Bring Your Own Technology–What School Districts Should Know

Contributed by Christopher L. Voltz

Voltz, ChrisEarlier this year, the New York Times published an article (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/23/technology/in-some-schools-students-bring-their-own-technology.html?_r=1&) describing how school districts are incorporating “bring your own technology” programs, commonly known as BYOT programs, that allow students to bring their smart phones and tablets into the classroom.  In addition to saving money for the schools, advocates claim that these BYOT programs enhance education by making it possible to utilize ever evolving educational apps and by making it possible for students to share work, conduct research and otherwise collaborate with one another.  It is no surprise that many Pennsylvania school districts are looking into permitting such” bring your own technology” programs

However, there may be a downside to making this technology available.  In addition to sharing thoughts on classmates’ papers, students could also post their thoughts on their classmates on Facebook® or other social media websites.  Bullying, including cyber-bullying, has become a prominent social issue; school districts need to ensure that is does not occur in classrooms.

Unfortunately, in the arena of social media, technology is ahead of the law and the students are probably ahead of the adults.  School districts should investigate and answer hard questions regarding technical and practical issues before launching a BYOT program, including:

  • What programs are permitted to be on a student’s device?
  • How will the district regulate the programs and apps already on a student’s device?
  • Will the district restrict internet connections to the district’s network and will devices with 3G/4G technology be permitted?
  • What are the consequences of misuse?
  • How will the district monitor and enforce its rules and detect misuse?

These questions are not all-inclusive and each district may face unique issues.  The only thing we know for certain is that, as BYOT programs grow in popularity, and new social media networks become available, more issues will arise.