Go back to school with mobile: BYOD in education

By Jenni Klinger, on


As students return to school, most will have notebook computers, smartphones and tablets in tow as they participate in the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend. This idea isn’t just reserved for university students — research from Bradford Networks reported that 85 percent of educational institutions (including K–12 and colleges/universities) accept at least some level of BYOD. By implementing tools students already enjoy using, educators can provide a more modern, hands-on learning environment.

However, any new policy comes with its advantages and disadvantages. BYOD in education is especially important because it involves students who depend on devices for their academics, communications and access to the network.

Benefits of BYOD in education

  • Create a deeper association between technology and learning
    On a flight, in the park or at a restaurant, you’re likely to see a child being entertained by a handheld device, transfixed by an interactive game or educational app. Just like millennials, today’s school-aged children are digital natives. A study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that nearly 97 percent of children ages six months to four years have used a mobile device. By showing students at an early age that these devices are fun but can also be used for learning, collaborating and creating, educators will be able to start instilling these values in them.
  • Require less school spending on devices
    As more students participate in BYOD, schools will need to spend less money on devices. This could mean the end of the “computer lab” era. Freeing up already tight budgets allows schools to spend more money on technology training for teachers or larger technology installations. This also means less overhead for schools.
  • Give students the opportunity to get work-ready
    Not only will students associate technology with productivity, but they will also become more competitive in the job market. Students are often encouraged to use mobile apps to communicate and collaborate with peers on group projects. They’ll learn how to work remotely, which will influence how they work when they have jobs. Working remotely is becoming a benefit of choice for many employees, and companies are responding with more remote job offerings, according to The New York Times.

Risks of students bringing their own devices

  • Security
    With any BYOD initiative, there will be security concerns. For instance, students’ devices could contain malicious viruses that could reach the school’s network and access other zones, such as administration and accounting. When it comes to the physical devices themselves, younger students’ sense of responsibility isn’t fully developed, and these expensive devices can get lost, stolen or ruined. Schools will need to implement new procedures for keeping devices secure.
  • Device costs
    Where does BYOD leave students who can’t afford their own devices? It can leave them dependent on on-campus computer labs, public libraries and device rentals at schools that have such a program. Schools and universities must ensure they have financial assistance programs and adequate access to technology for students who can’t afford their own devices.
  • Technology distractions
    If you’re participating in a BYOD program and use your personal mobile device for business, you likely have social media, games and other distracting apps on that same device. Those apps are enticing! They’re even more so for young students who haven’t yet learned how to prioritize or have trouble focusing. Programs and apps can be used to block access to certain sites, and policies can be put in place that limit access to distracting content.

Future outlook

So, what does the future have in store for BYOD in education? As technology continues its advancement through APIs, software, hardware and everything in between, more educational institutions will embrace technology and encourage students to bring their own devices.

About The Author

Jenni Klinger

Blog Manager, Mobile Business Insights, IBM

Jenni Klinger is a web content specialist with experience managing blogs and social media. She's worked with tech start-ups creating editorial calendars, blog posts and web content plans. Prior to joining IBM, she worked at a university in Australia, creating email campaigns and long-term content strategies.

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