BYOD to the classroom: helping or hindering our kids learning?

The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) programs are currently being rolled out across schools worldwide in an attempt to bring the benefits of advancing technologies into the classrooms. The level at which these programs are being introduced is varying, some starting as early as prep or first year primary school, whilst others are rolling out the changes much later into the upper primary or early secondary years.

At recent cyber safety talks, I have been asked numerous questions about the BYOD programs. Many parents are finding themselves about to embark on sending their little preppies off to school on day 1 with a brand new ipad or tablet, purchased by themselves.   Naturally they have concerns and questions about their feasibility, benefits, risks, challenges and safety. How do we maximise the benefits of the technology, whilst minimising the harm of a pretty big responsibility with increasingly younger children ? What do the teachers think about the devices in the classroom? And what must schools do to ensure they are still providing the best environments for children to learn?


The positive reasons for BYOD

  •  Teachers are able to engage students in a way that is relevant to them. It is a familiar tool that they have usually used outside the classroom and thus the transition is smooth.
  • Allows for different presentations of work. More scope for the way information can be used and presented. i.e. essay form, video, slideshow etc.
  • Encourages teachers to be flexible in their teaching methods
  • There are lots of free apps, offering a lot of versatility
  • Greater chance for more creativity even with ‘non creative’ subjects
  • Less paper usage/wastage . Able to email class worksheets rather than printing, or use dropbox, Edmodo and other apps to share work
  • Great for kids with literacy issues, learning issues and other disabilities
  • No need to book computer rooms at schools, schools not having to fund and replace computers
  • Not overwhelmed by paperwork, a lot of worksheets online can be seen as less daunting
  • Develops students sense of curiosity. Always happy to google things to find answers
  • Easy to transport/ lighter than heavy textbooks


The Potential Problems with BYOD

  •  Keeping them on track and avoiding the distractions will often be difficult
  • Expensive, especially if you are sending a few kids to school (although many will argue that the costs are saved on text books and other stationary)
  • Losing them……a tad more expensive than a lost school jumper!
  • Breakage…those of us with boys have seen the way they throw their bags on the ground
  • Lack of monitoring/understanding by parents of what their kids are doing with the devices when not at school


Considerations to minimise the bad and enhance the good

  • A great chance to develop good digital citizenship and policy for schools and home use. The BYOD program would need parents to become more active in finding our what their kids are doing online and how they are using the technology.
  • Teachers would need to have strict systems and boundaries in classrooms. i.e. no student opens an ipad/tablet until instructed.
  • Teachers must be selective about how they use them and how much they devote to the technology and balance this with more traditional forms of teaching.
  • Teachers would need to make sure they were not using the device as the sole teaching tool.
  • Students still need to write in books.
  • Teachers must maintain control in the classroom and this must be backed up by parents enforcing similar rules at home.
  • Parents must continue to attend regular talks and presentations so they can keep up with the sorts of things kids are doing with the technology and stay in touch with the changes. They need to continue to monitor usage at home which requires a continued level of conversation and understanding
  • It also needs to ensure that teachers are adequately supported and trained in the technology and that it isn’t taking them away from other valuable lessons and teachings.

Many secondary schools have been using devices as part of their teachings for some time now. To see what advice they had for parents and other teachers taking on devices in their classroom I have interviewed some teachers from both the public and private school systems. Here are some of their responses to working with technology in the classroom:


“I think BYOD at a primary level is a terrible idea. Firstly, the students are not mature enough to cope with the constant distraction that instant digital media/comms creates. Nightmare. Secondly, it will create competition and coveting for the latest device. And lastly, there are serious implications for privacy and security”


“Our generation has expectations for control that simply are outdated. Apps can’t be blocked for long enough as the students can find new alias sites as fas as IT can block. So we need to teach students to self manage device distraction. Handing them BYOD is like giving a toddler a loaded gun but saying ‘don’t fire it’. They don’t have the brain capacity/maturity to be consent of this until year 9 at least. Hence I don’t believe in iPads/laptops until Year 9 either. At best, parents can offer devices to young children at home and teach them appropriate usage- and how the brain learns, and how distraction works to hinder learning”

“Without a doubt- unquestionably- it is much much more difficult to teach with the technology”

“Although most teachers don’t monitor apps, stay up to date. Simply b/c of time- we are expected to teach with the same outcomes- but really- we need 6 mths of planning time to re-create all courses for iPads/technology- noone has that- so it is incorporated.  Technology always created more problems than it solves educationally.  We use it when we want, but nothing can replace real human interaction, passionate teaching”

“There is a greater opportunity for kids to be off-task as it is very easy to toggle between games, texting and work set by the teacher. Internet research, presentation of work through a variety of means offered by the technology are all great advances and will prepare students for a world that is different from the one we experienced. It does however come at a cost. Faith in the veracity of what is found on the internet, exam response still written by hand and cyber dangers all still need to be considered”


“Using the internet for Business Management and Legal studies is extremely relevant and beneficial. Google for example have an excellent recruitment video that reveals a totally different work culture to other organisations. Videos become a great starting point for comparison and discussion”


“There are subject areas in which technology is more relevant and useful than others. In the humanities and LOTE areas I feel it is hugely overrated. If I had 2 French LOTE classes of equal ability and was allowed to teach one using textbooks and one using ipads I would back the former every time in terms of achieving better outcomes. Unlike 30 years before, textbooks now are lively, well written and full of diagrams, photos and pictures. The tasks and questions are of a high standard. Sometimes I feel textbooks are abandoned because it is “the thing to do”


“Whilst the technology at the moment is the conventional wisdom, in some circles, to doubt this wisdom puts one at risk of being labelled a dinosaur or perhaps not coping with change. This can make meaningful debate difficult”


The debate must continue however as more and more schools require kids to bring their own devices. We must continue to ensure that the problems we have been seeing with their use are addressed by students, parents, teachers and schools to ensure a smooth transition and an assurance that we are giving kids the very best of what the technology offers, without compromising the safety and effectiveness of their learning environment.

What are your thoughts about BYOD? What are the experiences of your children thus far? Would a schools policy on whether they adopted this program determine whether you would send your kids to a particular school? If you are a teacher, what are your experiences? 


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This Post Has 22 Comments

  1. Eleise

    I think it is terrible. It really separates parents on what they can afford. I also think kids learn technology so quickly they don’t really need to have lessons with it.

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      I agree Eleise that it is another way to differentiate between those that can and cant afford. I know there is supposed to be funding available for those unable to afford it, but it still makes it difficult for those that have many children but may not qualify.

  2. Deb @ Home life simplified

    wow i think it is a big ask of parents to provide devices across the board- i would hope there would be some way to cover families that cannot afford this. also i think kids look at so many screens already i hope that they don’t go overboard with usage – there is a lot that can still be achieved using he smartboards without having primary kids toting expensive devices to school!

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      I think the ‘going overboard’ is probably one of the biggest concerns for many parents Deb. We would hope that a balance with other teaching methods is something all teaching try to achieve.

  3. Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me

    I think our school waits til they are a bit older to do this. They all have access to school iPads, 12 in each classroom and I’m happy with that for now. I think at such a young age it should be more about pen and paper and learning to write letters! I love the info I got out of reading this though, thanks xxx

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      I agree leaving it later does seem more sensible, especially seeing as so many schools have them that they can access anyway.

  4. Kate

    As a teacher, I love and hate BYOD. It is difficult to help a student if something goes wrong and it is a different type of device to the one I have. Also, as soon as you rely on them for a lesson, the wireless inevitably goes down or something. I love the way they engage different types of learners though and facilitate informed discussions in the classroom. I teach middle school kids though so not sure what I think about the logistics of little kids having them. Great info here though, I’ve learned something for sure!

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Yes it is always the technology that we are most worried about as it is the one thing we often have little control over. I know myself when I am giving a presentation, I never worry about what I have to say or present, it is usually whether the tech stuff will go to plan that causes the bigger concern!

  5. Tegan

    I think it’s a terrible idea. It opens up so many more avenues for bullying through social media. It’s easier for a student to send a nasty message when it’s done via a device than having to actually say it out loud, potentially alerting the teacher. I know what I was like as a teenager and used to spend more time on the computer playing games than actual work so introducing a device that has hundreds of thousands of games on it is just asking for trouble.

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Some very valid concerns Tegan. Unfortunately it becomes yet another thing that teachers have to monitor and keep under control.

  6. Schenoa

    I’m really trying to embrace the concept that devices are and will be an integral part of learning for our children. My initial reaction is that my stomach flips and I cringe at all the boundaries I will have to reinforce to protect my children. Then my heart sinks as I think of all the other children mine will interact with that won’t have any or very relaxed limits with their devices. I wish there was more support for parents to be experts in this area and feel empowered and capable, unlike myself. I feel overwhelmed. My goal is to attend as many information sessions as possible and ask lots of questions. Knowledge is power.

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Absolutely knowledge is power. It is often difficult getting parents to even attend information sessions in the first place which makes it difficult. When i speak to parent groups they are always amazed at how little they know and how they thought they had more time.

  7. Hannah Elliott

    I am a year 4 teacher and we have implemented the BYODD project this year. In my experience it has really enhanced the students creativity and allowed students to take control of their own learning. The students in year 4 still write in books and read hard copy books but now they also have the chance to learn at their own pace, and myself as a teacher have the opportunity to inspire the students when they are learning. As a teacher I have embraced this project and changed my own pedagogy and become a 21st century teacher and learner. It is time to embrace this project and experience how it will enhance your child’s learning.

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