Defining BYOD – Bring Your Own Device

Defining BYOD

Everyone always asks me if I have evidence that BYOD is a good model. I used to say, “Not really.” Now, I just ask a few questions in response to that question, such as:

  1. Do you want to trade cars?
  2. Do you want to trade phones?
  3. Do you want my laptop for the day?

No one has ever said YES to any of those questions. The reason being that ownership is an innately powerful concept. If it is yours, you will master it, care for it, and depend on it.  This is one of the main reasons BYOD programs are gaining popularity.

A problem with BYOD is that many schools believe they are heading down a new path, but in reality they are simply putting a different spin on an old paradigm. Instead of me telling you what BYOD is, let me tell you what it is not. If any of these statements are true then the school is not running a BYOD program:

  1. The school owns the laptops or devices and gives them to the students.
  2. The school requires all the students to buy the same laptop.
  3. The school requires all the students to buy the same laptop, and the purchasing is done through the school.
  4. The school allows students to buy anything they want, as long as it has wifi. (Yes they are bringing their own device, but this is equivalent to telling people they can bring buckets of water to a forest fire.)
  5. The school allows students to choose devices in a specific range of quality and performance, but then requires school-owned and-managed security software to run on the machine.

Numbers 1, 2, and 3 are 1-to-1 programs, not BYOD programs. 1-to-1 has been around a very long time. It has created many opportunities for many students and such programs level the playing field in terms of educational technology standards on a given campus. However, 1-to-1 does not meet the philosophical and pedagogical standards of a BYOD program. More on that later.

Number 4 is what I have heard many under resourced schools in lower income areas attempt. This is a violation of the number one principle of a BYOD program, which will remain a mystery until the list is thoroughly criticized.

Number 5 is a good start, but then the paranoia slides in. The technology staff or the administrators are only wanting BYOD on the surface, probably to save money. They still will not allow users to have the freedom required for a successful BYOD program.

Enough of the foreshadowing;  let’s get to what BYOD should be about: creating equal opportunities.

The number one rule for starting a BYOD program is not to focus on the money. If the focus is on the school saving money then the program will fail. It will fail because there is only short term monetary gain.

The goal of any BYOD program is to make sure all students have equal access to the resources owned by the school, can create the content required by the curriculum on and off campus, and have the freedom to switch between life at school and life outside of school.

That is all there is to it. You should feel good now, because you should have felt the power of something simple.

Anyone who truly wants to serve the needs of students cannot deny that those principles should be at the center of every part of the educational experience. Unfortunately, they are often overshadowed by politics, greed, or laziness.

If you really want a BYOD program to work, it must work on the merits of opportunity, work ethic, and freedom.

Tony DePrato

4 thoughts on “Defining BYOD – Bring Your Own Device”

  1. Great post. This is a fantastic conversation that I have just recently joined. I have a few troubles with a BYOD approach (or at least my conception of it).

    1) It seems like it would put a tremendous strain on the tech support on camus. Having no control over the type of machine that we would need to support seems like it would be a bit dangerous. Less control means much more difficult troubleshooting.

    2) I would be concerned that students would not get equal access to the resources that the school owns. Without being able to control the machine that they are using, how do I know that their particular machine will be compatible with our resources? It seems to me that it would be impossible to plan for every contingency.

    3) I feel that they must be some cutoff line for machines. First off, is everyone required to bring a device? If so, what do you do if someone walks in with a 20 year old Windows 3.1 tower? Granted this is a little extreme, but eventually there has to be a student whose tech just can’t handle what it is being asked to do.

    Speaking as someone who has experience with the repercussions of BYOD, and would conceivably run into issues like this on a daily basis, how do you handle these types of issues?

    1. I just wrote a book on BYOD. Would you like a copy of the pdf version?
      It is free, I just haven’t started any publicity yet.

      BYOD is actually great, and so many issues fade away- of done correctly.

      If you want a copy email me at:

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