Digital technology strategies
Warning: What works in one context (place/time) may not work in another context. We have tried to provide an indication of how confident we are that particular advice will apply in particular contexts, but you must always evaluate the extent to which you think any advice will apply in your particular context. You use the information on this page entirely at your own risk.
This page provides some guidance for schools that are thinking about moving towards a 1:1 or BYOD/BYOT digital technology strategy.
It is based on an ongoing analysis of:
- relevant literature (spanning the full range from academic research papers to blog posts, web pages and other 'grey literature')
- the Vital case studies (which were carried out in England in 2012)
- the Snapshot Studies (which were carried out in Australia in 2013)
- engagement with people involved in education (e.g. teachers, consultants, researchers, pupils)
This advice relates to trends in practice related to digital technology use that we have identified.
We can say with a high degree of confidence that your digital technology strategy will be more effective if:
- you have a shared educational vision
- you know how digital technology will be used to enable you to achieve your vision
A great deal has been written about the importance of having a shared educational vision (e.g. DfES, 2004; Fullan, 1992; National College of School Leadership [NCSL], 2003, 2004) and this is recognised as the first of several necessary conditions for leveraging technology to enhance and transform learning (International Society for Technology in Education, 2008; Van de Brande et al., 2009).
Wanting every pupil to have their own mobile device is NOT an educational vision.
Pedagogically focussed professional development is critical
In every school we have visited there was a need for even more pedagogically focussed professional development. This links in with the need for a shared vision - the professional development shouldn't be about the technology, it should be about achieving your vision and how the technology will help you do that. It should be about how the technology will be used in practice - not about how to push the buttons.
Of course staff and students do need to know how to operate the technology, but this is generally much easier than understanding how to use it effectively to support learning.
I would strongly advocate developing structures and practices that support practitioner research and enhance sharing of experiences between teachers (both within your school and with the wider education community).
Enhance your wireless network
We can say with a high level of certainty that you need to have a robust wireless network infrastructure if you are moving towards 1:1 BYOD or BYOT strategies.
The majority of school will need to enhance their existing wireless infrastructure so that it can cope with multiple mobile devices accessing it simultaneously. Your existing infrastructure is very unlikely to be adequate.
Make sure that the mobile device you choose is robust
You can be absolutely sure that students' mobile devices will experience some rough treatment. So make sure that:
- the basic design has no significant weak points (e.g. Tablet PCs that have removable keyboards or keyboards with a swivel hinge are likely to be less robust than laptops with a fixed keyboard or tablets)
- the device has a really good protective cover - seriously it is worth spending £100 for a cover that will protect the screen if the device is dropped (a replacement screen could cost you much more)
No single device will do everything you need
It seems very clear that there is no single device that is adequate in every educational situation in schools. So even if your students have their own mobile devices you will need to provide some 'specialist machines' for specific tasks (e.g. with specific (expensive) software).
My perception is that for the majority of things that students do in school a tablet is the best bet - key features being:
- it starts up quickly
- its battery will last the whole day (even if used extensively)
- the form factor (size and shape) means that it is in-obtrusive and can therefore be kept ready at hand (on the desk or in a student's bag)
- it provides most of the functionality you need in one device (e.g. taking notes; information access; image/audio recording, editing and playback)
However, there will be times when students need access to a more powerful machine, with specialised software and/or a keyboard and/or a larger screen and/or specialist peripherals.
Be clear about how you are going to fund your strategy
It seems fairly certain that your school cannot afford to fund all of the digital technology you will need.
In England children are entitled to free schooling. However, more and more schools are asking parents to make a contribution or pay outright for the mobile devices that their children use in school. This is one of the criticism I have heard of BYOD and BYOT. However, I think this is based on a misconception of the actual position.
|Figure 1 Traditional funding model
||Traditionally schools pay for all of the technology for use in school. This includes the network infrastructure and the computers and other devices.
The funding might actually come from a grant or sponsorship, but parents are not asked to pay towards the cost of digital technology in the school.
Many parents are of course buying digital technology for use at home, which is not allowed to be used in school.
|Figure 2 1:1 or Subsidised
||As schools move to 1:1 computing models they often ask parents to make a (voluntary) financial contribution towards the cost of mobile devices (e.g. laptops, netbooks, tablets). These payments often take the form of a monthly payment over two or three years.
The school pays for the infrastructure (e.g. wireless network) and fixed technology (e.g. specialist desktop machines) and also pays for mobile devices for those pupils whose parents are unable or unwilling to pay the voluntary contributions.
This in effect increases the overall spend on digital technology for use in schools - it includes the school expenditure plus parental contributions - but it perhaps sits a little uncomfortably with the notion of 'free schooling'.
Parents may also continue to buy other digital technology for use at home (e.g. mobile phones, games consoles).
|Figure 3 BYOD or Parents pay
||BYOD recognises that many pupils already have access to Internet enabled mobile devices that could be used in school.
The school still has to provide the infrastructure (e.g wireless network), specialist equipment (e.g. powerful desktop machines, scanners), and provide mobile devices for those pupils who do not have their own.
I would argue that this approach is more acceptable than the Subsidised approach because it does not require additional expenditure by parents - it simply allows the use of the equipment that they have already bought.
|Before you move to a Subsidised (1:1) or Parents pay (BYOD/BYOT) model you need to know what mobile devices your pupils already have access to at home.
I know of one school that wanted to move to a 1:1 iPad model and discovered that 10% of their pupils already owned an iPad. That represented a considerable saving in terms of the number of devices that needed to be bought.
YOTS is a free service to schools to help them audit the Internet enabled mobile devices that their pupils have access to, and find out whether their pupils would be allowed, able and willing to bring those devices in to school on a regular basis. Armed with these data schools can make informed decisions about their digital technology strategies.
In the UK, Local Authority schools who are interested in leveraging value out of parental expenditure on digital technology ought to check out how they can help parents buy mobile devices without having to pay VAT - a potential win win for the school, the parents and the pupils.
|Figure 4 Your Own Technology Survey (YOTS)|
We can say with a high level of confidence that where students (and staff) feel they have ownership of their mobile devices the way in which they engage with them and the level of use will be better than where they do not feel ownership of the devices.
This is NOT about who legally owns the device, or who payed for it. It is about whether the user feels like they own it. A user is more likely to feel ownership if:
- they are responsible for looking after the device
- they can take the device home
- they can install apps/software on the device
- they can customise the device (e.g. changing the background image)
- they can install their own (non-school) apps and content on the device (e.g. music, games)
- they keep the device during the holidays and across years
- nobody can use or look at their device without their permission
Any approach which gives the teacher control of the device, e.g. being able to spy remotely on what the student is doing, lock their screen, or remotely control what the device will undermine students' perception of ownership.
Where students have other mobile devices at home they are less likely to feel ownership of a school device (even where their parents have made a contribution to the cost of it).
I've only given this a confidence rating of Quite High because you can achieve a great deal without every student having their own device. Indeed some of the most interesting and effective practice I have seen has involved a mix of school desktops and laptops with some students bringing in their own devices. The key in these situations seemed to be that devices were readily available whenever needed - staff and students did not have to pre-book the machines - they had easy access to devices where they were working when they needed them.
See also the pages on:
DfES (2004). National standards for headteachers. London, Department for Education and Skills.
Fullan, M. (1992). Causes/Process of implementation and continuation. In N. Bennett, M. Crawford, & C. Riches (Eds.), Managing change in education: individual and organisational perspectives (pp. 109-131). London: Paul Chapman Publishing.
International Society for Technology in Education (2008). Essential conditions: necessary conditions to effectively leverage technology for learning [Online]. Eugene:International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/Libraries/PDFs/Essential_Conditions_2007_EN.sflb.ashx
National College of School Leadership (2003). NPQH Access Stage Unit 1.2: vision into action. Nottingham, UK: NCSL.
NationalCollege of School Leadership (2004). NPQHDevelopment Stage Unit 1.I: developing a strategic educational vision.Nottingham, UK: NCSL.
Van deBrande, L., Carlberg, M., Good, B. (2009). Learning,innovation and ICT.Lessons learned from the ICT cluster, Education and Training 2010 Programme. Brussels: European Commission.