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Must it be an either or? 1:1 or BYOT? November 24, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, Musings.
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Spending a leisurely weekend away allowed me to catch up on a few podcasts and become acquainted with a relatively newcomer in ‘Out of School’ from Fraser Speirs and Bradley Chambers. Many of you may know Fraser through Twitter and already be aware of the 1:1 iPad project he’s overseen at Cedars, the school where he works in Scotland. Bradley too manages an iPad project in a school in Chattanooga in the US, but with a slightly different model, one which provides access through iPad ‘banks’ in school.

Though the content is perhaps inevitably skewed towards Apple products and services, they discuss at length the planning, strategies and issues you’re likely to need to take into account if you’re considering a 1:1 programme. The episodes cover ground like networks, connectivity, devices and their management, the people (students, teachers, parents, school leaders), legal and insurance issues, breakages and support, lifetime and refresh cycles, applications and workflow … the whole spectrum. As such they’re a great listen and certainly helped me think through our forthcoming programme, revisit the planning we’ve done so far and brought to the fore some of the issues we might need to revisit.

byot comparison

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by seantoyer: http://flickr.com/photos/seanhobson/4504828599/

Now for many reasons, our project is not 1:1 in the same ways that the guys have at their schools. Ours is a BYOT initiative and about those, our hosts were rather less than complimentary. All the usual slings and arrows were loosed: bewildering variety of platforms & applications, difficult for teachers to plan/manage lessons, difficult for tech support, equity/uniformity of access. These are all valid points and ought to be addressed during preparatory discussions with stakeholders and as part of the project planning process … and indeed doubtless will need to be revisited as the project rolls out. But it’s not as though a more traditional, school-managed 1:1 project isn’t without its challenges too. Yes it overcomes some of the difficulties inherent in BYOT, but as Fraser and Bradley kindly point out during the series of podcasts, 1:1 also raises its own challenges.

For me the choice between one flavour and the other requires me to revisit the underlying philosophy. In a 1:1 programme, I’d suggest the emphasis is on the school (the devices are school-owned or school-procured or the spec. is school-determined), the teacher (a consistent platform makes it more manageable for them), tech support (techs are better able to support and manage the estate and infrastructure) and the devices (the spec., the apps, the frequency of refresh etc). But surely the starting point should be the learner? Outside the school gates, they (or at least the ones who can afford it!) make the choice of technology they want to use: tablet, laptop or desktop, phone and/or camera, phone and/or music player … though of course that choice will be different for some than others and is not immune to external influences. Oughtn’t we to allow the same degree of freedom in the device they choose to support their learning? When they leave our schools to hopefully continue their learning, won’t they then have the freedom to choose their platform and, having had the opportunity to undertake BYOT, be better placed to make a rationale choice? In the real world if they can’t connect to the coffee house’s wireless network, do they ask the barista? Back in school, are we really so incapable of designing a learning experience which is sufficiently open to enable our learners to succeed whichever way they choose to access it?

In a well-balanced blog post, Keith Rispin took a close look at comparing iPad versus BYOT programmes and highlighted several strengths and weaknesses of each. He also recognised how considering a transition from school-owned and controlled devices through to BYOT might be valuable as students become older, more responsible and more capable of managing their own learning.

In conclusion then, for me it’s BYOT to encourage learner autonomy, choice and independence, not 1:1 in order to make life easier for us … at least it is as students become older.

You might like to check out one particular episode of ‘Out of School’ in which Fraser & Bradley compare a 1:1 with a BYOD programme:

Teachers Don’t Tinker