BYOD Questions to Consider

The buzz in 1-to-1 right now is about BYOD — Bring Your Own Device — and it’s not a fad and it’s not going away. There’s a con­ver­gence of fac­tors caus­ing it including:

  • Hard­ware is diverse and at price points that are more affordable
  • Schools are hyper bud­get conscious
  • The “cloud” (pre­vi­ously called The Inter­net, the Web and the Infor­ma­tion Super­high­way) is ideal for core apps which are free or inex­pen­sive with such as Google (although be sure to use GAFE), and Zoho
  • Par­ents are real­iz­ing that a dig­i­tal device is nec­es­sary for learning
  • Schools want to be sure stu­dents pos­sess 21st Cen­tury skills

But BYOD upsets apple carts right and left. We’ve been build­ing school infra­struc­tures for a long time that have sup­ported a data-centric model in that IT direc­tors allow or dis­al­low devices on the school net­work accord­ing to a set model which is partly about good design and sup­port, partly about sup­port­ing what already exists and partly about not tak­ing on new projects or approaches that require more work, resources, and skill sets. And I’ve been a tech direc­tor in schools so know first­hand that open­ing a can of worms when it impacts the net­work, the laptop/desktop stan­dard­iza­tion, and the hard­ware replace­ment plan is not some­thing many peo­ple will relish.

But then there are the stu­dents. They grow and develop and move to the next grade level and out the door to col­lege and to life. They need to be empow­ered and learn in an envi­ron­ment that encour­ages them to think and write and research and pub­lish and present and ana­lyze and cre­ate new ideas and solu­tions to prob­lems. They also need to own and under­stand the vehi­cles used for learn­ing. So this might mean BYOD.

In order for BYOD to work well there must be a strong part­ner­ship between admin­is­tra­tion, Board mem­bers, teach­ers, tech­nol­ogy, stu­dents, and par­ents. Every­one is going to be impacted by 1-to-1 no mat­ter how it is imple­mented, whether BYOD or a stan­dard hard­ware plat­form either pro­vided or spec­i­fied by the school or dis­trict. But with BYOD it’s likely you are going to see some push­back from tech­nol­ogy peo­ple because of the com­plex­ity, change, work, plan­ning and resources required. So here are some ques­tions to consider:

  • Have you vis­ited a BYOD school or district?
    • If not a team with rep­re­sen­ta­tive stake­hold­ers should do so armed with lots of questions
  • Are you already using Google or Zoho or some cloud solution?
    • With­out cloud apps BYOD is going to be nearly impos­si­ble to imple­ment in a mean­ing­ful way
      • You need the entire school/district com­mu­nity to be able to com­mu­ni­cate, pub­lish, present and share centrally
  • How will you define BYOD?
    • Will there be a min­i­mum device or specification?
    • Will smart­phones be one of the devices?
  • How’s your net­work — is it ready for
    • Wifi every­where with mul­ti­ple roam­ing wire­less devices
    • Cen­tral­ized data secu­rity (Bar­racuda, Light­speed, etc.)
  • How will you address logistics?
    • Will stu­dents be charged with keep­ing their devices charged, ready and safe/secure?
    • Will you have “loaner” devices?
    • Will devices be locked up somewhere/somehow dur­ing lunch, tests, sports?
  • How’s your curriculum?
    • Are teach­ers already used to assign­ments in Google and in using online social media tools so that stu­dent work is already free of hard­ware require­ments — and hap­pen­ing in “the cloud”?
  • How’s your dig­i­tal cit­i­zen­ship education?
    • Do stu­dents already know how to keep a respect­ful appro­pri­ate dig­i­tal footprint?
      • In my book I talk about L.A.R.K. — tech­nol­ogy use by stu­dents should be L — Legal, A — Appro­pri­ate, R — Respon­si­ble, K — Kind
  • How’s your com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nel with par­ents, students?
    • If the device is pur­chased, main­tained, repaired and man­aged by par­ents and stu­dents, it’s going to be impor­tant to com­mu­ni­cate often and well
  • How’s your budget?
    • Unless you have planned fully for the changes of BYOD you might be blind­sided by some upgrades or unex­pected costs so make sure to ask these ques­tions when you are vis­it­ing BYOD schools

There are ter­rific schools that have been BYOD for years, The Harker School in San Jose comes to mind for instance. Many peo­ple I respect have been writ­ing about BYOD includ­ing William Stites who posted this blog post for Edu­ca­tional Col­lab­o­ra­tors early this year, Lisa Nielsen who wrote about debunk­ing BYOD for T.H.E. Jour­nal and a recent arti­cle in Dis­trict Admin­is­tra­tor starts with a quote from Lucy Gray who I respect very much — this entire arti­cle by the way is an impor­tant read. The Lap­top Insti­tute which is highly rec­om­mended will have threads this sum­mer in Mem­phis on BYOD.

BYOD can be a solu­tion if you do your plan­ning and home­work and try to fig­ure out up front exactly what you’re get­ting into and plan care­fully. You’ll want to be ready to rethink your net­work as not being about enabling a few mod­els of spe­cific con­trol­lable devices but instead as a path­way to the cloud where your school/district-wide learn­ing com­mu­nity resides.

- Pamela Livingston


  1. RG says:

    Great arti­cle. Our school, the newest in our rel­a­tively small county has the best IT infra­struc­ture, but even then it would be over­whelmed by hun­dreds of stu­dents log­ging on to the network.

    But that brings me to two other ques­tions to con­sider:
    1. School board pol­icy. The admin­is­tra­tive team and teach­ers at my school would have no prob­lem allow­ing for some BYOD usage, but our school board pol­icy pro­hibits this. I’m not sure we can per­suade them to change their poli­cies at this time.

    2. Even if we were able to change pol­icy, the issue of equity between schools would arise. Some of our older schools don’t have the IT infra­struc­ture to sup­port BYOD while oth­ers do.

    We’re hop­ing that we can move towards BYOD, but I think we’re still years away in our system.

  2. Cary Harrod says:

    We’re almost through our sec­ond year of our BYOL pro­gram and although it’s been an enor­mous endeavor, I wouldn’t trade it for any­thing! We are see­ing small glim­mers of hope for learn­ing spaces that reflect what it really means to learn…where stu­dents own the learning…where pas­sions are unleashed. You can learn more by read­ing this arti­cle: We also have a web­site that is in the process of being re-imagined but feel free to check it out: It is my belief that we are all in this together and so, should work along­side each other to make sure we’re suc­cess­ful. Thanks so much, Pam, for the work you do!

  3. RG yes if the Board has poli­cies against BYOD that will be an obsta­cle. I won­der when and why they wrote the poli­cies. Was it to pre­vent cell phones? Were they wor­ried about the integrity of the net­work? Were they con­cerned that stu­dents would bring in devices that might be stolen? When would be inter­est­ing too to see what hap­pened before the pol­icy — it may have been before apps went online. The equity between schools can be a tough one unless you decide to pilot at one loca­tion and fig­ure things out when it’s more of a win-win in terms of infra­struc­ture. Good luck and thanks for commenting.

    Cary thanks for you com­ments. The arti­cle brings up two areas I didn’t — PD for teach­ers, and the equity issue. Most definetely fac­tors in suc­cess, and things to be addressed. I think you have another great exam­plar there in For­est Hills, OH — pre­pare for vis­i­tors (grin.) Thanks very much for shar­ing both links.

    It feels now like the next gen­er­a­tion of 1-to-1 but with­out plan­ning and really think­ing it out we won’t see suc­cess. 1-to-1 can’t be about the device it has to be about edu­ca­tion and what hap­pens in the class­room and how hav­ing a dig­i­tal assis­tant 24/7 enhances teach­ing and learning.

  4. Adam Heckler says:

    Good arti­cle!

    I work for a K12 tech­nol­ogy out­sourc­ing firm that’s been deal­ing with a lot of these issue recently (tak­ing schools to GAFE, try­ing to build up wire­less infra­struc­ture, and so on). In fact, our lead engi­neer wrote a blog post about it not too long ago that’s quite sim­i­lar to this one. You can read it here if you want:

    – Adam

  5. Pam Livingst says:

    Thanks, Adam, for this link. I like how your lead engi­neer goes more in depth into the tech­ni­cal side of things. This must be addressed for BYOD to work well. Hop­ing the tech folks will look closely at your link and at the chal­lenges of BYOD along with the advan­tages to school­wide seam­less learn­ing through the cloud.

    It’s great that the com­ments here have fur­thered and deep­ened the infor­ma­tion from the orig­i­nal post.

    - Pamela

  6. Excel­lent arti­cle. will be sure to retweet.

    Our school is in year one of BYOT with a vol­un­tary trial while we burn in the sys­tem, give teach­ers a chance to play and work on lessons/curriculum in prepa­ra­tion for 1:1 BYOT next year (with finan­cial sup­port for iden­ti­fied stu­dents who can­not bring their own device).

    I like the break­down of infra­struc­ture and class­room issues. We had two years of prepa­ra­tion and con­ver­sa­tion before we were ready to make this move.

  7. JD you bring up a great point — finan­cial sup­port for stu­dents who can­not afford BYOD (or BYOT.) Hav­ing man­aged 1-to-1 with finan­cial sup­port, I would sug­gest a way to not make the finan­cial sup­ported device the same one, so kids don’t notice “oh that’s for the poor kids” (not my think­ing at all — just a repeat of what I’d heard.) OR maybe schools think­ing this way can buy in bulk sev­eral mod­els, offer them to par­ents who aren’t sure what to pur­chase at the cost the school paid, and sub­si­dize some of them as well. Stigma is some­thing to always try to avoid.

    Thanks for extend­ing the con­ver­sa­tion!
    – Pamela

  8. Steve Hayes says:

    Great arti­cle! You and your read­ers are wel­come to join #BYOTchat on Twit­ter every Thurs­day at 9 PM (ET). For more info visit


  9. Steve thanks for the hash­tag great to know about this. I will stop by and hope oth­ers read­ing these com­ments will also

    - Pamela

  10. […] BYOD Ques­tions to Con­sider | 1 to 1 Schools […]

  11. […] Pamela Liv­ingston was orig­i­nally posted on the blog 1 to 1 Schools. To see the ini­tial post, please click here. Pamela Liv­ingston is the Pro­fes­sional Devel­op­ment Man­ager on the K-12 Team here at […]

  12. It’s amaz­ing how quickly the par­a­digm has shifted toward bring your own device. In Octo­ber 2010 I wrote this post for 1:1 Schools and at the time, BYOL seemed like a for­eign con­cept.
    I still remem­ber that stan­dard­iza­tion was the key fea­ture of a 1:1 pro­gram. Our school is now in our third year of a BYOL envi­ron­ment and we con­tinue to improve the qual­ity of teach­ing and learn­ing daily. We stopped hav­ing the dis­cus­sion about stan­dard­iz­ing devices and have moved for­ward. It now seems pretty nat­ural. BTW — The Amer­i­can School of Bom­bay which has had a lap­top pro­gram for over ten years has decided to move to BYOL for next year. I con­sider them to be a leader in edu­ca­tion for today’s world and this is a land­mark deci­sion in my mind. They cer­tainly have the resources to con­tinue to do what they doing. They have decided that this change is best for their stu­dents. No turn­ing back now. Thanks, Pam for the post.

  13. Blair, I remem­ber your post­ing and some of the ear­lier dis­cus­sions. I knew about ASB going to BYOL but not that your school was as well. It solves the issue we had when I ran a 1-to-1 schools — stu­dents leave/surrender lap­top. The par­ents then would call me right away for the rec­om­mended model because once a stu­dent is using a dig­i­tal assis­tant con­tin­u­ally for learn­ing it becomes like a right hand and can’t sud­denly be sev­ered just because of grad­u­a­tion or mov­ing to another school.

    Thanks for join­ing the conversation,


  14. Shabbi Luthra says:

    ASB is an estab­lished 1-to-1 Tablet PC pro­gram for ten years and we’re going BYOD next year in all MS/HS grades as well as optional BYOD in grades 4 and 5. We’ve been work­ing towards it for a while. We had to first move most of our soft­ware to the cloud so the tran­si­tion was easy. There’s a lot of excite­ment and buzz at the school about the move. The tech dept is excited too as man­age­ment of devices now shifts to own­ers and they’re work­load is reduced and their work is trans­formed. They can actu­ally now take a sum­mer break!

  15. Shabbi, thanks so much for adding that link to the con­ver­sa­tion. ASB is indeed a highly-respected long-established 1-to-1 loca­tion and your going BYOD gives more evi­dence to the hard­ware inde­pen­dent “tip” now hap­pen­ing in schools. Look­ing for­ward to see you at and to your par­tic­i­pa­tion in the “Prac­ti­tioner Panel” we’ll be hav­ing in one of the sessions.

  16. […] BYOD Ques­tions to Con­sider is an arti­cle by Pam Liv­ingston set­ting out ques­tions which she rec­om­mends that schools con­sider when plan­ning for Bring Your Own Device to incor­po­rate pupil-owned devices in teach­ing and learning. […]

  17. […] Help­ful Link Posted on June 27, 2012 by hale5244 The Ohio School Board Asso­ci­a­tion posted this link on their Twit­ter feed this morn­ing. Our school it… […]

  18. […] devices includ­ing tablets, lap­tops, smart phones and the com­plex­ity that ensues. This pre­vi­ous post went into some of the issues faced by schools when intro­duc­ing BYOD; the com­ments provide […]

  19. […] ubiq­ui­tous devices includ­ing tablets, lap­tops, smart phones and the com­plex­ity that ensues. This pre­vi­ous post went into some of the issues faced by schools when intro­duc­ing BYOD, the com­ments pro­vide more […]

  20. I am not cer­tain the place you are get­ting your infor­ma­tion, but
    great topic. I must spend a while study­ing more or fig­ur­ing out more.
    Thanks for fan­tas­tic info I was search­ing for this info for my mission.

  21. It is actu­ally faster to copy from server to local and
    then back to server again. How­ever, the 3d ani­ma­tion soft­wares are high-priced,
    par­tic­u­larly, apps made by well-known com­pa­nies spe­cial­iz­ing
    in gen­er­at­ing ani­ma­tions. A keen inter­net user will always remain on the look out of a good qual­ity new soft­ware to upgrade
    his system.

  22. Today, I went to the beach­front with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daugh­ter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear
    and screamed. There was a her­mit crab inside and it pinched her ear.

    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally off
    topic but I had to tell someone!

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