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BYOD: Narrowing the digital divide? April 19, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, Musings.
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cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by Eelke de Blouw: http://flickr.com/photos/fanintoflames/3638004493/

I’ve been following the BYOD/BYOT discourse for some while now, avidly reading as many blog posts as I can find, chipping in following an #edchat debate and listening to podcasts involving practitioners who have implemented BYOD programmes. Hardly surprising perhaps since we’re almost in the position to begin such a programme in school and I’m keen to learn from the experiences and thoughts of others.

One factor which inevitably emerges in almost all discussion is that of equity i.e. what will the impact of a BYOD programme be on those students from families who aren’t in the position to be able to provide them with a device. People are rightly concerned that BYOD will stretch the equity divide yet further; as someone who would have been in the ‘have nots’ category, it’s been troubling me too. But maybe there’s an alternative perspective?

Let’s first imagine the pre-BYOD circumstances: the ‘haves’ have their iPads, Smartphones, MBPs and so on … but they’re not allowed them in school. Here, both the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ suffer because neither has the opportunity to use a device other than the IT suites and laptop banks the school can provide. There’s certainly no sense of ownership/agency.

Now imagine a post-BYOD situation: the ‘haves’ bring in their devices, thereby reducing the impact on the school IT estate. Rather than seeing this as the means by which the school can reduce the estate, perhaps it’s a wonderful opportunity to redeploy it … in favour of the ‘have nots?’ Now the ‘haves’ have AND the ‘have nots’ too.

Yes the details would certainly demand careful thought, but just maybe BYOD might actually be one way the digital divide can be narrowed.

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