Is there an educational rationale for BYOD programs?

I spent the morning pouring over a number of blog and ISED listserv posts to try to catch up on the latest talk around the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device or BYOT – Technology) debate in education.

I found many comments and questions about support, requirements, a common set of applications, web-based applications and services, along with mention of how a BYOD moves things to a more student-centered approach as the device is of their own choosing.

For our 1:1 Learning Initiative we spent a lot of time talking through the reasons we were going down the road of providing every student with a device.  We wanted to be sure we were talking the learning first, not about the device.  Our focus would be on the learning process and how we would support that through training, professional development and teaching.

We went through a “Strawman” exercise where we looked at three options for our program before making our choice: standardized, a minimum system configuration and a BYOD approach.  We used this approach to play out each of the scenarios for these three program options, eventually adopting a standardized model.

We were very deliberate in how we talked about the program, referring to it as our 1:1 Learning Initiative.

I think this is a very important distinction to make.  It wasn’t a 1:1 Laptop Program, a 1:1 Tablet Program or a 1:1 iPad Program, it was a 1:1 Learning Program.  We wanted the ability to substitute any device as the 1:1 tool.

People say that the BYOD approach is a reflection of what they see in their own lives and in what is beyond school and can move certain aspects of more traditional programs way from the school.  What I haven’t read is an educational rational as to why  to go in this direction.  How it will support learning and effect professional development. Within many of the conversations there is an assumption that the kids know how to use the tools that they have and that they can handle things for themselves… I think this is flawed.

Mark Vitiello in a post to the ISED listserv said the following:

“…the schools that paved the way for 1:1 as we know it (those studied to compile the mountain of empirical data that now exists supporting 1:1) made significant investments in training, support, infrastructure, professional development, hardware and software. I attribute the overwhelming success and longevity of 1:1 in private schools to their leadership, vision, commitment and investment. I am concerned that the leadership of some schools, not necessarily yours, will implement a vision of BYOD that assumes little commitment and no investment on the part of the school.”

and when planning:

“…you; 1) visit other schools, 2) invest heavily in planning, 2) upgrade your infrastructure, 3) budget for ongoing professional development, 4) provide loaners, 5) arrange for some kind of helpdesk and 6) designate adequate and ongoing funding for a curriculum integration specialist(s) to support teachers in the classroom.”

Schools considering a BYOD need to do all of these things and in even great detail given the number of variables.  Some things to remember:

  1. Your BYOD should be well thought out, meet your learning goals, mission and match your schools culture.  No question is too small.
  2. Be as clear and transparent as you can about the decision and reason, outlining the expectations going in and the support and training (technical and pedagogically) that will AND won’t be available.  Limit surprises.
  3. Be sure to meet and communicate with as many constituent groups before, during and after the process as they will have valuable input.
  4. Seek outside help.  We visited multiple schools, attended The Laptop Institute – a 1:1 conference held each summer in Memphis, used online tools and measures as guides and using consultants where appropriate (see resources below for 1to1 Readiness Assessment Survey).
  5. Share what you learned. Be sure to share what you’ve learner through post to listservs, blogs, Twitter. Allow people to visit your school and learn from you.

1:1 programs are highly contextualized and if done right are grounded in they school’s mission, beliefs and culture. For our school, a BYOD approach didn’t match our culture of professional development and philosophy of embedded technology integration.  Programs that are focused on learning and preparing students for the world beyond school, regardless of the device… standardized or BYOD.

A Few Resources:

BYOD, Bring Your Own Digital Devices: The Next Wave in 1:1 Laptop learning in our schools? by Jonathan Martin (@jonathanemartin) –

ISED Listserv Thread: Bring Your Own Device 1:1 Environment –

Rogue IT in Education and the BYOD, DIY model. –

1to1 Readiness Assessment Survey from Educational Collaborators (EC) – – DISCLOSURE: I do consulting work for EC.


About William Stites

Currently the Director of Technology for Montclair Kimberley Academy, "Blogger in Chief" for, husband and father to two crazy kids who make me smile everyday.
This entry was posted in 1to1, Administration & Management, Schools and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • i put a lot of our rationale up on this blog

    I think a lot of the points you make about careful planning and implementation i would whole-heartedly support. i also do not make any claims of cost savings (although i spend a lot of time dis-spelling people of that assumption).

    at this point we have students doing educational activities on phones, laptops, tablets, and e-readers. we have teachers who are letting go of the “responsibility” (guilt) over not being technology experts, holding students accountable for accomplishing educationally appropriate tasks in a variety of forms, we also have a more open concepts computer applications/digital citizenship program that focuses on problem-solving and accomplishing goals rather than pushing specific buttons. 

    So far, so good.

    • JD – Thanks for the comment and sharing your blog.  The more information the better.  The problem-based learning approach is one in conversations as to the educational model followed/adopted in schools going the BYOD route.

      This does to me represent a need for significant professional development on how to make this teaching model work and it should be consistent with the school’s mission, goals and philosophy.  If it isn’t and school adopt the PBL approach TO support the BYOD I think they are going about things the wrong way… not saying you are or have.

      Thanks again. 

      • As the PD counter-part to JD’s geekness… The trick to PD in a BYOT environment is a lot of modeling, team teaching and conversation.  This is not an environment where I am push button training in front of an IWB in a computer lab.  I spend my day in one-to-one conversation with teachers.  I organize Tech Petting Zoos where teachers can stop in the Teacher Resource Center (with comfy chairs and coffee) and “pet” every tablet, laptop, e-reader, phone, device we can get our hands on.  We have a variety of devices and tools available to take home and spend time with.  JD and I go to department meetings to collaborate with faculty.  

        It is a high touch, very personalize way of offer profession development.  It absolutely requires PD to get out of central office and into the classroom – not as “the expert” but as a collaborative support person.  It requires personal relationship and trust between faculty and development.  In my 20 years, it’s a very different way of functioning.I also blog about this at 

        • Jen, thanks. I can imagine the the about of personalized PD that would be need to meet people where they are and in the context for what they want/need to learn to accomplish their goal(s).

          My biggest concern for schools taking on the BYOD model is that they are will to take on this ape of PD or one that meets these changing needs that would come from this type of program. 

          The amount of change is something to consider through this or any large scale initiative. 

          • Completely agree on the thought and considerations involved in large scale change initiatives!  We’re on year 3 and not done yet.  Truly a community process and not one to be taken lightly or carelessly.

  • MAC

    It’s Rationale, not Rational–To use Rational for Rationale is –well, it’s just not Rational.

    • I have a lot of ideas… I never said I could spell.  Thanks for the catch.