Inequity and BYOD

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Tim & Selena Middleton

Often when speaking to groups about technology and “Bring Your Own Device” initiatives, I will have someone challenge the thinking and say, “Well…what about inequity?”  To break down this question, what is often meant is that you will really shine a negative spotlight on the kids who do not have devices and they will feel worse about their situations.

Sometimes I feel that this argument is a reason to not even try by some that are making it.  But for some, it is a legitimate concern.

Here are my thoughts…

If we are really wanting to help these kids that might be coming from poor situations, we need to rethink the practices that we already have in our schools to provide for them.  For example, many schools have “computer labs” where we take kids once or twice a week, to do something with technology or allow them to type out an essay for us.  This is not a good use of technology anymore and we should know better now.  Technology should be at the point of instruction and be as accessible in learning as a pencil; it shouldn’t be an event. How many pencil labs do you have in your school?

So why are we not taking those labs apart and using those devices for the kids that don’t have the technology readily available.  If you have 15 students in your class that have a device, and five that don’t, can we find a way to provide for them with the technology that already exists in the school?  This is not as good as a student owning the device, but if their family is not able to afford one to bring to school, many times they are not able to afford one at home either.  You are then ensuring that the student does not have access to the biggest source of information in the world either at home or school.  If this true, then what are we doing to break this cycle for the child?  If you do not have a strong understanding to leverage the world at your fingertips, then you are going to be at a disadvantage going into a world with people that can do it with ease.

Now you may not have the technology in you schools to provide for the students that don’t have them now, so what are you doing to find a way to provide them?  The technology that we have purchased in schools before has been at an inflated price because of the need to attach them to a network, make them “secure”, and add a bunch of stuff that is honestly probably not needed as much as it once was.  All of those little add-ons, often not only make the computer more expensive, but slower.  So you are paying more for a slow computer? Makes sense.

The less we trust, the more it costs. 

With the infrastructure of many schools going to open WiFi networks, it is now opening the options of what they can buy.  Before, we were only able to access the Internet in our schools through the division network, but now any device can connect to the Internet, whether it is a school purchased device or not.  This is giving us more options.  WIth open WiFi, you are no longer limited to the $750 laptop, but can buy a $250-$300 Chromebook, Netbook, or tablet.  I am not saying that these are the best devices, and simply looking for cheap is not a solution, but with what much of what is happening in schools, a Chromebook is actually a pretty great option.

If we are start looking outside of the box that we have traditionally been held to within our schools, we have many more options on how we can provide more for the students that are not in situations to provide for themselves.



  1. What’s really interesting about supporting byod with providing students in need is that time & again I read about how well those devices are taken care of.
    As an aside, I’m a fan of BYOL (laptop or some of the newer tablets) and BYOOD – Bring Your Own Other Device… I don’t think equity is meaningfully supported when one student has a laptop and another just has an old iPod Touch. For now, my bias is multi-tasking devices and keyboards… That may change as devices get smarter & students grow up maximizing the production/creation of work on lesser devices.
    Ps. Case-in-point – This comment took me more than twice as long to do on my phone & had I not copied the text in the Feedly app before signing into Disqus & having it disappear on me, I would have lost it and needed to start over, (bitten by this before).

  2. I think that BYOD is a great option for schools who cannot afford to do a 1:1 program, or where it simply is a better fit (1:1 is not the be-all, end-all). However, if schools expect students to bring their own devices and incorporate them into the classrooms on a daily basis, then the school has an obligation to provide a device for the students who are the have-nots. Nearly all schools have mechanisms in place to provide school supplies to students who cannot afford them. BYOD schools should do the same with technology. As you mentioned, Chromebooks can be had for $250-300. It will get the work done in most cases.

  3. I think equity of devices is only part of the BYOD issue. Internet access is another, with potentially greater ramifications.

    Students with smart phones or similar devices can connect to the Internet via a fast cellular 4G network completely outside a school’s influence while other students will have to connect via whatever wifi service a school can provide which often ranges from slow to terrible. A possible result – students with good connections are accessing data and getting work done. Students with school connections are watching the spinning ball (or revolving hourglass) and getting little done.

    It’s easy to say that schools must provide better bandwidth along with access to devices however, given the current climate of cut-backs and funding reductions, it’s one more remedy that easier said then done.

  4. One of the biggest considerations IMO is how can you embrace all these disparate devices in a simple manner that teachers can embrace. It is not equatable if your lesson sharing for example only extends to laptops, and doesnt work on these other devices…

  5. We’ve had BYOD for a few years. Students bring in devices, teachers use and put some resources online. However, with our current model we are sometimes held back from transforming our teaching because we need to have pen/paper versions of everything available (for any activity that needs to be worked on or accessed after class time – I can create groups and buffer a lack of devices for my 75 minutes but not beyond that). In the fall, the message to our new grade nines is “you will bring a laptop or fully functional tablet”. It’s now you WILL. Not “you may”. If there isn’t a device on the kids desk on day 1, we will provide them with one. One that they take home for the year. We need to see very openly who does not have access. We will fill in those gaps.

  6. BYOD is not an option at my school. I work in a NANS School (New Approaches, New schools). The Quebec government (in Canada) places their schools on a socioeconomic scale for funding and service that students may need (e.g. breakfast program). a school rated as 1 is in the most affluent socioeconomic class, and 10 would be the most impoverished. My school is a 9. Students are always concerned about food, electricity, housing, etc.

    Our school decided that it was high time that they received the same access and opportunities as affluent students. This year we are piloting a 1:1 program with some of our students(we applied for funding so that we could acquire the devices). We are constantly trying to come up with ways to let them use the devices outside of school time, while not allowing them to bring them home (as this can potentially put our students in a situation where they become a target). It’s great to have resources within the school, but what happens when the day is over? How do you even the playing field then?

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