction, etc. Also, make sure the institution can cover purchase expenses for those who can’t afford their own tablets/laptops.

Educate your colleagues

Unanimous acceptance of the novelty should be on top of your priority list as school technology innovator. Paying heed to tradition, primary school teachers may turn out highly skeptical of the whole idea. Aside from the tech issues, teachers will probably lack the practical skills for BYOD-based instruction. A rule of thumb here is to arrange a meeting with all (adult) stakeholders and show how a typical lesson will go.

Keep your hands on the metrics

It’s crucial to pull together relevant stats and patterns of BYOD deployment at your school, especially in the first months after kick-off. How many devices log in to the system daily, what websites and apps are being accessed? You’ll be surprised how this seemingly tedious information will help you reach your goals.

Make changes on the fly

From the tech perspective, your school infrastructure as it is may not be quite ready for the advent of BYOD. It’s not uncommon that administrators have to add more Wi-Fi points, firewalls and connectivity tools to cater to the growing number of operating devices. On the edu front, some instructional scenarios could perform in a completely different manner compared to battle-hardened brick-and-mortar models. This is perfectly fine, as there is always room for adjustments. For more considerations on the tech side, check out this article.

All in all, the success of the whole venture depends heavily on the goodwill of the school administration, as well as the parents’ attitude. BYOD schools vary widely based on their policies, infrastructure, approved technology and apps, and the level of flexibility. In any case, young learners will appreciate your efforts to make their school life more motivating. Sharing and discussing educational experiences, submitting papers and receiving assignments in 21st century fashion is something you can’t overlook. Last but not least: if you factor in the long-term cost-efficiency of digital devices against paper books, the transition to BYOD becomes even more compelling.