BYOD (Bring Your Own Disprin)

My job means I get to play around all day with a nice mix of technology and education.  It means that I need to know about lots of emerging and developing technologies, theories, ways of teaching and learning, hardware, software…and so on, and it also means that I need to be (seen as) positive and optimistic about all things digital, which I always try to be.  And yet, when I stumbled across this post on the JISC RSC Wales blog yesterday, it made me feel as if a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders:


Click image to access post

For a number of years now, teaching and learning with mobile devices-now referred to as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD-Because Education Needs Acronyms) has been a constant theme.  It has also been something I have willfully ignored, because BYOD has always felt to me like a massive and incredibly knotty topic as well as a way of working that sounds both time consuming and tricky to manage.  Past experience has taught me that the IT infrastructure (well, the internet) in most institutions isn’t quite ‘fat’ enough or fast enough to deal with the volume of data pinging back and forth. Teachers have to find a way to get students with a massive range of skills levels to do the same thing on a variety of devices working on a variety of operating systems.  And this opens up a veritable shed full of possible problems.

What if, for example, using an all singing and dancing app sounds fine in theory…but it isn’t available on all operating systems (Microsoft, I’m looking at you)?

What if the WiFi signal is weak or keeps dropping out? What if your students are having trouble connecting their device to the Internet? I did a demo for a browser based quiz (using Kahoot) with a group of PGCE sessions recently, thinking that bypassing branded apps and sticking to the one thing all mobile devices have-the internet-would keep things quick and simple.  What I thought would take no more than 10 minutes took closer to 30 because, despite the wealth of mobile devices present in the classroom, half the class just couldn’t get their devices to connect to the WiFi. We got there in the end, but were I being observed I would have received a right talking to at the end of the session.

It’s the easiest thing in the world to assume that everyone can use every aspect of their device, from Internet settings to film editing apps, but usually the truth is quite different.  Owners with the smartest of gadget will likely admit to only using it for phone calls / text messages / Facebook / taking photos. So assuming that all students can use their gadgets to the full is blinkered, naive, and possibly arrogant. Actually, assuming that all teachers have more than a working knowledge of how all mobile devices work is really asking the impossible.  Because surely for an activity to work, this has to be the case doesn’t it?

And what if there are more students than devices? It may be good to have a spare iPad available to give to someone without their own tablet…but if they have no tablet, they probably have even less idea how to use the shiny and slightly scary tablet the lecturer has proudly put in front of you than those mentioned above. And do students want to be picked out by their tutor and peers, for whatever reason, as ‘the one who still hasn’t got a smartphone’?

Equality of access is more than ensuring that everyone has a device in front of them. Students with physical and special learning needs make deployment of the right devices and software vital…and more complicated.  There can be accessibility issues beyond connection speed too.  ‘Blackboard’ can be accessed through a browser, but is an incredibly frustrating site to use on a device with a screen as large as an iPad, so must be hellish on a BlackBerry.  It can also be accessed via an app, but only on an Apple or Android-powered device, so is no good for people using Microsoft devices. And bingo!  We have an inequality of service issue.

So I completely and utterly understand why teachers don’t bother. And I know that I should slap on my positive face and try to convince them that this is how (someone) has decided our students will learn BEST from now on, so get on board because you don’t want to get a reputation as an educational dinosaur. And if the shed full of problems wasn’t there, I would.

I don’t want to be seen as a Luddite, and there are some common sense approaches to BYOD mentioned in the following articles, so I’ll finish up by linking to these, thereby leaving on a more positive note.

UFI Charitable Trust: Primer on Bring Your Own Device – 7 reasons to leave them to their own devices (advocates letting students use their own devices in ways that suit them as a means of learning rather than trying to deliver lessons with prescriptive ‘you need a mobile device, this app and a working knowledge of network troubleshooting t0o do this’ content.

Donald Clark: Keep on taking the tablets – 7 reasons why this is lousy advice (there must be something magical about the number 7!  Quite liking the author’s conclusion:  “I’m not against the use of tablets in schools, I just think that turning it into a ‘movement’ is a mistake and that too many of these projects are poorly planned, badly procured and lack proper evaluation.”)

I Wuv my iPad

I’ve had my iPad since the day before they were released in the UK. I
think Apple sent them out early, assuming they’d arrive on the actual
day, but my postman was on amphetamines and he arrived before he
should. Or something. Plus, it is an original iPad, so in
Technological Time and Space (TTS) it’s now an antique. David
Dickinson’s stood outside my door even as I type with a crumpled
twenty pound note and a business card. When I bought it I justified the expense by telling myself it was a
40th birthday present, 40 being a milestone and everything. I kept
repeating this to myself every time my inner voice said “but what are
you going to use it for? You have 3 laptops and you’re just being
greedy”. When it arrived I picked it up with my right hand and
pressed the home button with my left. It’s rarely left those hands

You see, this antiquated device is the centre of my world. It goes
everywhere with me because it can. Its size and weight go unnoticed in
my luggage, my work bag and even my “KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON SHOPPING”
book bag (£5.99, Waterstones). It goes on the Internet everywhere.
Well everywhere there’s a wifi network I can hook up to or a mobile
signal that’s strong enough to withstand some hardcore Facebook
action. I still feel happy when I’m on a train and online within
seconds without having to lug out a laptop and dithering with my
dongle (matron). Actually…I feel quite smug when I see other
passengers doing their own dithering. “Ah yes, I’ve found the site you
mentioned. Yes, been online for a while now. You still waiting for
your laptop to boot up?” This smugness is very often destroyed by me
then physically deflating as I follow up with: “Oh I’ve lost the
signal.” I’m rambling.

Trains (and the bath if one is very careful) are also good places to
watch films on the iPad’s onboard HD video player. I’d never have
heard of Gavin and Stacey were it not for the nifty BBC iPlayer app,
and thanks to iTunes I was then able to download series 1, 2 and 3 and
the Christmas Special. At an extortionate price. My professional self
can send emails and do work stuff using iWorks before emailing the
documents to myself in their counterpart Office format. I have taken
part in meetings on Skype (voice or text only mind-I don’t have one of
those fancy iPod 2 gizmos), read the entire ‘Adrian Mole’ back
catalogue on iBooks and last week I finally completed Final Fantasy
III. Infinity Blade’s pretty good too, but I’m rubbish at it. Facebook, Dropbox, Twitter, Prezi, BBC News, StumbleUpon (a guilty
pleasure), Kindle, Slideshare, Gotomeeting and Corkulous. Oh my,
Corkulous rocks! Multi coloured PostIt notes you drag onto a cork
board that can be emailed to you in Jpeg or PDF format (unless, like
me, your iPad is with you AT ALL TIMES!). I’ve used it as an ongoing
‘To Do’ list for a over a year now.

GarageBand! I have no musical talent. I actually have negative musical
talent. With GarageBand I am Trent Reznor! Or so I think. YouTube, 4OD, ITV Player, Sky News, ComicLife and Halftone: both
really fun, really simple ways of turning images into comic strips,
Idea Sketch and Edistorm (mind mapping), Show Me (an electronic
whiteboard that can record the user’s onscreen actions), Polldaddy….

…this is why I have become almost surgically attached to my iPad and
why I have more than halved my laptop usage. I wrote this post on my
iPad and I can, hand on heart, say that I did not waste my money. Phew!