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BYOD: The “Now” of Education?

by Neil Finney

Throughout North America, we are turning to the students to bring us into the “now” of education. Using BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) initiatives, our schools are attempting to increase the number of smartphones, tablets and laptops that we have on hand. As a way of managing shrinking budgets and improving student engagement, BYOD could represent the next great frontier in education. Here are two considerations when getting started:

 BYOD: Policy-Setting Clear Boundaries to Avoid Confusion

Create a school-wide policy of “zones” that dictate the level of student device use. Whether they are communicated as colours, numbers or pictures, posters that explicitly state the permission levels for devices in specific areas will enable students to be clear about boundaries and help educators to reinforce them.

Some permission areas could be;

RED – Device-free (not to be seen or heard) (e.g. main office)

YELLOW – Devices used only with direct teacher permission (e.g. classrooms)

GREEN – Devices fully used at all times (e.g. cafeteria)


 Build the Network of BYOD Ideas and Practice

 Start a ‘sharing wall’ in a staff space where teachers can post a quick note with an idea that they have (or have tried) using student devices in the classroom. By building a resource bank, teachers will be able to share their creative practice and provide support to their colleagues. As ideas are added, people are self-identifying themselves as leaders that will help to build the school’s capacity for technology use and learning integration.

The Future is Now

 When students bring in their electronic devices from home – teachers can be bombarded by the distractions, rules and uncertainty which can all culminate into a disruption to teaching, and therefore, student learning. But, what if these devices represent the very thing that our schools need to heighten global awareness, enhance student motivation and improve real-world readiness?

Let’s take some bold steps and start from the ground up. Just by choosing one way of incorporating student-owned devices in your lesson – you have taken a huge step. The students are the sounding board and they will support you in your journey. It may be new to you, but they will feel comfortable and tuned in to these technological vehicles in ways that worksheets can never do.


How does your school manage its BYOD program? In what exciting ways have you incorporated student devices in your lessons?


During Neilʼs 9 years of teaching experience, he has taught in London, England; Ontario; public and private schools; elementary and secondary; junior; intermediate; core french; developmental skills; and now junior gifted (grades 4,5,6). He is a Reading Specialist that has been incorporating technology in his practice consistently throughout his career. Neil has recently published his first book entitled “Ignite. Incite. Inspire.” – Examining 21st Century Issues in Education, which is a collection of teaching articles and posts written from January to December 2011.


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  • Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca)

    Our school is interesting when it comes to BYOD. Our Board does not have an official BYOD process yet, so neither does our school. Many students bring their own devices, but we don’t necessarily encourage them to. I have a HUGE number of students in my class that bring theirs though, and we’ve used them for everything: from filming learning to participating in backchannels on Today’sMeet or Twitter to even participating in a radio show on 105 the Hive. We’ve even used them to have a student FaceTime into the classroom when she was away, stay for our math lesson, and participate (in a group) in a follow-up math project. Anything is possible! I’m excited to see what the future holds for BYOD.


  • Deborah

    I think that it is a great idea for educators to start making some Bold moves when it comes to BYOD!
    I especially appreciated the idea of setting up ‘Zones’ within the school and policy documents to set appropriate boundaries for students.

    Starting from the ground up with lessons based in blended learning formats, and even setting up classroom academic areas/rooms on social media, book clubs etc., as opportunities and avenues for students to engage in, are just possibilities to explore.

    Thanks for the great ideas!

    • neil

      “Social Media Rooms” now that could be interesting. What if we set up different levels that students could attain in order to build up to being a mentor to other students? After some of the ‘groundwork,’ there could be students operating as peer helpers (and teacher helpers) on how to use social media sites, how to post and respond appropriately (and safely) and how to build and expand student connections around the world. I know there would obviously be permissions and convincing needed at the school and board level – but how exciting does that sound? Now, imagine how excited and motivated our students would be to participate in this endeavor…What do you think?